Stunning Photos From Albany’s 1971 Gay Rights March

Published March 13, 2016
Updated January 24, 2018

As the 1960s came to a close, many minority groups had begun to organize for political and cultural change, the LGBT community among them. Spurred by New York’s 1969 Stonewall riots, activists increasingly entered into peaceful protests — one of which was the 1971 march on Albany, New York, the first statewide march in America for gay rights.

Thankfully, photojournalist Diana Davies documented this otherwise little-publicized march (the entirety of which can be found in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection, recently opened for public use).

The march on Albany took place on March 14th, 1971.

Gay Rights March 1971 Hat Pins
People traveled from all over New York to be a part of the historic march.

Gay Rights March 1971 Buffalo
A lesbian group from Buffalo, New York attends the march.

Gay Rights March 1971 Second Class
Other groups in attendance included the Gay Liberation Front, the Daughters of Bilitis, Gay People at Columbia, and STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries).

Gay Rights March 1971 Mattachine
A demonstrator holds a sign which includes the word "Mattachine." The Mattachine Society was one of the earliest gay rights groups, formed in Los Angeles in 1950.

Gay Rights March 1971 Flag
When not marching, demonstrators would congregate on the floor for a "sit-in."

Gay Rights March 1971 All People
A Unitarian Church nearby hosted an open house prior to the event to bring people together, and even held a dance.

Gay Rights March 1971 Ac Dc
A snowy New York day clearly did not keep people away from participating in the event.

Gay Rights March 1971 Moustache
In fact, approximately 3,000 people attended this landmark rally.

Gay Rights March 1971 Rose
There could have been more demonstrators, though. A bus carrying marchers to the rally was turned away at a rest stop because it made heterosexuals "nervous." State police told the bus driver that for the safety of the passengers he should refrain from making any more stops.

Gay Rights March 1971 Couple
Those who made it faced a near constant threat of attacks: at the time there were reports that a sniper would target people on the route.

Gay Rights March 1971 Liberation Now
No sniper appeared, but demonstrators did face verbal harassment and had eggs and snowballs thrown at them.

Gay Rights March 1971 Employment
Demonstrators called for a number of changes, including the elimination of workplace discrimination by getting “sexual orientation” added to the Fair Employment Practices Act.

Gay Rights March 1971 Bugging
Repealing laws against cross-dressing was also a priority for demonstrators.

Gay Rights March 1971 Papers
Demonstrators likewise hoped to repeal the state's solicitation and loitering laws in which gay men could get ensnared by simply walking down the street.

Gay Rights March 1971 Statutes
In this photo, demonstrators are holding a sign calling to change sodomy statutes, another legal mechanism which could potentially criminalize gay sex.

Gay Rights March 1971 GLF
They also aimed to achieve inclusion in the Fair Housing Act.

Gay Rights March 1971 Gay Womens Liberation
Embedded within sexual orientation was the question of gender and women’s liberation.

Gay Rights March 1971 Jim Owles
Pictured: Jim Owles. Owles was the founder and president of the Gay Activists Alliance from 1970-1971. In a speech at the rally, he said, "We're here to shake them demand an immediate end to all oppressive laws against all gays and full and equal treatment and the same rights guaranteed to every minority."

Gay Rights March 1971 Kate Millet
One of the speakers at the end of the march was Kate Millet, a bisexual author and feminist. She declared, "All we've ever known was shame. We were feeling proud and we liked ourselves and we were free, and we were beginning to show them that we meant to stay that way. And they've got to know that now."

Gay Rights March 1971 Power
The rally concluded with group leaders and others making short speeches to clarify their cause.

Gay Rights March 1971 Fight
The march was a symbolic call-to-arms following the Stonewall riots, and it achieved some success.

Gay Rights March 1971 Gay Is Good
Later that year, the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard of New York was founded as a hotline for the LGBT community. Throughout the 1970s, it grew to field 20,000 calls per year.

Gay Rights March 1971 Empty Closet
Within three months of the Stonewall riots, three different newspapers were being published that promoted gay rights.

Gay Rights March 1971 Love Is Strong
Two years after the Albany march, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Gay Rights March 1971 Lesbians Unite
Footage of the Albany march appears in David Marshall’s 2009 film, Swimming With Lesbians.

Gay Rights March 1971 Line
Today, gay pride events are generally held at the end of June each year in conjunction with the anniversary of the Stonewall riots on June 28th, 1969.

Gay Rights March 1971 Sex Laws
The fight against oppression still rages on today, though several landmark equality laws have been achieved.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Kelly, Erin. "Stunning Photos From Albany’s 1971 Gay Rights March.", March 13, 2016, Accessed May 23, 2024.