Dick Leitsch, gay activist who led ‘sip-in,’ dies at 83

Dick Leitsch, right, with Randy Wicker, a fellow pioneering gay rights activist, in Manhattan, April 18, 2016. Leitsch, who in 1966 led a pioneering act of civil disobedience to secure the right of homosexuals to be served in a licensed bar, helping to clear the way for openly gay bars in New York State, died in Manhattan on June 22, 2018. He was 83.
Dick Leitsch, right, with Randy Wicker, a fellow pioneering gay rights activist, in Manhattan, April 18, 2016. Leitsch, who in 1966 led a pioneering act of civil disobedience to secure the right of homosexuals to be served in a licensed bar, helping to clear the way for openly gay bars in New York State, died in Manhattan on June 22, 2018. He was 83. –Karsten Moran / The New York Times

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.

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.

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