Jim Burroway

September 6th, 2016

We were not good people just now: me, Chris and his older brother, Ricky. We were watching Cheaters: other peoples’ humiliations packaged for our entertainment. We were laughing and we were not ashamed of it because it was good to laugh. Now we’re watching Jubal. I looked it up: Jubal “was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.” Also: “a steamy Western which stars Glenn Ford as an itinerant cowpoke.” Now, Ricky just dozed a bit, in and out of sleep, the chicken spaghetti laying heavily in his stomach. It was good to see him dozing. It was also good to see him eating. He doesn’t do that much. Small mercies. 

Chris and I are in Abilene watching a man who is dying. He doesn’t know it, but he’s teaching me something about grace. He’s not religious, he’s not well read, he’s had a rough life. If you wanted to talk to him about grace, you wouldn’t get very far before he starts telling you about the time he and his buddies in San Angelo skipped school to go all the way to Abilene to see Easy Rider, and then split a six pack for the drive back to San Angelo. (Or some such story. He always has a story.) He didn’t learn grace, he just has it. We argue over who gets the Coke and who gets the water. “Whichever one you want.”  “No, Ricky, I bought them: it’s whichever one you want.” See what I mean? He has it. I don’t. 

How can someone in so much pain refuse to complain? How can someone suffer for, what? — one year, maybe two, and not say anything? How can someone spin out yet another of his tall tales — he has a million of them; he can’t tell a story without stretching it past its breaking point — and end it with his trademark, “If I’m lying’, I’m dyin’!” — except this time he adds with a sly smile, “well, I am pretty sick” — while sweat drips from his brow? I will remember him as he has lived and as he’s still living now, and that will always be a good thing.

Another Temporary Hiatus

Jim Burroway

September 3rd, 2016

Sorry for this blog going so quiet this week.  There’s a lot going on right now in the our household, and it’s only going to get worse now that a family member has entered hospice care. This suspension will likely last at least another week or so. I’ll keep you posted. 

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

September 3rd, 2016

Second Story, Monterey, CA

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), May 1971, page 58.

This is another one of those anonymous bars that faded into history with barely a trace. The theater was built in 1917 and christened the Strand. In the 1940s, the Strand  became the Rio, and then later the Regency until a fire in 2007 devastated the block across the street, putting about twenty businesses out of commission. By then, the Regency was already shuttered and derelict. In 2013, local investors bought the building and renovated it into business spaces and apartments, joining a series of multi-million dollar investments which rejuvenated the entire downtown. The location today houses a brewery/restaurant. Its “About Us” page gives a very brief history of the Regency, but it glosses over at least one of its upper-floor tenants:

The building was initially constructed in 1916 for the Monterey Elks Club that occupied the upper levels, with the Strand Theater and two retail stores on the ground floor. The Elks outgrew the location in 1964 and the upper floors were used by the Monterey Chess Club until 2003. The ground floor theater operation continued from 1916 as the Regency, Rio, and again the Regency Theater until 2005.

Today In History, 1971: Minnesota Couple Stake Claim To First American Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

September 3rd, 2016

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker, just after saying "I Do."

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker, just after saying “I Do.”

45 YEARS AGO: Jack Baker (Mar 10) and Michael McConnell (May 19) first tried to get a marriage license a year earlier in Minneapolis (May 18). They were not only denied their license, but Michael McConnell lost his job at the University of Minnesota when news of their application hit the news. Baker and McConnell sued in state court, but that would potentially keep things tied up for years. The pair came up with an alternate solution. In August of 1971, McConnell legally adopted Baker in an arrangement that would allow them at least some of the benefits of marriage (inheritance, medical decision-making, and even reduced tuition for Baker who a student at U.M.), but they were still denied their ultimate goal.

But there was one other crucial thing they got out of that adoption: Jack Baker had a new legal and gender-neutral name, Pat Lyn McConnell. And with that, they went to the Blue Earth County courthouse in Makato, Minnesota and applied for a marriage license. They got it on August 16, 1971. They asked a Methodist minister to perform the wedding, and he agreed. They even went through the lengthy pre-marital counseling that was required for any couple about to marry in the Methodist Church. But one day before the wedding was to take place, the minister got the jitters and backed out.

