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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, June 9

Jim Burroway

June 9th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA (Ours):
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Albany, NY; Anchorage, AK; Athens, Greece; Birmingham, AL; Blackpool, UK; Bologna, Italy; Boston, MA; Bromsgrove, UK; Brooklyn, NY; Cheyenne, WY; Des Moines, IA; Edmunton, AB; El Paso, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Kalamazoo, MI; Key West, FL; Huntington, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Olympia, WA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Prince Albert, SK; San Antonio, TX; São Paulo, Brazil; Saskatoon, SK; Split, Croatia; Spokane, WA; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Washington, DC.

Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Razzle Dazzle Dallas, Dallas, TX; Sierra Stampede Gay Rodeo, Rio Linda, CA; and Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel.

TODAY’S AGENDA (Theirs):
Maine’s “No Special Rights PAC” To Officially (Re)launch: Lewiston, ME. Yeah, I know. Conservative gadflies Michael Heath and Paul Madore already launched their “no sodomy-based marriage” outfit once before last April, but I guess nobody was paying enough attention, so they’re doing it again. Their press release reiterates their their campaign message against Maine’s upcoming ballot initiative to provide marriage equality, using language which we can only hope will become the loudest message for their side:

A hallmark of their campaigns is a willingness to be frank about both their Christian convictions, and the moral aspects of the so-called “gay” rights movement. Heath and Madore are known for their candor and directness in their public tactics, and use of rhetoric.

This is why they have decided to inject the idea of sodomy and sodomy based marriage into this campaign. For the first time in Maine a campaign will directly link the goals of the so-called “gay” movement to the evil and destructive act of sodomy.

Heath is ashamed of the fact that he stayed away from the use of that word, and especially the word “sodomite” while serving as leader of the Christian Civic League of Maine. Sodomite is used many times in the popular King James Version of the Bible to describe the practitioners of sodomy. It is a legitimate word. “We’ve allowed forces in our society aligned with soft-selling the condemnation of sex outside of marriage to dictate our tone, style and tactics,” said Heath. “Those days are over.”

Michael Heath was forced out of the Christian Civic League in 2009 because anti-gay activists thought that his extreme rhetoric would wreck their plans to ban marriage at the ballot box that year. He left, and they prevailed. But now he’s back, he’s refusing to go away, and I couldn’t be happier. Their (re)launch will take place this morning at 10:30 a.m. on the steps of Lewiston City Hall. I don’t know about you, but I hope reporters from every newspaper, radio station and television channel in the Pine Tree State shows up.

An “undesirable” discharge from the Navy, 1948 (click to enlarge).

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Newsweek on “Homosexuals in Uniform”: 1947. “Although Army regulations strictly forbade the drafting of homosexuals, scores of these inverts managed to slip through induction centers during the second world war. Between 3,000 and 4,000 were discharged for this abnormality; others were released as neuropsychiatric cases. Last week, with most of the records on homosexuals tabulated, Army medical officers, for the first time, summed up their strange story.”

That strange story, in retrospect, was that gay people came from all walks of life. But in 1947, neither the Army nor Newsweek in its June 9, 1947 story could wrap their heads around that fact. Gays on average were found to be intelligent, not particularly feminine, and “as a whole, these men were law-abiding and hard working. In spite of nervous, unstable and often hysterical temperaments they performed admirably as workers. Many tried to be good soldiers.” If gay soldiers were “nervous,” that undoubtedly came from the consequences of being found out. “Once this abnormality was detected, the man was usually evacuated by the unit doctors to a general hospital where he received psychiatric treatment while a military board decided whether or not he was reclaimable. A good number begged to be cured, but doctors usually doubted their sincerity, and recommended discharge.”

But being discharged was far from the end to these soldiers’ problems. During the first half of the war, they were brought up on court-martial, punished and dishonorably discharged. But by 1943, courts-martial were overwhelmed by the rising caseload, so the Army decided to let them go with an administrative “blue” discharge — neither honorable or dishonorable, and so named for the color of paper they were printed on. The suspiciously vague nature of blue discharges made it very difficult when these soldiers hit the job market. In an economy where nearly everyone served and the vast majority could report honorable discharges to their prospective employers, these blue discharges stood out. The Veterans Administration also routinely denied benefits to blue discharge holders, despite the law’s explicit language stating that only dishonorable discharges were grounds for denial of benefits. As of July 1, 1947, the situation was about to get worse: “Instead of leaving the service with the vague and protective ‘blue’ discharge, the homosexuals who had not been guilty of a definite office would receive an ‘undesirable’ discharge.”

Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.

