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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, October 9

Jim Burroway

October 9th, 2012

TODAY IN HISTORY:
South Africa Strikes Down Sodomy Law: 1998. South Africa’s penal code defined sodomy as a Schedule 1 offense, like murder or rape, and was punishable by life imprisonment. Another law, Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act, which outlawed any behavior “at a party” — defined as a gathering of two or more men — that would be an invitation to sexual activity. Under that law, any hint of a proposition or even a glance, could lead to an arrest. The laws had been mostly ignored — South African cities had been host to Gay Pride parades for more than a decade — but that didn’t stop two prisoners in Cape Town from being charged with sodomy after engaging in consensual sex in 1997. But South Africa’s Constitutional Court responded to a suit brought by the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and struck down the country’s harsh sodomy law along with Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act.

The ruling, written by Judge Lori Ackerman with a concurring ruling by Judge Albie Sachs, held that the decision violated South Africa’s new post-Apartheid 1996 constitution which made South Africa one of the first countries in the world to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The justices ruled that the decision was “part of a growing acceptance of difference in an increasingly open and pluralistic South Africa,” which included gays already serving openly in the military and the police force providing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples. The ruling African National Congress had earlier decided not to oppose the lawsuit. The ruling was made retroactive to the adoption of an interim constitution of 1994, which also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Simeon Solomon: 1840. He was the last child to be born into a prominent Jewish family in London. When he was about ten years old, he began to learn to paint from his older brother, and a few years later he attended Carey’s Art Academy. Later, as a student at the  Royal Academy, he became a prominent member of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle, and he held several acclaimed exhibitions at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872. Many of his paintings were drawn from his Jewish background, consisting of scenes from the Hebrew bible and ordinary Jewish life, and he was hailed as the “darling of the Pre-Raphaelits.” His paintings also explored, at the very least, affections between men. In 1871 Simeon Solomon privately published his poem “A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep.” John Addington Symonds would note that the themes of same-sex love in the poem was “the key to the meaning of his drawings.”

The Sleepers, and the One that Watcheth (1870, click to enlarge)

Solomon’s career though was ruined in 1873 when he was arrested at a public toilet and fined £100 for attempted sodomy. He was arrested again the next year in Paris and was sentenced to three months in prison. He never recovered. From then on, he was hobbled by alcoholism and became destitute. He would pass his remaining years in and out of the workhouse where he continued to paint, but both the quality and quantity of his work was severely impaired by his drinking. He finally collapsed in central London and died of bronchitis and alcoholism in 1905. Poet and critic Arthur Symons, on learning of Solomon’s death, lamented, “There is nothing in this world so pitiful as a shipwreck of a genius.”

Nona Hendryx: 1944. The Trenton, New Jersey-born singer, producer, songwriter, author and actress was one third (with Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash) of the trio Labelle, whose greatest hit was 1974’s “Lady Marmalade.” Beginning in 1977, Hendryx embarked on a solo career, but struggled to repeat the success of LaBelle. She wasn’t without work though, as she provided background vocals for the Talking Heads and became a part of New York’s underground rock, R&B and dance scene. As the eighties progressed, she collaborated with Keith Richards, Peter Gabriel and Prince for several of he solo release. In 2001, she came out as bisexual in an interview with The Advocate, and became a gay rights advocate. In 2008, she joined Cyndi Lauper for her True Colors tour.

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?

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