The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 9
October 9th, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Alaska Pride Conference, Anchorage, AK; Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
15 YEARS AGO: South Africa Strikes Down Sodomy Law: 1998. South Africa’s penal code defined sodomy as a Schedule 1 offense, like murder or rape, and was punishable by life imprisonment. Another law, Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act, which outlawed any behavior “at a party” — defined as a gathering of two or more men — that would be an invitation to sexual activity. Under that law, any hint of a proposition or even a glance, could lead to an arrest. The laws had been mostly ignored — South African cities had been host to Gay Pride parades for more than a decade — but that didn’t stop two prisoners in Cape Town from being charged with sodomy after engaging in consensual sex in 1997. But South Africa’s Constitutional Court responded to a suit brought by the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and struck down the country’s harsh sodomy law along with Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act.
The ruling, written by Judge Lori Ackerman with a concurring ruling by Judge Albie Sachs, held that the decision violated South Africa’s new post-Apartheid 1996 constitution which made South Africa one of the first countries in the world to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The justices ruled that the decision was “part of a growing acceptance of difference in an increasingly open and pluralistic South Africa,” which included gays already serving openly in the military and the police force providing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples. The ruling African National Congress had earlier decided not to oppose the lawsuit. The ruling was made retroactive to the adoption of an interim constitution of 1994, which also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Simeon Solomon: 1840. When he was about ten years old, Solomon, the youngest child of a prominent London Jewish family, began to learn to paint from his older brother. A few year later, he attended Carey’s Art Academy, and later, as a student at the Royal Academy, he became a prominent member of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle. He held several acclaimed exhibitions at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872, with many of his paintings drawing from his Jewish background with scenes from the Hebrew Bible and ordinary Jewish life. His paintings also explored affections between men. In 1871 Simeon Solomon privately published his erotic poem “A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep,” and the images he evoked in the poem would re-appear in his paintings for the rest of his career. John Addington Symonds would note that the themes of same-sex love in the poem was “the key to the meaning of his drawings.”
Solomon’s career though was ruined in 1873 when he was arrested at a public toilet and fined £100 (about £4,600 or UD$7,400 today) for attempted sodomy. He was arrested again the next year in Paris and was sentenced to three months in prison. He never recovered. From then on, he was hobbled by alcoholism and poverty. He would pass his remaining years in and out of the workhouse where he continued to paint, but both the quality and quantity of his work was severely impaired by his drinking. He finally collapsed in central London and died of bronchitis and alcoholism in 1905. Poet and critic Arthur Symons, on learning of Solomon’s death, lamented, “There is nothing in this world so pitiful as a shipwreck of a genius.”
Nona Hendryx: 1944. The Trenton, New Jersey-born singer, producer, songwriter, author and actress was one third (with Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash) of the trio Labelle, whose greatest hit was 1974’s “Lady Marmalade.” Beginning in 1977, Hendryx embarked on a solo career, but struggled to repeat the success of LaBelle. She wasn’t without work though, as she provided background vocals for the Talking Heads and became a part of New York’s underground rock, R&B and dance scene. As the eighties progressed, she collaborated with Keith Richards, Peter Gabriel and Prince for several of he solo release. In 2001, she came out as bisexual in an interview with The Advocate, and added gay rights to her repertoire.
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