House of Lords to Debate Marriage Bill: London, UK. Last month, a marriage equality bill was approved by Britain’s House of Commons following several last-minute efforts by Tory MP’s to derail the measure. Labour MP’s swept in and rescued the bill from a Tory revolt which saw a majority of voting Conservatives going against their own leadership. Now the bill goes to the House of Lords, where it received its first reading — a formality — two weeks ago. Beginning today, Lords will hold a debate ahead of its second reading, which would send the bill to the Committee Stage for a more thorough review before being returned to the full House for the Report Stage and final Third Reading.
Already several Peers are maneuvering derail the bill before it can even reach its second reading. The first crisis was averted when only one day — today — was scheduled for debate, which would push the vote on the bill’s second reading well past midnight. Marriage equality supporters feared that pushing the vote that late might jeopardize its passage, so Conservative leadership scheduled a second day of debate, with a vote expected to take place at about 5:00 p.m. tomorrow. But the bill still isn’t out of the woods yet. Part of the debate expected to take place today will be on a “fatal motion” which would kill the bill before it can be sent to the committee stage. Labour peer Lord Alli, a strong supporter for marriage equality, warns that if the Lords fail to pass the bill, it could precipitate a constitutional crisis:
If they win the vote then the Bill doesn’t come to us and the Commons can’t do anything about it,” he said. “The Government could use the Parliament Act but the argument against it is that the issue was not a manifesto commitment. In my view they could legitimately do it because it was a free vote – but it’s a constitutional crisis,” he added.
By “manifesto commitment,” he means that the issue was not included in the Conservative party manifesto (similar to a party platform in the U.S.) during the last election. (The latest Conservative manifesto is here (PDF: 3.2MB/131 pages))
…The 1949 Parliament Act has only been used four times since it was amended more than 60 years ago. It allows a law to be passed without the approval of the House of Lords and is sometimes billed as Parliament’s “nuclear deterrent”, a term that highlights the magnitude of using the contentious legislation.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Morals Raids” Staged in Tampa: 1961. Deputies staged a series of raids in what Hillsborough County Sheriff Ed Blackburn called “the biggest morals crackdown, to my knowledge, in the history of the state of Floria.” Thirty-six gay people were arrested in a series of early morning raids by a team of city, county, and state agents, with another 100 more expected to be taken into custody by the time the operation was finished. A few days later, Tampa police chief Neil Brown also spoke on the “ever growing problem” of homosexuality in Tampa. “We’re going to clean them up and get them out of town,” he declared. “I don’t know where they will go, but we’re going to get them out of town.” City police then rounded up 48 people from “known homosexual hangouts.”
The crackdown was the result of a year-long investigation in which city and county officers compiled “mug books” containing names, addresses, and other identifying information on gay people either living in Tampa or visiting on weekends. The data was compiled from court records beginning in the year 1955. Tampa vice squad detective Bill Whitmer said that he still had about three more years’ worth of dockets to go through.
Among those arrested was a thirty-five-year old-principal of Citrus Park Elementary School, who was being held on a $1,000 bond. Others arrested included a doctor, a former Air Force Major, and a sixty-seven year old retired psychology professor who had operated a school for mentally-retarded boys at Brooksville, Florida, about 45 miles north of Tampa. The names of both educators were emblazoned on Associated Press reports nationwide. Local papers printed the names and addresses of everyone arrested.
Later that month, State Attorney Paul B. Johnson told reporters, “Investigations have shown this problem to be even more widespread than we first anticipated. We have arrested at least 130 persons for crimes against nature, and lewd and lascivious acts in the past 90 days. Most have admitted their guilt.”
ONE magazine received a letter from a reader in Tampa filling in more details. It read:
On June 16th I received a letter from my best friends. The two have been living together for 11 years. One is a teacher the other a doctor. They have a lovely home outside Tampa on.. .. ” A part of the letter reads, ” I don’t know what you have read in the papers or whether radio or TV has carried the news in your city or not. At any event our worst fears have been realized, the reign of terror struck Tampa and made front pages here.
