Back in 1969, a gay bar called Stonewall Inn was raided by police. The LGBTQ patrons stood up and fought back valiantly. It would later become an annual protest for LGBTQ rights (called the Christopher Street Liberation Day). This led to the limited freedoms LGBTQ people in the United States enjoy today. The Christopher Street Liberation Day would later be renamed to "Pride" and would be celebrated in almost every city around the world and Stonewall became a National Monument.
But those old times are back, almost like they never stopped. This past month in Seattle, Washington, the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) in the state was sent an anonymous tip that four gay bars were serving alcohol to underage patrons (where the state's minimum age is 21).
The LCB said in their public statement that they worked with the City of Seattle's Joint Enforcement Team (otherwise known as JET). They also mentioned how they visited 10 total locations on January 26 and January 27, 2024 during a monthly routine check of Seattle bars to make sure they were following all state laws.
But if this check was truly completely random, the bars would be scattered across the city. In reality, these 4 bars are all within 6 city blocks (0.4 miles) of each other. You would also expect this random check to include all types of bars, not 40% gay bars.
So, this was anything but a "routine checklist" and sadly, The Cuff, Queer/Bar, Massive, and The Eagle gay bars were on this list all because of that one anonymous tip claiming they were serving underage patrons. So, 40% of the bars the LCB checked in on this month were historically gay bars, all located in the city's gaybourhood, all within 6 blocks of each other, and all because of one anonymous tip.
When the LCB went to these 4 gay bars, they did not find anyone underage being served alcohol nor did they find anyone under 21 years old inside the establishments. So, great. This anonymous tip was wrong and the LCB should have moved on to the next bar on their list, right? Well, sadly they didn't just get their straight butts out of there after finding no violations.
Instead, the LCB and JET agents decided to take pictures inside all 4 of these bars, pictures which were a part of an open investigation meaning in about a month or so, the court has to - by law - release these photos to the public. This means, patrons who were closeted or just don't want public scrutiny for going to a gay bar, will now have their pictures online.
You and I might think, "So what? A person went to a gay bar on the weekend?" but the danger comes from hate groups funded by the far-right. Hate groups like Libs of TikTok, Moms for Liberty, and more have been known to hunt down people in pictures like this and demand that they be fired from their jobs. They've even been known to send bomb threats to these people and one of their followers even went so far as to commit a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs because of the rhetoric he was hearing from these hate groups. Then the hate groups celebrated that mass shooting online (don't they have such wonderful family values?). So, these photos are dangerous being public records, especially if one of the patrons works at a school where these hate groups can easily target them.
The LCB found in their investigations of these 4 gay bars that one man had his nipple exposed...they literally cited the man for 'lewd conduct' because he had his shirt off. I won't be the first gay man to recall how many construction sites I've walked by slowly as a teenager because the men had their shirts off in the middle of a workday. So, charging someone with 'lewd conduct' seems like a targeted attack which could be ruled as discrimination because straight men are allowed to take their shirts off in public all the time.
Another person got charged with the same thing because he was wearing a jockstrap which left his buttocks exposed. Now, this is where we have to mention that Washington state does have laws that prevent someone from being nude in a place that serves alcohol which is why strip clubs in Washinton reportedly cannot serve alcohol but it very much feels like the LCB said to themselves "Well, we didn't find them doing anything illegal so let's go after their patrons."
After the LGBTQ community members of Seattle demanded something be done, Seattle's mayor, Bruce Harrell said in a statement: "Under my administration, we will not target people or communities based on their sexuality or any other protected class. We understand the concerns raised by the community based on a perception of violating this principle..." Personally, that sounds like the mayor wants LGBTQ votes next election cycle, and even in the statement, he's saying "...perception of violating this principle..." meaning he thinks the LGBTQ community is wrong about this being a targeted attack where 40% of the places raided were gay bars and the patrons were harassed.
Finally, after much public scrutiny, the LCB chose to drop these two frivolous charges of 'lewd conduct' against the patrons. They also said in another statement that they will be:
Pausing lewd conduct enforcement.
Pausing JET participation since the JET agents were the ones to take the photos inside the establishments.
No citations or violations from this weekend will be issued.
Review, potential changes to regulations and policies.
Work with legislators and community leaders.
But the damage is already done. Patrons, especially those not yet out of the closet, don't like the idea of going to a gay bar if their photo might end up everywhere online in the public record. So we might see business at these 4 bars suffer in the near future, and if so, they could file a class action against the LCB because of these losses.
The LCB said in a statement that they cannot release the information on who sent in the anonymous tip but they also mentioned that they cannot rule out this being someone who wanted them to target LGBTQ bars either. So, even they are admitting they might have been played like a fiddle here into a hate group or individual's hand to target the community.
Most importantly here, they found nothing illegal inside. The homophobic bad actor who sent in the anonymous tip lied to them and there are currently no charges against them for defrauding the government or false testimony. But worst of all, that bad actor never told the LCB or JET to target the patrons instead.
The LCB were the ones who found nothing illegal in the bar and chose to target the patrons instead. And it was ONLY after the LGBTQ community fought back against this discrimination that the LCB backed down from their frivolous charges against patrons. So, yet again, the LGBTQ community had to fight for our rights and freedoms while facing discrimination and targeted attacks by the police. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's almost exactly what happened in 1969 but here we are in 2024 and history is sadly repeating itself.