With little time left, they turned to a friend, Pastor Roger Lynn, who had volunteered with the couple in Minneapolis’s LGBT community center. Lynn immediately agreed, since the Methodist Church had no rules specifically banning same-sex couples from marrying. “The Methodist church has always taken a strong stand on social issues,” he said. “I expected that the progressive side of the church would support me.” Baker and McConnell arranged for a friend who worked at a local TV station to film the ceremony.

Lynn pronounced the couple “husband and husband,” and the two kissed. From then on, as far as they were concerned, they were legally and really married. Once news of the marriage got out, things got rocky. A retired Baptist minister waged an unsuccessful campaign to get Baker expelled from the University of Minnesota’s Law School, saying that Baker was “unfit to enforce the lawÃ¥ because he is himself an avowed law breaker.” (Gay relationships had been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor in 1967, but those convicted were still liable for up to one year in jail.) Hennepin County Attorney George M. Scott referred Rev. Lynn’s actions to a Grand Jury in early 1972, but the Grand Jury refused to indict him. He was however fired from his job and formally reprimanded by his presiding Bishop.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Baker and McConnell’s challenge to Hennepin County’s original 1970 denial of their marriage license. The Court declined to hear Baker v. Nelson “for want of a substantial federal question.” McConnell and Baker however contend that the license they did get from Blue Earth County was perfectly legal and remained in effect, although the I.R.S. didn’t see it that way. They filed joint returns for 1972 and 1973 with no problems. But in 1974, an I.R.S. official rejected their joint returned, changed their status to single and recalculated their taxes for them. By doing so, it meant that they two weren’t liable for the so-called “marriage penalty” and had overpaid their taxes by $309 (nearly $1,500 in today’s money). The couple refused to accept the refund. Baker told a reporter, “We realize that the legal position we take necessarily requires us to pay about $150 each year in taxes as a married couple over and above what would be expected if we filed as singles. However, we also recognize that privileges and responsibilities go hand in hand. Hence, we accept the good with the bad.”

The two are still together, living a quiet, happily married life in Minneapolis.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), May 1982, page 45. (Source.)

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), May 1982, page 45. (Source.)

Today In History, 1954: “Perverts Vanish” From Miami

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

Did anyone think to look in South Beach?

By now, the media-driven anti-gay hysteria gripping Miami for the past month (Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice), Aug 14, Aug 15, Aug 16, Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1) began taking on a Keystone Kops mentality. On August 26, Miami mayor Abe Aronovitz blasted City Manager E.A. Evans and Police Chief Walter Headley — who were both out of town on vacation — for “coddling homosexuals” in the city, and said that he would give Evans just one week rom the time he returns to “clean out certain pervert nests in Miami proper.” Evans returned on August 31 and met with Aronovitz, promising to “put pervert hangouts out of business by tomorrow.” Tomorrow came yesterday, and Evans was forced to clarify that no, they weren’t going to put anyone out of town that day, but that what he was really going to do was meet with Chief Headley to come up with a plan. Headley, for his part, threw up his hands, saying that he was hamstrung by the law. “We can’t put those places out of business unless someone passes a law that it’s illegal to serve homosexuals,” he told a reporter for The Miami News. His detective, Benjamin Palmer, suggested that maybe there was another way to get rid of all the homosexuals. “Practically all of the homosexuals work in Miami. If people wouldn’t hire them, they’d go away.”

That long review of increasingly comical events brings us to today, because it turns out that while Chief Headly didn’t have a new plan up his sleeve, he could at least put into practice the plan they always had: try another round of pointless police checks at known gay bars. They did exactly that later that evening, and on September 2, City Manager Evans claimed success. As The Miami News reported:

Miami’s many perverts have been chased “underground or out of town,” City Manager E.A. Evans declared today. Evants said his edict to the Police Department to harass bar owners catering to these characters had resulted from their disappearance from downtown streets.

“They have just disappeared,” said Evans. “Extra men have been added to police details and a check reveals only a few customers at bars where the homosexuals gather.”

Evans admitted that giving the city’s gay community a week’s notice through public arguments in the newspapers probably tipped them off to the coming raids, but he promised that the patrols weren’t “just for a few days. This is a long range proposition.” Neighboring Miami Beach’s Police Chief Romeo Shepard, who had long taken a much harder line on gay bars and the beaches, reacted to his larger neighbor’s crackdown. “We don’t want Miami’s homosexuals running over here. We’re making special plans to keep them out.”

