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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 30

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2013

Pride Celebrations Today: Bangor, ME; Barcelona, Spain; Chicago, ILDublin, IrelandHarlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Houston, TX; Istanbul, TurkeyLondon, UKMalmö, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Paris, France; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; New York, NY; Oslo, Norway; St. Louis, Mo; St. Petersburg, FLSan Francisco, CA; San José, Costa Rica; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ONValencia, Spain.

Other Events Today: Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Frameline 37 Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Strathmore, AB.

Census Bureau Releases Incarceration Statistics on Sodomy: 1904. Dr. William J. Robinson, editor of the American Journal of Urology, in 1914 combed through the Census Bureau’s statistics released ten years earlier and published the following information:

Statistics regarding all crimes in the United States are miserably defective and the results attending an effort to determine the frequency of the offence of sodomy, generally designated as an “offence against nature” is unsatisfactory. We find, however, that on June 30, 1904, there were in American penal institutions 876 prisoners committed for this crime. These prisoners comprised 15.5% of those committed for offences against chastity. Of the total 375 were male and 1 female.

The distribution by states was as follows: New Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 20; Connecticut, 7; New York, 62; New Jersey, 12; Pennsylvania, 52; Maryland, 8; Virginia, 3; West Virginia, 1; North Carolina, 4; South Carolina, 1; Georgia, 1; Florida, 3; Ohio, 22; Indiana, 6; Illinois, 2O; Michigan, 11; Wisconsin, 6; Minnesota, 8; Iowa, 2; Missouri, 11; North Dakota, 2; Nebraska, 2; Kansas, 4; Kentucky, 6; Tennessee, 5; Alabama, 3; Mississippi, 6; Louisiana, 3; Texas, 29; Montana, 4; Wyoming, 2; Colorado, 5; Arizona, 1; Utah, 2; Idaho, 2 ; Washington, 8; Oregon, 1; California, 30. It will be seen that the frequency of conviction varies greatly in different localities.

In the figures of crime given for the state of Indiana, which are probably the most complete available, the offence in question is not mentioned. In the Indianapolis police court, however there were two cases of sodomy in 1910 and ten in 1911.

[Source: Robinson, William J. “Statistics of Sodomy.” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 3 (March 1914): 146. Available online via Google Books here.]

Urban Renaissance Blighted by “Parading Homosexuals”: 1969. We like to think that gentrification of older urban neighborhoods is something new. For most cities, it is, and for many cities it has been gay people leading the way, rehabbing run-down homes and bringing entire blocks back to life. But New York’s neighborhoods have been in a constant state of reinvention ever since the Indians moved out and the Dutch moved in. In 1969, it was the Manhattan Upper West Side’s turn when New York magazine noticed its “renaissance,” brought on by a new band of urban settlers moving into the very rough neighborhood, attracted there by cheap rents and readily available housing:

“I was ready for war,” one recent brownstone buyer said. “You know, German shepherd, barbed wire, burglar alarms, punji sticks, the works. But we were delighted to find that with a little caution it could be a relaxed place to live.” … Business, of course, has joined and helped to stimulate the movement to the West Side. Flower vendors who set up their cardboard cartons at the top of the neighborhood’s subway stairs claim business is booming. “Only a year ago,” Monroe, a West 86th Street vendor, said between sales, “flowers couldn’t live on the West Side.”

High end stores, restaurants, theaters were returning to the Upper West Side amidst a $700 million building boom. But the transition from a down-in-the-heels neighborhood to a sought-after address was far from complete:

The same kind of young, successful and relatively affluent middle-class families that moved to the suburbs 20 years ago and to the East Side 10 years ago are moving to the West Side today, and while the neighborhood still has an ample supply of teenage muggers, parading homosexuals and old men who wear overcoats in July, the over-all mood of the area seems to have changed.

This article was published just two days after the Stonewall Rebellion, which took place just four short miles to the south in Greenwich Village. Those riots were barely mention in New York’s respectable press, and “parading homosexuals” were still seen as a sign of decay. But just a decade later a new generation of “parading homosexuals” would become highly sought-after pioneers in reviving dying neighborhoods, whose efforts today are often praised by city leaders as evidence of renewed economic and creative vigor.

[Thanks to BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of the New York magazine article.]

