The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 14

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2012

The Milwaukee Journal, Dec 14, 1954 (Click to enlarge

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Milwaukee Doctor Faced Blackmail: 1954. The Milwaukee Journal reported that Anthony Roy, 26, was charged with attempting to extort $500 from a Milwaukee physician in exchange for not “exposing” him for being gay. He also made similar extortion attempts against a jeweler and an osteopath. These blackmail attempts took place at a time when even rumors that someone was gay might result in the complete ruining of that person’s reputation. In the case of the doctor and osteopath, it might have even resulted in their licenses being revoked. After all, in 1954 they were both legally criminals and (according to the APA) mentally ill. The Journal described how Roy was caught:

Roy was seized in a public toilet at 1905 E. North av. The doctor, co-operating with police, had placed there a fake money package containing a dye powder. Officers said Roy’s hands were stained blue and the package was in his topcoat.

Police said the three professional men received a total of 10 extortion notes. Payment of $500 each was demanded from the physician and the jeweler and $1,000 from the osteopath. None of the intended victims is a homosexual, police said.

CA State Sen. Briggs Urges Appointment of Non-Gay To Succeed Harvey Milk: 1978. San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein released a telegram sent to her from California State Sen. John Briggs urging her to fill the vacancy left by San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s assassination with a “non-homosexual.” Briggs, who was the driving force behind an unsuccessful 1978 ballot measure (see Nov 7) which would have banned gays, lesbians, and anyone who supported them from working in public schools, responded that he was a “little shocked” that Mayor Feinstein made the telegram public. Feinstein, who had been elected mayor to fill the vacancy left by the the Nov. 27 shooting deaths of Milk and Mayor George Moscone, had said that she was considering appointing another gay person to fill Milk’s vacancy. Briggs responded via telegram:

“I am appalled by your apparent desire to use the quota system in appointing supervisor Harvey Milk’s successor ‘as the only moral thing to do.’ Surely merit not sexual preference should be the criterion. Supervisor Milk always insisted to be considered a human being first and a homosexual second. As an attractive alternative, perhaps now is the time to provide fair representation for San Francisco’s Oriental, black or Chicano populations.”

It’s pretty rich that Briggs wanted her to consider gay people “a human being first and a homosexual second,” given that his ballot measure, Proposition 6, would have done precisely the opposite. Feinstein ignored Briggs’s advice, and on January 8, 1979, she appointed Harry G. Britt, a former United Methodist minister and “avowed homosexual,” to fill Milk’s vacancy to represent the Castro district.

Texas Health Department Gives Tentative Approval to AIDS Quarantine: 1985. The Texas Board of Health voted 12-5 to give tentative approval for a rule which would allow “incorrigible” people with AIDS to be declared as a public health threat and be placed under quarantee.  Dr. Robert Bernstein, the state health commissioner, said that the proposed rule could be to ensure the “isolation or separation” of those who refused to curtail their sexual activity or drug use. “This does not deal with the average AIDS patient,” he told the press. “This is not aimed at a disease. It is aimed at individuals who have the disease and might be incorrigible in a public health way. Whether we’ll use this, I don’t know.”

Board member Dr. Barry Cunningham, a Round Rock dentist, was more blunt: “We have a moral obligation to protect the people of Texas agaisnt a disease that is 100 percent fatal.”

Bernstein,who  had been campaigning for the authority to impose a quarantine on people with AIDS since October, emphasized that the proposed rule would only be used as a “last resort.” Local health officials would have to first get the state commissioner’s approvatal before imposing a quarantine. He justified the proposal by citing a Houston male prostitute with AIDS who had initially refused to stop working. The man later accepted counseling from a local gay advocacy group and admitted himself into a hospital.

Several Texas doctors spoke out against the proposal. Dr. Phillip Anderson, and Austin physician whose practice was about 60% gay, said, “The law is clearly outdated and inappropriate.” Board chairman DR. Ron Anderson of Dallas, who voted against the proposal, said, “It’s not really scientifically what would help us very much.” Others noted that quarantines had historically been imposed on peple with diseases which were spread through casual contact, and that HIV/AIDS is not a casually-spread disease. A hearing was set for public comment for January 13.

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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