The Daily Agenda for Thursday, August 1
August 1st, 2013
Marriage Equality Begins In Minnesota and Rhode Island. After successful legislative campaigns to extend marriage equality to two more states, Minnesota and Rhode Island became the twelth and thirteen states, plus the District of Columbia, to provide marriage equality for its residents. (I’ll let you argue over who is number twelve and who is number thirteen.) Thirty percent of Americans now live in marriage equality states.
Elsewhere across the country: Legislative attempts to provide marriage equality have stalled in Illinois and New Jersey. In Illinois, where a bill has cleared the Senate, it is being held up in the House, where it remains while the legislature is on break until November. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill to provide marriage equality in that state. There are now efforts to build support in the legislature to override his veto. The Nevada legislature has completed its first steps toward overturning its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and providing marriage equality, a process which, if successful, will lead to the question being put to the voters in 2016. Lawsuits are pending in Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Washington Post Reveals Civil Service Offering Disability Retirement for “Alcoholics and Homosexuals”: 1965. Jerry Kluttz, writing for the Washington Post’s “Federal Diary” column, revealed that more than fifty alcoholic Federal employees, who would have normally been fired, were instead placed on retirement “for physical disability” over the past year, in which Kluttz described as “a more liberal approach to their problems.” He also noted that the program was also available for gay employees because of their “disability”:
It is also possible for homosexuals to be given disability retirements; not because they are sex deviates but in spite of it. Their disabilities must qualify them for retirement and the disabilities may or may not have had some connection with or contributed to their sex behavior.
The longtime Government policy to fire overt homosexuals remains unchanged under the policy that their conduct tends to discredit the Federal service. Known homosexuals would probably be ousted before the could be retired on either physical or mental disabilities.
Fired employees, however, have the year following their dismissal to file for disability retirement, and several sex deviates have taken advantage of this provision.
Kluttz didn’t have a breakdown on the number of gay people who filed for disability retirement, but overall more than 17,000 employees out of 50,000 who were retired in the previous year were ruled disabled. The civil service had previously ruled “unconventional sex behavior” as willful misconduct, and were thus ineligible for disability retirements under federal law. But with the commission’s new openness to extend disability retirement benefits for those suffering from mental illnesses, gay employees were increasingly falling under that category in accordance with the APA’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness.
[Source: Jerry Kluttz. “The Federal Diary: Disability Retiring Given Alcoholics and Homosexuals.” The Washington Post (August 1, 1965): B1.]
Rep. Jim Kolbe Comes Out: 1996. On July 12, 342 Congressional representatives rushed to pass the so-called Defense of Marriage Act into law. The three openly gay representatives, Steve Gunderson (R-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Gerry Studds (D-MA) spoke passionately against the bill, making their status as gay men relevant to the debate. Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Mark Foley (R-FL), who were closeted, quietly voted for the bill. Almost immediately after the vote, San Fransisco activist Michael Petrelis began an email campaign to urge other activists, journalists and publications to reveal the two congressmen’s secrets. The Advocate had a policy against outing public officials, but since they were following up prior reports and rumors from other media, they felt that if those reports could be independently verified through three different sources, the next step would be to approach the lawmakers and ask if they were gay. They were verified, and The Advocate asked Kolbe and Foley to ask them to explain their votes and their sexual orientation. The Advocate continued:
Both men objected to the latter line of questioning. “Even members of Congress should be allowed to have personal lives,” Kolbe, 54, said in a telephone interview. “The issue of my sexuality has nothing to do with the votes I cast in Congress or my work for the constituents of Arizona’s fifth congressional district.” Upon reflection, however, Kolbe decided to come out soon after talking to The Advocate, saying the magazine’s questioning of him was a chief factor. Foley, in written answers to The Advocate‘s questions, stated his belief that “a lawmaker’s sexual orientation is…irrelevant.”
Kolbe decided to beat The Advocate to the punch (Foley wouldn’t come out until 2006, when he resigned after sexually suggestive Instant Messages between him and a 16-year-old page). On August 1, Kolbe revealed that he was indeed gay. ”That I am a gay person has never affected the way that I legislate,” he said in a statement. ”The fact that I am gay has never, nor will it ever, change my commitment to represent all the people of Arizona’s Fifth District,” which included most of Tucson and the southeastern corner of the state. Rep. Frank came to Kolbe’s defense. ”In general, Kolbe has voted against bigotry and discrimination,” he said, ”so his overall record is intellectually honest on this issue.” Petrellis reacted positively to the outing as well. “I think it’s a terrific development that we now have an equal number of openly gay G.O.P. members of Congress.”
