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Episcopal Church to vote today on gay marriage UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

July 1st, 2015

Three years ago, the Episcopal Church became one of the first denominations to allow the blessing of same-sex unions. But while this was generally perceived as allowing the conducting of same-sex weddings, the church did not go quite that far. They kept a distinction between the blessing and their marriage sacrament.

Today the church will vote on whether to take the final step and open the marriage sacrament to same-sex couples. The church’s Bishops voted yesterday to support the move.

If the change is made, the Episcopal Church will join the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in allowing congregations to host and pastors to officiate same-sex weddings.

UPDATE:

The delegates have now confirmed the change, allowing same-sex marriage and authorizing two trial liturgies. Here is more detail as to the particulars. (deputynews)

The two liturgies, which were in Resolution A054, include a gender-neutral version of the current marriage service in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, as well as a version of a liturgy that was approved in 2012 for blessing same-sex unions that now also provides vows of marriage. These rites do not refer to “man and woman” or “husband and wife,” but instead use “these persons” or “the couple” to refer to the two people being married.

The 2012 rite, known as “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” was amended to include improvements identified since it was permitted three years ago, and then was approved by the bishops.

The language of the existing marriage liturgy in the Prayer Book remains unchanged.

The Virgin Islands is on board with marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 30th, 2015

St John Trunk BayVirgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp is issuing an executive order that all government agencies and departments recognize same-sex marriage. (viconsortium)

“The Government of the Virgin Islands as a civil society can no longer discriminate on marriage,” Mapp said. “The nation has arrived, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling, at full marriage equality — when two consenting adults appear for a marriage license and apply for that license, civil society is required to respond. And so persons of the same-sex can be married in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

The US Virgin Islands is fairly socially conservative and Governor Mapp is not personally in favor of same-sex marriage. However, some of the governors of the states could learn from his example.

When asked about the sentiment among many that the territory was not quite ready for the historic ruling, the governor said his personal opinion on the matter is irrelevant.

“Well, it’s not my decision,” the chief executive said. “When Lieutenant Governor [Osbert] Potter and I met during the campaign, we met with a council of ministers and they talked about our position [concerning] if a bill should arrive at our desk legalizing same-sex marriage.

“We said to the ministers then that we would not be sending any bill to the Legislature to do that; but we cautioned them that the movement in the nation clearly indicated that the judicial branch of government would ultimately decide this issue. And that as sworn leaders of a civil society, we took an oath that we say we take freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion — meaning that we take the oath swearing to uphold the laws of the nation as they apply to the Virgin Islands and the laws of the Virgin Islands.”

He continued: “The Supreme Court has made a decision that affects the entire nation. It is not for me to express what my personal feelings are. It is for me to do the business of governance and the business of governance, given the Supreme Court’s ruling, says that if an individual in the Virgin Islands is married to a person of the same-sex in any state of the nation, that the Virgin Islands government must recognize that marriage as lawful.

Ted Cruz on the marriage ruling

Timothy Kincaid

June 30th, 2015

Ted CruzIt seems a consensus that junior Texas Senator Ted Cruz is seeking to be our nation’s next President. I disagree.

National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed Cruz about the Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage. In addressing the subject of the interview, Cruz has some interesting opinions about the court ruling on marriage equality that guarantees he will get attention.

He says states can just ignore it.

INSKEEP: Justice Scalia, who, as you, right — you worked with when you were a Supreme Court clerk and who you clearly greatly respect, ended his dissent on same-sex marriage with a warning that the court depends on states and the executive branch, the president, to follow its rulings, to respect them, and he warned that the court was moving closer to proving its impotence.

As you know, there are some Republicans who have been talking in general terms of somehow defying the court’s ruling.

Would you encourage state or federal officials who disagree with that ruling to ignore it or defy it in any way?

CRUZ: You know, you’re right, that the final paragraph of Justice Scalia’s dissent was an ominous paragraph. What Justice Scalia was saying was that these decisions are fundamentally illegitimate, that his colleagues on the court are not following their oaths.

Now, the way our constitutional system works, the courts that have the authority to decide cases and controversies between particular individuals. But there is no obligation on others in government to accept the court as the final arbiter of every constitutional question. Indeed, every officer takes an oath to uphold the Constitution.

INSKEEP: Which is a great story. But did I just understand you to suggest that state officials should feel no particular obligation to follow the court ruling if they feel it’s illegitimate?

CRUZ: They should feel no obligation to agree that the court ruling is right or is consistent with the Constitution.

This ruling…

INSKEEP: But does that mean they can ignore?

CRUZ: They cannot ignore a direct judicial order. The parties to a case cannot ignore a direct judicial order. But it does not mean that those who are not parties to case are bound by a judicial order.

And that’s what Justice Scalia was saying in his dissent, which is that the court depends upon the remainder of government trusting that it is faithfully applying the law and — and these judges and justices are disregarding their oaths.

INSKEEP: Did I understand you to say just now that as you read the law, as you read our system, this decision is not binding on the entire country, only to the specific states that were named in the — in the suit.

CRUZ: Article III of the Constitution gives the court the authority to resolve cases and controversies. Those cases and controversies, when they’re resolved, when you’re facing a judicial order, the parties to that suit are bound it. Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it.

Now, in subsequent litigation, other courts will follow the precedence of the court, but a judicial order only binds those to whom it is directed, those who are parties to the suit. That’s the way our litigation system works.

Now, this is what Justice Scalia was talking about in his dissent, which is that it has been the case that on a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case.

But there’s no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgment.

Which is, of course, a distinction without a difference. SCOTUS has spoken on the matter and no federal court will rule contrary to the determination of the Supreme Court. Cruz is merely advocating avoidance, delay, chaos, and anarchy.

But fear not oh anti-gays, Cruz has found a solution to the horrible horrible badness of equality under the law. It comes in three parts.

[N]umber one, I’ve introduced a constitutional amendment to restore the authority of the states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Number two, I’ve introduced legislation in the United States Congress to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction for attacks on marriage. The Constitution explicitly gives Congress the authority to strip jurisdiction as a check and balance against judicial overreach.

But number three, this week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment, this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections as a very real check.

Cruz’ number one option has exactly zero traction. This is a loser of an idea, as has been demonstrated in the US Senate. Never has an anti-gay marriage amendment garnered more than 48 votes, nowhere near the supermajority of 67 needed to pass. And that was before a number of Republican Senators began endorsing marriage equality.

Cruz’ second step similarly has zero chance of passage. Congress is not going to pull determination about the constitutionality of marriage bans from the federal court system. Such a step, supposing it had any support, would weaken the nation’s trust in our political system and leave the country uncertain as to whether there was any governmental branch to which they could turn to resolve grievances.

Even if by some bizarre chance it were to pass, no President of any party would sign such a bill. No one wants their legacy to be the dismantling of the system of checks and balances.

Finally, Cruz’ third solution is a frightening one. Most reasonable people – even non-political people – recognize that having the judicial review of a law’s constitutionality tied to political whim is a horrible idea. It is the longevity of judicial thought that overlaps administrations and shifts in ideology that protects the nation from despotism.

And further, his idea is founded in delusion. Coming from Texas, Cruz imagines that the views of his bubba buddies reflects the national opinion. He dreams that if only the Justices were subjected to a national plebiscite, then the people would throw out the Supremes who found that the Constitution requires equal treatment under the law and replace them with justices who would reinstate anti-gay marriage law.

He presents this example to support that pipe dream.

CRUZ: It’s worth remembering just a few years ago, the Windsor decision from the Supreme Court. It struck down a referendum that the people of California — now, California is not a conservative state. It is not a red state. California’s a bright, bright blue state. And yet when California put a referendum, just a few years ago, on about the ballot about whether marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman, a majority of Californians voted to preserve traditional marriage.

And then…

INSKEEP: But you don’t think that that vote would — would be different today, given the change in polls in the last several years?

CRUZ: It may well, or it may not. That was just a few years ago.

Ummm… that’s insane.

First off, Windsor did not strike down a referendum of the people of California. That was Hollingsworth v Perry, in which the Ninth Circuit struck down Proposition 8, and the Supreme Court found that the case was moot because after the state pulled its defense of the law, no one had standing to defend it. Windsor found that the federal government had to recognize the marriage of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, which had been legally conducted in Canada and was recognized under the laws of New York State as passed by the legislature.

But irrespective of Cruz’ lack of basic facts, he’s also completely wrong about public opinion. Polling on marriage equality in California shows that marriage equality has two-thirds favor. There’s no “it may not” possibility.

Similarly national polling has marriage leading holding support somewhere in the mid 50’s to opposition in the high 30’s. Even were the nation to toss out our long judicial history for Ted Cruz’ craziness, voters almost without exception vote for retention of judges. Even controversial judges. There is no way that the nation would vote out judges because they supported equality.

Which leads me to believe that Ted Cruz is not serious about Presidential aspirations. He’s not saying things that push one down the path to Presidency. Wacko statements like these do not cause donors to support you, papers to endorse you, or fellow politicians to bring their political machine to your service.

They do, however, get media attention and raise your profile in right-wing media. They do fire up the uninformed and earn the adoration of the single minded. As does a “campaign” designed not to win votes but to showcase image.

And, as it turns out, Ted Cruz has a book to sell, A Time For Truth. In the short NPR interview, he manages to mention or reference his book 22 times.

Ted Cruz is not running for President. Ted Cruz is selling a book.

[Updated to correct Cruz’ inaccuracies about Windsor]

Evangelicals pledge to defend traditional marriage by witness and example

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2015

Those who make a living defending God and the family from television commercials, gay pizza eaters, and children’s books are frothing and spewing about the Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality. They are pledging that they “refuse to accept” the ruling and calling for a constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, the most prominent Evangelical Christians are taking another path entirely.

Evangelical Christianity (in this instance) is comprised primarily of Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, conservative Lutheran, conservative Presbyterian, Brethren, Reformed, and other smaller denominations.

Of these, the Pentecostal movement has mostly stayed out of the political fray. This is consistent with their tradition of seeing themselves as outside of the world to a large extent. Also mostly outside the political debate have been Brethren, Reformed, and the more conservative cousins of Mainline denominations.

But for many years, Southern Baptists railed against homosexuality and fought a culture war determined to keep equality out of the hands of their LGBT brothers and sisters. And those states in which Southern Baptists hold sway are chuck-full of anti-gay politicians who make little effort to hide their animus.

However, a few years back I noticed that there had been a shift in the Baptists’ approach. The SBC, though still hostile and hurtful, appeared to be largely stepping out of the battle. And their response to the Supreme Court ruling, along with other leading Evangelicals, is even more an evidence of this disengagement.

In a statement entitled Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage, a virtual who’s who of evangelical leaders staked out their position in response to marriage equality being found to be constitutionally protected. Signatories includes such leaders as David French, Eric Teetsel, Jim Daly, John Stonestreet, Marvin Olasky, Paul Nyquist, Albert Mohler, Richard Land, Ronnie Floyd, and many more.

Absent from the list were the usual clutch of firebrands, extremists, and lunatics. And the statement reflects a serious approach based less on political rhetoric and hyperbole and focused instead on how this change impacts the lives of those who share this faith.

Yes, they proclaim that “The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman”, when anyone with a Bible would be hard pressed to find such a marriage within its covers. But this is a statement of faith, a proclamation of belief, rather than a call to arms. And their objection to the ruling is termed as a dissent.

The meat of their statement is in what they commit to do.

    The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

I will, of course, fight any of their democratic efforts to exclude me from full inclusion in society. And I’m not sure that we would draw the same boundaries for religious liberty. But otherwise I don’t find much with which to quibble.

