History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Timeline

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Year(s) Major Events Organizations The Media Businesses Year(s)
Pre-Stonewall,
1950's-'60's
  • Adrian Ames, the "Million Dollar Drag Queen", performs in Milwaukee bars.
  • Private house parties and bars are the primary social outlets for Gays and Lesbians.
  • The Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel routinely publish the names of men arrested on "deviate" sexual conduct charges, leading to the suicide of at least one man.
  • Mint Bar opens 1949, survives until 1986; River Queen opens 1960, closed late 1970's; Your Place opens 1965 lasts until 1995; This Is It opens 1968 and is still open today.
  • Pre-Stonewall,
    1950's-'60's
    1970  
  • Performers Mama Rae and Tiger Rose help start the Miss Gay Milwaukee Contest, forerunner of the Mr. and Miss Gay Wisconsin Pageant.
  • The Gay Liberation Organization and the Gay Liberation Front, Milwaukee's first gay groups, form. In November, GLO sponsors the first Gay dance in Milwaukee.
  • The radical weekly Kaleidoscope publishes a special issue on Gay/Lesbian activism.
  •   1970
    1971
  • 30 members of the GLF hoist a gay liberation banner in a Vietnam Vets Against the War parade, the first Milwaukee parade in which Gays march openly.
  • Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans are denied a marriage license by County Clerk Thomas Zablocki. They file a lawsuit but withdraw it before the case is heard.
  • The GLO, fearing it will be confused with the more radical GLF, changes its name to the Gay Peoples Union, and begins publishing the GPU News.
  • Amazon newsletter begins publishing; and GPU begins publishing GPU News
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
  • Hunters Club, Castaways South, and Beer Garden among gay bars opened this year.
  • 1971
    1972  
  • The Women's Coalition is founded. Many Lesbians organize and participate in Coaltion groups: Womens Crisis Line, Grapevine, Hurricane Productions and Amazon magazine.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
  • Wreck Room (popular levi/ leather bar) opens, survives until 1995.
  • 1972
    1973
  • 50 people unfurl a "Gay Power" banner at the annual July 4th fireworks display.
  • Activists picket a production of Boys in the Band, calling it a "sterotypical portrayal of the suffering, maladjusted homosexual".
  • The first AA group for Gays, the Silver Stars Motorcylce Club and Dignity, a group for G/L Roman Catholics, form.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
  • The Factory (legendary dance bar) and Ten Hundred East bars open
  • 1973
    1974
  • GPU member Paul Safransky is fired from his job for revealing his homosexuality. His legal case, though unsuccessful, is an early challenge to ant-Gay discrimination.
  • More than 350 men and women attend the GPU Ball at the PAC.
  • The GPU Examination Center for VD, the precursor to the BESTD Clinic, opens on St. Paul Avenue.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
  • Ball Game bar opens, is still open today. C'est la Vie opens, lasts until 2008. Leaded Shade and In Between open. Club Baths opens.
  • 1974
    1975  
  • GPU Establishes a G/L community center, The Farwell Center, in a leased flat at 1568 N. Farwell.
  • 'G Milwaukee' begins publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
        G Milwaukee (Nov.)
  • 1975
    1976
  • The Army Reserve discharges Miriam Ben-Shalom claiming she is unfit for service because of her homosexuality. Ben-Shalom launches a 15-year battle to win the right to server her country.
  • Sistermoon Feminist Bookstore & Art Gallery opens and becomes the city's unofficial Lesbian cultural center.
  •  
  • GLIB begins publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
        GLIB (Aug)
  •   1976
    1977  
  • To counter the anti-Gay hate campaign of singer Anita Bryant, the Milwaukee Committee on Human Rights is created.
  • The Saturday Softball League is organized.
  • 'Milwaukee Gay Guide' begins publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        GPU News
        Milw Gay Guide (summer)
  • Gary's dance bar opens (later to be come Circus then Club 219); Ten Hundred East closes
  • 1977
    1978
  • The Milwaukee Police Department, led by Chief Harold Breier, launches violent raids on Gay bathhouses resulting in dozens of arrests and angry street protests by the Gay community.