Miami’s crackdown continued that night, but the results were paltry. The following day, The Miami News reported that four bartenders were arrested for liquor law violations — two for serving minors, one for “serving a drunk,” and one for having a “noisy juke box” — along with a 20-year-old Marine who as found drunk and turned over to military authorities and another man arrested at Bayfront Park. Meanwhile, police complained that they didn’t have enough laws to keep gay people in check. Chief Headley repeated his call for  a new law “forbidding them to congregate or buy drinks.” But they did claim success in one area. Police told The News that “the notorious Moulin Rouge bar, formerly the Singing Bar, was closed down some time ago, and its new operators reportedly plan to reopen the place for ‘normal’ trade.” Other bars cited that night included the Champagne Girl (559 W. Flagler Street, for having a “noisy juke box”), Samba Bar (249 N.E. First Street, for “serving a drunk”) and Vic’s Bar and Restaurant (39 N.E. Second Street, for serving a minor).

Born On This Day, 1907: Evelyn Hooker

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

Evelyn Hooker

(d. 1996) Dr. Hooker, the psychologist who is widely credited for establishing that gay people are not inherently mentally ill, knew what it meant to overcome long odds. Born the sixth of nine children in North Platte, Nebraska, she had to overcome uncountable barriers to women in academia and psychology throughout the first half of the 20th century. In 1942 while a teacher at UCLA, one of her students introduced her to other members of the gay community and challenged her to study “people like him” — homosexuals who were neither troubled by their homosexuality and who had none of the features commonly associated with mental illness. Among those she came to know was noted author Christopher Isherwood, who rented a guest house from her. “She never treated us like some strange tribe,” he recalled later, “so we told her things we never told anyone before.” Hooker quickly became convinced that most gay men were socially well-adjusted, quite unlike the homosexuals that had been written about in the scientific literature until then. By 1953 — at the peak of the McCarthy “lavender scare” period — she decided that this could be proven through psychological testing.

For her groundbreaking study, she gathered two groups of men. The first were gay men, many of them members of the local Mattachine Society, and the second were heterosexual men. She administered three sets of psychological tests, and presented the 60 unmarked sets of data to a team of three expert evaluators. The independent evaluators were unable to tell the difference between the members of the two groups. When she presented her paper, “The adjustment of the male overt homosexual“, at the 1956 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Chicago (Aug 30), her results were met with incredulity. It was a well-established orthodoxy in psychology that all gays were mentally ill, and that the disturbances would have been obvious in the test results. But until Hooker’s study was published, there was no scientific data available about non-imprisoned, non-patient homosexuals. For the first time, Hooker’s peer-reviewed study — it would soon appear in the March 1957 edition of the Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment — would prove that there were well-adjusted, normal and healthy gay men, and lots of them.

Hooker’s research into the subject didn’t end with just that single paper. In 1958, her paper “Male Homosexuality in the Rorschach” challenged whether the Rorschach inkblot test could weed out gays from straights as claimed by its backers. In 1959, she published “What Is A Criterion?”, in which she again reiterated that the three most popular tests then in use for personality assessments were incapable of picking gay men out of a crowd, despite claims to the contrary. She argued that part of the problem was that “we need to get beyond the fact that the individual is homosexual, to the kind of homosexual that he is,” adding:

It will have become evident by this time that I am not greatly disturbed by the fact that projective techniques diagnosing homosexuality are not demonstrably valid means for diagnosing homosexuality. In fact, I am rather encouraged by this because I hope it will force us to re-examine the much over-simplified picture we have had and encourage us to remind ourselves that the first goal of science is understanding, with prediction and control as secondary to it.

Her 1969 paper, “Parental relations and male homosexuality in patient and non-patient samples,” refused the widely accepted claim that parents were the cause of their children’s homosexuality.  That same year, she chaired the National Institute of Mental Health’s Task Force on Homosexuality, which recommended the decriminalization of homosexuality and its removal from the APA’s list of mental disorders. The APA finally acted on that recommendation in 1973, but it would take another thirty years before the U.S. Supreme Court would finally eliminate the remaining sodomy laws across the nation.

In 1991, the American Psychological Association honored Dr. Hooker with its Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest, saying: “Her research, leadership, mentorship, and tireless advocacy for an accurate scientific view of homosexuality for more than three decades has been an outstanding contribution to psychology in the public interest.” She died in 1996.

