The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 7

Jim Burroway

March 7th, 2012

TODAY IN HISTORY:
CBS Airs “The Homosexuals”: 1967. Described as “the single most destructive hour of anti-gay propaganda in our nation’s history,” the documentary was three years in the making. After a rough cut was made, the producers approached CBS correspondent Mike Wallace who enthusiastically agreed to host the hour-long special. His declarations in the documentary would become an entire generation’s accepted “facts” about gay people:

The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one–chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city — the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship.

The documentary featured psychotherapist Charles Socarides, who would go on to become an outspoken critic of the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. He would also help to co-found the National Association for Research and Treatment (later Therapy) of Homosexuality (NARTH). The documentary also featured interviews with gay people, some with their identities hidden, others who were out, including Frank Kameny, Lars Larson and Jack Nichols, who later recalled:

[A]fter we finished and the camera was turned off, Mike Wallace sat down with me and talked for about half an hour. He said, “You know, you answered all of my questions capably, but I have a feeling that you don’t really believe that homosexuality is as acceptable as you make it sound.” I asked him why he would say that. “Because,” he said, “in your heart I think you know it’s wrong.” It was infuriating. I told him I thought being gay was just fine, but that in his heart he thought it was wrong.

Wallace closed the program, saying:

The dilemma of the homosexual: told by the medical profession he is sick; by the law that he’s a criminal; shunned by employers; rejected by heterosexual society. Incapable of a fulfilling relationship with a woman, or for that matter with a man. At the center of his life he remains anonymous. A displaced person. An outsider.

Nichols was fired from his job the day after the program aired. Larson filed a formal complain and withdrew his signed release, saying that his interview had been edited to make him seem unhappy about being gay. As for Wallace, he would later regret participating in the episode. In 1996, he said, “That is — God help us — what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that’s what we heard from doctors — that’s what Socarides told us, it was a matter of shame.”

Here is an nine minute edited version from the original episode. The entire episode can be seen here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AXAOT_swIE[/youtube]

First US Municipal Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: 1972. The very first municipal ordinance providing anti-discrimination protections in employment for gays and lesbians became law not in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, but in East Lansing, Michigan. In early 1970, the Gay Liberation Movement had formed at the Michigan State University’s East Lansing campus, where they found fertile ground on a campus which was regarded as one of the most progressive in the nation. In 1970, MSU’s new president became the first African-American to lead a major university, and MSU students were especially active in anti-war protests. The politics of MSU extended into the community, where GLM worked for nearly a year carefully lobbying for an ordinance prohibiting local employers from firing gays and lesbians because of their sexual orientation. The work paid off, with the city council approving the measure 4-1 over the objections of the mayor. Shortly after the vote, GLM founder Don Gaudard boasted, “Not everything happens in San Francisco.”

Yesterday, the Lansing City Council passed a resolution commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the landmark ordinance, and presented it to former council member George Griffiths, who voted for the ordinance 40 years ago, and to Mark Doebler, head of the MSU Alliance of Queer and Ally Students. Meanwhile just a five miles away in downtown Lansing, the Republican-controlled legislature is considering a bill to void all city ordinances providing protections based on sexual orientation.

You can read a 2001 dissertation by MSU history student Michael Carman about the events leading to the ordinance’s passage  here. My thanks to Don Gaudard, who is now Professor of Law Emeritus at MSU, for bringing this to my attention.

California Voters Pass Prop 22: 2000. Before Prop 22 came before California voters, state law already defined marriage as “a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman.” But California’s law also said that a “marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state,” which anti-gay activists saw as a loophole. Although no state yet offered marriage equality (Vermont was still debating a civil unions bill in early 2000), anti-gay activists feared that if a state did legalize same-sex marriage, Californians would flock to that state to get married, and expect those marriages to be recognized back home. Why of all the nerve! Prop 22 added a provision saying that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It passed during the March primary with 61% of the vote.

Over the next decade, several challenges to Prop 22 were launched in the courts and the legislature. In 2006, the California Supreme Court agreed to review all of the court cases that challenged state law, and heard oral arguments in March 2008. Six weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that Prop 22 violated the state constitution and was therefore invalid. By then, anti-gay activists had already begun the process of bringing Prop 8 to the November 2008 ballot, and when the first same-sex marriages were solemnized in July, the campaigns for and against Prop 8 were already well underway. Now Prop 8 is tied up in Federal Court, where it has been declared unconstitutional. Legal marriage in California however remains unavailable as the case slowly grinds its way on the long road to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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?

Ben in Oakland

March 7th, 2012

This article just underlines what we keep on saying. The enemy is not, and never has been, the religious right or the fascistically minded. In the long run, they have little importance, though in the short run, they make life hell.

I used to say that the enemy is, and always has been, the closet. After being reminded of that piece of shit the CBS created– and I remember it well– I would revise that. The enemy is our very own silence.

As pogo used to say, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

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