Should Evangelicals live up to this mandate – to live respectfully, loving all people, and affirming dignity and respect – I would find them to be good neighbors and decent people. And if they wish to live an example of what marriage ‘should be like’, that would certainly go farther than all the name-calling and rejection that they have engaged in over the past several decades.

Facebook celebrates marriage ruling

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2015

The governator

In the days since the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality, some 26 million people utilized a facebook app that would apply rainbow colors to your profile picture. That’s a lot of celebration.

Yes, Puerto Rico too

Timothy Kincaid

June 28th, 2015

puerto rico

Friday’s marriage ruling applies not only to the 50 states, but also to US territories. Puerto Rico is taking steps to comply. (AP)

Just hours after the court’s decision, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order requiring government agencies to become compliant with the ruling within 15 days. As a result, the island’s Health Department is expected to begin issuing marriage licenses by early next month.

There has been a case before the First Circuit to determine whether the island’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution. Puerto Rico’s Justice Department had abandoned the defense of the ban. Friday’s ruling resolves the case.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, July 7

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Midnight Rider, July 4, 1980, page 24.

From Midnight Rider, July 4, 1980, page 24.

Mary’s of Houston, Texas held a “Get Out of Jail Free” party on Monday, July 7 as an act of defiance against the Houston Police Department, which had raided the bar on June 24. Sue Cummings wrote about the raid the week earlier:

I wrapped up the Wilde ‘n Stein radio show Thursday night with, “I’m off to San Antonio for the State Democratic Convention,” but. .. going home via Westheimer took me past Mary’s. There I saw the police loading bar patrons into a van. The first thing I did was the 100-yard dash to a public phone and 25¢ later KPFT and Ray Hill had the news.

I returned to find Jim Farmer, owner and Grand Marshal of the Gay Pride Week Parade with his hands against the side of the van. There were uniformed officers of the vice squad and also plainclothes policemen trying to pass for gay. Guns tucked in the small of their back, badges at their waist, they had dressed in out-of-date hippie gear. The billy clubs were out as they confiscated leather vests, caps, belts, and wristlets studded with metal and hung with chain.

It was not the Stonewall. All these men with their “deadly weapons” did not resist. They went quietly; some joked to keep the morale up. Two groups of onlookers gathered — one near Montrose Boulevard and the other at Waugh Drive. I asked a young man standing to my left “how many are in the van?” but he didn’t know. He told me they would not let him enter the bar. One by one a policeman placed men in the backseat of a blue cruiser parked on Waugh until there were five. Shortly after that myself, Sharon Taylor, and David, the young man I had spoken with were also arrested.

When Sharon, Officer Krol, and I arrived at the station the men were lined up against a long white wall. We were placed in an office across the hall from Andy Mills, manager and leader of the Montrose Singers, Family, Tavern Guild, etc. A vice officer pokes his head into the office and says, “You mean they have dykes down there too?” Sharon is refused permission to use the bathroom.

From where we sit in the booking room we can see the men being processed. They are brought in from the tank — a dark, crowded cell used for holding — searched, and photographed. Some are ridiculed. Then they are told the amount of their bail. Now I am being frisked. “No purse?” Now I am being booked. “Were you arrested at that place on Westheimer? Don’t you know that’s a queer bar?” Sharon and I are handcuffed for the trip upstairs. But first we pass a sign that says: HPOA EATS CRAP.

6th Floor-Women’s Unit. We are turned over to a policewoman and allowed to use the telephone. It is 4 AM. Then on to cell 7 where a nylon stocking hangs from a steel bar above my head. It is sunrise and we wait for court to begin. Sixty-one people wait for someone to pay their bail. Next year, Sharon suggests, we should put a Gay Pride billboard down by the police station.

Mary’s opened in 1970, and remained in business until 2009.

[Source: Susan Cummings. “The Night They Raided Mary’s.” Midnight Runner (June 24, 1980): 14.]

Clyde Tolson and J. Edgar Hoover, on vacation.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
40 YEARS AGO: Hoover’s Homosexuality Denied …Again: 1975. J. Edgar Hoover, the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ 48-year chief, was dogged by rumors of his homosexuality and a suspected longtime affair with his assistant Clyde Tolson, but those rumors were put down as quickly as they arose. When Hoover died in 1972 he left his estate to Tolson, who moved into Hoover’s house. When Tolson died in April of 1975, speculation arose again over what everyone acknowledged as an extraordinarily close relationship with Hoover. In July, the subject came up again on CBS’s “Face the Nation”, according to this UPI article:

Rumors that the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was a homosexual “absolutely could not be true,” according to a former top FBI official.

William A. Sullivan, who retired Saturday as assistant FBI director, made the statement in response to a reporter’s question on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Hoover never married and maintained a lifetime friendship with his top assistant, Clyde Tolson, who died earlier this year.

CBS reporter Fred Graham told Sullivan it was “common knowledge that there were allegations that J. Edgar Hoover was a homosexual.”

“I wonder, “Graham asked, “can you tell me if that was investigated by any security agency, and can you tell me whether or not the FBI knows whether or not that’s true — was true?”

Sullivan replied: “I think that that is a — that question there is so ridiculous, about the homosexuality of J. Edgar Hoover, that I will just not give any credit to it, because I think it — it just absolutely cannot be true. I don’t believe.”

Graham: “But are you telling me that it was never checked out?”

Sullivan: “Certainly not. It was not checked out. It was so ridiculous that you could not check out something like that.”

George Cukor, on The Philadelphia Story set with Katharine Hepburn.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
George Cukor: 1899-1983. A glance through his filmography shows that Hollywood would not have been Hollywood without George Cukor’s directing many of its landmark films with RKO and MGM.  In 1931, he made his solo directorial debut with Paramount with Tarnished Lady starring Tallulah Bankhead, and went on to work on twenty-six films over the next ten years including, notably, A Bill of Divorcement (1932, debuting Katharine Hepburn), Dinner at Eight (1933), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936), Camille (1936), The Women (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), Adam’s Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), A Star is Born (1954), and My Fair Lady(1964). Cukor had been hired by his mentor, David O. Selznick, to direct Gone With The Wind even before the book was published. But Cukor was fired three weeks into filming after expressing dissatisfaction with the script. (A replacement director was also dissatisfied with it and quit, prompting a complete re-write of the film.)

Cukor had a reputation as a “woman’s director” for his ability to coax great performances from his actresses. He hated the title, perhaps seeing it as a dig at his open secret: just about everyone in Hollywood knew he was gay. He luxurious home was host to weekly Sunday afternoon pool parties attended by closeted celebrities and their guests. Hollywood was — and still is — a very small company town, and word had a way of getting around. Producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz said, “In a way, George Cukor was the first great female director of Hollywood.” But the quality of Cukor’s work belied those who dismissed him because he wasn’t a typical macho director. Twenty-one actors and actresses working under Cukor received Oscar nominations; three actors and two actresses came up winners. Cukor himself earned five Best Direction nominations, finally winning an Oscar for My Fair Lady.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 6

Jim Burroway

July 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Texas Gay Rodeo Association's (TGRA) First Annual Gay Rodeo program, Simonton, TX,, November 2-4, 1984, page 19.

From the Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s (TGRA) First Annual Gay Rodeo program, Simonton, TX,, November 2-4, 1984, page 19.

In 1977, The Vieux Carre Star, a New Orleans-based LGBT newspaper, reported on the sad news from Houston:

The body of Houston club owner Frank Palmer, 42, was buried July 6 in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn.

A 22-year-old Bowling Green, Ky., man has been charged with Palmer’s death and with stealing his credit cards. Larry David Dennison is being held under $100,000 bond, charged by Houston police with tying up Palmer, taking him to a field south of Houston (near Missouri City) and running him over repeatedly in Palmer’s own car. Palmer’s body was discovered Saturday, July 2, clad only in underwear and socks.

Police say that Dennison’s girl friend tipped them but it was Dennison himself who led police to the body.

Palmer had been active in the Houston bar scene for over five years. He was the owner of the Galleon, which just moved to its new location at 2303 Richmond. It had been a Houston institution for years at its old location at 2720 Richmond.

Palmer also made a brief entry into the disco bars when he opened Althea’s in 1974 on West Alabama. This club only lasted a few months however.

Shortly after the closing of Althea’s, Palmer helped establish the Inside Outside.

Dennison’s girlfriend said that Palmer had offered Dennison a ride and the two of them ended up at Palmer’s home at 2001 Westheimer and had a few drinks.

The management of the Galleon said the club plans to remain open.

The Galleon had already been in business for at least a decade before Palmer’s murder.

QueenBees

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees are Stinging Mad”: 1969. Coverage of the Stonewall rebellion in New York’s news media was quite scant. The New York Times buried its first day’s coverage with a very small article on page 33. The New York Daily News placed its first small story on page thirty. But on July 6, the Daily News returned to the subject again to give the story the paper’s trademarked sensationalized treatment:

Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad

By JERRY LISKER

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

Girls. Lisping. Queens. Bleached blonde revolt. The mocking, denigrating descriptions carried throughout the article:

Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.

All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.

Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.

The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.

The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.

The Village Voice, which was supposed to be the more liberal, counter-cultural paper, was only somewhat more considerate in its choice of language when its coverage hit the streets three days earlier (see Jul 3). But at least the Voice’s Lucian Truscott IV was able to capture the riot’s importance: “The forces of faggotry, spurred by a Friday night raid on one of the city’s largest, most popular, and longest lived gay bars, the Stonewall Inn, rallied Saturday night in an unprecedented protest against the raid and continued Sunday night to assert presence, possibility, and pride until the early hours of Monday morning.” Disrespectful language aside, Truscott’s account would become the story of record, while Lisker’s article would be forever remembered for the kind of universal contempt directed toward gay people that gave rise to the rebellion in the first place. Lisker went on to become the sports reporter for the Daily News, New York Post, and Fox Sports. He died in 1993.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:

Merv Griffin

90 YEARS AGO: Merv Griffin: 1925-2007. I vividly remember the moment I figured out that Merv Griffin was gay. It was sometime in the mid to late 1970s. I was in high school, off on summer break. I walked into the TV room. No one else was in there, but the TV was turned to The Merv Griffin Show. I think it was a special of some kind — Fourth of July, maybe. There were a bunch of male Polynesian dancers on stage. But these were’t your typical just-off-the-islands Polynesian dancers. These were, like, from the islands of West Hollywood — muscular, buff, defined, hot!. I was transfixed, although I knew I shouldn’t be. The dancers finished their particularly athletic-style of Polynesian dancing and left the stage to a standing ovation from the mostly-older, mostly-female audience. Griffin walked out and started bantering with the ladies in the front row, as he often did. This time, it was about the dancers, about how good they were, about how good-looking they were, about how ohmygod how hot they were. This went on and on and on. It’s like he couldn’t stop talking about them. And that’s when it hit me.

Ohmygodohmogodohmogodohmygod!!!!,” I exclaimed to — thank God — no one in the room. “Merv Griffin is GAY!” Nothing would ever convince me otherwise, not matter how many times he was photographed supposedly canoodling with Eva Gabor.

Like that other famously closeted Las Vegas celebrity Liberace, Merv Griffin entered show business early as a child prodigy on the piano. He started singing on the radio at age 19 in 1944. Avoiding the draft because of a heart murmur, Griffin, earned enough to start his own record label the following year, and began touring. His first hit, a novelty tune called “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” reached number on in 1950.