On June 2nd, B was arrested without warning at … and charged with a ‘crime against nature.’ He is awaiting trial and is out of jail on $2,000 bond. [$2,000 is equivalent to about $15,500 in today’s dollars] Being a school teacher he enjoyed adequate publicity. Needless to say, just about everything has collapsed for us.
“Fortunately, I am not involved legally, but of course otherwise, especially financially, we’ve had it. I don’t know how we’ll get through the next few months . . ..”
[Sources: Del McIntire (Don Slater) “Tangents — Tampa Tempest” ONE, 9, no. 8 (August 1961): 24-25.
Associated Press. “Morals raid held in Tampa.” (June 4, 1961).
Associated Press. “Morals crackdown staged in Florida.” (June 5, 1961).]
Aversion Therapy in Management of 43 Homosexuals: 1967. An article under that title by M.J. MacCulloch and M.P. Feldman appeared in the June 3, 1967 edition of the British Medical Journal. While electric shock aversion therapy was an expensive form of therapy, it was also surprisingly common. The authors reported the results of 41 men and two lesbians who they treated at Crumpsall Hospital in Manchester, U.K. The treatment consisted of administering painful electric shocks while projecting photos of attractive men (or women, in the case of the two lesbians). Of the 43 subjected to this torturous treatment, five were between the ages of 15 to 20. Eighteen were being treated under court order. Seven dropped out without completing the treatment, and 11 were “unimproved.” That left 25 who claimed that they were “improved” after twelve months. The “failures,” they said, tended to have a higher Kinsey rating — in other words, they didn’t have a basis in bisexuality to work with.
The authors concluded that “In our opinion the approximately 60% rate of improvement achieved in our series (over other reported studies) is mainly due to the use of an aversion therapy technique which has been carefully designed to make the most effective use of the findings of the experimental psychology of learning.” As far as other therapists were concerned, this paper confirmed the value of electric shock aversion therapy as a relatively highly effective means for “curing” homosexuality.
That confirmation however fell apart ten years later, when Dr. Sheelah James and colleagues from Hollymoor Hospital in England published the results of their own study which failed to replicate MacCulloch and Feldman’s findings. Among the second group’s problems was a very high dropout rate, one which was much higher than what MacCulloch and Feldman reported. “It appears that the Feldman and MacCulloch group had undergone some clinical preselection before referral,” they wrote, a process which would have inflated Feldman and MacCulloch’s so-called “success” rate. (In a subsequent paper, James advocated an alternative therapy for “curing” gay people involving hypnosis.) Ten years later still, aversion therapy would finally be largely abandoned — not just for ethical reasons, but also because of the growing realization that it simply didn’t work.
[Sources: M.J. MacCulloch and M.P. Feldman. “Aversion therapy in management of 43 homosexuals.” British Medical Journal 2, no. 5552 (June 3, 1967): 594-597. Available as a free downloaded from the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
Sheelah James, A. Orwin, R.K. Turner. “Treatment of homosexuality, I. Analysis of failure following a trial of anticipatory avoidance conditioning and the development of an alternative treatment system.” Behavior Therapy 8, no. 5 (November 1977): 840-848.
Sheelah James. “Treatment of homosexuality, II. Superiority of desensitization/arousal as compared to anticipatory avoidance conditioning: Results of a controlled trial.” Behavior Therapy 9, no. 1 (January 1978): 28-36.]
Alla Nazimova: 1879. The larger-than-life Russian-born Hollywood silent film star was as exotic and flamboyant off the screen as on. Her screen debut in 1916 led to eleven more films in two years. Her specialty was outrageously exotic yet tragic characters. Her most famous role was that of the title character in Camile, a 1921 film which featured Rudolf Valentino. It was at about that time that she became a producer, specializing in experimental artistic masterpieces which, unfortunately, were commercial flops. 1923’s Salome was particularly scandalous, as was her thinly concealed bisexuality off screen. Her “marriage” with gay actor Charles Bryant didn’t fool anyone. Her home, which she named “Garden of Allah,” was the scene for many glamorous private parties, and her name was connected with several Hollywood starlets and women of the arts. She is the credited with coining the phrase “sewing circles” to refer to lesbian or bisexual actresses who concealed their true sexuality. Her career ended in 1925 with the advent of the Hayes Code, although she had some minor film appearances in the 1940s (she was Doña Maria in The Bridge of San Luis Rey). She died in 1945.
