History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Organizations - Activist & Political - PrideFest

PrideFest - 1981
- At A Glance -

June 27, 1981


Juneau Park


approx. 500


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Guide/ Flyers



The GPU (Gay People's Union) was at the forefront of Pride celebrations in Milwaukee beginning in the late 1970's. By 1981, a subgroup of the GPU, the Milwaukee Pride Week Committee, began coordinating activities of various organizations and also organized a parade and rally.

Flyer from 1981: "Why March"--

    "On Saturday June 27th an historic event will take place, the largest Gay/Lesbian march ever held in Wisconsin. We invite you to join with the many Gays/Lesbians and Straights from throughout Wisconsin and Northern Illinois who will be marching on that day.

    "The march will assemble at Juneau Park at noon. The march itself will begin at 1pm. It will be followed by a rally and entertainment at Juneau Park.

    "The question you may well ask yourself as you read this is 'Why should I march when everything is going fine?' Well, everything is not going fine. We have all heard about, experienced or seen the increase in brutal attacks on Gays and Lesbians. Less than a month ago the Wisconsin legislature failed to pass a bill that would have legalized Gay sex by (one) vote. Every week Gays/Lesbians are fired from their jobs and thrown out of their homes due to their sexual orientation. The Moral Majority is proposing Congressional legislation that if passed would force Gays/Lesbians to register with the government as "subversive agents, deny funding to Gay/Lesbian groups and deny government service to Gays and Lesbians." The New Right has already managed to convince Congress to cut off all federally subsidized legal assistance on any case that pertains to, promotes or defends homosexuality.

    "Our march on the 27th will not by itself change this situation, but it will help. The sight of hundreds of Gays/L:esbians and Straights marching in Milwaukee will give our so called leaders enough backbone to defend our rights. It may give our Common Council enough courage to pass an all-encompassing Gay/Lesbian rights ordinance, in place of the weak ordinance we have now. It may cause the queer bashers to pause. It will help closeted Gays and Lesbians come out and join our community. It will evoke a certain amount of public sympathy and concern.

    "Let's face it- with the recent increase in beatings, the new power of the Moral Majority and the increasing amount of discrimination Gays/Lesbians face due to the hatred being spread by the New Right, there has never been a more critical time for us to united and stand together. After all, if we don't help ourselves, who will?

    "We realize that many members of our community are afraid to march. They don't want to be exposed on television or in the newspaper. If you are concerned about this, we can only tell you that with the number of people we expect your chances of exposure are small. If you feel the need make a big poster and carry it in front of you to block out the cameras. At the very least join us in Juneau Park for the rally and entertainment following the march.

    "The queer bashings, the hateful pronouncements of the Moral Majority, the unwillingness of OUR government to grant us the same civil right protectisons given everyone else must be answered. We ask you to join with us in giving that answer. The time is now."

    Yours in Pride
    The Milwaukee Pride Week Committee





'Why March?' letter to community


Pride Week events for 1981
(Gay Milwaukee, May 29, 1981, vol. 4 no. 10, pg. 22)

UWM Gay Day Uneventful, Organizers Say
(one year after gays were jeered and egged at similar Gay Day)


Page 1 for this article:
UWM Post, Vol. 25- No. 62 -- April 16, 1981



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Credits: design and arrangement by Don Schwamb, with materials contributed by PrideFest and Ted Berg.
Last updated: May-2012.