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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, February 20

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Rally for Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Bullying Legislation: Frankfort, KY. The Fairness Campaign will hold a rally this afternoon at the Capitol Rotunda to call for the passage of S.B. 28 and H.B. 171, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act which bars discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The rally will also call for the passage of House Bill 377, which would require schools to add LGBT students to their anti-bullying and anti-harassment discipline policies. Supporters will lobby legislators in small teams in the morning, when they will help deliver more than11,000 constituent post cards advocating passage of the two bills. The rally itself will take place in the Capitol Rotunda at 1:30 p.m.

Events This Weekend: Pride Cape Town, South Africa; Telluride Gay Ski Week, Mountain Village, CO; Elevation: Utah Gay Ski Week, Park City, UT; Sydney Mardis Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Marcus Welby, M.D. Episode “The Other Martin Loring” Airs: 1973. Marcus Welby was America’s favorite doctor, and Marcus Welby, M.D. was the first program to hit number one in the Nielsen ratings for the perpetually struggling ABC. But America’s favorite doctor made a bad call in its fourth season when it aired an episode titled “The Other Martin Loring.” The episode centers around Loring, who consults Dr. Welby for being an alcoholic, overweight, depressed and diabetic. Relax, take it easy, don’t work too hard, Welby tells Loring. That night, Loring who goes home to his wife, who demand a divorce and custody of their son. When he threatens to countersue, Mrs. Loring says she won’t “hold anything back.” He later collapses under the strain and under Welby’s care again. One thing led to another, including a drunk-driving car accident. Eventually, Welby figures out that Loring is gay. Welby’s advice: Loring had a “serious illness” and he should suppress his desires and see a psychiatrist because his “tendencies” were “degrading and loathsome.”

Shortly before the episode’s scheduled air date, a script was leaked to the Gay Activist Alliance, which organized a protest of two dozen demonstrators at ABC’s New York headquarters. Another group of thirty activists entered the building, guided by a detailed map provided by someone within the network, and took over the thirty-ninth floor offices of the network’s top executives. “It was one of the first big actions we took,” Ron Gold, GAA’s media director, later recalled. “It was also one of the biggest mistakes we made. ABC offered to set up a meeting for two of us with their standards and practices person and the president of the network if the rest of us would go away. But we were afraid that we were going to get screwed over so we said no. That was very foolish because we didn’t get to talk to anybody. They thought we were crazy — and to a certain extent we were. But we were also justifiably paranoid.”

Other protests broke out in Los Angeles when the episode aired, and gay activists tried to launch a nationwide advertiser boycott. But the boycott fizzled, largely because the fractious gay activist community didn’t have the means to communicate with each other effectively, let alone to the general public. In a sense, LGBT-advocacy was still in its infancy, learning the ways of effective demonstration and publicity. But they were quick learners. More than a year later, when Marcus Welby, M.D. would air another homophobic episode (see Oct 8), gay activists were better prepared, and their actions would lead to seventeen ABC affiliates dropping that episode, and at least seven major sponsors pulling out.

Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Roy Cohn: 1927. Could there be a more despicable character in all of gay history? The Columbia Law grad showed signs of legal brilliance early, having been admitted to the bar at twenty-one, becoming an Assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan and playing a prominent role in the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1951. In 1952, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) appointed him as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on the recommendation of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, where Cohn became known for his aggressive questioning of suspected Communists. Cohn brought in his good friend, David Schine as consultant to McCarthy’s staff. But when the young and handsome Schine was drafted into the army in 1953, Cohn embarked on a private campaign to ensure special treatment for Schine — light duties, extra leave, an exemption from overseas assignment — and threatened to “wreck the Army” if they didn’t accede to his demands. The bitter irony of all this is that while Cohn was pursuing special treatment for his special friend, McCarthy’s witch hunt extended beyond communists to also include gay people (See, for example, Mar 14, Jul 2, Sep 7).

Roy Cohn and David Schine on the cover of Time.

By 1954, McCarthy’s anti-communist and anti-gay witch hunt extended to the Army, which decided to fight back. During one exchange during a committee hearing, the Army’s head counsel, Joseph Welch, asked a McCarthy staffer about the origin of a photo of Schine and Army Secretary Robert Stevens, which had been doctored to omit the presence of Air Force Colonel Jack Bradley. Welch asked the staffer sarcastically, “Did you think it came from a pixie?” McCarthy interjected, “Will counsel (Welch) for my benefit define– I think he might be an expert on that– what a pixie is?” Welch responded, “Yes. I should say, Mr. Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy.” Others in the chamber who were in on the rumors, broke into laughter. Cohn later called the remark, “malicious,” “wicked,” and “indecent.”

Roy Cohn, four months before he died in 1986.

Cohn later forced to resign from McCarthy’s staff due to growing outrage over his tactics. He returned to New York and entered private practice, where his clients included mafia figures, the New York Yankees, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. He was friends with Barbara Walters (she served as his “beard” for a while), columnist Walter Wenchell, and North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms. While publicly closeted and working actively against gay rights, he partied at the best gay bars and threw lavish parties in New York and Provincetown. In 1984, he was diagnosed with AIDS. He used his connections to jump to the head of the line for treatment with the then-scarce and experimental AZT. By the time he died in 1986, he maintained his public denial both of his homosexuality and his disease — he said it was “cancer.” In Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, Cohn is portrayed as a power hungry, self-loathing hypocrite who is dying of AIDS while haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. Cohn’s name is also on a panel of the AIDS memorial quilt. It reads, “Roy Cohn: Bully, Coward, Victim.” A fitting eulogy if there ever was one.

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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Hyhybt
February 20th, 2013 | LINK

Only because this will (presumably) come around again next year… you may wish to change “photon” to “photo.”

Werdna
February 20th, 2013 | LINK

If we’re listing despicable gays I think Ernst Röhm surpasses Roy Cohn by more than a little…

matt
February 20th, 2013 | LINK

As far as “despicable characters” go, anita bryant and maggie Gallagher certainly deserve spots near the top of that list.

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