If you’ve ever attended the annual Pride event in Buffalo, then you know that Buffalo is a very open and welcoming community when it comes to anything related to the LGBTQ cause. While the national LGBTQ rights movement was not born in Buffalo, there have been plenty of activists that have fought so very hard to ensure that this city would stand up, speak up, and fight for the oppressed and downtrodden.
The Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project was established to pay tribute to the people who fought, and to those who sacrificed, for the rights of the LGBTQ community here in WNY. One of the ways that the group is doing this is by installing LGBTQ-themed historic markers at significant sites throughout the city and the region.
The first marker to be installed recognizes the efforts of local gay rights activist Bob Uplinger, who was the arrested via entrapment measures in 1981. Uplinger was incarcerated for inviting an undercover police officer back to his apartment, which resulted in a multi-year anti-entrapment legal battle. Uplinger’s conviction, and the resulting fights for justice, led to changes in legislation that decriminalized consensual sex between same-sex partners (under the guise of “loitering to solicit deviate sex”). The New York State Court of Appeals dismissed Uplinger’s conviction in 1983 (as unconstitutional), and the following year the United States Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Erie County District Attorney.
As archaic as this all sounds today, without the resoluteness and conviction of Uplinger and his stalwart determination to fight for his rights, and the rights of others, who knows how much longer it would have taken to thwart these injustices?
It is for that reason that Uplinger’s legacy is now being honored with a historic marker at the corner of North Street and Irving Place where the incident occurred – 40 years from the day when Uplinger was unjustly incarcerated.
The commemoration will take place on Saturday, August 7, 2021 at 4:00 p.m.