NACHO & Annual Reminders

In 1963, Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Mattachine Society, felt that the homophile movement should organize on a larger scale, similar to the feminist and civil rights movements. Kameny helped organize ECHO (East Coast Homphile Organizations).

Inspired by the civil rights slogan “Black is Beautiful,” Kameny coined the phrase “Gay is Good,” to combate the idea prevalent at the time that homosexuality was a disease. ECHO helped organize some of the first gay rights demonstrations. In 1965, they picketed the United Nations headquarters to protest of Cuba’s treatment of homosexuals and the White House to protest federal hiring policies.

Independence Hall Protests 4 (1967) AP

From 1965 to 1969, ECHO coordinated Independence Hall Protests, or Annual Reminders. These were a series of pickets that occurred every July 4 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Participants came from around the country. Chicagoan Bill Kelley attended every one. A strict dress code was enforced—jacket and ties for men and dresses for women—to present gays and lesbians as “respectable” and “employable.”

Independence Hall Protests 3 (1965) Mattachine AP
Independence Hall Protests 1

In February 1966, several homophile organizations from around the country met in Kansas City, Missouri for the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations (NPCHO). They discussed forming a national coalition that could direct and influence groups in the homophile movement. They established a legal defense fund and a newsletter. The coalition became the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO, pronounced nay-ko) and held annual planning meetings and conferences until 1970.

At the 1969 conference, held in August in Kansas City, assimilationists and radicals clashed. Assimilationists were seeking acceptance in society while the radicals were seeking to bring about change. While previous meetings had similar tensions, in 1969, just two months after the Stonewall riots, these tensions intensified. The tensions broke apart the 1970 conference held in San Francisco. This conference, which was the last NACHO conference, signaled the end of the homophile era.