Merv Griffin, Nancy Reagan

He got a few minor film roles, but found television more to his liking. He hosted a number of game shows from the 50s until the early 60s, when he switched to producing them rather than hosting. He guest hosted the Tonight Show before Johnny Carson took over, then launched his own syndicated talk show in 1965. Griffin would continue to host various talk shows for the next two decades. He was known, and praised by critics, for taking on controversial topics with controversial guests, a trait that got him fired from a talk show gig at CBS in 1969. He was fired on a Friday. He responded the following Monday by hosting a new talk show, produced by Merv Griffin Enterprises, without skipping a beat. Meanwhile, his production company would produced some of the most successful shows on television: Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Dance Fever. His real estate operations owned the Beverly Hilton, and the Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. By 2003, Griffin was a veritable Hollywood mogul, said to be worth around $1.2 billion dollars.

That Appalachian high school kid who saw Merv Griffin gushing over his Polynesian dancers wasn’t the only to figure out that he was gay. Rumors had long circulated about his sexuality. Those rumors burst into the open in 1991, when Dance Fever host Deney Terrio sued him for sexual harassment. That same year, Griffin’s longtime bodyguard, horse trainer and driver Brent Plot filed a $200 million palimony suit. Griffin evaded questions from the press and both suits were ultimately dismissed. Michelangelo Signorile alluded to Griffin in his 1993 book Queer in America, where he described an unnamed Hollywood “Mogul” who fired men from his company for being openly gay.

When Griffin died in 2007, his secret might have died with him. But Ray Richmond’s obituary in the Hollywood Reporter, said everything that needed to be said in the headline: “Merv Griffin Died a Closeted Homosexual.” Reuters then picked it up, as Richmond pondered the legacy that might have been:

Merv Griffin and Eva GaborWhat a powerful message Griffin might have sent had he squired his male companions around town rather than Eva Gabor, his longtime good friend and platonic public pal. Imagine the amount of good Merv could have done as a well-respected, hugely successful, beloved and uncloseted gay man in embodying a positive image. …

If you’re Griffin, why would you think a judgmental culture would be any more tolerant as you grew into middle and old age? Even in the capital of entertainment — in a business where homosexuality isn’t exactly a rare phenomenon — it’s still spoken of in hushed tones or, more often, not at all. And Merv’s brush with tabloid scandal no doubt only drove him further into the closet.

While it would seem everything has changed today, little actually has. You can count on the fingers of one hand, or at most two, the number of high-powered stars, executives and public figures who have come out. Those who don’t can’t really be faulted, as rarely do honesty and full disclosure prove a boon to one’s showbiz livelihood.

But Signorile saw it differently:

merv_griffin_2First off, Griffin’s closet kept him shockingly silent while he had access to the president of the United States as his own people were dying. This man was intimate with the Reagans (and Nancy Reagan in particular) during the height of the AIDS epidemic in 80s, with few treatments available and fear-mongering having gripped the media. …

Secondly, Griffin’s closet had him engaging in workplace sexual harassment, something that, as I showed in my 1993 book Queer in America, is common among closeted powerful men, who often are simply seeking outlets for sex….

Finally, Griffin’s closet had him firing gay men who’d actually made it up through the ranks of his own company, simply because they were openly gay. There is a story in Queer in America about a man identified as “The Mogul” who did just that. I can now reveal that The Mogul is Merv Griffin. Open homosexuality is a threat to the closeted, and powerful people in the closet like Merv Griffin will often do whatever it takes to squash those who are open and who might advocate that all among the powerful should come out.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 5

Jim Burroway

July 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Cologne, Germany; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Times of Louisiana Communities (Lafayette, LA), July 1981, page 5.

From The Times of Louisiana Communities (Lafayette, LA), July 1981, page 5. (Source)

The Times of Louisiana Communities also printed this announcement on its front page:

On July 5th at Lena’s in Lafayette the 1st Annual Gay Fest Acadiana will be held. This festival is sponsored by Metropolitan Community Church of Acadiana and Dignity. Booths are planned by several organizations including Le Beau Monde of Alexandria and LAGPAC of New Orleans. There are going t o be several games including Volleyball, tug-a-war, contests for individuals and groups, and races. There will be a kissing booth, auctions, raffles, and food. Free Beer will be served starting at 1:00 p.m. There will be live music and all musicians are encouraged to come out to jam with the band. People from allover the state are coming to Lafayette with Shreveport, New Orleans, and Alexandria confirmed at press time. Teams are welcome to participate in the games if you can get one together. …With most of the bars in Shreveport, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge closed on Sundays,it ought to be quite a party in Lafayette on July 5th. Get your volleyball teams to Lafayette!!

TODAY IN HISTORY:
PFC Barry Winchell Murdered: 1999. He had enlisted in the Army in 1997 and was transferred to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in 1999 where he was assigned to the 2/502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division. He learned to fire a .50-caliber machine gun so well that he became the best marksman in his company. He hoped one day to become a helicopter pilot, but that dream was cut short, brutally, on July 5, 1999 when he was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as he was sleeping in his cot in the barracks. Pvt. Calvin Glover, 18, was arrested and charged with Winchell’s murder after admitting to the beating. While in custody, he made several disparaging remarks about blacks and gays to another prisoner.

In fact, there is little reason to believe that PFC Winchell. In the ensuing investigation, Sgt. Eric Dubielak, Winchell’s commanding officer, testified that he knew that Winchell had been experiencing daily harassment from fellow soldiers over rumors of his perceived homosexuality, rumors that had been spread by Winchell’s roommate, Spc. Justin Fisher, when Winchell began dating a transgender woman from Nashville. But Dubielak never intervened, nor did any of the other superior officers who admitted that they were aware of the abuse. “Nothing was done, sir,” said Sgt. Michael Kleifgen, who told of one fruitless effort to complain to the post’s inspector general when a master sergeant referred to Winchell as “that faggot.” But when asked why he himself didn’t order his platoon members to stop harassing Winchell, Kleifgen responded, “Everybody was having fun.” As for Winchell himself, he didn’t lodge a formal complaint, and for good reason. Doing so would have likely put him afoul of the “Don’t Tell” part of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” given his superior officers’ demonstrated inability to distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity.

Glover was eventually court-martialed and given a lifetime sentence. He is still behind bars. Fisher, who had goaded Glover into attacking Winchell and participated in an attempted cover-up, was sentenced to 12½ years in prison and was released in 2006. But Ft. Campbell’s commanding officer at the time of the murder, Major General Robert T. Clark, refused to take responsibility for the anti-gay/trans climate under his command. Furthermore, the Defense Department under President George W. Bush exonerated Clark of any wrongdoing, and he was promoted to Lieutenant General in 2003. The year 2003 also saw the release of the Peabody Award-winning film for Showtime, Soldier’s Girl, which portrayed the romance between Winchell and Calpernia Addams which led up to Winchell’s murder.

Sylvester Graham

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Sylvester Graham: 1794-1851. He only had your best interests at heart when he invented the Graham Crackers you loved so much as a kid. His namesake snack was scientifically designed to keep you from masturbating. It obviously didn’t work. I can tell just by looking at you:

This general mental decay continues with the continued abuses, till the wretched transgressor sinks into a miserable fatuity, and finally becomes a confirmed and degraded idiot, whose deeply sunken and vacant glassy eye, and livid, shriveled countenance, and ulcerous, toothless gums, and fetid breath, and feeble broken voice, and emaciated and dwarfish and crooked body, and almost hairless head—covered, perhaps, with suppurating blisters and running sores — denote a premature old age — a blighted body — and a ruined soul! — and he drags out the remnant of his loathsome existence, in exclusive devotion to his horridly abominable sensuality.

And…

The sight becomes feeble, obscure, cloudy, confused, and often is entirely lost — and utter blindness fills the rest of life with darkness and unavailing regret.

Besides the whole wanking-is-bad thing, most of Sylvester Graham’s then-radical ideas would barely merit a shrug among the Birkenstock-clad, hemp bag-toting shoppers at Trader Joe’s. Organic foods? Check. Exercise freak? Check. Vegetarianism? Why, he helped to found the American Vegetarian Society in 1850. He also advocated frequent bathing and daily tooth-brushing — all fundamental components of hygiene today but very rare practices in the early part of the nineteenth century. Other crazy ideas included fresh air, clean drinking water, and fresh home-grown fruits and vegetables. These ideas are downright wholesome today, which makes it kinda hard to imagine that back in the day, folks in New England didn’t just see them as radical or crazy, but positively dangerous.

Graham was born in Suffield, Connecticut, the seventeenth child of a minister. He was ill during most of his young life, which may be why he had such a driving passion to discover the secrets of good health. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1826, but decided to become a clergymen-physician at a time when a lack of medical training wasn’t much of an impediment to entering the profession. At about that time, he came to believe — with good reason — that bakers were poisoning the general public by using finely ground processed flour which was bleached with alum and chlorine. This was a common practice to make bread whiter in color, and therefore more appealing to a growing middle class who came to regard darker shades of bread suitable only for country rubes. White bread — and the softer the better — became a status symbol, and the complicated processes for making it meant that it was no longer homemade, but purchased from a baker. And that was bad because because it was a scientific fact (according to Graham) that alum and chorine increased the sex drive.

In 1829, Graham came up with his own recipe for what came to be known as Graham bread, a firm dark bread using unsifted course-ground flour, which he regarded as much healthier than the commercially-bought white bread. He also urged his followers to avoid meat, spices, coffee, tea, and alcohol. He argued that there was a strong link between diet and overall health, which is true, although it was a radical idea at the time. But he went further, drawing a strong link between diet and morality. For example, spicy foods might lead to a spicy temperament, leaving one open to the temptations of drinking, gambling, prostitution, and venereal excesses, especially self-pollution, as it was called in his day:

Among the causes of extensive and excessive self-pollution, at such places and elsewhere, as I have already stated, the most important ones are—

1. Improper diet — the free use of flesh, with more or less of stimulating seasonings and condiments, together with coffee, tea, rich pastry, and compounded and concentrated forms of food; and too often, chewing and smoking tobacco, and drinking wine and other intoxicating liquors; — all of which unduly stimulate and irritate the nervous system, heat the blood, and early develope a preternatural sensibility and prurience of the genital organs.

2. Excesses in quantity of aliment. …Subsisting as most children do, on a variety of dishes, variously and often viciously prepared — too generally warm, and requiring little mastication, they are sure to eat too rapidly, and swallow, in a very imperfectly masticated condition, far too great a quantity of food. This not only produces permanent injury in the digestive organs, but the whole constitution is much impaired by it, and the sexual appetite rapidly developed and strengthened.

3. A want of proper exercise to promote the equal distribution of the blood, and develope and invigorate the several organs and parts of the system, and firmly establish the healthy condition and conduct of the constitution. Their sedentary and inactive, and too generally indolent habits, lead to sluggishness of capillary circulation, and an undue detention of blood in the vessels of the abdomen and lower parts of the body, including the genital organs; by which means the parts become heated and debilitated, and thus again, a preternatural sensibility and excitability are augmented in the organs of generation…

There’s more, but you get the drift. Following his advice would save children from growing up “with a body full of disease, and with a mind in ruins, the loathsome habit still tyrannizing over him, with the inexorable imperiousness of a fiend of darkness.” Of all of the sexual excesses, Graham regarded masturbation as the worst. But he considered as dangerous any sexual act undertaken more often than necessary because of the “violent paroxysms” that accompanied an orgasm:

The convulsive paroxysms attending venereal indulgence, are connected with the most intense excitement, and cause the most powerful agitation to the whole system that it is ever subject to. The brain, stomach, heart, lungs, liver, skin, and the other organs, feel it sweeping over them with the tremendous violence of a tornado. The powerfully excited and convulsed heart drives the blood, in fearful congestion, to the principal viscera, producing oppression, irritation, debility, rupture, inflammation, and sometimes disorganization; — and this violent paroxysm is generally succeeded by great exhaustion, relaxation. These excesses, too frequently repeated, cannot fail to produce the most terrible effects.