Bowers v. Hardwick: 1986. It all started in August, 1982, when Michael Hardwick threw a beer bottle into a trash can outside of an Atlanta gay bar. A police officer cited him for public drinking. When Hardwick failed to arrive for his court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Several weeks later — after Hardwick realized his error and paid the ticket — a police officer went to Hardwick’s apparent to serve the arrest warrant. The police officer entered the apartment (accounts differ on how he got in), and discovered Hardwick and a male companion engaged in oral sex, which Georgia defined as “sodomy” under the law. Both men were arrested, but the local district attorney decided not to press charges. Hardwick then sued Georgia attorney general Michael Bowers in federal court seeking to overturn the state’s sodomy law. The ACLU agreed to take the case on Hardwick’s behalf.

A federal judge in Atlanta dismissed the case, siding with the Attorney General. Hardwick appealed to the Eleventh Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. Bowers then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on this date — during pride week — in 1986 that Hardwick’s right to privacy did not extend to private, consensual sexual conduct — at least as far as gay sex was concerned. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, barely concealed his contempt for gay people. He wrote, “to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious.” Chief Justice Warren Berger, in a concurring opinion, piled on: “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”

Justice Lewis Powell was considered the deciding vote. It has been reported that he originally voted to strike down the law but changed his mind after a few days. In 1990, after Powell had retired three ears earlier, he told a group law students that he considered his opinion in Bowers was mistake. “I do think it was inconsistent in a general way with Roe. When I had the opportunity to reread the opinions a few months later I thought the dissent had the better of the arguments.” His mistake would remain the law of the land for another seventeen years, until Bowers itself was held to be “not correct” in Lawrence v. Texas.

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?



June 30th, 2013 | LINK

Also check out Harry Blackmun’s scathing dissent in Bowers. It scolds the other judges for their “almost obsessive focus on homosexual activity” for example and criticizes the idea that something should be illegal just because it always has been.

Legally, he wrote pretty much exactly what Kennedy did later in Lawrence: there is a privacy right to consensual sex

June 30th, 2013 | LINK

Nearly 20 years earlier, the Canadian Justice Minister had an oppositve view (includes press interview video):

“”There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Those unforgettable words made famous by Pierre Trudeau in 1967 caused a tidal wave of controversy that rippled across the entire nation. Trudeau’s Omnibus Bill brought issues like abortion, homosexuality and divorce law to the forefront for the first time, changing the political and social landscape in Canada forever.”

Happy Pride (today in Toronto) and Happy Canada Day (July 1st).

June 30th, 2013 | LINK

The US is always at least 20 years behind the rest of the West. Also take DADT. Canada got rid of it’s ban right around the time DADT was passed.

June 30th, 2013 | LINK

The article on “Sodomy” said:

“We find, however, that on June 30, 1904, there were in American penal institutions 876 prisoners committed for this crime. These prisoners comprised 15.5% of those committed for offences against chastity. Of the total 375 were male and 1 female.”

So a total of 376 men and women out of 876. So just what were the other 500 cases?

Jim Hlavac
June 30th, 2013 | LINK

Regarding urban renewal, it is interesting to note that in the mid-1960s to mid 1970s there were plans afoot from NY to New Orleans to San Francisco, and many places in between, to “develop” what were clear gay-heavy neighborhoods by plowing a freeway through it. The city gov’t declared Greenwich Village, The French Quarter and Castro blighted, and thought that six lanes of traffic would solve the homosexual problem — though they didn’t quite say it like that. Some “family housing” would be built along side the freeways. It’s not clearly stated in Jane Jacobs “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” — but all the single men she worked with to saved Greenwich Village, were very single (hint hint) — but she couldn’t say that in the 1960s.

The cities couldn’t figure out how to pry taxpaying property and business owning single men out of a neighborhood — so, “blight” — and plow it down. Most efforts failed, thankfully.

June 30th, 2013 | LINK

@Jim H. I don’t know for sure about NY and SF, but certainly in NO, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, among many other places, those freeways plowed through African-American neighborhoods instead.

June 30th, 2013 | LINK

Now, there are studies and reports showing that gay and lesbian people often drive neighborhood revitalization efforts, being among the first to invest in blighted areas.

June 30th, 2013 | LINK

I think history would show that it was low-income areas, not gay areas per se, that were targets of government destruction and “renewal.” I’m not even sure how many notably gay neighborhoods existed outside the very largest cities in the 50s, 60s and (perhaps) the 70s, or that their destruction was ever a government motive.

Of course, Robert Moses had wickedly destructive effects in NYC, but I think that the powers granted him, and his use of them, were unique.

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