For Love, Life and Liberation

FIRST PERSON ACCOUNTS OF THE LESBIAN AND GAY

NONVIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

AT THE U.S. SUPREME COURT • OCTOBER 13, 1987

As part of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, October 8–13, 1987, a civil disobedience demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court was organized. Authorities refused to release arrest figures but organizers estimate that between 800 and 850 were arrested—making this the largest arrest in the struggle for lesbian and gay rights as well as the largest arrest in Washington since the Vietnam war protests two decades earlier and the largest arrest ever at the U.S. Supreme Court.


The focus of the civil disobedience was the Supreme Court’s decision in Bowers v. Hardwick.  This decision upheld a Georgia sodomy law that criminalized oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults.


The case revolved around Michael Hardwick, who was arrested in 1982 by the Atlanta police while having sex with a willing adult male partner in private.  Michael joined us in the civil disobedience.


The accounts in this volume were gathered by Terry Sutton, a young activist from San Francisco. He and I were in the Turquoise Boys affinity group and were among those arrested. In the months following our return from Washington, Terry was also dealing with health issues due to AIDS and made no progress toward publication. Shortly before his death in 1989 he turned the project over to me.


In editing the book, I wove the individual accounts into a narrative telling the story of the civil disobedience and the events surrounding it. Early readers were enthusiastic but several publishers turned it down. I attribute this to two factors: the homophobia that then prevailed and the lack of understanding of the power of nonviolent civil disobedience.


Now the 25th anniversary of this landmark demonstration has passed, perhaps, finally, the time is ripe for the book to be published. Though problems certainly continue, there is greater acceptance of homosexuality. Also, the power and importance of nonviolence are much better understood.


To bring the ms. up to date, I have found an excellent co-editor, Eileen Hansen. She was one of the national organizers of the civil disobedience and also was arrested. We plan to add information about the extensive organizing effort behind this demonstration. We also seek recollections, photos and evaluations from participants.


Links at the top of this page will take you to the text as distributed to contributors in 1989, to the photos that have been gathered, and to biographies of the contributors.


Markley Morris

mm@emarkley.org