[Sources: Evelyn Hooker. “The adjustment of the male overt homosexual.” Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment 21, no. 1 (March 1957): 18-31.

Evelyn Hooker. “What is a criterion?” Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment 23, no. 3 (September 1959): 278-281.

Evelyn Hooker. “Parental relations and male homosexuality in patient and nonpatient samples.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 33, no. 2 (April 1969): 140-142.

Evenly Hooker. “Reflections of a 40-year exploration: A scientific view on homosexuality.” American Psychologist 48, no. 4 (April 1993): 450-453.]

Born On This Day, 1925: Fr. John J. McNeill

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

6a00e54ed2b7aa883301bb087d3737970d-200wi(d. 2015) The Buffalo, New York, native enlisted in the Army in 1942 at the age of seventeen and fought in the 87th Infantry. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis in France and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Leukenwald, Germany. His tortures began before he left France: he was kept in a sealed box car for days without food and water, licking frost from the box car’s nail heads to survive. His starvation continued in the camp, and his weight dropped to 80 pounds. Despite his frailty, he was made to work on a farm. One day, a Polish captive saw McNeil staring at food intended for the animals and threw him a potato when a guard was looking away. McNeil silently thanked the Pole, who made the sign of the cross in return.

That single gesture would have a profound impact on McNeill’s spirituality. After the war, he graduated magna com laude from Canisius College in Buffalo and entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1948. He was ordained a priest in 1959 by Cardinal Spellman. In 1961, he continued his studies at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where he earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1964. It’s also where he fell in love with another man for the first time. “The experience of the joy and peace that comes with that — it was a clear indication to me that homosexual love was in itself a good love and could be a holy love,” he later said in the 2011 biographical documentary, Taking a Chance on God.

After receiving his doctorate, he returned to the U.S. and joined the faculty of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where he met Fr. Daniel Berrigan. The year before, Berrigan had founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship which would go on to organize protests against the war in Vietnam. McNeill soon began joining Berrigan in those protests.

By 1970, McNeill found what would ultimately prove to be his life’s calling, when he became involved with DignityUSA, an organization for LGBT Catholics that had been founded in San Diego the year before. McNeil founded the New York chapter in 1972, saying Mass, hearing confessions, and ministering to the needs of gay Catholics who struggled with self-loathing and depression.

Fr. McNeill, second from right, marching with a contingent of DignityUSA.

Fr. McNeill, second from right, marching with a contingent of DignityUSA.

In 1976, McNeill published The Church and the Homosexual, which was the first extended work by a scholar and theologian to challenge the church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality. The book argued that loving same-sex relationships were just as moral and godly as heterosexual relationships, and it argued for a change in church teachings and attitudes toward gay and lesbian Catholics. Before the book appeared in print, it was extensively vetted by a panel of theologians and received an imprimatur from the Vatican and the blessing of McNeill’s Jesuit superiors.

The Church and the Homosexual was translated into several languages, and it quickly picked up critics along the way. Meanwhile, McNeill publicly came out of the closet during an interview about the book with Tom Brokaw, who asked if he was gay. By 1977, the Vatican withdrew its imprimatur, and ordered McNeill not to write or speak publicly about homosexuality. McNeill, thinking that the church needed time to work through the issue, complied, although he continued his pastoral work with LGBT Catholics.

McNeill obeyed the order for the next nine years, until the AIDS crisis prompted him to reconsider. McNeill and Fr. Mychal Judge (May 11) founded an AIDS ministry to serve gay Catholics and the homeless in Harlem. Then in 1986, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI) issued its letter On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, which labeled homosexuality “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” McNeil broke his silence and condemned the letter in statements issued to The New York Times and The National Catholic Reporter. As McNeill later wrote:

The Vatican document went so far in its hatred of all things gay as to assert that if homosexuals continue to claim “unthinkable” civil rights, then they should not be surprised by the violence inflicted upon them by gay-bashers and have only themselves to blame. This statement has been interpreted in some quarters as encouraging violence against gay people. Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter even suggested that it is gay activists and the professionals who try to help gays achieve self-acceptance who are responsible for the AIDS epidemic: “Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remained undeterred and refused to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.”