George Quaintance: 1902. “My ancestors were all farmers,” he later wrote of his family in Shenandoah Valley hamlet of Luray, Virginia. “There were no artists or talented people among them, yet I drew, painted and modeled in clay as early as I can remember, and I did it with the assurance and the ability of experience, while the mysteries of running a farm… are still very great mysteries to me, after all these years.” Quaintance — he later became one of those artists known only by his last name — left Luray for New York City to become a dancer in 1920, but not before leaving behind a mural for his mother’s church, that of a spectacularly broad-shouldered (though fully clothed) Christ being baptized in the River Jordan by a similarly handsome John the Baptist. While in New York, he became a vaudeville dancer, women’s hair designer, and commercial illustrator.
In the early 1940s, Quaintance became increasingly focused on male figurative art in the style of the emerging “physique” magazines. His lover (and later business partner) Victor Garcia and his friendship with photographer Lon Hanagan (a.k.a. Lon of New York) supplied him with a steady stream of models, and Canadian bodybuilding publisher Joe Weider signed him to illustrate the covers of several of his physique magazines. In 1946, Weider appointed Quiantance art director of Your Physique, Wieder’s best-selling magazine, where Quaintance’s paintings became regular fixtures on the magazine’s covers. In 1947, Quaintance left Weider, and he and Victor moved out west, first to Los Angeles and then Phoenix. There, Quantance branched out into physique photography — he had always photographed his models as portrait studies, so selling those photographs wasn’t that much of a stretch for him. But he remained focused on his paintings.
It was during this time that his paintings took on a distinctly western flair. Quaintance’s exaggerated form of the ideal male dressed in denim and boots would define an esthetic for an entirely new subculture of Levi aficionados. He would also influence other artists like Tom of Finland, who would become something of a Quaintance of Leather. After Quaintance died in 1957, Victor kept the business going, but the business fell off in the late 1960s after full male nudity and porn became legal. After that, he simply disappeared.
In 1988, Durk Dehner of the Tom of Finland Foundation tried to track him down, but the trail ran cold at Victor’s last known address near West Hollywood, where he found several of Quaintance’s scrapbooks and paintings abandoned in an otherwise empty carport. Fifty-five canvases are believed to have been created, but eighteen of them are list. A diptych turned up at an antique store in Dallas in the early 1990s, but now its whereabouts are unknown. In 2010, Taschen published Quaintance, a lavish monograph is his known work including dozens of examples of his early commercial art for Procter and Gamble and several New York dance companies.
Josephine Baker: 1906. The Jazz Age icon and Art Deco chanteuse was born in St. Louis, but after a brief stint in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, she quickly moved to Paris where her career as actress, dancer and singer achieved instance success. Everything about her was made for Paris, and Paris for her. Her erotic dancing and nearly-nude performances were appreciated by her French audiences, and her exotic beauty as an African-American posed far fewer challenges in France than in the U.S. She become a French citizen in 1937 when she married a Frenchman, Jean Lion, who was Jewish. During World War II, she left Paris and went to her home in the south of France and, later, Morocco, where she provided assistance to the French Resistance. As an entertainer, she was able to continue touring Europe, particularly non-combatant nations like Switzerland and Purtugal. In her travels, she smuggled secrets for the French Resistance by writing them in her sheet music with invisible ink.
