The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 12
May 12th, 2012
Mitt Romney Gives Commencement Address at Liberty University: Lynchburg, VA. Following in the well-worn footsteps of John McCain, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan (not to mention Glenn Beck), presumptive GOP presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney will deliver the commencement address to the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University today.
The school’s decision to extend the invitation to the Mormon nominee sparked a backlash among some students, requiring Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. to intervene and explain that the “purpose of having a prominent Commencement speaker is not to promote the speaker or his views but rather to inspire and challenge the graduates and showcase Liberty and its mission.” Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that if Romney emphasizes his views “about how every child has a right, a God-given right, to have a mother and a father, and you can’t separate the financial malaise we are in from the moral malaise,” then he should do just fine. Given Obama’s embrace of marriage equality and revelations of Romney’s own gay-bashing incident in high school, his speech today will certainly be closely watched. The commencement ceremony begins today at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Time Magazine Reports on the First Gay Students Group: 1967. “Equal rights” was a common catchphrase on college campuses in 1967 as students across the country became politically engaged in issues of racial equality and women’s rights. Time magazine reported on another group that had formed to protest discrimination and injustice when Columbia University recognized the Student Homophile League, making the campus the first major university in the country to offer recognition to a gay rights student group. Getting the group officially recognized was a challenge; in 1967, no gay or lesbians students felt that it was safe to come out:
The University Committee on Student Organizations at first denied the league recognition, since it refused to name its organizers The dozen interested students then shrewdly enlisted eight officers of other campus organizations, all presumably heterosexual, to sign as sponsors, under a university rule that their names need not be made public. The committee then decided that it had no legal reason not to grant the group official status.
While declining to identify himself or other members by name (“We would be losing jobs for the rest of our lives”), the league’s chairman insists the group is educational, not social, and “plans no mixers with Harvard.” So far, Columbia students seem little interested in joining. Shrugged Sophomore Elliot Stern: “As long as they don’t bother the rest of us, it’s O.K.” The league’s biggest problem will probably be its self-imposed secrecy. As some students asked: How do you treat them equally when you don’t know who they are?
[Thanks to a BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of this report.]
California Decriminalizes Homosexuality: 1975. Efforts to repeal California’s Sodomy law began in 1969 when San Francisco Assemblyman Willie Brown introduced what became known as the Brown Bill into the lower House. He reintroduced the bill every year until its passage in 1975. That year, the bill advanced through the House only to run into trouble in the Senate. The vote stood at a 20-20 tie when Senate Majority Leader George Moscone (who later became mayor of San Francisco) locked the chamber’s doors until Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymallyin could fly in from Denver to deliver the tie-breaking vote. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law when it finally reached his desk.
Katharine Hepburn: 1907. Star of Morning Glory, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion In Winter, and On Golden Pond among countless others, she holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins — four out of twelve nominations. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of suffragist Katharine Martha Houghton (who co-founded Planned Parenthood) and Dr. Thomas Hepburn, a urologist from Virginia. He insisted that his daughters learn to play tennis and golf, to ride and to swim, an activity she especially enjoyed. She attended Bryn Mawr College where she earned a degree in history and philosophy. She also earned a suspension for smoking and breaking curfew: after dark, she would swim naked in the college’s “Cloisters” fountain.
Her background and drive are what make Hepburn widely admired today, but she was very unconventional and controversial in her day. She disdained makeup and often went to interviews dressed in men’s suits, saying they were more comfortable. She was straightforward, outspoken, and unabashedly intellectual, earning her the nickname, “Katharine of Arrogance.” She was also fearless. While filming The African Queen on location with Humphrey Bogart and director John Houston, she asked to go along when the two went big game hunting. Houston described her as a “Diana of the Hunt” who was able to shoot with the best of them. She recognized no limits. “I can remember when walking as a child, it was not customary to say you were fatigued. It was customary to complete the goal of the expedition.”
Bruce Voeller: 1934. Where to begin? He was a tireless gay rights advocate who co-founded the National Gay Task Force in 1973 and served as its director until 1978. He was a talented biologist, having studied biochemistry, developmental biology and genetics. That put him on the front lines as a researcher for a new disease that others started calling Gay-Related Immune Disorder (GRID), a name that he challenged for its medical inaccuracy. It is Voeller who is credited for giving the new disease the more accurate name of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Voeller had married Dr. Kytja Scott Voeller, whom he met in grad school. Together they had three children. He came out in 1964 when he was 29, and the resulting divorce was messy. Voeller had to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court to gain child visitation rights. By then, he was heavily involved in the resurgent gay rights movement. He was among the founders of the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969 and served as its third president. But where the GAA was more interested in street activism, he sought to bring gay activism into the mainstream of political discourse. In 1973, he left the GAA and founded NGTF (later, NGLTF), and built it into a nation advocacy organization. As NGTF director, he attended a historic White House meeting in 1977 with thirteen other LGBT advocates to raise awareness about discriminatory laws and policies.
In 1978, Voeller left he NGTF and established the Mariposa Education and Research Foundation to conduct human sexuality research. Among his concerns was that books, papers, and other ephemera on the LGBT movement was easily lost or destroyed, posing a danger that LGBT history itself would vanish. So he created a network of volunteers to search for and gather as much as possible, and that extensive collection was donated to the Cornell University Library in 1988. With the advent of AIDS, Voeller returned to his biologist’s roots and the Foundation shifted its focus to reducing the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. His 1989 study warned that mineral oil lubricants caused rapid deterioration of latex condoms, leading to a shift to water-based sexual lubricants. He pioneered the use of nonoxynol-9 as a spermacide and topical virus-transmission preventative,, and he studied the reliability of various brands of condoms in disease prevention. The results of that study even appeared in Consumer Reports, making the information widely available and accessible to the public. He was conducting studies on viral leakage for the (then) recently approved “female” condom when he passed away in 1994 of an AIDS-related illness.
Jared Polis: 1975. Polis earned his fortune when he founded American Information Systems, an Internet access, web hosting and application service provider. He also co-founded an online greeting card company and an online florist. After selling those companies during the height of the dot-com bubble, he used his wealth to found the Jared Polis Foundation in 2000, with the mission to “create opportunities for success through education and access to technology.” The foundation has refurbished and donated more than 3,500 computers each year to schools and other non-profits. He also founded two charter schools for at-risk students, and another school for older immigrant youths. He founded another school in Denver to serve youth who are homeless or living in unstable conditions.
When he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Colorado’s Second District in 2008, he was the first openly gay man to be elected as a freshmen (all the others came out while already in office). He is also the first openly gay parent in Congress. As congressman, he has been a tireless advocate for LGBT equality. In 2011, he launched the Fearless Campaign, dedicated to “empowering our political leaders with the moral courage it takes to vote fearlessly on the politically charged issues of today, regardless of the perceived political risk.”
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?