The Daily Agenda for Monday, May 14

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Colorado’s Legislative Special Session on Civil Unions Begins: Denver, CO. When the Colorado House of Representatives’ Speaker, Frank McNulty (R, HD-43, Highlands Ranch), abruptly called a recess when it became evident that a majority of the House wanted to pass a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples in Colorado, at least 30 other bills died in McNulty’s childish tantrum. Last Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) called a special session of the state legislature, which is scheduled to resume its unfinished work today. McNulty, who called civil unions “gay marriage on the installment plan,” says the new session is a “full reset” which gives him the power to assign the bill to a different committee or to change members of committees, tactics which could be used to kill the bill.

Outserve Capital Summit: Washington, DC. OutServe, an association of more than 5,000 actively-serving LGBT military personnel worldwide, begins its two-day Capital Summit today at the Renaissance Washington at D.C.’s Dupont Circle. The first day is dedicated to workshops and presentations on making LGBT military families stronger. The second day is dedicated to congressional lobbying with coalition partners, including The Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and the Courage Campaign. You can find more information about the Capital Summit here.

P.M. Pierre Trudeau: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Canada’s Parliament Votes to Decriminalize Homosexuality: 1969. In 1967, Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a large omnibus bill, The Criminal Amendment Act of 1968, in to the 27th Canadian Parliament, which, if passed, would have had far-ranging effects on Canadian Law. The bill proposed, among other things, would allow provinces and the federal government to set up lotteries, expand laws on gun possession, impose penalties on drinking and driving, regulate misleading advertising, allow abortions and contraception, and decriminalize homosexuality. In 1968 when Prime Minister Lester Pearson announced he was stepping down as Prime Minister and head of the Liberal party, Trudeau sought the party’s leadership and won. After elections that summer, Trudeau became Prime Minister and John Turner became Trudeau’s Justice Minister. Turner re-introduced the massive omnibus bill into the 28th Parliament and described it as “the most important and all-embracing reform of the criminal and penal law ever attempted at one time in this country.”

The most controversial elements of the bill, the provisions legalizing abortion and homosexuality, drew the sharpest criticism from the opposition. The government fought back amendments from Conservative and Creditiste party members to leave the homosexuality sanctions intact. MP Marcel Lambert (PC-Edmonton West) asked, “If it is right to remove the legal sanction from acts of homosexuality between consenting adults … and from certain acts between husband and wife, why do we not remove a whole gamut of offenses, including attempted suicide and other acts involving an individual only and not other human?” MP Andrew Fortin (Creditiste-Lotbiniere) claimed that homosexuality “like tuberculosis,” could be brought under control with proper treatment. MP Rene Matte (Criditiste-Champlain) found the whole debate an abomination, saying it was “almost scandalous to see representatives of the people being obliged to discuss these questions.” England had decriminalized homosexuality two years earlier, but Matte countered, “we’re not obliged to follow the decadence of England.”

Justice Minister Turner countered that the removal of homosexuality from the criminal code would merely lift “the taint or stigma of the law,” and repeated the government’s position that “areas of private conscience, private behavior had better be left to private judgment.” He also added that a law that was not enforceable was not a good law. Trudeau also rose to defend the provisions, telling reports that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.” Finally the acrimonious debate ended, and the criminal code amendments dealing with abortions and homosexuality cleared the House of Commons late on Wednesday night, May 13, 1969, by a 149-55 vote.

You can see the CBC’s archival newsclips of Trudeau speaking to reporters about decriminalizing homosexuality and other provisions of the omnibus bill here.

A diagram from 1971 of a system to deliver electric shock aversion therapy to gay men. (Click to enlarge.)

“Shock Doc” Protested at APA: 1970. Protests and demonstrations over injustices were already de rigueur when the American Psychiatric Association held its annual meeting in San Francisco in 1970. Gay advocates had long observed that the APA’s labeling of homosexuality a mental disorder served as a handy excuse to enforce widespread discrimination and legal sanctions against LGBT people in all areas of life. What’s more, psychiatry’s attempts to cure homosexuality were often physically torturous, with electric shock aversion therapy a not uncommon method. One of the stars of aversion therapy, an Australian psychiatry by the name of Nathaniel McConaghy, was in San Francisco to read a paper before the august organization. Advocates were waiting. As McConaghy coolly described the methods he used — his patients’ penises were wired to measurement devices and they were shown porn; once twinge of arousal and they were delivered powerful electric shocks — gay advocates in the crowd began shouting “vicious!” and “torture!” and “where did you take your residency, Auschwitz?”

When the moderator announced the next session, the gay advocates exploded and demanded to be heard. When the moderator refused, the meeting broke down into shouts and recriminations. One physician reportedly called for the police to shoot the protesters. Most psychiatrists left the room, but some stayed and the conversations that ensued over the next three years finally led to the APA’s delisting of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

In 1981, McConaghy was still unapologetic about his treatment of gay people. In an article he published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, he was still presenting the results of his electric shock experiments on gay men. He defended his work as ethical and voiced resentment over the interruption of his presentation eleven years earlier.