  • Leon Rouse of UWM's Gay Community gets student and academic committees in the UW system on record in support of policies forbidding anti-Gay bias.
  • The athletic group GAMMA forms.
  • 'Milwaukee Calendar' begins publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Milw. Calendar
        GPU News
  •   1978
    1979
  • Hundreds of Milwaukeeans attend the first National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
  • Thousands march through downtown Milwaukee to "Take Back the Night" protesting violence against women. Lesbians are both organizers and participants.
  • Holiday Invitational Tournament/ HIT holds the first of many annual bowling tournaments in Milwaukee.
  • Gay Youth Milwaukee is founded.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Milw. Calendar
        GPU News
  •   1979
    Year(s) Major Events Organizations The Media Businesses Year(s)
    1980
  • Milwaukee Gays and Lesbians picket outside the movies Windows and Crusing, which are denounced for their defamatory images of Gay people.
  • The Milwaukee chapter of Black and White Men Together- later renamed People of All Colors Together- is organized by Mark Behar and others.
  • 'Milwaukee Calendar' is acquired, renamed 'Gay Milwaukee'
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Milw. Calendar
        GPU News
  •   1980
    1981
  • The state legislature passses AB70, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accomodations, largely through the efforts primarily of Leon Rouse and David Clarenbach. Wisconsin is the first state in the union to adopt such a "Gay Rights Law".
  • The Cream City Business Association, which consists of G/L business people and professionals, is established. CCBA launches the Cream City Association Foundation, soon renamed the Cream City Foundation, which gives grants to G/L groups and projects.
  • 'Leaping La Crosse News', 'Our Town' begins publishing; 'GPU News' and 'Gay Milwaukee' cease publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Gay Milwaukee
        GPU News
        Our Horizons (Aug-Oct)
  •   1981
    1982
  • The "Consenting Adults Law" decriminalizing private sexual conduct between consenting adults is passed by the state legislature.
  • The Saturday Volleyball League forms.
  • 'Out!' newspaper and 'Escape' begin publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Escape
        OUT!
  • original Factory bar closes; Grand Avenue Pub and Factory II open
  • 1982
    1983
  • Gov. Anthony Earl appoints 14 men and women to serve on the Governor's Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues. During its 3-1/2 year existence, the Council initiates anti-Gay violence investigations and works with state agencies implementing the "Gay Rights Law".
  •  
  • 'Ragg' begins publishing
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Escape
        OUT!
        RAGG (May-Sept)
  •   1983
    1984
  • New Milwaukee Police Chief Robert Ziarnik meets with members of the G/L community, giving them hope that the "bad old days" of Chief Breier's reign are over.
  •  
  • Ron Geiman begins publishing Wisconsin In Step.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 1
        OUT!
  • at least 8 bars open, including Fannies, LaCage, and Boot Camp
  • 1984
    1985  
  • The Milwaukee AIDS Project is spun off from the BESTD Clinic via a coaltion with CCBA and CCF, and begins providing services to people with HIV/AIDS.
  • The Fest City Singers is established.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 2
        OUT!
  •   1985
    1986  
  • The Galano Club, a coalition of 12-Step groups dealing with issues of addiction and dependency among Gays and Lesbians, is started.
  • Lesbians of Color and Club Muse, a social club for Gays and Lesbians of color, form.
  • The Lambda Rights Network, a political action group, is founded.
  • 'Among Friends' begins publishing.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 3
        OUT!
  •   1986
    1987    
  • Jerry Johnson and Terry Boughner begin publishing The Wisconsin Light.
  • Tri-Cable Tonight, a public access cable program produced by and for Lesbians and Gays, begins airing. The program is founded by Mark Behar and Bryce Clark, and largely funded by CCF.
  • 'New Beginnings' and 'Feminist Voices' begin publishing.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 4
        OUT!
