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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, November 27

Jim Burroway

November 27th, 2012

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Pennsylvania Outlaws Sodomy: 1700. The Pennsylvania assembly passed a new sodomy law to replace the old one which had been abrogated in 1693. The new law read:

…whoever shall be legally convicted of sodomy or bestiality, shall suffer imprisonment during life, and be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates, once every three months during the first year after conviction. And if he be a married man, he shall also suffer castration, and the injured wife shall hae a divorce if required.

In keeping with the pacifist nature of the Quakers who dominated the political structures in Pennsylvania, the colony’s law against sodomy was quite lenient: it was the only colonial law which didn’t call for the death penalty. That relative pacifism however didn’t extend to those of African descent. Another law, “An Act for the Trial of Negroes,” added this:

…”if any negro or negroes within this government shall commit a rape or ravishment upon any white woman or maid, or shall commit murder, buggery or burglary, they shall be …. punished by death.”

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 122-123.]

Harvey Milk Assassinated: 1978. Harvey Milk finally succeeded in winning political office as a gay man for two reasons. One, he refused to hide who he was; and two, he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. Among those alliances, initially, was with the most conservative member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There couldn’t have been two politicians from more opposite ends of the political spectrum. White, a former cop, was a conservative Catholic representing a blue-collar neighborhood, while Milk, a gay Jew from New York, represented the growing gay districts surrounding the Castro. Milk and White made several media appearances in which they spoke warmly of each other, and Milk began telling friends that he thought White was “educable.” That began to change however when Milk changed his mind about White’s opposition to a proposed psychiatric treatment center in White’s district. Harvey initially supported White, which would have given White the 6-5 majority he needed to block the facility. But as Harvey learned more about the center, he discovered that San Francisco children would be sent instead far away to a state hospital where they would be cut off from their families. He concluded that “they’ve got to be next to somebody’s house,” and switched his vote.

The loss stunned White, and for several months he refused to speak to Milk or his aides. He also tried to retaliated by switching his vote on Harvey’s gay rights bill, but the bill passed anyway 10-1. White became increasingly disillusioned with politics, and abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. He quickly regretted his decision, and asked Mayor George Moscone to re-appoint him as Supervisor. Instead of complying with the request immediately, Moscone said he would think it over and announce his decision on November 27.

The night before the scheduled announcement, White learned through a reporter that he would not get the reappointment. The next morning White went to City Hall with his loaded .38 Smith & Wesson. He went to Moscone’s office and asked for a meeting. Moscone agreed and invited him into the mayor’s office. There, White shot Moscone twice in the abdomen and twice in the head. He then went down the hall to Milk’s office. When Milk got up out of his seat to greet White, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back, and twice more in the head.

On November 27, 1978, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Aravosis: 1963. An attorney, Democratic political consultant, gay activist and blogger, Aravosis is the founder of Americablog. His first major success as a gay activist came in 1998 when he defended U.S. sailor Timothy R. McVeigh (not to be confused with the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh), who was being kicked out of the Navy after he was outed by America Online. The internet provider had released the identity behind McVeigh’s email account even though the Navy never bothered to get a court order or warrant, in direct violation of AOL’s terms of service. McVeigh was days from being discharged when Aravosis embarked on a massive publicity campaign that caught the attention of ABC News, Time and Newsweek. It also got the attention of another lawyer, who took McVeigh’s case pro bono. McVeigh not only won an honorable discharge from the Navy, but also a large settlement from AOL.

Aravosis founded AmericaBlog in 2004. AmericaBlog first received widespread media attention in 2005 after it outed “Jeff Gannon” (real name: Jeff Guckert), a member of the White House press corps who had a reputation for fielding softball questions during news conferences.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

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