In my more than twenty years’ experience of pastoral care with thousands of gay Catholics and other Christians, the gay men most likely to act out their sexual needs in an unsafe, compulsive way and, therefore, to expose themselves to the HIV virus, are precisely those persons who have internalized the self-hatred that their religions impose on them. They are precisely the ones who, while they find it impossible to suppress and deny their sexual needs totally, cannot enter into a healthy and committed intimacy with anyone because of this self-hatred.

Cardinal Ratzinger responded by ordering McNeill into silence once more, and to end his pastoral work with gays and lesbians. McNeill refused, and in 1987 he was expelled from the Jesuits on Vatican orders. McNeill said this expulsion, while painful, was also liberating. That year, he was name grand marshall of the New York City gay pride parade. “Our primary task these days as gay people is to learn how to celebrate life in the face of death,” he told The New York Times.

McNeill continued his work with the LGBT community, work that now included psychotherapy after picking up a degree at the Institutes of Religion and Health in New York. He also continued writing: Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families and Friends (1988), Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else (1995), and the autobiographical, Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey (1998). In 2008, McNeill married his partner of thirty-three years, Charles Chiarelli, in Toronto. McNeill passed away in 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale.

Born On This Day, 1946: Billy Preston

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

70 YEARS AGO: (d. 2006) As a three-year-old, little Billy began playing the piano while sitting on his mother’s lap. By age ten, the child prodigy was playing the organ for such noted gospel singers as Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland (who, it was later revealed, was also gay — which is a different story for another time). At age eleven, he appeared on Nat King Cole’s national TV program singing Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill, and at age twelve, he started with Cole in the film St. Louis Blues, playing a younger W.C.Handy. In the 1960s, he became a sought-after studio musician, playing organ for Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and the Beatles, whom he had met while performing in Hamburg in 1962.

When Preston joined up with the Fab Four again in 1969, the four weren’t quite so fab. In fact, they were on the verge of breaking up and were struggling to complete Abbey Road and Let It Be. George Harrison brought Preston in, and his gregarious personality and musicianship briefly calmed the tensions in the studio, so much so that John Lennon proposed making Preston an official “Fifth Beatle.” (Paul reportedly countered that it was bad enough with four.) Preston did join the band for its final rooftop concert at Abbey Road studio, and his prominent eclectic piano solo on “Get Back” earned him a credit on the resulting single as “The Beatles with Billy Preston.”

Preston didn’t join the Beatles, but he did join their record label, Apple Corps, which released his 1969 album That’s the Way God Planned It... His 1970 release, Encouraging Words included Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr as guest musicians. After his departure from Apple for A&M, Preston continued his collaboration with George Harrison in The Concert for Bangladesh and toured with Harrison during his 1974 North American tour. Meanwhile, Preston’s start as a solo artist began to shine, with his 1972 instrumental “Outa-Space” winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. That was followed by his number one hits “Will It Go Round In Circles” in 1972 and “Nothing from Nothing” in 1974.

While Preston continued released solo albums throughout his career, his spotlight as a solo artist was relatively short-lived. But his collaborations with other musicians remained strong, including an extended stint with The Rolling Stones for several albums and concert tours through the seventies. Keith Richards, in his recent autobiography Life, recalled, “He was gay at a time when nobody could be openly gay, which added difficulties to his life. Billy could be, most of the time, a bundle of fun. But sometimes he would get on the rag. I had to stop him beating up his boyfriend in an elevator once. Billy, hold it right there or I’ll tear your wig off. He had this ludicrous Afro wig. Meanwhile, he looked perfectly good with the Billy Eckstine look underneath.”

Some of Preston’s difficulties undoubtedly were rooted in his background in Gospel music. While his main success came in secular music, he remained in touch with the Black Gospel world, including playing organ for Donny McClurkin’s self-titled debut album in 1996. That was before McClurkin announced in 2002 that he was gay but had “experienced God’s power to change my lifestyle.” Preston’s foot in Gospel only added to the pressure to remain publicly closeted. As a close friend said, “Billy was gay. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve. How could he? He was a black man that came from the church. The church would have destroyed him. [But] he wasn’t ashamed of who he was.” While Preston keenly felt the need to remain closeted, there is a good reason why he may have felt at home in the Gospel world. He once quipped to a friend in Gospel music that the Black church choir was “the original gay-straight alliance.” Here, Preston plays “How Great Thou Art” at Gospel Celebration 1988:

Preston continued collaborating with other musicians through the remainder of his life. When George Harrison died, Preston played for the 2002 commemorative Concert for George in London. He also collaborated with Johnny Cash for 2002’s American IV: The Man Comes Around and on Ray Charles’s 2004 Genius Loves Company. Preston died in 2006 of complications from malignant hypertension and kidney failure, despite having undergone a kidney transplant in 2002.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), August 21, 1987, page 16. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), August 21, 1987, page 16. (Source.)