Congress Allows Indefinite Confinement of “Sexual Psychopaths” in Washington, D.C.: 1948. The nation’s capital had experienced explosive growth through the New Deal and World War II. And in the relatively short time period, the sleepy Southern town became a major bustling East Coast city, with all of the attendant problems and anxieties which comes with rapid urban growth. Among those anxieties were worries over a declining moral environment in the growing city. In response, Congress passed and the President Harry Truman signed Public Law 615 on June 9, 1948 which provided for the indefinite interment and treatment for “sexual psychopaths” in the District. (Before D.C. was given Home Rule with an elected mayor and council in 1973, the district was ruled directly by Congress and administered by a three-person appointed commission.) “Sexual Psychopath” was defined as a:

“person, not insane, who by a course of repeated misconduct in sexual matters has evidenced such lack of power to control his sexual impulses as to be dangerous to other persons because he is likely to attack or otherwise inflict injury, loss, pain, or other evil on the objects of desire.”

The act specifically excluded rape or assault with intent to rape. Those charges were handled as normal criminal complaints. But according to this new law, the US Attorney was empowered to initiate proceedings against anyone else — even if they hadn’t been charged with a crime — to have them committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital until the superintendent “finds that he has sufficiently recovered so as not to be dangerous to other person.”

The law’s wording suggested the aim was to keep dangerous people off the streets, but the vague definition of “sexual psychopath” left the door open to all sorts of abuse. According to a paper read at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in 1950, the law’s reach naturally extended to gay men in consensual relationships. Dr. Francis Tartaglino of St. Elizabeth reported that as of March 1, 1950, twenty-four patients had been admitted to the hospital’s maximum security ward under this new law, “including 2 non-coercive homosexuals and 1 aggressive sodomist.” Nothing further was reported of the “non-coercive homosexuals.”


TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Cole Porter: 1891. American songwriters could match the sophistication, wit, and discreet naughtiness of Let’s Do It (1928), You Do Something To Me (1929), Love for Sale (1930), Anything Goes (1934), Let’s Misbehave (1937), Well Did You Evah! (1939) or Too Darn Hot (1948). That barely scratches the surface of Porter’s musical output. He was born to a wealthy family in Peru, Indiana, and after graduating from an exclusive prep school, he studied law, first at Yale (where he wrote two of Yale’s football fight songs that are still played today), then at Harvard for his graduate studies. But after finally deciding that he was more interested in music, he left Harvard Law and enrolled in Harvard’s music program. In 1917, he moved to Paris to lend his hand at the war effort, and where his luxury Paris apartment became the scene of lavish parties.

That was where he met Linda Thomas, a rich Kentucky divorced socialite who was eight years his senior. She was reportedly aware of Porters homosexuality — his affair with Ballet Russes star Borish Koncho in 1925 wasn’t much of a secret — but they both found marriage mutually advantageous. For Porter, a wife like Linda afforded a respectable heterosexual front, and for Linda, Porter’s success and growing fame only enhanced her social position. And besides, he was genuinely kind to her, which was very unlike her abusive first husband.

In 1928, Porter returned to Broadway, where he found considerable success and offers from Hollywood. The Porters moved there in 1935, but Linda didn’t appreciate Cole’s increasingly open dalliances with other men. She moved back to their home in Paris, and Porter became about as openly closeted as any other Hollywood A-gay. A severe horse riding accident in 1937, which left Porter with a permanently-crippling leg injury, brought the Porters back together, but they reconciled with an apparently renewed understanding. Linda was more than just a beard to Porter: by all accounts they were very close, at least in a spiritual or emotional sense. Yet throughout their marriage, Porter also had significant relationships with several men, including Boston socialite Howard Sturges, architect Ed Tauch (who inspired “Easy to Love”), choreographer Nelson Barclift (who inspired “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”), actor Robert Bray, and longtime companion Ray Kelly, to whose children Porter left half of his royalties when he died in 1964. (Linda preceded him in death ten years earlier.) Porter’s life was significantly de-gayed in the 2004 biopic De-Lovely: The Cole Porter Story with Kevin Kline inthe starring role. William McBrien’s 1998 biography however provides a much more complete picture of Porter’s life.

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?

Comments

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Tony
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

“No special rights”? Wasn’t that what people said about the racial Civil Rights Acts? You would think they would try to stay away from language like that.

Petrockmi
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

Jim, Unless I am mistaken, Bisbee is also celebrating pride this weekend.

Claire
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

Also, its Pine Tree State, not Pine Street State.

Minor, I know.

Jim Burroway
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

Fixed the typo.

As for Bisbee Pride, it’s on my calendar for next weekend. My partner and I really enjoy Bisbee and we go there often, but we’ve never made it for pride. Maybe this year…

Gene in L.A.
June 9th, 2012 | LINK

“No special rights” sounds to me like a suitable ground on which to strike down different-sex-only marriage.

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