By the mid 1980’s he abandoned aversion therapy, but he kept trying to cure an illness that no longer existed. And yet somehow, his reputation remained intact. After he died in 2005, the Archives of Sexual Behavior published a memorial lauding him as a pioneer in behavioral therapy who “inspired many to pursue truth and beauty through his example.” The memorial was notable for three things: 1) it briefly mentioned his attempts to cure gay men and painted his response to the “near riot” of 1970 as heroic (“He remained a fearless champion of the application of scientific methods to the study of human sexuality.”), 2) the memorial neglected to mention his use of electric shock therapy, and 3) the memorial was unsigned.

First LGBT Civil Rights Bill Introduced in Congress: 1974. Bella Abzug, the Democratic Congresswoman in for Manhattan and part of the Bronx, was a civil rights attorney before she entered Congress. She was an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and opposed the Vietnam War. Her stands earned her a position on President Richard Nixon’s famed “Enemies List.” On this date in 1974, Rep. Abzug introduced the first federal gay rights bill, the Equality Act of 1974, with fellow New York City Rep. Ed Koch. The bill, which would have banned discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, went nowhere then, and similar efforts to ban discrimination have come to naught in the 38 years since then.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Magnus Hirschfeld:1868. Known as “The Einstein of Sex,” German-born Magnus Hirschfeld was the most prominent advocate of gay emancipation in his day. In 1897, Hirschfeld co-founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), whose first project was to repeal Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality between men (women were unmentioned in Germany’s anti-gay code). He never succeeded in repealing the law, but the committee succeeded in gathering signatures of some 6,000 Germans calling for repeal. In 1919, he founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Science), and was widely recognized as a prolific writer and speaker on sexual minority issues. He also figured in film history, when he made a cameo appearance in the 1919 film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others), the first film to portray a homosexual love story in a sympathetic light.

While Germany’s Wiemar Republic saw homosexuality becoming somewhat accepted in Berlin, extreme right-wing forces reacted with violence. In 1920, Hirschfeld was attacked and severely wounded in Munich after a conference, and in 1921 his skull was fractured in another attacked. From 1929, Nazis repeatedly disrupted his lectures. In 1930, Hirschfeld began a lecture tour of the United States, which was expanded to a world-wide tour. By the time he returned to Europe in 1932, conditions in Germany became so dangerous that he decided not to return. On May 6, 1933, the Nazis attacked and destroyed the Institute for Sexual Science, and on May 10, they burned its library and files, the largest of its kind in the world. Hirschfeld wandered Europe before settling in Nice, France in 1934. He died there in 1935, with his death coming also on this very same date in history.

Julian Eltinge: 1881. He was, perhaps, America’s first famous drag queen. One story has it that he first donned women’s clothing at the age of ten for an appearance in Boston. Another one suggests that his mother helped him to dress in drag at a very young age to perform in the saloons in Butte, Montana, and that his father nearly beat him to death when he found out. At any rate, he was performing onstage and touring Vaudeville after the turn of the century. Unlike most female impersonators at the time, he didn’t place farcical caricatures of women for laughs. He sought to create the full illusion of actually being a woman. He toured Vaudeville under the his last name “”Eltinge,” which gave no hint of his gender. After his act of singing and dancing, he stepped forward on stage, and in a dramatic gesture emulated later in the 1982 film Victor/Victoria, he reached up and removed his wig to the surprise of his often unsuspecting audience. He arrived on Broadway in 1907 at the Alhambra Theater, and through the next decade he was reputed to be the highest paid stage actor. He started appearing in films in 1914, and by 1920, had one of the most lavish mansions in Southern California, where he lived with his mother.

Eltinge countered rumors of his homosexuality offstage by presenting a unrelentingly masculine presence in public. He smoked cigars, was an amateur boxer, got into bar fights, and had long engagements with women. Funny though, he never married. “I am not gay,” he protested, “I just like pearls.” But by the 1930;s, his heyday was over. He gained weight and started drinking as his career took a nose-dive. He was reduced to performing in a Hollywood nightclub catering to a gay clientele, but local laws intended to contain the “homosexual menace” banned dressing in drag. Eltinge had to perform in a tuxedo alongside mannequins dressed in his outfits. He’d point to them while enacting his characters. He died in 1941, reportedly of a brain hemorrhage, although some suspect suicide. His will, dated October 13, 1938,  stated “I declare that I am a bachelor” and left everything to his mother.

You can see an early silent film from 1918 featuring Eltinge in drag 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).

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

Timothy Kincaid

May 14th, 2012

McNulty may wish to recall that if it is a “full reset”, then the House members may choose to elect a different Speaker. As the session is over and only in overtime, it might be a move that one of the Republicans (and it only requires one) may be willing to do (and they could always reelect McNulty after the bill).

Patricia Kayden

May 15th, 2012

As someone who grew up in Canada, I really loved your tidbit on Pierre Elliot Trudeau, our beloved Prime Minister. Didn’t know of his support for gay and abortion rights.

My family loved him because he opened up Canada to immigrants (such as my Jamaican parents who came to Canada in the early 70s from the UK).

Great post.

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