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



March 1970
September 1971

Radical political action for the Gay community


Immediately after the Stonewall Riots (June 27-28, 1969), college students throught the country began to form homosexual rights organizations. UWM was no exception: in 1970, a University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee student organization that advocated for gay and lesbian civil rights was formed, partly inspired by a New York group named the Gay Liberation Front.

In the Feb 1970 UWM Post, the forming of the then-named Homosexual Freedom League (HFL) at UWM was announced as follows: "..organized by about a dozen male students... The spokesman said that he and his friends were tired of suffering the persecution of unjust and restrictive laws. He said members of the league would attempt to get restrictive laws repealed and try to educate the rest of the community about the homosexual way of life to enable homosexuals to gain their human and civil rights... The league plans to run a self-education program with an emphasis on gay culture to develop pride in the homosexual community."

The group held their organizational meeting on March 5, 1970, which about 75 people attended. At that meeting, the name Gay Liberation Organization at UWM (GLO-UWM) was adopted. But it was a short-lived coalition of two factions: one advocated advancement of civil rights by change, the other more revolutionary or radical actions.

In May 1970, the more radical members of GLO joined thousands of students, activists and hippies to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The action shut down UWM and prompted Chancellor Klotsche to declare a state of emergency. Not everyone in GLO was comfortable with such radicalism or supported involvement in issues not directly related to homosexual oppression.

Sometime later in 1970, the more militant members withdrew and formed the Milwaukee Gay Liberation Front, taking after the New York organization that had been the original inspiration. Leaving its revolutionary element behind, in February 1971 the remaining members of the GLO-UWM renamed the organization Gay Peoples Union at UWM. By September of that year, even the GPU ceased to exist as a student organization, and morphed itself into the Gay Peoples Union, a community-based organization that would occupy a prominent place in Milwaukee’s LGBT history for the next decade.


Feb. 1970 article in UWM Post on founding
of the Homosexual Freedom League

June 1970 Statement of Purpose

Credits: from paper and an article written by Michael Doylen for Q-Life Newspaper;
Page design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: August-2007.