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Dick Leitsch (1935–2018), pioneering gay rights activist

by Legacy Staff

Pioneering gay rights activist led 1966 “sip-in” protest at New York City bar.

NEW YORK (AP) — A pioneering gay activist who led a 1966 “sip-in” at a New York City bar has died at the age of 83.

Dick Leitsch (LIGHTSH) died Friday at a hospice in Manhattan. His death from liver cancer was confirmed by his brother, John Leitsch, of Louisville, Kentucky.

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Leitsch was a leader of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group.

His “sip-in” protest was meant to echo lunch counter sit-ins. Leitsch and three friends sat down at a bar and announced, “We are homosexuals.”

The bartender clapped his hand over Leitsch’s glass and refused to serve them. The moment was captured by a Village Voice photographer.

The protest led the state liquor authority to end its practice of using patronage by gay people as an excuse to revoke liquor licenses.

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Written by the Associated Press

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