And so even among the married, he suggested:

As a general rule, it may be said to the healthy and robust, it were better for you not to exceed, in the frequency of your indulgences, the number of months in the year; and you cannot habitually exceed the number of weeks in the year, without in some degree impairing your constitutional powers, shortening your lives, and increasing your liability to disease and suffering.

Graham published his teachings in A Lecture To Young Men On Chastity, A Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making, and Lectures on the Science of Human Life. His followers, calling themselves Grahamites, established the Graham Journal of Health and Longevity to promote his ideas beyond the Northeast. Graham societies flourished in Boston, New York and on the campuses of Oberlin, Wesleyan and Williams Colleges. At Oberlin College in Ohio, the Graham diet was made mandatory between 1837 and 1841, until a rebellion by students and teachers forced the college to back down. Graham’s supporters included Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson (who called Graham “the poet of bran and pumpkins”), Horace Greeley, and Joseph Smith, who would go on to found the Mormon Church.

He also had his detractors. One New York journalist warned that “this wild Fanaticism will sweep through the land overthrowing every social comfort, every physical enjoyment, every pleasure that springs from sense and refers to sense.” A New England newspaper referred to Graham as “Dr. Bran, the philosopher of sawdust pudding.” Rancorous arguments raged back and forth in the pages of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (the forerunner to the New England Journal of Medicine). One set of articles charged “Grahamism a Cause of Insanity,” while another countered, “Grahamism Not a Cause of Insanity.” According to newspaper accounts, women fainted when he lectured on the evils of sexual incontinence and the wearing of corsets. Bakers and butchers, fearing a loss of business if his ideas caught on, regularly threatened to riot and break up his lectures.

Over time, Graham was eventually dismissed as a crackpot and he fell out of favor. Undoubtedly, the apostle of longevity’s reputation was further dented when he died at age 57. But many of his ideas managed to live on in several new religious movements. In addition to the Latter Day Saints, his theories informed the dietary practices Seventh-Day Adventism and, to a lesser extent, early adherents to Christian Science. They also were a profound influence on John Harvey Kellogg, who created a breakfast cereal he called “granola,” based on Graham’s bread recipe and designed to address many of the same sexual concerns.

s'moreIronically, Graham’s thin, coarse Graham bread eventually became a cracker which, by 1900, was sold by the same commercial backers he so reviled. To add insult to injury, the National Biscuit Company (you know it as Nabisco) added sugar and white flour to Graham’s recipe. Later, they began marketing a version that included an evil spice, cinnamon. Next thing you know, you were combining Graham crackers, Hershey bars and roasted marshmallows to make s’mores around the campfire when you were a kid. Good lord, no wonder you’re such a mess!

[All quotations are from: Sylvester Graham. A Lecture to Young Men on Chastity, 4th ed. (Boston: George W. Light, 1838). Available online via Google Books here.]

Jean Cocteau. Photo by Man Ray, 1922.

Jean Cocteau: 1889-1963. Most artists work in just one or two mediums; Cocteau — poet, novelist, author of plays, ballets and operas; clothing designer, interior designer, graphic designer, painter, illustrator, filmmaker and actor — excelled in just about everything he did. His reputation was cemented in 1917 when, as part if Ballets Russes, he collaborated with Pablo Picaso and Eric Satie for the ballet Parade. The title of his 1929 novel Les Enfants Terrible, about two siblings who create a game out of hurting each other’s feelings, has become a shorthand expression to describe those who go out of their way to shock others. His 1940 play, Le Bel Indifférent, created for his life-long friend Edith Piaf, enjoyed enormous acclaim. His films, which included Blood of a Poet (1930), Les Parents Terribles (1948), La Belle et la Bête (a very pre-Disney Beauty and the Beast, 1946), and Orpheus (1949), are credited for introducing the avant-garde into French cinema.

His circle of friends and collaborators included such belle époque luminaries as Marcel Proust, André Gide, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Sergei Diaghilev and Raymond Radigue. His personal life was similarly varied, which included an affair with Princess Natalie Paley (which ended when Paley aborted her pregnancy with Cocteau’s child) and long term relationships with actors Jean Marais and Édouard Dermit, the latter of whom Cocteau formally adopted. Cocteau died on October 11, 1963, of heart failure, shortly after recording a radio tribute in honor of his beloved Piaf, who had also passed away that same morning.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 4

Jim Burroway

July 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Out (Washington, D.C.), June 18, 1981, inside front cover.

From Out (Washington, D.C.), June 18, 1981, inside front cover.

First edition of Leaves of Grass, 1855.

First edition of Leaves of Grass, 1855.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 160 YEARS AGO: Walt Whitman Publishes “Leaves of Grass”: 1855. The first edition of Leaves of Grass was a modest affair: self-published (he did much of the typesetting himself), consisting of only twelve unnamed poems in 95 pages (he wanted the book to be small enough to carry in a pocket), and only 800 copies. Whitman’s name appeared nowhere in the volume, just an engraving showing him in work clothes and a hat. The book’s title was a pun: “leaves” were the name publishers used for the pages of a book, and “grass” was a term given by publishers for minor, quickly forgotten works that they nevertheless relied on to pay the bills.

But Whitman’s book was not destined to be consigned to insignificance. He lost his job as a clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs after Interior Secretary James Harlan found a copy on Whitman’s desk. “I will not have the author of that book in this Department”, he said, and threatened to resign if the President were to order Whitman’s reinstatement. Critic Rufus Wilmot Griswold reviewed Leaves of Grass for The Criterion, writing, “It is impossible to image how any man’s fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth.” Griswold charged Whitman of “the vilest imaginings and shamefullest license” and “degrading, beastly sensuality.” He also switched to Latin to accuse Whitman of “that horrible sin, among Christians not to be named.” Whitman would defiantly include that review in a later edition.

Frontispiece to the first edition.

Frontispiece to the first edition.

Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass partly in response to an 1844 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who recognized a need for a distinctly American poet to write about the new nation’s qualities. “I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil,” Whitman said. He sent Emerson a copy of Leaves of Grass, who wrote back with effusive praise. “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom American has yet contributed,” he wrote. “I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.” Encouraged, Whitman immediately set about greatly expanding Leaves of Grass for a second edition, which was published the following year.

The expanded version now came in at 384 pages and sold for a dollar. Subsequent editions followed, each different from before. His fourth edition in 1867 was supposed to the last one of his “unkillable work!” But no, the work arose again for another three or five more editions, depending on how you count them. When Whitman was preparing the 1882 edition, a Boston district attorney threatened to prosecute thelocal publisher for obscenity unless Whitman removed two poems and altered ten others, including “Song of Myself,” and “I Sing the Body Electric.” Whitman refused and found a new publisher. When that edition came out, several prominent booksellers and department stores refused to carry it. But the controversy drove increased sales, and the first printing sold out on its first day. That edition then went on through four more printings.

Whitman completed his final edition in 1891. It became known as his “deathbed edition. “L. of G. at last complete —- after 33 y’rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old”. It was published in 1892, and the edition had grown to include more than 400 poems. Two months before Whitman died, the New York Herald published an announcement declaring the 1892 edition the definitive one:

Walt Whitman wishes respectfully to notify the public that the book Leaves of Grass, which he has been working on at great intervals and partially issued for the past thirty-five or forty years, is now completed, so to call it, and he would like this new 1892 edition to absolutely supersede all previous ones. Faulty as it is, he decides it as by far his special and entire self-chosen poetic utterance.

The full first edition is available online at the Walt Whitman Archive.

The first Annual Reminder, 1965.

The first Annual Reminder, 1965.

 50 YEARS AGO: “Annual Reminder” Pickets at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall: 1965-1969. The Fourth of July commemorates the day in which a group of second class citizens decided that it was finally time to not only declare their independence, but also their dignity for having been created equal and endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, not all Americans gained their freedom on that date in 1776. Instead, that marked the starting point for a long struggle, one which nearly destroyed the union almost a century later, and one which continues today. The 1960s will be long remembered as an important era in that struggle as racial barriers began to fall across the nation. But barriers against gay people held fast. In 1965, gay people were prohibited from holding jobs with the federal government by an Executive Order, homosexuality was illegal in every state in the country except Illinois, and gay people were regarded as mentally ill by the American Psychiatric Association.

AnnualReminder2

The first Annual Reminder, 1965. Photo by Kay Lahusen. (Source)

To protest those conditions, LGBT activists, under the collective name of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), met at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1965 for a demonstration to remind their fellow Americans that LGBT people did not enjoy some of the most fundamental of civil rights. Forty-four activists, including Frank Kameny (see May 21), Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), and Kay Tobin Lahusen (see Jan 5), picketed in front of Philadelphia’s potent symbol of freedom, carrying signs reading “15 million homosexual Americans as for equality, opportunity, dignity,” and “homosexuals should be judged as individuals.”

Craig Rodwell, a member of New York’s Mattachine Society and owner of the first gay bookstore in the United States (see Nov 24), is credited for coming up with the idea. He envisioned the protest morphing into a kind of a gay holiday. “We can call it the Annual Reminder — the reminder that a group of Americans still don’t have their basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he suggested. Kameny, Gittings and the others eagerly agreed. Kay Lahusen described the picketing in the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder:

Barbara Gittings and Randy Wicker picketing at Independence Hall on July 4, 1966. Photo by Kay Lahusen. (Source)

“We are not,” asserted one picketer, “wild-eyed, dungareed  radicals throwing ourselves beneath the wheels of police vans that have come to cart us away from a sit-in at the Blue Room  of the White House.” The firm rules followed by homosexual picketers are, in part: “Picketing is not an occasion for an assertion of personality, individuality, ego, rebellion, generalized non-conformity or anti-conformity. …Therefore the individual picketer serves merely to carry a sign or to increase the size of the demonstration; not he, but his sign should attract notice. …Dress and appearance will be conservative and conventional.” And so they have been. Women wear dresses; men wear business suits, white shirts and ties.

…”I didn’t know you people had problems like these.” exclaimed one man after reading the leaflet. His response gratified the key expectation of every picketer. A front-page mention of the demonstration in the Philadelphia Inquirer and coverage on local CBS-TV possibly multiplied his comment a thousandfold. Picketing had drawn public attention to long-hidden injustices.

This dignified protest, which startled many a citizen into fresh thought about the meaning of Independence Day, might well have been applauded by our Founding Fathers, who were intent on making America safe for the differences.

Peter Ogren (probably) and Craig Rodwell, marching at the Annual Reminder march in 1968. Photo by Randy Wicker

Peter Ogren (probably) and Craig Rodwell, marching at the Annual Reminder march in 1968. Photo by Randy Wicker. (Source)

East Coast activists had already staged several pickets elsewhere that year before descending on the City of Brotherly Love. Actually, the first was in 1964, when a small band of activists protested in front of a New York City army induction center (see Sep 19). That action was followed in 1965 with pickets in front of the White House (see Apr 17,  May 29), the Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), and the United Nations in New York City (see Apr 18). But Philadelphia’s protests would be an annual event, taking place every July 4th in front of  Independence Hall for the next four years.

But with 1969’s Stonewall rebellion, the gay community gained an independence day all of its own. The “Annual Reminder” for 1969, occurring just a few days after that declaration of freedom on Christopher Street in New York, would be the last, a victim by the rising tensions between the old ways of doing things and the rebelliousness of the younger generation. For previous marches, Kamany insisted on a strict, conservative dress code — suits and ties for men, dresses for women — and a strictly businesslike behavior among the marchers.

Two women holding hands during the fifth Annual Reminder, 1969. Photo by Nancy Tucker.