Today In History, 1954: “If People Wouldn’t Hire Them, They’d Go Away”

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

Just yesterday, Miami mayor Abe Aronovitz demanded that city manager E.A. Evans and police chief Walter Headley begin an immediate purge of homosexuals in the city (See Aug 31). Aronovitz even went so far as to threaten to fire Evans. Feeling the pressure, Evans promised to “put pervert hangouts out of business by tomorrow.” But there was a hitch: Chief Headley was still out of town on vacation. As Evans told The Miami News, what he really meant to say that he would relay orders to Headley by tomorrow  — tomorrow now being today — to do something. Evans added that he didn’t intend to tell Headley how to do his job. “It’s a police matter,” he told the reporter.

Once Chief Headley got word of what was going on in Miami, he told The Miami News that he was somewhat hamstrung by the law. “We’ll redouble our efforts to harass the perverts,” he said, “but we’ve been working on that. We can’t put those places out of business unless someone passes a law that it’s illegal to serve homosexuals.”

Detective Benjamin Palmer backed his boss: “We go into these places about every night,” he told the reporter. “We make every customer stand up and give his name and address, which certainly doesn’t make them happy. If one of them looks even half drunk we throw him in jail, and charge the bar operator with serving drunks. It doesn’t seem to me there’s much more we can do.”

Palmer did offer one solution though: “Practically all of the homosexuals work in Miami. If people wouldn’t hire them, they’d go away.”

Today In History, 2009: Vermont’s Marriage Equality Law Goes Into Effect

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan were married in one of a handful of midnight weddings in Vermont.

Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan were married in one of a handful of midnight weddings in Vermont.

In 2000, Vermont made history when it became the first state in the U.S. to recognize same-sex marriages through a civil union law that was signed by Gov. Howard Dean. That first law came about after the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to “the same benefits and protections afforded by Vermont law to married opposite-sex couples,” but the court stopped short of requiring the legislature provide marriage equality. Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers who represented the couples suing the state, found the ruling strange. “They had this beautiful language in there about the humanity of gay people, but I couldn’t believe they had done something that I thought was a political judgment. I had never heard of segregating the word marriage from its rights and protections.”

Map, US, Marriage Timeline, Sept 1, 2009

Click to enlarge.

But for the next three years, civil unions were the best that same-sex couples could expect in the U.S., and Vermont was the only place they could get it until the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered that state’s legislature to provide same-sex marriages in 2003. For the remainder of the decade, a number of states instituted domestic partnerships, civil unions, and full-on marriages, while Vermont went along with its civil unions.

Things changed in 2009, when the state Senate approved a marriage equality bill in a lopsided 26-4 vote, which drew a veto threat from Gov. Jim Douglas (R). The House approved the bill a week later in a vote that fell just shy of a veto-proof majority. But at least two of the Democratic House members who voted against the bill announced that they would switch their vote if the Governor vetoed the legislation. Douglas vetoed the bill, as promised. The Senate sailed through its override vote the next day, and the House followed through with the minimum 100-49 vote needed to reach the magic two-thirds mark. When law went into effect on September 1, Vermont became the fourth state to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples (New Hampshire’s law wouldn’t go into effect until the following January), and the first state to do it without being ordered to do so by a court.

Born On This Day, 1815: Emma Stebbins

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

(d. 1882) If you’ve ever walked past the bronze statute of Horace Mann outside the State House in Boston, or paused to take in the refreshing sight of the Angel of the Waters fountain at Bethesday Terrace in Central Park, you’ve seen some of the more visible works by one of the first notable women sculptors in America. While those bronze works are her most visible, Stebbins’s greatest pleasure came from working with marble or clay, where she could work alone in her studio, undistracted from the hassles of working with patrons, foundries, and the general public. Born to a wealthy New York family, she took up painting and sculpting while in her twenties, and then moved to Rome in 1856 to study with sculptor Harriet Hosmer. That relationship quickly ended when both women competed for the affections of the famous actress Charlotte Cushman (Jul 23), who was also in Italy at the time. Stebbins won, and the two quickly became fixtures in lesbian circles in Europe.

