The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 11

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2011

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Rights Advocate Interrupts CBS Evening News Broadcast: 1973. Among the issues that gay rights advocates faced in the early 1970s was the way gay people continued to be portrayed in the press and on television — if they bothered to cover gay issues at all. The New York Times, which was supposedly the newspaper of record for the city, had never even bothered to mention the Stonewall uprising four years earlier until several months later. To call attention to the problem, Mark Segal of the Philadelphia-based Gay Raiders posed as a reporter for the Camden State Community College newspaper and called CBS asking permission to watch the broadcast of the CBC Evening News with the legendary Walter Cronkite from inside the studio. The network agreed, and so on December 11, 1973, he briefly interrupted the broadcast about halfway through by running up in front of the camera with a yellow sign reading “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice.”:

“I sat on Cronkite’s desk directly in front of him and held up the sign while the technicians furiously ran after me and wrestled me to the floor and wrapped me in wire — on camera,” (Segal) recalled in an interview. “The network went black while they took us out of the studio.”

Ever the professional, Cronkite reported on the event. “Well, a rather interesting development in the studio here — a protest demonstration right in the middle of the CBS News studio,” Cronkite told viewers. He later explained: “The young man was identified as a member of something called Gay Raiders, an organization protesting alleged defamation of homosexuals on entertainment programs.” Segal was charged with trespassing.

The “zap” payed off. After Segal’s trial for trespassing in which his attorneys subpoenaed Cronkite the testify, the news anchor began to take an interest in Segal’s grievance. He arranged a meeting at CBS where Segal could air his complaints to management, and Cronkite’s broadcast on May 6, 1974 featured a segment on gay rights, reporting on the ten cities throughout the country that had passed legal protections for gay people.

Segal went on to become publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, and remembered his friendship with Walter Cronkite days after his passing in 2009:

“He was the kind of man who believed in human rights for everyone,” Segal said of Cronkite. “I am amazed and humbled by his willingness to reach out to me. He was a bridge between the gay movement and major media. We remained friends, and it was a privilege knowing him.”

American Psychiatric Association Rejects Ex-Gay Therapy: 1998. The American Psychiatric Association’s board unanimously rejected therapy aimed solely at changing gay people straight, saying it can cause depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Dr, Nada Stotland, head of the APA’s joint committee on public affairs, said, “The very existence of therapy that is supposed to change people’s sexuality, even for people who don’t take it, is harmful because it implies that they have a disease. There is evidence that the belief itself can trigger depression and anxiety.”

The APA’s move was, in part, a response to a massive nationwide push by Focus On the Family and Exodus International to publicize the ex-gay movement, complete with a cover of Newsweek the prior August featuring ex-gay spokesman John Paulk and his ex-lesbian wife Anne. Paulk who was the so-called gender specialist at Focus On the Family and organizer of the Love Won Out ex-gay roadshows, denounced the move. “This makes it more difficult for clients who want to be treated for unwanted homosexuality,” Paulk complained. “Furthermore, no scientific study has given conclusive evidence that homosexuality cannot be successfully treated.” Less than two years later, Paulk himself would be found in a Washington, D.C. gay bar flirting with patrons. (See Sept 19.)

The 1998 statement, along with a 2000 follow-on statement, can be found here.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

MsRowena

December 11th, 2011

Thanks so much for the Cronkite story. I had no idea this had happened, although I was a senior in high school in a small southern town at the time. I don’t think my family watched CBS news, and back then you didn’t really channel hop in mid-program, and this certainly wasn’t discussed at school or by anyone I knew.
I would’t have thought I could have more respect for Cronkite than I already did, and then I see this story……

mark Segal

December 13th, 2011

A beautiful take on Walter.

best,
Mark Segal

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