Two women holding hands during the fifth Annual Reminder, 1969. Photo by Nancy Tucker. (Source)

But during the 1969 march, Kamany and Rodwell got into an argument when Kameny separated two lesbian picketers after they began to hold hands. Rodwell was no longer interested catering to Kameny’s insistence on appearing “respectable.” Rodwell grabbed his partner’s hand and continued marching, as did several other New York-based picketers. That incident led the New York activists, energized by the Stonewall rebellion six days earlier, to regard the Annual Reminder as an increasingly irrelevant relic. As New York Mattachine Society president Dick Leitsch explained in a letter to Barbara Gittings:

We cannot support a demonstration that pretends to reflect the feelings of all homosexuals while excluding many homosexuals from participating in the demonstration. Since our membership covers all the spectrum of gay life, we encompass drag queens, leather queens, and many, many groovy men and women whose wardrobe consists of bell-bottoms, vests, and miles of gilt chains. Rather than risk the embarrassment and insult of having some of our people rejected (as did happen a few years ago), we choose neither to participate nor support the demonstrations and to make our reasons plain in our publication…

The Annual Reminder held out such promise at its inception, and I am sorry to see it become the personal property of a few who would set themselves up as an “establishment,” no less bigoted and exclusionary than the real “Establishment” we’re supposedly fighting.

During the train ride back home, Rodwell and other New York activists began tossing around the idea of holding an annual march in in New York where they could do things their way — without a dress code. As Rodwell described it, their march would not be “a silent plea for rights but as an overt demand for them.” He also came up with the idea of calling it the Christopher Street Liberation Day, to take place on June 28 to commemorate the first anniversary of the rebellion. As it happens, along with the many bell-bottomed, vested, leathered, dragged, and shirtless marchers who walked from Christopher Street to Central Park on June 28, 1970, was Frank Kameny, wearing tan slacks and a polo shirt and holding a sign reading “Gay is Good” while leading a contingent of members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.

We’ve been celebrating Pride as a commemoration of our declaration of independence ever since. But the Annual Reminder hasn’t been forgotten. In 2005, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission erected the first historical marker to recognize and celebrate LGBT history in commemoration of those early protests in front of Independence Hall.

You can see a short film shot by gay rights activist Lilli Vincenz in 1968 of the Annual Reminder march for that year here.

[Additional sources: “Kay Tobin” (Kay Lahusen). “Picketing: the impact and the issues.”  The Ladder 9, no. 12 (September 1965): 4-8.

Simon Hall. “The American gay rights movement and patriotic protest.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 19, no. 3 (September 2010): 536-562.

Michael G. Long (ed.) Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny (Syracuse, New York; Syracuse University Press: 2014): 93, 201. ]

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 3

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David (Jacksonville, FL), May 1973, inside cover and page 1.

From David (Jacksonville, FL), May 1973, inside cover and page 1.

Larry Boxx was the manager of The Stonewall Inn in 1969 when a police raid ignited three days of rioting and changed the world. In 1972, Boxx moved to Florida and opened the Stonewall Disco in Miami Beach, which was popular with just about everyone:  gay, trans, and straights, especially straight girls. But the disco’s biggest claim to fame would be for playing host to the underground stage show Wild Side Story:

A 1976 publicity photo.

A 1976 publicity photo.

Moved two blocks up 22nd Street the following month by club owner Larry Boxx, from the shady old Ambassador III lounge to his brand new Stonewall disco, Wild Side Story reopened there on September 3, 1973, closer to a popular public beach. It now established itself as albeit bizarre but exciting after-midnight entertainment for more diverse crowds. Many were young tourists who would not have planned to go to a gay bar and now saw transvestite characters on stage (and some in the room) for the very first time. …Boxx called Wild Side Story “a fantastic attempt at true camp the way it should be done, and you can quote me on that”.

Camp it was, using a story based very loosely on West Side Story, but with cast members lip synching to recycled Broadway show tunes and popular hits — think Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge meets the Cockettes.  After the Stonewall Disco was destroyed by a fire in 1974, Wild Side Story resumed performances in Tampa before returning to other venues in Miami. Wild Side Story went on to stages in  in California, Spain and Sweden, where it was particularly successful, with performances continuing off and on through 2004.

Youths gather in front of the Stonewall on Sunday night, June 29 for a photo that appeared in the front page of the Village Voice.

Youths gather in front of the Stonewall Inn on Sunday night, June 29 for a photo that appeared in the front page of the Village Voice.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Village Voice: “Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square”: 1969. As I said earlier (see Jun 28), much of what we know about the Stonewall Rebellion comes to us from two articles published by the Village Voice on July 3, 1969. The Voice was perfectly situated, both temperamentally and geographically, to alert its counter-cultural audience to the events that unfolded a virtual stone’s throw from its offices. Lucian Truscott IV’s colorful description of the rise of “the forces of faggotry” during the wee hours of Saturday morning got the bigger headline. His liberal use of the words “fags”  and other epithets along with an often contemptuous tone would soon result in protests by those very same newly-created gay activists at the Voice’s offices just two months later (see Sep 12). Howard Smith’s much more straightforward account of what happened inside the Stonewall Inn also managed to squeeze its first two paragraphs on the front page.

To set the scene, Truscott reported that the police raid on the Stonewall was the second on that week. It started small, with only two detectives, and two male and two female police officers. They detained the patrons inside, and began releasing some of them one by one as a crowd gathered in the street. The crowd at first was somewhat festive, but when a police paddywagon arrived, the mood changed:

Three of the more blatant queens — in full drag — were loaded inside, along with the bartender and doorman, to a chorus of catcalls and boos from the crowd. A cry went up to push the paddywagon over, but it drove away before anything could happen. With its exit, the action waned momentarily. The next person to come out was a dyke, and she put up a struggle — from car to door to car again. It was at that moment that the scene became explosive. Limp wrists were forgotten. Beer cans and bottles were heaved at the windows, and a rain of coins descended on the cops. At the height of the action, a bearded figure was plucked from the crowd and dragged inside. It was Dave Van Ronk, who had come from the Lion’s Head to see what was going on. He was charged with throwing an object at the police.

Many believe that the “dyke” was probably Stormé DeLarverie, a drag king performer of the 1950s and 1960s, who  later worked as a bouncer at several of the city’s lesbian bars. There’s also this anacronism that bears explanation: why did the crowd throw coins? Most likely they were mostly throwing pennies — copper pennies — against the “coppers” in uniform, using the least valuable coin available as a both a taunt and a projectile. It was not an unusual practice in the 1960s.

This would be a good point to switch to Howard Smith’s account from inside the bar. He had been sticking close to Inspector Seymour Pine, the officer in charge of the raid, when the paddy-wagon left and the crowd grew angry. As bottles began flying, Pine ordered his officers inside the bar for cover, and convinced Smith to come inside where “you’re probably safer.”

In goes me. We bolt the heavy door. The front of the Stonewall is mostly brick except for the windows, which are boarded within by plywood. Inside we hear the shattering of windows, followed by what we imagine to be bricks pounding on the door, voices yelling. The floor shudders at each blow. “Aren’t you guys scared?” I say.

“No.” But they look at least uneasy.

The door crashes open. Beer cans and bottles hurtle in. Pine and his troop rush to shut it. At that point the only uniformed cop among them gets hit with something under his eye. He hollers, and his hand comes away scarlet. It looks a lot more serious than it really is. They are all suddenly furious. Three run out in front to see if they can scare the mob from the door. A hail of coins. A beer can glances off Deputy Inspector Smyth’s head.

Pine, a man of about 40 and smallish build, gathers himself, leaps out into the melee, and grabs someone around the waist, pulling him downward and back into the doorway. They fall. Pine regains hold and drags the elected protester inside by the hair. The door slams again. Angry cops converge on the guy releasing their anger on this sample from the mob. … And while the other cops help, he (the cop who was cut) slaps the prisoner five or six times very hard and finishes with a punch to the mouth. They handcuff the guy as he almost passes out. “All right,” Pine announces, “we’ll book him for assault.” The door is open again. More objects are thrown in. The detectives locate a fire hose, the idea being to ward off the madding crowd until reinforcements arrive. They can’t see where to aim it, wedging the hose in a crack in the door. It sends out a weak stream.”

That man who was dragged inside was Dave Van Ronk, who Truscott mentioned in his article. Switching back to Truscott’s narrative:

Three cops were necessary to get Van Ronk away from the crowd and into the Stonewall. The exit left no cops on the street, and almost by signal the crowd erupted into cobblestone and bottle heaving. The reaction was solid: they were pissed. The trashcan I was standing on was nearly yanked out from under me as a kid tried to grab it for use in the window smashing melee. From nowhere came an uprooted parking meter — used as a battering ram on the Stonewall door. I heard several cries of “Let’s get some gas,” but the blaze of flame which soon appeared in the window of the Stonewall was still a shock.

Back inside, Smith describes how that fire very nearly led to the police shooting into the crowd:

Pine places a few men on each side of the corridor leading away from the entrance. They aim unwavering at the door. One detective arms himself in addition with a sawed-off baseball bat he has found. I hear, “We’ll shoot the first motherfucker that comes through the door.” … I can only see the arm at the window. It squirts a liquid into the room, and a flaring match follows. Pine is not more than 10 feet away. He aims his gun at the figures.

He doesn’t fire. The sound of sirens coincides with the whoosh of flames where the lighter fluid was thrown. Later, Pine tells me he didn’t shoot because he had heard the sirens in time and felt no need to kill someone if help was arriving. It was that close.

With backup on hand, police cleared the streets. According to Truscott, the immediate battle was over in forty-five minutes, although other accounts describe running street battles continuing for the rest of the night, with police cars damaged, trash cans set ablaze and windows broken out in area banks and storefronts. According to Truscott, thirteen were arrested taht night, and two police officers were injured. Quiet was restored that night, and the Stonewall’s management quickly got the bar ready to re-open and get everything back to normal for Saturday night, as it always had before. But this time occupiers of Sheridan Square had other plans. Again, Truscott:

Friday night’s crowd had returned and was being led in “gay power” cheers by a group of gay cheerleaders. “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We have no underwear/ We show our pubic hairs!” The crowd was gathered across the street from the Stonewall and was growing with additions of onlookers, Eastsiders, and rough street people who saw a chance for a little action. …As the “gay power” chants on the street rose in frequency and volume, the crowd grew restless. The front of the Stonewall was losing its attraction, despite efforts by the owners to talk the crowd back into the club….

The people on the street were not to be coerced. “Let’s go down the street and see what’s happening, girls,” someone yelled. And down the street went the crowd, smack into the Tactical Patrol Force, who had been called earlier to disperse the crowd and were walking west on Christopher from Sixth Avenue. Formed in a line, the TPF swept the crowd back to the corner of Waverly Place where they stopped. A stagnant situation there brought on some gay tomfoolery in the form of a chorus line facing the helmeted and club-carrying cops. Just as the line got into a full kick routine, the TPF advanced again and cleared the crowd of screaming gay powerites down Christopher to Seventh Avenue. The street and park were then held from both ends, and no one was allowed to enter — naturally causing a fall-off in normal Saturday night business, even at the straight Lion’s Head and 55. The TPF positions in and around the square were held with only minor incident — one busted head and a number of scattered arrest — while the cops amused themselves by arbitrarily breaking up small groups of people up and down the avenue. The crowd finally dispersed around 3:30 A.M.

Other accounts have the Saturday night uprising as being more widespread and more violent than Truscott’s description. People were beaten with nightsticks, and tear gas was deployed in front of the Stonewall to try to break up the crowd.