After the war, she supported the American civil rights movement, and whenever she toured the U.S., she refused to perform before segregated audiences. But through the rest of her life, her home remained in France. She married four times, and had twelve children — all of them adopted. She also had a string of female lovers, including the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Her son, Jean-Claude Baker, interviewed over 2000 people for Josephine: The Hungry Heart, his biography of his mother. He described her in one interview:
“She was what today you would call bisexual, and I will tell you why. Forget that I am her son, I am also a historian. You have to put her back into the context of the time in which she lived. In those days, Chorus Girls were abused by the white or black producers and by the leading men if he liked girls. But they could not sleep together because there were not enough hotels to accommodate black people. So they would all stay together, and the girls would develop lady lover friendships, do you understand my English? But wait wait…If one of the girls by preference was gay, she’d be called a bull dyke by the whole cast. So you see, discrimination is everywhere.”
Allen Ginsberg: 1926. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by / madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn / looking for an angry fix…” Those were the opening lines of what is arguably the most infuential American poem of the twentieth century. Most Americans however have never read past those lines, but Allen Ginsberg’s Howl unleashed several forces which have had a lasting impact in American culture.
Howl was birthed not in print but at a celebrated 1955 public reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco, where Ginsberg’s disenchantment of American materialism, his identification with the outcasts of American society, and especially his frank discussion of sex — and most especially of homosexuality (one line described those “who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy”) caught the attention of Customs officials when when City Lights Press published Howl and Other Poems in 1956. Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested and charged with disseminating obscene literature. At the trial, nine literary experts testified on the poem’s behalf. California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of “redeeming social importance.” As to the poem’s explicit language, Horn asked, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”
Ginsberg was one of the defining figures of the Beat Generation. He also became an integral part of the the next generation’s hippie movement. He was sympathetic for the ideals of communism, but disdained its repression of free speech. He was invited to visit China, Cuba and Czechoslovakia when authorities believed his anti-capitalist statements would be propaganda coups, only to discover that this was the least of his concerns. He was unceremoniously deported from Cuba and Czechoslovakia after wearing out his welcome there, but the ideas he left behind in Czechoslovakia inspired another generation of artists, including playwright Václav Havel, to strive for freedom of expression. In 1974, his collection The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971 shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry, and he was awarded the National Arts Club gold medal in 1979, the same year he was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1995 his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992 was named a Pulitzer prize finalist. Ginsberg died of liver cancer and complications from hepatitis in 1997.
The 2010 film Howl, starring James Franco as Ginsberg, portrayed the poem’s debut at Six Gallery and the subsequent obscenity trial. This fall will see the premiere of John Krokidas’s film Kill Your Darlings, about a 1944 murder which brought together the three figures who would be known as the greatest poets of the beat generation: Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs (see Feb 5), with Daniel Radcliffe playing Ginsberg. You can hear Ginsberg himself reading Howl here.
Anderson Cooper: 1967. Kathy Griffin’s favorite New Year’s foil is the son of writer Wyatt Cooper and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. The younger Cooper’s media exposure began early: he was photographed as an infant by Diane Arbus for Harper’s Bazaar, and his mother brought him along for a guest appearance on The Tonight Show when he was three. But it was his older brother’s death by suicide in 1988 that sparked Anderson’s interest in journalism. “Loss is a theme that I think a lot about, and it’s something in my work that I dwell on. I think when you experience any kind of loss, especially the kind I did, you have questions about survival: Why do some people thrive in situations that others can’t tolerate? Would I be able to survive and get on in the world on my own?”
After graduating from college, Cooper forged a press pass and went to Myanmar, where he filmed a series of reports about students fighting against the military dictatorship. He was able to sell those news segments to Channel One, a youth-oriented news program broadcast to junior and senior high scools in the U.S. He then moved to Vietnam for a year, where he filed more reports for Channel One about Vietnamese life and culture. He also filed reports from war-torn countries like Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda. In 1995, he became a correspondent for ABC News, but he took a detour in 2000 to host the reality show The Mole “to clear my hed and get out of news a little bit.” After two seasons and 9/11, he decided it was time to get back into the news, this time with CNN. In 2002, he became CNN’s weekend prime-time anchor, and in 2003 he got his own show, Anderson Cooper 360°.
In 2012, he became what The New York Times called “the most prominent openly gay journalist on television” when he came out in an email published by Andrew Sullivan:
Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.
But I’ve also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.
…Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. …The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.
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?