The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 21

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
British Commons To Vote On Marriage Bill: London, UK. Yesterday’s failed attempt by marriage equality opponents to derail the same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons revealed a rather large rift among Prime Minster David Cameron’s fellow conservatives which may, in the long run, undermine his leadership within the party and of the nation. But in the short term, and thanks to a strong intervention by Labour leader Ed Miliband, the marriage equality bill survived rebel Tories’ attempt to place a poison-pill clause into the legislation. Today, Commons will complete its work on the bill’s Report stage and take a final vote for the Third Reading. If yesterday’s votes are any indication, the bill should pass in Commons by a healthy margin and be sent to the House of Lords, where further opposition is expected. But given the strong support the bill has enjoyed in Commons, observers expect that the Lords will choose not to block the bill. Gay couples may be able to marry in England and Wales by the summer of 2014.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
White Night: 1979. On this date, Dan White was found guilty in the shooting death of San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a paltry seven years in prison. (He would only serve five.) The jury bought the defense arguments that White was suffering from diminished capacity due to depression and an overload of junk food, a defense that has since been derided as the “Twinkie defense.”

The gay community was already angry with the police and fire department, which had raised money for White’s defense. That anger boiled over when the verdict was announced, leading to rioting at City Hall. Police officers — their badges were covered with black tape to prevent identification — broke up the riot. Later that night, San Francisco police staged a retaliatory raid on a gay bar in the Castro, shouting “”dirty cocksuckers” and “sick faggots” while attacking patrons and shattering a large plate glass window. For the next two hours, police officers indiscriminately attacked passers by on the street. Later that night, a freelance reporter overheard a group of police officers celebrating at a downtown bar. “We were at City Hall the day [the killings] happened and we were smiling then,” one officer said. “We were there tonight and we’re still smiling.” Gay leaders refused to apologize for the riot at city hall, and an investigation into police misconduct in the Castro and City Hall ended without any charges being filed.

10 YEARS AGO: Wesleyan University Offers Specialized Transgender Housing: 2003. Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut announced that it would become the first American college to offer special housing option to accommodate transgender students. Incoming freshmen will have the option of living in a new “gender-blind” floor of a dormitory without specifying their gender. According to the new university policy, those who choose to live in the gender-blind area “will be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender.” Mike Whaley, dean of student services, estimated that there were twelve to fifteen transgender students on the 3,000 student campus. But after opposition and obstruction from other members of the administration, the transgender housing policy was very nearly scrapped a year later when the dean in charge of student housing refused to pair students who were not of the same “biological gender.” Finally, with input from mental health professionals and transgender advocates, a new policy was implemented in 2010.

CT Adds Gender Identity To Hate Crime Law: 2004. Connecticut governor John Rowland signs legislation which adds gender identity to the state’s hate crime law. The act makes Connecticut the eight state in the nation to provide hate crime protections for gender identity.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Raymond Burr: 1917. He started out as a stage actor, landing on Broadway in 1941 for Crazy with the Heat. It didn’t take long for him to switch to the silver screen for the film noir classic Raw Deal. He was adept at playing the heavies, as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place In the Son, and as the murder suspect in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. But he is best know for his two long-running television roles, in Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967 -1975). Like most gay actors, Burr rarely spoke about his private life. His official biography listed three marriages, but later investigations could only verify the second one. What has been verified is that Burr enjoyed a long 35-year relationship with his partner, Robert Benevides, who he met on the set of Perry Mason. Benevides was not only his life-long partner until Burr’s death in 1993, but together they owned an orchid business(orchids were one of Burr’s passions) and then a vineyard. Benevides still operates the the Raymond Burr vineyards.

Frank Kameny: 1925. Easily one of the giants of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny fell into it when he was fired from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality (see Dec 20). Kameny took on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and argued his appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case. They missed out on quite case. Kameny wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court, in which he denounced the government’s ban on hiring gay people as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”

Throughout his lifetime, Kameny placed himself in the middle of many first in the gay rights movement. He founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961, a group which distinguished itself for its aggressiveness. In 1965, Kameny helped to organize the first gay rights protest in front the White House (see Apr 17), the Pentagon (Jul 31), the U.S. Civil Service Commission, and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4). That same year, Kameny published a ground-breaking essay which declared the gay rights movement’s independence from the mental health professions and its shoddy pseudo-scientific research on homosexuality, proclaiming, “We are the true authorities on homosexuality” (see May 11). That bold, landmark declaration proved a turning point from or the gay rights movement, which soon shifted from a position of deference to professional authorities who declared that gays were mentally ill, and toward an eight year struggle to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). In 1968, Kameny created the slogan“Gay is Good,” and in 1971, he was the first openly gay candidate for Congress (see Feb 22).

Kameny has been recognized as a national treasure; his papers are now a part of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian holds several of Kameny’s picket signs and other artifacts in its collection. His home is now recognized as a D.C. Historic Landmark, and in 2009, he received an official apology for his firing from the Office of Personnel Management. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 86.

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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