NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay Political Coalition Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The North American Conference of Homophile Organizations, or NACHO, was formally created as a formal body with a mission to unify the homophile movement at a national level in terms of philosophy, ideals, and action. The founding of this first gay political coalition set the stage for the militant era of the lesbian and gay rights movement that soon followed.

Summary of Event

Between August 11 and 18, just one week prior to the Democratic National Convention in 1968, the fourth meeting of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), known earlier as the National Planning Conference of Homosexual Organizations, convened in Chicago. The meetings were held in a closed bar that temporarily had its liquor license revoked. Previous meetings had established various committees to deal with such issues as security clearances for homosexuals, government employment, military service, developing new organizations, reaching out to youth, circulating publications, religion, accreditation, and forming a national organization. [kw]NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay Political Coalition (Aug. 11-18, 1968) [kw]Gay Political Coalition, NACHO Formally Becomes the First (Aug. 11-18, 1968) [kw]Political Coalition, NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay (Aug. 11-18, 1968) North American Conference of Homophile Organizations Homophile Organizations, North American Conference of Political activism;political action committees [c]Organizations and institutions;Aug. 11-18, 1968: NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay Political Coalition[0690] [c]Civil rights;Aug. 11-18, 1968: NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay Political Coalition[0690] Cromey, Robert Warren Donaldson, Stephen Kameny, Franklin

By the time of the Chicago meeting, NACHO had made a significant shift, from simply being a convention for communications (as it was in Kansas City in 1966) to becoming a “loose federation” with articles of confederation (San Francisco, 1966) to proclaiming itself as “a duly constituted continuing body with the ultimate goal of establishing a legitimate homophile movement on a national scale” (Washington, D.C., 1967). The Chicago conference was a turning point for NACHO. It had legitimately matured into what a few visionary leaders had first intended: a formal, united body. It was thought that national unity would expand and strengthen the homophile movement by projecting an image of gays that would necessarily demand respect and a serious hearing. Regardless of many groups’ disparate views on the direction the movement should take and wide disapproval of the credentials committee’s subjective stance toward applicants (in fact, a few groups were threatening withdrawal over the committee’s actions), the affiliates met in Chicago and established a formal structure for NACHO.

The conference chairman, the Reverend Robert Cromey, moderated the event. The Committee on Unity, chaired by Stephen Donaldson, was perhaps the most active body that week. On August 13, 1968, the committee submitted a draft of “standing rules” that proposed the operation of an administrative body with an executive committee and council. The document stated that the convention was still the supreme organ and would overrule any decisions made by any faction of the NACHO constituency. It was further decided that the conference would subdivide into regions—East, West, and Midwest—to allow frequent communications and intergroup activities that would not contradict the policies of the national office.

The important studies of Evelyn Hooker, psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, had recently been published; she had provided valid evidence that homosexuals are not inherently sick individuals. Much of the conference lent itself to discussion surrounding this issue. At the time, the general retort from homophile groups to the ominous condemnation that “gay is bad” was that “gay is not bad.” Franklin Kameny took this retort a step further with a slogan he crafted prior to the conference, the radically positive affirmation that “Gay Is Good.” Two years earlier, NACHO had been able to agree only on a watered-down, self-oppressed statement that “each homosexual should be judged as an individual.” Now they adopted Kameny’s slogan to be used on the national front.

The conference also focused on issuing a “homosexual bill of rights” from the now-national homophile coalition. The proclamation can be summarized by saying that homosexuals were no longer pleading for but instead demanding that they receive equal treatment and protection under the law in matters of employment, federal security clearances, citizenship, and service in the military. They demanded a cessation of entrapment and sodomy laws as they pertained to consensual adults in private. They agreed, furthermore, that all political candidates should be held accountable to their homosexual constituencies and declare their views on issues concerning gay and lesbian rights.


It is ironic that what ultimately led to the demise of NACHO was a failure to embrace a characteristic inherent in the homophile community at large. The homophile community is rich with diversity; it is not and never will be composed of a single race or ethnicity, gender, or creed of persons. Charged predominantly by white men, NACHO failed to incorporate lesbian issues in the forefront of its cause, failed to reach out to other groups fighting the battle for civil rights, and refused to abandon its conservatism in a climate that called for radical reform.

In 1968, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations was officially overrun by radical youth, an event that proved to be only the beginning of a trend that gained strength through the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion and its aftermath, including the birth of the Gay Liberation Front. Stephen Donaldson was at the forefront of the radical youth movement and in many ways led the Gay Liberation Front’s infiltration into NACHO.

NACHO’s accomplishments may have fallen short of expectations, but they nonetheless were real. Promoting a breakthrough in communication and collaboration, the movement proclaimed an idea that was radical for its time—“Gay Is Good”—and loosened the grip of self-oppression on many gays, effectively opening the issue of homosexuality and encouraging large numbers of gays to join the movement. It will always remain to be proven whether Stonewall would have happened in 1969 if not for NACHO and the radical increase in the visibility and interconnectivity of homosexuals that it created. North American Conference of Homophile Organizations Homophile Organizations, North American Conference of Political activism;political action committees

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Blasius, Mark, and Shane Phelan. We Are Everywhere. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Duberman, Martin B. Stonewall. New York: Dutton, 1993.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Johnson, David. “Frank Kameny.” In Leaders from the 1960’s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism, edited by David DeLeon. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marcus, Eric. Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marotta, Toby. The Politics of Homosexuality. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

December 10, 1924: Gerber Founds the Society for Human Rights

1950: Mattachine Society Is Founded

1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded

1955: Daughters of Bilitis Founded as First National Lesbian Group in United States

May 27-30, 1960: First National Lesbian Conference Convenes

February 19-20, 1966: First North American Conference of Homophile Organizations Convenes

April 19, 1967: First Student Homophile League Is Formed

July 31, 1969: Gay Liberation Front Is Formed

June 28, 1970: First Lesbian and Gay Pride March in the United States

November 28, 1970: Del Martin Quits Gay Liberation Movement

1971: Kameny Is First Out Candidate for U.S. Congress

1973: National Gay Task Force Is Formed

October 18, 1973: Lambda Legal Authorized to Practice Law

March 5, 1974: Antigay and Antilesbian Organizations Begin to Form

April 22, 1980: Human Rights Campaign Fund Is Founded

Categories: History