The Daily Agenda for Friday, May 10

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2013

Events This Weekend: Pride Bergen, Norway; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; BeachBear Weekend, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Houston Splash, Houston, TX; BigHorn Rodeo, Las Vegas, NV; Pride Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Pride Mykolayiv, Ukraine; AIDS Walk Ogunquit, ME.

80 YEARS AGO: Book Burning in Berlin: 1933. After having raided the Institute for Sexual Research and looted its vast library and archives (see May 6), the German Student Association (Deutsche Studentenschaft) proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit”, which culminated in the “cleansing” (“Säuberung”) by fire on May 10, 1933 of an estimated 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books. Book burnings took place throughout Germany, and the bulk of the books burned in Berlin came from the ISR. About 40,000 people watched in the Opernplatz as propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels declared “No to decadence and moral corruption!” LGBT advocacy, which had developed as a strong scientific and social institution in Germany over the past several decades, was shut down virtually overnight.

Max Lorenz: 1901. The Düsseldorf native’s powerful performances as a heroic tenor (heldentenor, in German) in Wagner’s operas is probably what saved his life in Nazi Germany — or at the very least, the life of his Jewish wife, whom he married in 1932 despite his homosexuality. The very next year, he established his dominance at the Bayreuth Festival, the annual Wagner festival began by Richard Wagner himself, just as the Nazis came to power. Later, when Lorenz was caught “in flagrante” with a young man at Bayreuth, Hitler forbade his future performances at the prestigious festival. Winifred Wagner, the festival’s director, answered that she would would close the festival because without Lorenz, “Bayreuth can’t be done.” Such was Hitler’s love for Wagner’s operas that he backed down and let Lorenz perform. In 1943, when the SS stormed Lorenz’s home while he was away to take his wife and mother-in-law off to the concentration camps, Hermann Göring personally intervened and placed the entire family under his personal protection.

Lorenz’s career lasted almost three decades. He was particularly renowned for his performances as Siegfried (in Siegfried and Götterdämmerung), Tristan (in Tristan und Isolde) and as Walther (in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) After the war, Lorenz became an Austrian citizen, but his reputation was sullied by the assumption that he had been a Nazi. He died in Salzburg in 1975.

Steve Gunderson: 1951. The first openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, the Wisconsin representative was outed on the floor of the House of Representatives by a fellow Republican, the virulently anti-gay Rep. Bob Dornan of California. The confrontation occurred during a debate on a measure that would have prohibited any school which received federal funding from “promoting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle.” Gunderson objected to some of the defects in how the measure was written, saying it “has the effect of prohibiting school counseling and guidance. It has the effect of prohibiting AIDS education.”

Dornan rose to object, saying that Gunderson has “a revolving door on his closet. He’s on, he’s out, he’s in, he’s out, he’s in. I guess you’re out because you went up and spoke to a huge homosexual dinner, Mr. Gunderson.” Dornan later complained to reporters, “We have a rep on our side who is a homo who goes in and out of the closet. I have just had it with him saying he takes second place to no one in this House … (in) upholding Christian principles.”

That “homosexual dinner” was the annual Human Rights Campaign Fund dinner in Baltimore two weeks earlier, where Gunderson told the gathering about the beach house at Rehoboth Beach that he shared with “Rob” and “our two dogs.” Gunderson also told attendees how he and Rob had been touched by the AIDS crisis in the past year. “Two of our closest friends died from AIDS, and while for Rob and I this was the first personal loss from this tragic disease, it makes its impact no less painful to each of us. He also urged gays and lesbians to come out of the closet, saying that “unless a son or brother is gay, a daughter or sister is lesbian, most families will not encounter challenges to their traditional values.”

But in the immediate aftermath of Dornan’s outburst, Gunderson refused to confirm or deny his sexuality to reporters, saying that he wouldn’t dignify Dornan’s comments with a response. But in 1994, refusing to deny it was all that was really needed. Rep. Barny Frank (D-MA) observed, “This is not an easy situation he finds himself in. In a perfect world none of this would be necessary.” Gunderson won re-election later that year, and he became the lone Republican vote against the Defense of Marriage Act two years later. He chose not to seek re-election in 1996. In January 2010, Gunderson was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Commission on White House Fellows. He is currently the President and CEO of the Council on Foundations, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit membership association of approximately 2,000 grantmaking foundations and corporations.

Michele Van Gorp: 1977. Born in Warren, Michigan, Michele Van Gorp played women’s collegiate basketball at Purdue University for her freshman and sophomore years, then transferred to Duke University, where she led Duke to the school’s firs NCAA final. She was drafted into the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Van Gorp was the only open lesbian in the WNBA from 2002 (when Sue Wicks retired) until 2005, when Sheryl Swoopes and Latasha Byears came out. Van Gorp retired from the WNBA in 2005 following injuries, and she is now coaching in France.

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?

Lindoro Almaviva

May 10th, 2013

Happy birthday Max Lorenz.

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