The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 22
May 22nd, 2012
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Karen Ulane Dies In Plane Crash: 1989. The decorated Vietnam War combat pilot who was fired from Eastern Airlines in 1980 for transitioning to a woman, died in a private plane crash along with two others. Eastern Airlines had fired her after twelve years with the company following her gender reassignment, claiming possible safety hazards in stressful situations. A Federal judge ordered her reinstated in 1983 and awarded her $158,590 in back pay and other expenses, saying she was protected under the 1964 Federal anti-discrimination law. An appeals court disagreed and reversed the decision. Ulane eventually reached a settlement with Eastern, reportedly for a”substantially” higher sum than was ordered by the Federal judge.
Harvey Milk: 1930. Known as the Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk finally succeeded in becoming California’s first (and the nation’s fourth) openly gay non-incumbent candidate to win a political office for two reasons: he refused to hide who he was; and he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. So to those who knew Harvey well weren’t surprised when his 1977 as San Francisco City Supervisor that he was good terms with conservative supervisor Dan White. White, a former cop, was supported by the city’s police union whose leaders were angry over city policies which they considered to be soft on crime and homosexuals. The local media ate it up as the two made joint appearances on local talk shows where they both talked warmly of each other. Harvey began to privately telling friends that he thought White was “educatable,” and that the two might actually be able to work together.
But all that changed when Milk wound up voting against White’s proposal to bar a psychiatric treatment center from opening in White’s district. White retaliated by voting against Milk’s gay rights bill (it passed anyway), and for the next several months, White would not speak to Milk or his aides. Other supervisors noticed that White stopped spending as much time at his office in City Hall, and he was sullen during the weekly board meetings. White abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. When he had a change of heart a few days later, Mayor George Moscone refused to commit to re-appointing him to the board. On November 27, 1978, White snuck into City Hall and confronted Moscone in his office, and shot him twice in the abdomen, then twice more in the head. He then walked down the hall to Milk’s office. After arguing with Milk, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back and twice in the head.
Milks short political career changed the face of LGBT politics. During the 1978 campaign against the Briggs Amendment which would have required the firing of gay teachers and any school employee who supported gay rights, Milk insisted on aggressively confronting the anti-gay campaign by raising the visibility of the gay community. The campaign against the Briggs Amendment was also a campaign against the closet. He told a crowd during San Franscisco’s Gay Pride that year:
“On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”
Mark Bingham: 1970. A true hero, Mark Bingham was among the passengers who stormed the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93 after it had been hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. His personal bravery was well known before that fateful day. His boyfriend of six years, Paul Holm, recalled that Bingham had thwarted two attempted muggings, one at gunpoint. His friends recalled that he proudly showed off the scars he received during a running of the bulls in Pamploma. During the hijacking, Bingham, who was sitting in first class, made a brief call to his mother. She later called him back after learning of the other 9/11 attacks and said the flight was being used on a suicide mission. Bingham has been honored with several others for bringing the aircraft down and preventing a much greater loss of life.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?