The crowds gathered again on Sunday night, but according to Truscott, it was a somewhat quieter night with police and TPF out in force. In fact, unrest and police confrontations would go continue for another three nights. But Truscott’s account ended on a triumphal note Sunday:

Allen Ginsberg and Taylor Mead walked by to see what was happening and were filled in on the previous evenings’ activities by some of the gay activists. “Gay power! Isn’t that great! ” Allen said. “We’re one of the largest minorities in the country — 10 per cent, you know. It’s about time we did something to express ourselves.”

Ginsberg expressed a desire to visit the Stonewall — “You know, I’ve never been in there ” — and ambled on down the street, flashing peace signs and helloing the TPF. It was a relief and a kind of joy to see him on the street. He lent an extra umbrella of serenity of the scene with his laughter and quiet commentary on consciousness, “gay power” as a new movement, and the various implications of what had happened. I followed him into the Stonewall, where rock music blared from speakers all around a room that might have come right from a Hollywood set of a gay bar. He was immediately bouncing and dancing wherever he moved.

He left, and I walked east with him. Along the way, he described how things used to be. “You know, the guys there were so beautiful — they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.” It was the first time I had heard this crowd described as beautiful.

We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, “Defend the fairies!” and bounced on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of “gay power” and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way.

[Sources: Lucian Truscott IV. “Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square.” Village Voice 14, no. 38 (July 3, 1969): 1, 18. Available online via the Google Newspaper Archive here.

Howard Smith. “View from Inside: Full Moon Over the Stonewall.” Village Voice 14, no. 38 (July 3, 1969): 1, 25, 29. Available online via the Google Newspaper Archive here.]

200px-US-CivilServiceCommission-Seal-EO11096

Civil Service Commission Begins Hiring Gay People: 1975. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded to both the “Red Scare” and the “Lavender Scare” stoked by Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist and anti-gay hearings by signing an executive order mandating the firing of all federal employees who were found guilty of “sexual perversion” — government-speak for homosexuality (see Apr 27). Untold thousands lost their jobs in the ensuing decades, including one astronomer by the name of Frank Kameny, who was fired in 1957 (see Dec 20). He protested his firing, and argued his case in federal court all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to hear the case in 1961, making his firing permanent. Kameny went on to become a leading gay-rights activist, and while his efforts extended to opposition to all aspects of discrimination and oppression, the federal employment ban never strayed far from his top concerns. Kameny supported others who had been fired in their efforts to get their jobs back and organized several protests and meetings at the commission’s Washington, D.C. headquarters throughout the next two decades (see, for example, Sep 28, Jun 26).

While Kameny’s case was the first legal challenge, it wasn’t the last. Several others followed suit, but most federal judges sided with the government’s position upholding the Civil Service Commission’s rules. But in 1973, after a federal judge in California ordered the commission to cease labeling gay people as unfit for federal employment, the commission decided to review its policies. By 1975, the commission finally amended its regulations and ended its ban on employing gays in the federal government. The decision however was not accompanied by a formal announcement. Instead, supervisors were quietly instructed that no one was to be barred for homosexuality. But news of the change did slowly leak out. According to Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price in their book Courting Justice: Gay Men And Lesbians V. The Supreme Court, Frank Kameny learned of the change via a phone call on a Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend. Federal personnel officials “surrendered to me on July 3rd, 1975,” he recalled. “They called me up to tell me they were changing their policies to suit me. And that was the end of it.”

MMWR1981.07.03

Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals: 1981. That was the headline the New York Times used to announce a new set of illnesses stalking gay men. The Times article, the first mainstream media report about of what would eventually become known as AIDS, came out just a month  after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first announced that five gay men had died of a rare form of pneumonia in Los Angeles (see Jun 5). Now the CDC issued another notice of gay men in New York and California being stricken with Kaposi’s Sarcoma in the July 3 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

During the past 30 months, Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), an uncommonly reported malignancy in the United States, has been diagnosed in 26 homosexual men (20 in New York City [N YC ]; 6 in California). The 26 patients range in age from 26-51 years (mean 39 years). Eight of these patients died (7 in NYC, 1 in California)—all 8 within 24 months after KS was diagnosed. The diagnoses in all 26 cases were based on histopathological examination o f skin lesions, lymph nodes, or tumor in other organs. Twenty-five of the 26 patients were white, 1 was black. …

Skin or mucous membrane lesions, often dark blue to violaceous plaques or nodules, were present in most of the patients on their initial physician visit. However, these lesions were not always present and often were considered benign by the patient and his physician. …

Seven KS patients had serious infections diagnosed after their initial physician visit. Six patients had pneumonia (4 biopsy confirmed as due to Pneumocystis carinii [PC]), and one had necrotizing toxoplasmosis of the central nervous system. One of the patients  with Pneumocystis pneumonia also experienced severe, recurrent, herpes simplex infection; extensive candidiasis; and cryptococcal meningitis.

This report, which noted that gay men were developing KS “during the past 30 months” confirmed rumors that had been swirling in New York of a “gay cancer.” Until then, KS had been extremely rare, affecting mainly older men of Mediterranean descent, Africans in the equatorial belt, and transplant patients who were on anti-rejection drugs that suppressed their immune systems. The CDC report also updated their count of gay men with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) from the prior month, from five to fifteen.

[Sources: A. Friedman-Kein, L. Laubenstein, M. Marmor, et al. “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports: Kaposi’s Sarcoman and Pneumocystis Pneumonia among homosexual men — New York City and California.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 30, no. 25 (July 3, 1981): 305.308. Available online here (PDF: 705KB/12 pages).

Lawrence K. Altman. “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexual Men.” New York Times (July 3, 1981): 20.]

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 2

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Nuntius (Houston, TX), August 1970, page 16.

From Nuntius (Houston, TX), August 1970, page 16.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Fires 381 Gay Employees: 1953. In the early 1950s, the entire country was in the grips of the Red Scare as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy was conducting his witch hunts. One of his main platforms would be the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Investigation of Loyalty of State Department Employees. While McCarthy’s main targets were imaginary Communists in the State Department, gay employees were also seen as “subversives” in need of rooting out. Among the more high-profile targets was Samuel Reber, a twenty-seven year career diplomat who announced his retirement in May of 1953 after McCarthy charged that he was a security risk — which was a barely-concealed code for homosexual. By then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had already responded to McCarthy’s witch hunt by signing an executive order mandated the firing of all federal employees who were deemed guilty of “sexual perversion,” whether proven or not (See Apr 27). Eisenhower also announced a re-organization of the State Department. Rep. Charles B Brownson, an Indiana Republican with his own lesser-known witch hunt underway in the House Government Operations Committee, asked the State Department for a progress report in rooting out homosexuals. On July 2, 1953, the State Department’s chief security officer R.W. Scott McLeod revealed that 351 homosexuals and 150 other “security risks” had been fired between 1950 and 1953.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Richard Bruce Nugent: 1906-1987. When the landmark Harlem Renaissance literary magazine Fire!! published his short story “Smoke, Lilies and Jade” in 1926, Richard Bruce Nugent became the first African-American writer willing to declare his homosexuality in print — and he would remain so for the next thirty years. A year earlier, he had been attending the “Saturday Evening” salons of poet Georgia Douglas Johnson in his native Washington, D.C., where he was introduced to the leading African-American thinkers of the day, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, and Waldo Frank. He also met poet Langston Hughes (see Feb 1). The two of them became fast friends and moved to New York. Nugent, Hughes, Cal Van Vechten (see Jun 17) and several others became integral players in Harlem’s intellectual and artistic life, with Nugent becoming the most notorious. Van Vechten once wrote to Hughes that he saw Nugent at a society dinner in evening clothes “with his usual open chest and uncovered ankles. I suppose soon he will be going without trousers.”

Nugent wasn’t just a writer, but also a dancer, painter and illustrator. The apartment complex in Harlem that he shared with other artists became known as “Niggeratti Manor,” where Nugent had painted the walls with mural, some depicting homoerotic scenes. Other illustrations appeared in Fire!! as well as two other African-American publications Opportunity and Palms, and other New York art magazines. Meanwhile, he continued to write short stories and even took his turn on the stage, appearing on Broadway and in an early production of the play Porgy (later adapted by George Gershwin for Porgy and Bess) In 1937, he published what is often considered his finest work, “Pope Pius the Only.”

In 1952, he married Grace Marr, with whom he shared accommodations, and with her three brothers. The marriage was her idea; she thought she could “change” him. It’s unclear why he went along with it. He warned her that it was a bad idea, but marry her he did. The relationship was never consummated. Meanwhile, Nugent remained an active booster of Harlem’s literary and arts scene throughout the rest of his life. He was also a harsh critic of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1968 exhibition on the Harlem Renaissance which, astonishingly, was put together without the involvement of Harlem artists. In 1983 he was interviewed for the film Before Stonewall. He died in 1987. In 2002 Duke University Press published Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent, a collection of Nugent’s most important writings, paintings, and drawings, many of them made available for the first time.

Dee Palmer

Dee Palmer: 1937. Jethro Tull fans would know her as composer and keyboardist David Palmer. She had provided orchestral arrangements for several significant Jethro Tull albums, including Aqualung and Thick as a Brick before joining the band as a full time musician in 1976. At the time, she presented herself as an eccentric Englishman, complete with a Sherlock Holmes pipe and a beard. She remained with the band until it broke up in 1980 over Ian Anderson’s decision to release a solo album under the Jethro Tull name.

She was also married. He had told Maggie about her transgender feelings on their second date, and Maggie was accepting. “All of my time with Maggie was blissfully happy,” she later recalled. But after her wife died in 1998, Dee was left alone to confront her sense that something was wrong. “Once she died I sat in the kitchen looking down the garden for a year, then gradually from the outermost part of my body and soul where I had consigned what I was to learn was gender dysphoria started to reassert itself as something that I had to deal with again.”

She finally decided it was time to act on the feelings that she had been having since the age of three. She changed her name to Dee in 2000 and underwent gender reassignment in 2004. The whole process for her was very difficult. “It isn’t for wimps by the way … And it isn’t for people who want to wear a frock and prance around masquerading as a female. It’s nothing to do with that, it’s a light year away from that.” Now that she has transitioned, she feels liberated, and lives with a sense that there was nothing left to hold her back. “it is like jumping from a parachute. At first it’s very easy, but then suddenly the ground is coming up at you and you can’t stop until you’ve reached the end; it’s very much that kind of experience – your writing and performance will take on new dimensions.”

JohnnyWeir

Johnny Weir: 1984. The famous American figure skater is a three-time U.S. National Champion (2004–2006) and a the 2008 Worlds Championship bronze medalist, although for a number of reasons, his Olympic appearances in 2006 and 2010 were disappointing. When he appeared at the 2010 U.S. Championships wearing fox fur as part of his costume, he began to receive death threats from animal rights activists. He defended his decision to wear fur as “a personal choice,” but decided to remove the fur from his costume. By the time the 2010 Winter Olympics came around in Vancouver, he had to change his housing arrangement due to security concerns.

Weir was always a bit different — including the fact that he spins clockwise instead of counter-clockwise like most other figure skaters. He was long suspected of being gay — as are probably most male figure skaters. The fact that he designed some of his own skating costumes in a very androgynous style didn’t do much to quell the rumors. But for most of his career, he preferred to leave the questions unanswered. “It’s not part of my sport and it’s private,” he’d say. But when he published his memoir Welcome to My World in 2011, he finally came out as gay. He said his decision to come out was prompted by a string of suicides in 2010. “With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story.”

In 2013, Weir retired from professional skating and became an NBC figure skating analyst for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. When controversy over Russia’s anti-gay laws prompted calls to boycott the games, Weir, who is a self-proclaimed Russophile, criticized those suggestions by saying that “the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement” about Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, adding “you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.” Just before leaving for the Sochi games, Weir filed for what looked to be a very nasty divorce from his Russian husband, Victor Voronov. The divorce was finalized earlier this year.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 1

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Arizona Gay News, June 24, 1977, page 7.

