The Daily Agenda for Thursday, February 21
February 21st, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Oklahoma Prohibits Gay Teachers: 1978. When Oklahoma State Sen. Mary Helm (R-OKC) introduced the “Feature Fitness Statute” in the state Senate, she had more than just gay teachers in her sights. The bill would allow public schools to fire or refuse to hire anyone who engaged in “public homosexuality activity,” which the proposed broadly defined to also include not just sexual activity, but also “advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting public or private homosexual activities in a manner that creates a substantial risk that such conduct will come to the attention of schoolchildren or school employees.”
Think of what that meant. A straight teacher writing a letter to the editor supporting gay rights or, perhaps, denouncing the formation of a student KKK chapter in the public schools to bash gay people — which occurred in the northern suburbs of Oklahoma City soon after the bill was introduced (see Jan 25) — that teacher would be subject to being fired by the school board. But lawmakers weren’t focused on gay bashing, but on anyone who might publicly say that gay bashing was abhorrent. When the bill was introduced into the House by Rep. John Monks (D-Muskogee), he told reporters that the measure would allow school boards to “fire those who are afflicted with this degenerate problem … people who are mentally deranged this way.” (Monks was famous for saying stupid shit. In a successful effort to defeat a bill to ban cockfighting, Monks thundered, “In every country the communists have taken over, the first thing they do is outlaw cockfighting.”)
When the House passed the measure by a lopsided 88-2 vote without debate on February 7, the Associated Press speculated that “it is expected to face stiffer opposition in the Senate.” Fat chance. Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma who was fresh off of her victory in repealing a gay rights ordinance in Miami (see Jun 7), lobbied the state Senate to prohibit “the flaunting of homosexuality.” On February 21, the Senate passed the bill unanimously, and it quickly became law in April.
It took two years before the National Gay Task Force could even find a teacher willing to challenge the law. But after several false starts, the NGTF was finally able to bring a case to Federal Court challenging the law’s constitutionality. After the slow trek through the appeals process, the United States Supreme Court finally struck down the law in 1986 (see Mar 26).
Atlanta Gay Bar Bombed: 1997. Memrie Wells-Cresswell, of Snellville, GA, went to Atlanta’s Otherside Lounge to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Memrie had not told many people that she was lesbian, but the bombing that night at the popular lesbian bar would change all that. Five people were injured, but hers were the most serious: a three to four inch nail entered her arm and severed a brachial artery. When Mayor Bill Campbell mentioned her by name everyone suddenly knew her secret, including her employer who fired her. She later told The Advocate, “The company ended up giving me some hush money just to make me go away.”
Police found a second bomb just outside the bar, which they detonated with a robot. It had been placed there to harm police and medical workers responding to the first explosion. That fit a pattern established with two earlier Atlanta bombings, one at the Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996 and another at an Atlanta abortion clinic on January 16, 1997. Three days after the Otherside Lounge Bombing, police received a letter from an organization calling themselves The Army of God claiming responsibility. The letter threatened “total war” and promised more attacks against abortion clinics and gay people.
In 1998, Federal Authorities charged Eric Rudolph with the three Atlanta bombings and a fourth one at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. They spent the next four and a half years looking for him around the town of Murphy, North Carolina, where Randolph spent his teenage years. Murphy residents printed tee-shirts reading “Run, Rudolph Run.” He was finally captured there on May 31, 2003. He was well-groomed and well-fed, suggesting he had help in Murphy. On August 13, 2005, Rudolph pleaded guilty to all four bombings in a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid the death penalty. In an eleven page statement, he wrote, “Whether it is gay marriage, homosexual adoption, hate crimes laws including gays, or the attempt to introduce a homosexual normalizing curriculum into our schools, all of these efforts should be ruthlessly opposed.” He also said that the attack on The Otherside Lounge was “meant to send a powerful message in protest of Washington’s continued tolerance and support for the homosexual political agenda.” He is currently serving four life sentences.
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?