Kolbe was reelected to his seat in 1998, and in 2000, he became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention. His speech was about free trade and he didn’t come within ten miles of addressing gay rights, but the Texas delegation protested by bowing their heads, purportedly in prayer. (Ohio anti-gay activist Phil Burress called for Kolbe’s arrest on sodomy charges.) Meanwhile, Kolbe continued to defend his vote for DOMA on states rights grounds. “My vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was cast because of my view that states should be allowed to make that decision, about whether or not they would recognize gay marriages,” he said. “Certainly, I believe that states should have the right, as Vermont did, to provide for protections for such unions.” He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006. By the time he was wrapping up his congressional service in 2006, Kolbe telling local audiences in Tucson that “in a few years,” same-sex marriage would be normal and uncontroversial. He retired in 2007.
10 YEARS AGO: Ex-Gay Leader Experiences “Moral Fall”: 2003. Michael Johnston was literally the poster boy of the ex-gay movement. Five years earlier, he was one of the stars of a high profile national print and television ad campaign claiming that gays could change their sexual orientation (see Jul 13). Johnston, who is HIV-positive, appeared with his mother in a controversial print ad under the headline “From innocence to AIDS.” He and his mother also appeared in a television commercial, in which she said, “My son Michael found out the truth — he could walk away from homosexuality. But he found out too late — he has AIDS.” Johnston founded Kerusso Ministries in Newport News, Virginia, started a program called the National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, and he was featured in the widely-distributed ex-gay propaganda video, It’s Not Gay.
But all that ended when it was revealed that while Johnston was the public face of the ex-gay movement, privately he was engaging in anonymous sex with men without disclosing his HIV status. One man said that he had met Johnston, who called himself Sean, in a gay chat room in 2001 and had a six month relationship with him. “What we did was unsafe,” the man said, “I brought it up all the time, but [Johnston] didn’t seem to think it mattered. He would have these parties, get a hotel room, get online and invite tons of people — he just wouldn’t care.” When the story came to light, Johnston quickly shuttered his ministry and fled to Pure Life Ministries, an ex-gay residential program in rural Kentucky. He is now Director of Donor and Media Relations at that very same ministry, where he is also a member of the “speaking team.” And his propaganda video is still for sale at the American Family Association web site.
Lionel Bart: 1930. His professional songwriting career began in the 1950s when he began churning out pop hits for several British singers. But he is best known as the author for the book, music and lyrics for the smash 1960 London musical Oliver!, based on the Charles Dickens novel. When the show opened on Broadway two years later, it earned him a Tony for Best Original Score. In 1963, he wrote the theme song for the the James Bond film From Russia With Love. Bart’s style — and lifestyle — came to epitomize early 1960s Britain, palling around with Noel Coward, Brian Epstein, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, and even Princess Margaret, who called him a “silly bugger” for squandering his money.
Bart continued writing for the West End, scoring respectable successes with Blitz! (1962) and Maggie May (1964), but Twang! (1965) was a horrible flop, and La Strada (1960) closed on Broadway after only one performance. By then, he has broke and in serious decline due to alcoholism and LSD. By 1972, he was bankrupt and slid further into drinking and depression. He sobered up in the early 1990s, but between his diabetes and nearly-destroyed liver, his health was permanently damaged. He died in 1999 after a long battle with cancer.
Yves Saint Laurent: 1936. One of the greatest names in fashion got his start at another storied fashion house, Christian Dior. In 1957, Dior was so impressed with Saint Laurent’s designs that Dior named Saint Laurent to succeed him as designer. When Dior died suddenly later that year, Saint Laurent became the head designer at the House of Dior at the age of 21. Saint Laurent’s 1958 collection is credited for saving the firm. In 1958 and 1959, the forms owner, Marcel Boussac, reportedly pressured the French government not to draft Saint Laurent into the army to fight in the Algerian War of Independence, but after the critically panned 1960 season, Saint Laurent suddenly found himself without a job, conscripted and undergoing combat training.
This would be Saint Laurent’s low point. Hazed by fellow soldiers, he lasted only 20 days in the military before he was sent to a military hospital due to stress. While there, he was placed under sedation and given psychoactive drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. Years later, he would point to this period as the genesis for his later problems with drinking and drug addictions.
After he was released later that year, Saint Laurnet and his partner, Pierre Bergé, founded their own fashion house under Saint Laurent’s name. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Saint Laurent would set several fashion trends: safari jackets, tall thigh-high boots, and the Le Smoking tuxedo suit for women. He was also the first major French designer to come out with a full ready-to-wear line, and he was the first designer to feature non-Caucasian models on his runway. His personal life also indulged in several 1960s and 1970s trends: partying at Regine’s and Studio 54, drinking and snorting cocaine. He nevertheless maintained a hectic schedule of designing two full haute couture and ready-to-wear lines each year even though, because of his drug use, he could barely walk down the runway at the end of some of his shows. After 1987, he began turning his design work over to his assistants. He retired completely in 2002 and died in 2008 of brain cancer in Paris.
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