The trial of WILLIAM DALE JENNINGS begins and lasts for 10 days. Jennings was born in Amarillo, Texas on October 21, 1917. Not long thereafter his parents moved to Denver, Colorado. After graduating from high school there, he moved to Southern California, where he wrote, produced, and directed stage plays in Los Angeles and Pasadena. He studied dance under Lester Horton and later worked with Martha Graham, two early pioneers of modern interpretive dance.
One night in 1952, as Jennings walked home from Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park), four miles west of downtown Los Angeles, he was followed by a plainclothes vice officer and arrested in his house under charges of indecent behavior.
Jennings, of course, was totally disheartened. If word of this got out, his dream of a career in screen writing would be totally shot. From jail, Jennings called Mattachine cohort, Harry Hay. Hay bailed him out of jail early the next morning, and it was then, over breakfast at the Brown Derby, that they decided to fight the charge in court, under grounds of entrapment.
To this end, they founded the Citizens’ Committee to Outlaw Entrapment. Long Beach attorney George Sibley took on the case. After a dramatic Los Angeles court trial that lasted for ten days, Jennings won a jury acquittal in a rebuke of police harassment, intimidation, and entrapment of homosexuals.
The acquittal energized other persecuted homosexual people into action throughout the nation and brought respect to the Mattachine Society, which had funded Jennings’s defense. “The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name” was now on its way out of the closet, and the infamous statutes of “Crimes Against Nature” on the law books in every one of the United States were targeted for eradication. By the year 2000, most States had removed those statutes from their laws, partly due to of the influence of Dale Jennings. The struggle continues. An interesting footnote to this entrapment: designer and co-founder of the original Mattachine Society with Harry Hay, Rudy Gernreich left the bulk of his estate to establish a fund to assist Gay men who were arrested through entrapment.