12-11-1950

The Mattachine Society first meeting [l to r] Harry Hay (upper left), then Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings, Rudi Gernreich, Stan Witt, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, and Paul Bernard

First organized discussion group of Harry Hay’s secret society, which would become known as THE MATTACHINE SOCIETY.

The Mattachine Society is usually regarded as America’s first Gay Rights advocacy group. They met in secret due to the atmosphere of the time, and organized in cells (Hay had been involved with the Communist Party in the U.S. — along with actor Will Geer — and he used their organizational model). 

In 1951 Dale Jennings was arrested on police entrapment charges. Police entrapment was a common form of harassment against homosexuals then. Suspects’ names were printed in the newspapers, which caused many to lose their jobs and become estranged from their families.

By standing up to defend Jennings, the Mattachine Society not only rose to the defense of one of their members, but also took on the notorious Los Angeles Police Department for its pattern and practice of homosexual harassment. Jennings’ charges were dismissed due to the judge catching the arresting officers in a lie. This victory was not reported in the newspapers, but the Mattachine Society took it upon themselves to publicize it through flyers distributed throughout Los Angeles to areas where homosexuals met. The result was a swelling of attendance at Mattachine Society meetings.

The origins of standing up to entrapment was one of the main underpinnings of the activism. When Rudi Gernreich died in 1985, he left the bulk of his estate to establish a defense fund for Gay men who were facing prosecution due to entrapment.