Posted by: Catherine Lugg | June 9, 2013

A heroic ally passes

Richard Mack, who with his father, successfully sued the State of NJ over the legality of their gay bar, has died at the age of 79. Prior to the advent of the contemporary queer rights movement, most LGBT people would meet in bars, which were somewhat safe space. That said, these bars were a favorite target of local police officers. As reported in the Asbury Park Press:

The New Jersey State Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) attempted to suspend the Den’s alcohol license in 1963 when the bar — now in the Somerset section of Franklin — was at 111 Albany St. in New Brunswick. Using the language of the day, the ABC deemed the congregation of homosexuals in “inordinate numbers” was against “public morals.”

The Macks — including Richard’s father, Emanuel, who owned the bar at the time — joined with Val’s in Atlantic City and Murphy’s Tavern in Newark to take the ABC to court. They won a landmark 1967 decision in the New Jersey State Supreme Court that gave homosexuals the right to gather in bars in New Jersey.

The decision was two years prior to the 1969 Stonewall uprising, which is considered the beginning of the gay rights movement.

What makes this case even more exemplary is the Macks were non-queers fighting to maintain a queer friendly business in the not so very gay 1960s. Please check out this story. And rest in peace, Mr. Mack.


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