From Arizona Gay News, June 24, 1977, page 7.

The Last Culture disco opened in Tucson in 1977 over the July 4 weekend. The Arizona Gay News described the new club:

Aztec, Egyptian, Futuristic are apt words to describe the totally remodeled Last Culture disco located at 1455 N. Miracle Mile. Owners Bernie, Joel, and Budd have spared no expense to make this club one of the most up to date discotheques in the West. A complete new computerized sound system. A completely new lighting system. A complete new laser system that will have your head spinning are but three of the innovations that have been installed. There is a new bleacher section for resting between dances.

The Last Culture disco is in conjunction with Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s Restaurant which makes this facility one of the most complete entertainment centers in the Southwest.

The city of Tucson inadvertently found itself in the gay bar business in November of 1978 when it purchased the Tucson House, a high rise apartment building on 1455 N. Miracle Mile, which the city intended to turn into public housing for senior citizens. City council members were surprised to learn that the strip mall in front of Tucson House, which housed The Last Culture and Jekyll and Hyde’s, happened to be part of the same transaction, making the city the clubs’ new landlord. While Tucson overall was quite gay friendly — the city council would pass a broad anti-discrimination ordinance a month later — anti-gay council member Richard Amlee was aghast. “I don’t want to use city funds to finance any of their operations,” he said, apparently ignorant of the fact that the two bars were now paying the city “four figures each month” for rent.

At about the same time, the business itself was sold to new owners, and I don’t know what happened after that. I’m still combing through back issues of the Arizona Gay News, which showed that the business continued to advertise as Jekyll’s Last Culture for a few more weeks, as it had been doing through much of 1978, after which it seems to have dropped The Last Culture and advertised itself simply as Jekyll’s. The building is still there (that portion of the old Miracle Mile was renamed Oracle Road to reflect a realignment several blocks to the north many years earlier), and houses a family and youth counseling non-profit organization.

[Sources: “Jekyll’s Changes Hands, City New Landlord.” Arizona Gay News 3, no. 47 (November 23, 1978): 1.]

L-R: Willem Arondeus, Sjoerd Bakker, and Johan Brouwer.

L-R: Willem Arondeus, Sjoerd Bakker, and Johan Brouwer.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Resistance Fighters Shot By Nazis: 1943. Dutch painter and writer Willem Arondeus’s career in art, like that of many artists, was marked by poverty. But his 1938 biography of the Dutch painter Matthijs Maris (1839-1917) not only assured Arondeus of a modest steady income, but Maris’s fight on the barricades in 1871 for the Paris Communards inspired Arondeus to join the Resistance when the Nazis invaded Holland. Arondeus hatched a plot to burn the Bevolkingsregister which housed the citizen registration office in Amsterdam where the Nazis kept copies of all of the identity cards held by Dutch citizens. Late on March 27, 1943, Arondeus and fourteen others, including two young doctors, donned German uniforms, asked the building’s guards to open the building for a special inspection. As soon as they gained entry, the two doctors injected the guards to put them asleep and placed them in the courtyard away from harm while the rest of the crew set fire to the building.

aanslag_bevolkings_register1_370

The destroyed Bevolkingsregister, 1943.

Five days later, an unknown infiltrator informed the Nazis, which arrested the group. During the trial, Arondeus took responsibility for the fire. The two doctors were sentenced to life in prison, but the rest were ordered to go before a firing squad. Before he was executed, Arondeus asked his lawyer to make public after the war that he and two others were gay: the tailor Sjoerd Bakker, who made the fake German uniforms, and writer Johan Brouwer. “Tell the people that gays are not cowards,” Arondeus instructed his lawyer. (Bakker, for his part, requested a pink shirt as his last request before his execution.) But despite the Netherlands’ renowned liberal attitudes, Arondeus’s request wasn’t heeded until 1990 when a television documentary by the Dutch filmmaker Toni Bouwmans revealed the full story.

[Source: Lutz van Dijk. “Arondeus, Willem” in Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds.) Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to the Mid-Twentieth Century, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2002): 34-35.]

Rep. Larry Craig (R-ID)

Rep. Larry Craig (R-ID)

Larry Craig Preemptively Denies Connection to Gay Page Sex Scandal: 1982. Rumors of Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-ID) sexuality have long swirled around Washington as well as back home in Idaho. When his 2007 arrest in a Minneapolis airport men’s room for soliciting sex from an undercover (male) police officer went public (see Aug 27), many Washington insiders weren’t too terribly surprised by the news.

A lot of that had to do with a gay page scandal that broke on June 30, 1982. CBS News aired an exposé featuring Congressional page Leroy Williams alleging that he had sex with three House members when he was 17. Neither CBS News nor Williams named any of the House members publicly, so it was quite surprising when the very next day, then-Rep. Larry Craig Craig issued a statement saying that reporters were calling him saying they were going to publish his name in connection with the scandal as “part of a concerted effort at character assassination.” He added, “I have done nothing that I need to be either publicly or privately ashamed of. I am guilty of no crime or impropriety, and I am convinced that this is an effort to damage my personal character and destroy my political career.”

Craig was the only of the 435 House members to issues such a statement. He then flew to Idaho for a previously-scheduled campaign stop where he addressed the issue again: “Persons who are unmarried as I am, by choice or by circumstance, have always been the subject of innuendos, gossip and false accusations. I think this is despicable.” His statements, out of the blue, puzzled some and raised red flags with others, though few were willing to acknowledge them at the time. What prompted Craig’s pre-emptive, un-sought denial?

 Peter Fearon, then with the New York Post, said he never said his paper was preparing to name Craig. “No, no — it wasn’t ‘are you under investigation?’ It was simply an inquiry: ‘Have you heard anything? Who have you heard about? Have you heard any names mentioned? What’s your reaction to this news?’

“The next thing I know, Larry Craig has issued a press release:  ‘This isn’t me.’ Which I just thought was a bizarre and ultimately very foolish thing to do.

“He was the only person going on the record anywhere,” Fearon said. “And of course, when you do that, it’s like raw meat. He’s saying, ‘Nobody’s actually accusing, but it wasn’t me!’ It’s no wonder it’s dogged him. He denied something that no one had accused him of.”

Williams recanted his statements a month later, as did a second page who appeared on CBS. A House ethics committee investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Craig proposed to Suzanne Thompson by the end of 1982. The couple married the following summer and the page scandal was forgotten. Mostly.

Here are two  news reports from July 2, 1982 on the page scandal. Both reports included Craig’s denials:

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
90 YEARS AGO: Farley Granger: 1925-2011: Despite being one of the best-looking and well-regarded men in Hollywood, Granger didn’t have the kind of prolific a film career one might expect. He is best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and Strangers on a Train and for Luchino Visconti’s Senso. In Rope, Granger played a murderer and (implied) lover of an accomplice in a story inspired by the Loeb and Leopold murder.

In real life, Granger enjoyed the attentions of men, and women. According to his 2007 autobiography Include Me Out, he had affairs with Patricia Neal, Arthur Laurents, Shelly Winters, Leonard Bernstein, Barbara Stanwick and Ava Gardner. As for dealing with “liberal” Hollywood’s deeply-entrenched homophobia:

I found it difficult to answer questions about “gay life in Hollywood when I was living and working there. …I was never ashamed, and I never felt the need to explain or apologize for my relationships with anyone. I had many gay friends, but more of my friends were straight and most were married with families. The ratio of my gay to straight friends was probably in direct proportion to that of gay and straight people in general. I have loved men. I have loved women.”

Granger insisted he was never closeted, and he also resisted labeling himself:

Men or women?

“That really depends on the person,” he said impishly. But his follow-up comment left little doubt: “I’ve lived the greater part of my life with a man” — he has been with (Robert) Calhoun in New York since the 1960s — “so obviously that’s the most satisfying to me.”

In the late 1950s, Granger left Hollywood and moved to New York City, where he launched a second career on Broadway. Granger died in 2011 of natural causes in New York at the age of 85.

Fred Schneider: 1951. The B-52s front man is probably America’s best known practitioner of sprechgesang. (The Free Dictionary: “a type of vocalization between singing and recitation … originated by Arnold Schoenberg, who used it in Pierrot Lunaire (1912)”) The group’s guy-and-gals call-and-response between Schneider and Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson have become a trademark ever since “Rock Lobster” hit the charts in 1978. That sound defined the B-52s as the quintessential party band, inviting everyone to pile into the Chrysler as big as a whale. Schneider was coy about his sexuality throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, but his reluctance appeared to be more a matter of annoyance than fear. “I’m on the same side the fence as k.d., Elton and Frederick the Great. I just don’t like to share my personal life with the public.” Of course, there wasn’t much sharing needed. His own mother’s reaction when he came out to her probably sums it up for everyone else. “Oh I know, Freddie,” she said, and continued vacuuming without missing a beat.

Roddy Bottum: 1963. The keyboardist for Faith No More since 1982, Bottum came out as gay in 1993 the year after his father died. It’s easy to imagine that his revelation would have come as quite a shock to the hyper-hetero world of heavy metal, but Bottum described it as “a positive and uplifting experience. I guess I expected some of the fans to burn crosses or throw panties at me, but nothing like that ever happened.” One of his hits with Faith No More was “Be Aggressive,” from their 1992 album Angel Dust. The homoerotic song was about oral sex. “It was a pretty fun thing to write, knowing that (lead singer Mike Patton) was going to have to put himself on the line and go up onstage and sing these vocals.” Bottum’s openness about his sexuality didn’t exactly open the floodgates for other heavy metal rockers to come out. “You’d think there’d be a lot more homosexuality in metal with all the dressing up,” he told The Advocate in 1999. By then he had left Faith No More — and metal — to form the indie boy/girl group Imperial Teen. Since 2005, Bottum has written scores for more than a dozen movies and television shows.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 30

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), July 1981, page 17.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), July 1981, page 17.

Mugshots from Grand Rapids Police, early 1900s.

Mugshots from the Grand Rapids, Michigan, police department, early 1900s.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Census Bureau Releases Incarceration Statistics on Sodomy: 1904. Dr. William J. Robinson, editor of the American Journal of Urology, in 1914 combed through the Census Bureau’s statistics released ten years earlier and published the following information:

STATISTICS OF SODOMY
Statistics regarding all crimes in the United States are miserably defective and the results attending an effort to determine the frequency of the offence of sodomy, generally designated as an “offence against nature” is unsatisfactory. We find, however, that on June 30, 1904, there were in American penal institutions 876 prisoners committed for this crime. These prisoners comprised 15.5% of those committed for offences against chastity. Of the total 375 were male and 1 female.

The distribution by states was as follows: New Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 20; Connecticut, 7; New York, 62; New Jersey, 12; Pennsylvania, 52; Maryland, 8; Virginia, 3; West Virginia, 1; North Carolina, 4; South Carolina, 1; Georgia, 1; Florida, 3; Ohio, 22; Indiana, 6; Illinois, 20; Michigan, 11; Wisconsin, 6; Minnesota, 8; Iowa, 2; Missouri, 11; North Dakota, 2; Nebraska, 2; Kansas, 4; Kentucky, 6; Tennessee, 5; Alabama, 3; Mississippi, 6; Louisiana, 3; Texas, 29; Montana, 4; Wyoming, 2; Colorado, 5; Arizona, 1; Utah, 2; Idaho, 2 ; Washington, 8; Oregon, 1; California, 30. It will be seen that the frequency of conviction varies greatly in different localities.

