From Poodle Beach to Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach is recognized as one of the most gay-friendly in the United States.
That wasn’t always the case.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, some locals drove around town with bumper stickers reading Keep Rehoboth A Family Town. Gay men were attacked on the Boardwalk for no reason other than being gay. In one extreme case, a gay man was denied medical attention because he was bleeding, and the medical staff thought he might have AIDS.
These were just a few examples of hostility toward the gay community discussed recently at Anna Hazzard House, hosted by Rehoboth Beach Museum. It was the first of a three-part summer lecture series focused on Rehoboth’s LGBTQ community.
Casey McClintick-Sink, a summer intern for the museum who attends Smith College in Massachusetts, said she and her two moms moved to the area about two years ago. Everybody knows the gay community is around, but she wondered where it came from, explaining why she began looking into the history.
McClintick-Sink presented a short history of the gay community in Rehoboth, followed by a lengthy discussion among the group.
Murray Archibald, a CAMP Rehoboth founder and decades-long resident of Rehoboth Beach, was in attendance. He said he can remember the concern that the gay community would corrupt the town. That wasn’t the case at all, he said.
The small group of lecture participants – mostly men who, like Archibald, had been coming to or living in Rehoboth for decades – recalled themed house parties and local bars – The Renegade and The Strand – where gay men and women could dance into the wee hours of the night.
Archibald said he remembered when the Blue Moon opened, with its outdoor patio along the street. He said it was the first time he could remember that the town’s gay life spilled out into the open for all to see.
The group recognized there is still some resentment toward the gay community in Rehoboth, but to a person, they said things have changed for the better.
It’s now a family town, with a lot of gay people, Archibald said.
Where are We Going? The Future of the LGBTQ Community in Rehoboth is set for 6 p.m., Monday, July 23 at the Anna Hazzard House, 17 Christian St.
Seats are limited and early registration is encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, call Rehoboth Beach Museum at 302-227-7310.