  • At least 9 new bars open this year in Milwaukee, but none survive even 10 years
  • 1987
    1988
  • Bill Meunier and Susan Cook organize 2,000 G/L volunteers for the Jesse Jackson Presidential campaign.
  • Wisconsin adopts hate crimes legislation providing enhanced penalties for those convicted of crimes motivated by bigotry, including prejudice based on sexual orientation. The US Supreme Court sustains the law, and it becomes the model for similar laws in other states.
  •  
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 5
        Wisconsin Light, volume 1
  • Triangle and Club 94 (Kenosha) open
  • 1988
    1989  
  • The Lesbian Alliance of Metro Milwaukee, ACT-UP Milwaukee and Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays form.
  • Marquette students fight the administration's attempt to infringe on their freedoms by forming REASON, Rights and Equality for All Sexual Orientations Now.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 6
        Wisconsin Light, volume 2
  •   1989
    Year(s) Major Events Organizations The Media Businesses Year(s)
    1990  
  • The Cream City Squares and Country Line Dancers start kicking up their heels.
  • Julie Brienza, a Lesbian journalist, sues Rev. Vic Eliason, who led a campagin to have her fired from her job at UPI. Brienza wins $255,000 and a statement from the Christian broadcaster that Gays and Lesbians have the right to work in the media.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 7
        Wisconsin Light, volume 3
  •   1990
    1991
  • Murders committed by Jeffrey Dahmer shock the community and lead to demands for reform of the Milwaukee Police Department.
  • The Milwaukee School Board approves watered-down measures in support of G/L teens after 1,000 Bible-thumping fundamentalists pack a Board meeting.
  •  
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 8
        Wisconsin Light, volume 4
  •   1991
    1992
  • Mayor John Norquist stuns the G/L community by vetoing a $5,000 allocation of City Festival Funds for PrideFest.
  • A Milwaukee chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans forms.
  • The Brand New Queer TV Show, later The Queer Program, debuts on public access cable.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 9
        Wisconsin Light, volume 5
  •   1992
    1993
  • Confronted by lesbians furious about his vote in favor of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, Sen. Herb Kohl declares he is not "Gay or Lesbian".
  • Senior Action in a Gay Environment/ Milwaukee and the Sherman Park Rainbow Association are founded.
  • AfterWords Bookstore and Espresso Bar (later Outwords) opens.
  • "Tina" Terry is shot to death in her north side bar, a haven for African American Gays and Lesbians.
  • 'Steam' and 'Uptown Downtown' begin publishing.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 10
        Wisconsin Light, volume 6
        Uptown Downtown (starting Nov)
        Green Apple (mid-late yr)
  •   1993
    1994
  • A proposal for a Gay/Lesbian Studies certificate program is submitted (by Christopher Lane??) to UWM administrators but becomes a political football, not offically approved for almost two years.
  • Many Milwaukee Gays and Lesbians travel to New York to participate in Gay Games IV & Cultural Festival and the huge Stonewall 25 March.
  • The Human Rights League for Lesbians and Gays is formed and sponsors a series of Coming Out Day events.
  • 'Quest' begins publishing.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 11
        Quest, volume 1
        Wisconsin Light, volume 7
        Uptown Downtown (ending March)
  •   1994
    1995
  • Two influential AIDS activists/ educators- Christopher Fons and Arnie Malmon- succumb to AIDS complications.
  • Milwaukee World Festivals Inc. agrees to lease Henry W. Maier Festival Park to PrideFest for its 1996 celebration. The Wisconsin Light exults: "Summerfest Grounds, Here We Come!".
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 12
        Quest, volume 2
        Wisconsin Light, volume 9
        Q-Voice (starting Oct)
  • The Wreck Room, Milwaukee's popular levi/ leather bar, closes after 23 years in business.
  • 1995
    1996
  • Karen Gotzler loses a hard-fought campaign to become Milwaukee's 3rd District Alderperson and its first openly Gay or Lesbian City Council member.
  • Bette Midler's sparkling presence draws record crowds and proceeds to AIDS Walk Wisconsin.
