Orderly Odd Fellows Sip-In at Julius’ Bar

George Chauncey
May 28, 2019

A key moment for me is probably April of 1966, when a new and more militant leadership was elected to lead the Mattachine Society [one of the earliest LGBTQ organizations in the U.S.], to more directly challenged the policing of the bars and job discrimination. They organized what was called a sip-in at Julius’, a bar on West 10th Street. Several members dressed in jackets and ties to make themselves look utterly respectable and, this is the keyword, “orderly,” because the rule that kept bars from serving homosexuals was based on state liquor law that said no place that sold liquor could be allowed to become disorderly. The State Liquor Authority maintained that the mere presence of a homosexual in a bar made it disorderly.

The well-dressed men went into Julius’ and told the bartender, "We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service." The bartender immediately put his hand over the glass where he had been going to pour a drink and a photographer got a photograph of that, which is now famous.

That event is important both because it reminds us how much activism there was before Stonewall and also how the mostly white-led gay movement was deeply shaped and influenced by the model of the black civil rights movement. The action was modeled on the sit-ins that black students organized across the South at the beginning of the ‘60s, where they were demanding their right to be served lunch at the counters in the five and ten stores where they were also buying their goods.