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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 17

Jim Burroway

March 17th, 2012

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a day of special camaraderie for Irish-Americans and anyone who wishes to be Irish-American — unless you’re gay. Gays are no longer banned from the Military, and they can marry in a handful of states including Massachusetts and New York. But in Boston and New York City, LGBT people are barred from participating in St. Patrick’s Day Parades. Last year, the Irish Foreign Minister condemned the New York parade, and the President of Ireland declined an invitation to be Grand Marshal. So I guess that means we’ll have to take our party somewhere else, and make it way, way more fabulous.

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Celebrations This Weekend: Texas Bear Roundup, Dallas, TX.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Florida Legislature Issues Report On Homosexuality: 1964. The Legislative Investigations Committee of the Florida legislature released a report declaring homosexuality the crisis of the moment, and called for “increased research efforts to expose the underlying causes of homosexuality and its possible cures.” The report declared homosexuality to be a problem “of control, and that established procedures and stern penalties will serve both as encouragement to law enforcement officials and as a deterrent to the homosexual hungry for youth.” The report included a dictionary of slang terms and even included photos that it said were taken from collections of gay people. The report lamented that “little has been done to reveal the role of the male muscle and physique magazines, the pinup books of homosexuality. The report called for mandatory psychiatric evaluations of anyone convicted of homosexuality, the creation of outpatient treatment centers, a registry that potential employers could check, and making a second conviction a felony.

The report provoked an immediate outcry, but not for the obvious reasons. The State Attorney for Dade County warned the committee not to send any more copies of the report to his area or he would file obscenity charges, declaring that the report was “becoming the object of curiosity in every school in the state and could engender perversion.” Another politician from Daytona Beach criticized the committee for “becoming engaged in the publication of such vile material.” The Miami Herald ran an editorial saying “It is shocking to see that it bears the Great Seal of Florida and the governor’s office as the return address. We feel that the immediate resignation of every state official who had a hand in it, and the full investigation of possible violations of obscenity laws, are called for.” Rep. Richard Mitchell, the committee’s chairman, responded with a special news conference and said that the report would not be distributed “indiscriminately.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Bayard Rustin: 1912. Many African-Americans are offended whenever some assert that “gays are the new Black.” That controversy isn’t a new one; just try to imagine the blowback when, in a 1986 speech, the venerable civil rights leader and aid to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared “The new niggers are gays”:

Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new “niggers” are gays. No person who hopes to get politically elected, even in the deep South, not even Governor Wallace, would dare to stand in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks out. Nobody would dare openly and publicly to argue that blacks should not have the right to use public accommodation. Nobody would dare say any number of things about blacks that they are perfectly prepared to say about gay people. It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change.

Indeed, if you wan to know whether today people believe in democracy, if you want to know whether they are true democrats, if you want to know whether they are human rights activists, the question to ask is, “What about gay people?” Because that is now the litmus paper by which this democracy is to be judged. The barometer for social change is measured by selecting the group which is most mistreated. … The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.

Rustin insisted on the connection between civil rights for gay people and civil rights for African-Americans. He had a special authority to assert that connection: openly gay his whole life, he was the main organizer of King’s 1963 March on Washington. By then, he had already devoted two decades to Mahatma Ghandi’s teachings on non-violent resistance, having been jailed for refusing to fight in World War II. He is credited with teaching King about the principles of nonviolent protest when he met King during the Montgomery bus boycott, techniques he honed during the first Freedom Rides in 1947. Rustin helped found the Congress for Racial Equality and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Rustin’s open sexuality was not without complications. It was often used against him by enemies of segregation and, later, by more militant members of the Black Power movement. He was forced to resign from King’s organization during the bus boycott, but King turned to Rustin to organize the 1963 March. In the end, King and other civil rights leaders refused to abandon him and expressed their confidence in Ruston’s abilities.

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Rustin became more active directly in the Democratic Party. He also became more involved in the labor movement and the gay rights movement. And through it all, he insisted that all fights for equal rights were connected by a common thread, running from Auschwitz to Montgomery to Stonewall:

There are four burdens, which gays, along with every other despised group, whether it’s blacks follow slavery and reconstruction, or Jews fearful of Germany, must address. The first is recognize one must overcome fear. The second is overcoming self-hate. The third is overcoming self-denial. The fourth is more political. It is to recognize that the job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Comments

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Jim Hlavac
March 17th, 2012 | LINK

It is funny that Florida for years had a law that prohibited serving alcohol to known homosexuals — this law was on the books as recently as 1999, last I looked. Having not heard of its repeal, I’m pretty sure it’s still there. In the mid-1990s I joined a few gay rights groups in West Palm Beach and said we should sue the police, sheriffs, alcohol control board, DAs of every county in the state, and the governor himself, for dereliction of duty for allowing a law to be so blatantly not enforced. I was called a militant and radical homosexual, by gay folks. So I quit the gay groups and went back to the bar and had a drink.

Lindoro Almaviva
March 17th, 2012 | LINK

I am going to take a wild guess and say that you intended to say NYC and Boston; nos Massachusetts and Boston.

Jessamine
March 17th, 2012 | LINK

“That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.”

That’s it! The Gay Agenda! I’ve finally found it! *much happy dancing*

I’ve always known what it isn’t, based on what those who oppose it say it is, but I’ve never been able to articulate it in a positive way. lol Thank you, Bayard Rustin!

Timothy Kincaid
March 17th, 2012 | LINK

The true heroes of the civil rights movement have almost without exception been vocal supporters of gay equality. I think we probably have Rustin to thank for that.

cd
March 17th, 2012 | LINK

One small point: Bayard Rustin was member of the Religious Society of Friends, aka Quakers. This was not coincidental.

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