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Philadelphia honors LGBT rights pioneer at street naming ceremony

Monday, October 1, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA — A street naming dedication ceremony for Barbara Gittings Way — named for the LGBT civil rights pioneer — was held Monday in the heart of Philadelphia’s gay neighborhood at the intersection of Locust and 13th Streets.

Often referred to as the Mother of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement, Barbara Gittings (July 31, 1932 – February 18, 2007) resided in Philadelphia. She was instrumental in the early fight for lesbian rights, founding the New York City chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, which was started in San Francisco in 1956 by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

Daughters of Bilitis was the first lesbian rights organization and an alternative to gay bars, which were then subject to police harassment and raids.

Gittings established the New York City chapter of DOB in 1958 and was its first president — she served as editor of DOB’s “The Ladder,” the first lesbian publication with national distribution, from 1963 to 1966.

Barbara Gittings

Later with along with Dr. Frank Kameny, Gittings was among a handful of people who participated in the first public gay rights demonstrations. She picketed the White House, the Civil Service Commission, and the Pentagon. On July 4, 1965, she took part in the gay rights demonstration at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Kameny remembered after her death in 2007, that she was “one of the few activists who has been around longer than I.”

Gittings served on the founding boards of directors of many organizations, including the National Gay [and Lesbian] Task Force (1973) and the Gay Rights National Lobby (1976), a precursor to the Human Rights Campaign.

Gittings also spearheaded a successful initiative to have the American Library Association include gay and lesbian books in the nation’s card catalogs and libraries. And together, Kameny and Gittings challenged the American Psychiatric Association, helping to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses.

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