Because women sculptors were something of a novelty, male critics charged that their works were actually products of their students or assistants. Hosner, in particular, came under that charge in 1863. Cushman confided to a friend that the controversy had driven Stemmins “almost wild.”

Marble bust of Charlotte Cushman by Emma Stebbins, 1859.

That she should be classed among those who would be believed to have their work done for them makes her too miserable, and to struggle along without the material help which all sculptors must have has become so entirely a necessity to her that she is assuming labor for which she has neither physical nor mental strength. … I never saw such crucifixion as Emma Stebbins. … because she cannot accept these helps and tries to shuffle on to do all her own work. I sometimes thing she ought not to do it and I should be doing right to take her away and not let her come back to it.

While Cushman worried about Stebbins’s health, it would be Cushman’s illness which would bring a pause to Stebbins’s career. When Cushman was being treated for breast cancer in 1869, Cushman set aside her work to nurse her lover. When Cushman died of pneumonia in 1876, Stebbens stopped working altogether. She later wrote, “I lived with the embodied principle of love so many years that it became a part of being and has grown intensive more and more since it was taken away form me, so much so, that I have an ever-present consciousness that her spirit is still suggesting to me the beautiful principle by which she loved and wrought.” In 1878, Stebbins published Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memoires of Her Life. She died four years later at the age of 67.

[Source: Elizabeth Milroy. “The Public Career of Emma Stebbins: Work in Marble.” Archives of American Art Journal 33, no 3 (Fall 1993): 2-12.]

Born On This Day, 1868: Baron Adolf de Meyer

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

(d. 1949) He was born in Paris and raised in Dresden, the son of a German Jewish father and a Scottish mother. Whether de Meyer was actually a baron was open to question; some say he inherited the title from his grandfather, others say that there’s no evidence to support his noble claims, others still maintained that he obtained his title by marrying, for convenience’s sake, Donna Olga Caracciolo, the divorced Italian god-daughter (some say daughter) of Edward VII.

Regardless, wherever the elite could be found, he was there, photographing such celebrities as Mari Pickford, John Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Vaslav Nijinsky, King George V and Queen Mary. He was named the first official fashion photographer for American Vogue in 1913 after appearing in Alfred Stieglitz’s quarterly Camera Work. In 1922, de Meyer became Harper’s Bazaar’s chief photographer in Paris until 1938, when he returned to the U.S. as war loomed in Europe. By then, his style was considered passé. When de Meyer died in Los Angeles in 1949, he was remembered more for his famous friends than for his photography, as relatively few of his original prints survived the war.

Born On This Day, 1939: Lily Tomlin

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

She began her comedy career as a stand-up comedian in the 1960s when she quickly landed a spot on NBC’s Laugh-In. Her many memorable characters quickly became the stuff of pop culture: Ernestine, the nasal, nosy, and obnoxious telephone operator who epitomized the bureaucratic condescension of the old Ma Bell monopoly (“We don’t care, we don’t have to…we’re the phone company.”); Edith Ann, the five year old girl sitting in an oversized rocker with her observations of the crazy crap the adults around her were pulling (and always ending her monologues with “…and that’s the truth. Phhhht!”); And Mrs. Judith Beasley, the prim and proper “tasteful lady.” In 1977, she became the first woman to appear solo on Broadway with Appearing Nitely, and in 1985, she starred in another one-woman Broadway show, The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by her long-time partner, writer-producer Jane Wagner. In 1980, Tomlin appeared in the hit movie Nine to Five, with Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman, and she hit movie pay dirt again in All of Me with Steve Martin.

Tomlin and Wagner have been together since 1971, and while their relationship was never much of a secret, the press remained pretty mum. When Tomlin officially came out in 2001, it hardly seemed necessary. “Everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality and of Jane… In interviews I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don’t always write about it.” After the upreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and reversed California’s Prop 8 in 2013, she and Wagner are thinking about tying the knot. “You don’t really need to get married, but marriage is awfully nice,” Tomlin said. Indeed, it is. They married on New Year’s Eve of that year.

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