In the figures of crime given for the state of Indiana, which are probably the most complete available, the offence in question is not mentioned. In the Indianapolis police court, however there were two cases of sodomy in 1910 and ten in 1911.

[Source: Robinson, William J. “Statistics of Sodomy.” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 3 (March 1914): 146. Available online via Google Books here.]

New York Magazine, June 30, 1969.

Upper West Side’s Renaissance Blighted by “Parading Homosexuals”: 1969. We like to think that gentrification of older urban neighborhoods is something new. For most cities, it is, and for many cities it has been gay people leading the way, rehabbing run-down homes and bringing entire blocks back to life. But New York’s neighborhoods have been in a constant state of reinvention ever since the Indians moved out and the Dutch moved in. In 1969, it was the Manhattan Upper West Side’s turn when New York magazine noticed its “renaissance,” brought on by a new band of urban settlers moving into the very rough neighborhood, attracted there by cheap rents and readily available housing:

“I was ready for war,” one recent brownstone buyer said. “You know, German shepherd, barbed wire, burglar alarms, punji sticks, the works. But we were delighted to find that with a little caution it could be a relaxed place to live.” … Business, of course, has joined and helped to stimulate the movement to the West Side. Flower vendors who set up their cardboard cartons at the top of the neighborhood’s subway stairs claim business is booming. “Only a year ago,” Monroe, a West 86th Street vendor, said between sales, “flowers couldn’t live on the West Side.”

High end stores, restaurants, theaters were returning to the Upper West Side amidst a $700 million building boom. But the transition from a down-in-the-heels neighborhood to a sought-after address was far from complete:

The same kind of young, successful and relatively affluent middle-class families that moved to the suburbs 20 years ago and to the East Side 10 years ago are moving to the West Side today, and while the neighborhood still has an ample supply of teenage muggers, parading homosexuals and old men who wear overcoats in July, the over-all mood of the area seems to have changed.

This article was published just two days after the Stonewall Rebellion that took place just four short miles to the south in Greenwich Village. Those riots were barely mentioned in New York’s respectable press, and “parading homosexuals” were still seen as a sign of decay. But just a decade later a new generation of “parading homosexuals” would become highly sought-after pioneers in reviving dying neighborhoods, whose efforts today are often praised by city leaders as evidence of renewed economic and creative vigor.

[Source: Nicholas Pileggi. “Renaissance of the Upper West Side.” New York (June 30, 1969): 28-39. Available online via Google Books here.]

HardwickProtest

Bowers v. Hardwick: 1986. It all began with a beer bottle thrown into a trash can in outside a gay bar 1982. A police officer saw Michael Hardwick do it and cited him for public drinking. When Hardwick failed to arrive for his court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Several weeks later — after Hardwick realized his error and paid the ticket — a police officer went to Hardwick’s apparent to serve the arrest warrant. The police officer entered the apartment (accounts differ on how he got in), and discovered Hardwick and a male companion engaged in oral sex, an act which fell under Georgia sodomy law (see Aug 3). Both men were arrested, but the local district attorney decided not to press charges. Hardwick then sued Georgia attorney general Michael Bowers in federal court seeking to overturn the state’s sodomy law. The ACLU agreed to take the case on Hardwick’s behalf.

A federal judge in Atlanta dismissed the case, siding with the Attorney General. Hardwick appealed to the Eleventh Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. Bowers then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on this date — during pride week — in 1986 that Hardwick’s right to privacy did not extend to private, consensual sexual conduct — at least as far as gay sex was concerned. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, barely concealed his contempt for gay people. He wrote, “to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious.” Chief Justice Warren Berger, in a concurring opinion, piled on: “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”

Justice Lewis Powell was considered the deciding vote. It has been reported that he originally voted to strike down the law but changed his mind after a few days. In 1990, after Powell had retired three years earlier, he told a group law students that he considered his opinion in Bowers was mistake (see Oct 18). “I do think it was inconsistent in a general way with Roe. When I had the opportunity to reread the opinions a few months later I thought the dissent had the better of the arguments.” His mistake would remain the law of the land for another seventeen years, until Bowers itself was held to be “not correct” in Lawrence v. Texas (see Jun 26).

protest

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin Enacts Law Against “Homosexual Propaganda”: 2013. On June 11, Russia’s State Duma gave its unanimous approval for a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” ostensibly to minors, although the law was so broadly written that it effectively banned advocacy just about anywhere. It effectively prohibits advocating the moral equivalency of gay relationships to straight ones, as well as the distributing of material advocating for gay rights. The law imposes fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150) for citizens, and goes up to as much as 200,000 rubles (US$6,600) for officials if such “propaganda” is transmitted via the media or the internet. Organizations face a fine of up to 1 million rubles (US$30,200) and suspension of all activity for 90 days. In addition, foreigners face up to fifteen days detention and deportation. 

On June 30, President Vladimir Putin, who had earlier blamed gay people, in part, for Russia’s declining population, signed the bill into law. Protests broke out in St. Petersburg, which had already passed a nearly identical law, which ended when gay rights supporters were attacked and beaten by nationalist skinheads, and then were arrested by police. Additional attacks broke out across Russia, with violent skinhead gangs using social media to lure gay people on the promise of a date, only to torture them and force them to come out to family and friends on video, which the gangs proudly posted on the internet. Dmitri Kislev, anchor of the most popular news program on state-owned Russia 1, told his audience that imposing fines wasn’t enough. “Their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life,” he said. (Kislev was later promoted to head Russia’s re-organized RIA Novosti, the state-owned news agency.)

widemodern_sochigay_100413620x413Putin received praise for his actions from a number of American anti-gay extremists, including Pat BuchananScott Lively, Franklin Graham, the American Family Association’s Bryan FischerLinda Harvey, and six American anti-gay organizations including the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families. And all of this was was just seven months before Russia was to host the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, which put the spotlight on the International Olympic Committee. The IOC clearly didn’t want any negative publicity. So instead of moving the games (which, admittedly, would have been a monumental task) or press the Russians to uphold gay athletes’ rights of personal expression, they instead opted for a much easier solution by reminding athletes about their “responsibility” to refrain from doing anything that would embarrass the IOC, their Russian hosts, or corporate sponsors. The Sochi Olympics went off without a hitch, under heavy security. But the new and glamorous face that Russia hoped to present to the world was shattered just a few weeks after the closing ceremonies when Putin’s allies in America were shocked — shocked! — to see Putin violate international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty by annexing the Crimean peninsula.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 29

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Gay Life (Chicago, IL), April 16, 1976, page 16.

From Gay Life (Chicago, IL), April 16, 1976, page 16.

The Butterfly, which later adopted the name Iron Butterfly, was described as “a raucous and fun hangout (which) always had a great party or benefit going on.” The location today is a French bistro.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Henry Gerber: 1892-1972. Pro-gay activism in the U.S goes back a very long way, far longer than most people realize. Henry Gerber, a Bavarian immigrant to Chicago, served in the U.S. Army’s occupation of Germany following World War I, where he came in contact with the growing German gay rights movement. He read up on German homophile magazines and came in contact with Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first organization in the world working to advance gay rights. He observed that the situation in Germany, where gay people were organizing and only one set of laws were in force throughout the nation contrasted markedly with that in the U.S., where gay people hadn’t even thought of organizing, and the laws in the U.S. were a patchwork of different definitions and penalties in each of the 48 states:

To go before each State legislature and argue the real nature of homosexuality would be plainly a job too costly to be considered. The conduct of many homosexuals in their unpardonable public behavior clearly led to public protest against all homosexuals. Here were only two stumbling blocks on the road to reform.

I realized at once that homosexuals themselves needed nearly as much attention as the laws pertaining to their acts. How could one go about such a difficult task? The prospect of going to jail did not bother me. I had a vague idea that I wanted to help solve the problem. I had not yet read the opinion of Clarence Darrow that “no other offence has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.” All my friends to whom I spoke about my plans advised against my doing anything so rash and futile. I thought to myself that if I succeeded I might become known to history as deliverer of the downtrodden, even as Lincoln. But I am not sure my thoughts were entirely upon fame. If I succeeded in freeing the homosexual, I too would benefit.

Soon after returning to the U.S., Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in 1924 (see Dec 10). With an African-American clergyman named John T. Graves as president, SHR is believed to be America’s first gay rights organization. Gerber also founded Friendship and Freedom, the first known American gay publication. As Gerber explained in 1962:

The outline of our plan was as follows:

1. We would cause the homosexuals to join our Society and gradually reach as large a number as possible.

2. We would engage in a series of lectures pointing out the attitude of society in relation to their own behavior and especially urging against the seduction of adolescents.

3. Through a publication named Friendship and Freedom we would keep the homophile world in touch with the progress of our efforts. The publication was to refrain from advocating sexual acts and would serve merely as a forum for discussion.

4. Through self-discipline, homophiles would win the confidence and assistance of legal authorities and legislators in understanding the problem; that these authorities should be educated on the futility and folly of long prison terms for those committing homosexual acts, etc.

The beginning of all movements is necessarily small. I was able to gather together a half dozen of my friends and the Society for Human Rights became an actuality. Through a lawyer our program was submitted to the Secretary of State at Springfield, and we were furnished with a State Charter. No one seemed to have bothered to investigate our purpose.

Gerber got that charter by omitting any mention of homosexuality in his application. Instead, the application spoke of promoting more general values of freedom and independence. Nevertheless, Gerber found that getting SHR set up difficult, and he had to finance the whole enterprise out of his own picket. He managed to put out two issues of Friendship and Freedom, before running out of money. He tried to seek support among medical authorities, but none would help him. He also had trouble finding people to join his group. “Being thoroughly cowed, they seldom get together,” he observed. “Most feel that as long as some homosexual sex acts are against the law, they should not let their names be on any homosexual organization’s mailing list any more than notorious bandits would join a thieves’ union.” Those who did join had few resources themselves.

The only support I got was from poor people: John (Graves), a preacher who earned his room and board by preaching brotherly love to small groups of Negroes; Al, an indigent laundry queen; and Ralph whose job with the railroad was in jeopardy when his nature became known. These were the national officers of the Society for Human Rights, Inc. I realized this start was dead wrong, but after all, movements always start small and only by organizing first and correcting mistakes later could we expect to go on at all. The Society was bound to become a success, we felt, considering the modest but honest plan of operation.

SHR didn’t last long. Graves’s wife denounced Gerber and his associates to police, calling them “degenerates.” In July, 1925, at 2:00 a.m., police showed up at his apartment with a reporter from the Chicago Examiner in tow and arrested Gerber. Graves and Al the “laundry queen” and his roommate were also arrested. The next day, the Examiner’s headline screamed, “Strange Sex Cult Exposed,” which claimed (falsely) that Graves was arrested while in the middle of an orgy in full view of his wife and children.

The “laundry queen” was pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and was fined $10.00. Gerber was tried three times, but the charges were eventually dismissed. Charges were also dismissed against Graves. Gerber was nevertheless ruined, fired from his job and drained of his life savings. “The experience generally convinced me that we were up against a solid wall of ignorance, hypocrisy, meanness and corruption. The wall had won.”

Gerber moved to New York, got a job as a proofreader at a newspaper, and then reenlisted in the army, where he served until his retirement in 1945. When gay people finally started getting serous about organizing in the 1950s, Gerber resumed writing about gay rights, sometimes under his own name and sometimes under a pseudonym. He died on New Year’s Eve in 1972 at the age of 80, having lived long enough to see gay rights advocacy take on a new vibrancy in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in an explosion of advocacy and pride after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

[Source: Henry Gerber. “The Society for Human Rights — 1925.” ONE 10, no. 9 (September 1962): 5-11. Also available online here.]

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