Contrary to what many believe, the first known instance of out active duty gay service members marching in a gay pride parade was not Saturday in San Diego, but thirty-six years ago, in New York City, in 1975, as evidenced by this photo, courtesy of Michael Bedwell at leonardmatlovich.com.
Vietnam veteran, Bill Bland (left, plaid shirt,) Army Pvt. Debbie Watson & her partner Pfc. Barbara Randolph, and (extreme right,) Air Force TSgt. Leonard Matlovich.
Bedwell states that all four would be discharged by the end of 1975.
The discriminatory law, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, would not be in place for another 18 years.
Via Randy Shilts in “Conduct Unbecoming”:
“Leonard Matlovich surveyed the throng with wonder. How had he allowed so much of his life to be wasted in loneliness. A cheer rose from the crowd when Matlovich delivered the line he had used in every newspaper and television interview since his case went public. With him were the other heroes of the moment: Staff Sgt. Skip Keith, Barbara Randolph and Debbie Watson. When the four of them stood side by side at the microphone, waving to the crowd that billowed through Central Park,a huge ovation rose up and it felt as if their spirits had also lifted into the air and soared over the city’s skylines. It was a moment Leonard would cherish for the rest of his life.”
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