The Fight for a Gay Rights Bill in Urbana, April 1973-October 1973

From OutHistory
Jump to navigationJump to search

The Fight for a Gay Rights Bill in Urbana


Mask201.jpg The Cast - Major players identified. Actual historical figures on left.

Jeff Graubart, Activist/Treasurer C-U Gay Liberation Front, Narrator Dave Rosen
Hiram Paley, D-Mayor of Urbana Manny Singer
Charles Llewellyn, Fundamentalist minister Rev. Orville Barber
William Stanley, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Winston Stanfield III
Paul Fuller, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Seth Heller
Roger Walther, Activist/President C-U Gay Liberation Front Roger Hamilton
Alderman Kenneth Appel, D-Chairman Legislation Committee Ken Boyce
Alderman Ed Harris, D-Legislation Committee, Unitarian Minister William Harrison
Alderman John Peterson, I-Legislation Committee, Progressive Joel Sandberg
Alderman George Eighmy, R-Legislation Committee George McPherson

We Thought it Would Pass at the First Meeting of the New Council

Following the city elections of April, 1973, a majority of those elected to the Urbana City Council had now pledged to support the gay rights bill. The Champaign-Urbana Gay Liberation Front shifted its efforts from Champaign to Urbana.

A copy of the Ann Arbor gay rights bill had already been submitted to several pro-gay aldermen right after the election. It had been modified to Illinois law and we expected it to be passed at the first meeting of the new Council.



Dramatization of Gay Rights Discussion at First Council Meeting [1] The timing and conversation about the death of one of the characters in the novel is fictional. The rest of the meeting is reported as recalled.

The chaos created by Charles Llewellyn's 1500 signatures against the bill convinced the mayor to send a copy of the ordinance for review to the Legislative Committee of Alderman Kenneth Appel.

The Bill Goes To The Committee on Legislation

Evidence of abuse by the Urbana cop in the Wigwam incident-See Harassment at the Wigwam, April 1972 was sent to Mayor Paley and Alderman Ken Appel.

Text in the undisplayed column reads, "Five members of the Champaign-Urbana Gay"[2]

Despite the evidence presented and the charge to the Committee on Legislation to begin work on the bill, they decided to kill the bill. Letter From Ken Appel Suspending Action on the Gay Rights Bill[3]

In response, the Gay Liberation Front held a small protest at the June meeting of the Urbana City Council to demand action.

As a result of this protest, the Mayor responded to the charges against the Urbana cop and the Committee on Legislation began hearings at its June 25th meeting. Mayor Responds to Urbana Cop Charge[4]


Dramatization of 1st Meeting of Legislation Committee on Gay Rights Bill[5] The tone of the meeting is accurately reflected by the invective used, however, the specific swearing and put-downs might have occurred at this or any of the subsequent meetings. In the notes taken during this meeting by Paul Fuller, he concentrated on the outrageous statements of the ministers and omitted our expletives, particularly his own highly vituperative language.

Legislative Committee Meeting Notes by Paul Fuller[6]

News-Gazette Coverage on Legislative Committee Meeting[7]

For the next meeting of the Urbana Legislation Committee, Gay Liberation passed out a flyer to get more community participation, although only two or three new faces showed up. Bill Stanley and Alderman John Peterson added the clause exempting religious institutions.


Dramatization of 2nd Meeting of Legislation Committee on Gay Rights Bill-July 9,1973[9] Unlike the dramatization, the timeline and supporting news sources do not show the ordinance being voted out of committee until the end of August. There were at least two additional committee meetings of which I have no record, however, to my recollection, they were all replays, fought with the same vehemence on both sides.

Urbana Votes on Gay Rights

Finally, at the Urbana City Council meeting of August 28th, 1973, a vote would be taken on the gay rights ordinance that came out of the Committee on Legislation.


Dramatization of Urbana City Council vote on gay rights[11] Some of the conversation is fictionalized but speakers are accurately paraphrased to the best of my recollection or their words are taken directly from available sources.

Human Rights Ordinance Fails By A Vote[12]

Daily Illini Editorial on the Vote[13]

Text of August Speech[14]

Back and Forth Between Committees

The defeated bill was sent to the Urbana Human Relations Commission and then back to the Legislation Committee for more battle.


Dramatization of Legislation Committee Meeting After Defeat[15] An accurate portrayal of this meeting.

With absurd ideas like "nobody can discriminate against anybody for any reason" being proposed at the committee meeting, I once again addressed the Urbana City Council in October, 1973.

Back in the Legislation Committee, the next tactic was to demand a list of people who were actually discriminated against.


Dramatization of Legislation Committee Meeting Demanding Discrimination Victims[17] The conversation is complete fiction but the request for discrimination victims is not.

On October 15th, after much soul-searching, I turned over to the Mayor, in confidence, the names of a fired Urbana teacher and a fired Champaign waitress. Rather than investigating, he insisted these individuals come forward. Response By Mayor to Dismissed Employees[18]

Text of October Speech[19]

We were at loggerheads. For several reasons, a month later, I left Champaign-Urbana, in disgust, for Chicago.

Final Passage

The injustices I suffered at the hands of the Urbana cop, with no justice from the Champaign County Grand Jury or the City Council's of either Champaign or Urbana, created in me what is called today Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Beset by violent rages and worsening drug dependence, I came back two years later to make my final stand against the City of Urbana. It was a journey of surprises and rebirth. Jeff Graubart: A Conspiracy Unraveled, My 17 Day Urbana Sit-in, March, 1976

Exhibit Page Links


  1. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,6:1-6
  2. Anonymous 1973,Paley breaks council tie with vote to hire attorney, Champaign-Urbana Courier, June 6th, Front section
  3. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-8, Ken Appel Letter
  4. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-24, Letter from Paley on police incident.
  5. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,6:17-20
  6. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-2, Paul Fuller notes on Urbana Committee on Legislation
  7. Paul Bargren 1973, Homosexual Rights Legislation About Ready For Council, News-Gazette, June 26th, Page 3
  8. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-11, Flyer for Committee Meeting
  9. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,6:34
  10. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-10, Speech before Urbana Council, Read by Jeff Graubart, February, 2010
  11. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,6:36-38
  12. Anonymous 1973, Urbana human rights ordinance fails by a vote, Champaign-Urbana Courier, August 29th, Front section
  13. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-6B,Daily Illini Editorial on Gay Rights Bill Defeat
  14. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-10, Speech before Urbana Council
  15. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,6:39
  16. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-7, Speech before Urbana Council, Read by Jeff Graubart, February 2010
  17. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,6:50
  18. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-5, Letter from Mayor Paley
  19. Graubart, Jeff, 2007, Archives, 1973-7, Speech before Urbana Council

Contact Person

Jeff Graubart


<comments />