  • After a pledge of financial support from Ross Walker and Erv Uecker, an organizational drive begins to establish a community center for the city's G/L/B/T communities.
  • The Alternative Business Association forms.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 13
        Quest, volume 3
        Q-Voice
        Wisconsin Light, volume 9
  •   1996
    1997    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 14
        Quest, volume 4
        Q-Voice
        Wisconsin Light, volume 10
  •   1997
    1998    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 15
        Quest, volume 5
        Q-Voice (ending Aug)
        Wisconsin Light, volume 11
  •   1998
    1999    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 16
        Quest, volume 6
        Wisconsin Light, volume 12
  •   1999
    Year(s) Major Events Organizations The Media Businesses Year(s)
    2000    
  • 'Wisconsin Light' newspaper ceases publishing after 15 years.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 17
        Quest, volume 7
        Wisconsin Light, volume 13 (ceases publishing after March)
        G Street (starting July)
  •   2000
    2001    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 18
        Quest, volume 8
        G Street (to Aug)
  •   2001
    2002  
  • PrideFest hits record attendance of 18,604 people over its 2.5 day run in June.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 19
        Quest, volume 9
        OutBound, vol. 1 (starting Aug)
  •   2002
    2003  
  • PrideFest runs up huge debt and nearly goes bankrupt; saved through effort spearheaded by CCF.
  • 'In Step' newspaper ceases publishing after 19 years, marking the first time Milwaukee is left without a true LGBT newspaper in 22 years.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        In Step, volume 20
        Quest, volume 10
        Edge (starting Apr)
        OutBound, vol. 2
  •   2003
    2004    
  • After over a year with no LGBT newspaper in the state, TWO news-periodicals start up in December: Q-Life (aka Queer Life), and OutBound News.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Quest, volume 11
        OutBound, vol. 3
        Edge
  •   2004
    2005    
  • After barely a year, OutBound News newspaper ceases publishing.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        OutBound News
        Quest, volume 12
        Queer Life News, vol. 1
        OutBound, vol. 4
        Edge
  •   2006
    2006    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Quest, volume 13
        Queer Life News, vol. 2
        OutBound, vol. 5
        Edge (ending June)
  • The M&M Club bar and restaurant closes, after almost 30 years in business
  • Three new bars open: M's (staffed by former M&M employees); The Pumphouse; and Kruz
  • 2006
    2007  
  • Cream City Foundation celebrates 25 years of grant giving
  • Our Lives magazine begins publishing in Madison.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Our Lives
        OutBound, vol. 6
        Quest, volume 14
        Queer Life News, vol. 3
  • "This Month in History" articles
  •   2007
    2008
  • PrideFest endures torrential rainfalls both Saturday and Sunday of their 3-day run; a 10-day period in June 2008 make this to be the wettest month in Milwaukee history.
  •  
  • Queer Life News newspaper ceases publishing, after 4 years of struggles.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Our Lives
        OutBound, vol. 7
        Quest, volume 15
        Queer Life News, vol. 4
  • "This Month in History" articles
  • C'est La Vie bar closes, after more than 30 years in business.
  • The Switch bar closes, after 8 years in business.
  • This Is It bar celebrates 40 years
  • 2008
    2009    
  • Wisconsin Gazette newspaper begins publishing in Milwaukee.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Our Lives
        OutBound, vol. 8
        Quest, volume 16
  • LaCage dance club celebrates 25 years
  • 2009
    Year(s) Major Events Organizations The Media Businesses Year(s)
    2010    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Our Lives
        OutBound, vol. 9
        Quest, volume 17
  •   2010
    2011    
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Our Lives
        OutBound, vol. 10
        Quest, volume 18
  •   2011
    2012    
  • OutBound magazine merges into Quest magazine.
  • See news and ads from this year in:
        Our Lives
        Quest, volume 19
  •   2012
    Year(s) Major Events Organizations The Media Businesses Year(s)

    Credits: Timeline written and updated by Jamakaya and Don Schwamb.
    Last updated: March-2012.