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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 3

Jim Burroway

April 3rd, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; AIDS Walk, New Haven, CT; Dina SHore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA; Phoenix Pride, Phoenix, AZ; Gay Snow Happening, Solden, Austria.

The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court who made history in the Midwest

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Iowa Supreme Court Declares Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional: 2009. In a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling which held that the state’s marriage statute was unconstitutional. The Court concluded that:

We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy issued a joint statement welcoming the court’s decision. Citing Iowa’s long tradition in being a leader in civil rights, they congratulated “the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.” Iowa’s same-sex couples began marrying on April 27.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Anne Lister: 1791. Her father was a veteran British soldier who fought with the Redcoats at the Battles of Lexington and Concord (he later wrote a book about it) during the American War for Independence. After the war, he married and became a wealthy country gentleman in Yorkshire. His eldest daughter, Anne, was brought up with all of the advantages education and erudician, the latter resulting in an intense interest in classical literature. In 1826, she inherited the family estate, Shibden Hall, and with it a steady income from the estate’s tenants. That modest wealth was enough to afford her a measure of independence and deference from those who might otherwise criticize her “masculine appearance.” She was sometimes referred to as “Gentleman Jack,” for her propensity to enter into business (she became engaged in the very male-dominated coal mining business) and recreational affairs (she was the first woman to climb Mont Perdy in the Pyrenees in 1830) that were not considered normal for a woman of her standing.

What’s more, private life was not considered normal for a woman of any standing. Lister had a long term relationship with Marianna Belcombe, which lasted lasting several years including a period of time when Belcombe was married. In 1832, Lister met and fell in love with a wealthy landowner Ann Walker, and the two of them would remain together for the rest of Lister’s short life. Their relationship was as close to a marriage as was possible, given the times. Lister died in 1840, at the age of 49, while traveling with Walker in Eastern Europe.

Lister left behind a 26-volume diary covering the years 1806 to 1840. Most of the diary covered various mundane topicc — the weather, social events, business concerns, her travels — but about a sixth of the diary was encrypted in a simple code. Those coded sections describe her lesbian nature and affairs. When a relative, John Lister, who was the last to inhabit Shibden Hall, decoded the diaries and discovered the contents, he was advised to burn them. He didn’t, but decided instead to hide them. A century later, Helena Whitbread published portions of the diaries in two volumes in 1988 and 1992, and issued a re-release of selected excerpts as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister in 2012. As Shibden Gall currator Claire Shelby observed, the diaries reveal a complicated woman who was very frank about her sexuality. “She talks about her tactics for wooing women. She talks about how she likes a particular woman, how she is interested and how she has spoken to tem. It’s almost like you can see relationships developing as they go along. And, though she doesn’t refer to it in the sort of language we use today, it is clear to see a sexual element in her relationships. … She approached an awful lot of women, including married women, and it doesn’t sound like she was rejected very often. She could be very charming when she wanted to be.” In 2010, BBC Two aired a dramatization of Lister’s life and a documentary. Between the books and the television program, Lister’s reputation as “the first modern lesbian” has been firmly cemented.

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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