The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 23
October 23rd, 2013
New Mexico Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments on Marriage Equality: Santa Fe, NM. Two months ago, Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion saying that the state’s marriage law was gender-neutral and the longstanding practice of banning same-sex marraige was likely unconstitutional. After King announced that he wouldn’t intervene to halt Doña Ana County’s actions, seven more counties covering 58% of the states population jumped on the marriage equality bandwagon over the next two weeks. On September 7, the five-member state Supreme Court agreed to decide once and for all whether New Mexico would be a marriage equality state, and scheduled oral arguments for today. There’s an outside change that the Supreme Court could issue its decision today as well, but it’s far more likely that the decision will come sometime later. Oral arguments begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. MDT and are scheduled to go for one hour. In an extraordinary move, oral arguments will be live-streamed here.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Draft Board Head Says Being Gay Is One Way To Beat the Draft: 1965. Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, 72, had headed the Selective Service System since 1940, when he organized the Service after Congress authorized the draft for World War II. Establishing a national system of local draft boards was challenging, so was keeping the system operating while balancing the concerns, more or less, of five president, Republican- and Democratic-led Congresses, and millions of families whose sons would find themselves the recipient of a letter from Uncle Sam with the salutation, “Greetings!” Part of the systems success could be found in the autonomy that was granted to local draft boards. The Selective Service Law gave those local draft boards complete discretion in deciding to grant or deny deferments.
But as the Vietnam War escalated and students became restive with anti-draft demonstrations, Hershey found himself with a new set of challenges. In 1965, Hershey was still unfazed, calling the early anti-draft movement “a complete flop.” But he did express one concern to a United Press International reporter: “My real concern is that some local boards may react to all of this agitation by canceling student deferments. I hope that won’t happen. It would be unwise, because the national interest is served by keeping young men in college to complete their education.”
As for the “agitators,” Hershey said that of the two million college men, “only a tiny fraction of one percent have been involved in staging protest parades, burning draft cards or other demonstrations of unwillingness to serve in the armed forces. … The effect on our ability o meet draft calls has been negligible, and I am confident it will remain negligible.” Hershey had also learned that some young men were trying to beat the draft by deliberately flunking the mental and physical exams. “We also have ingenious ways of detecting these little frauds,” he said. “There are always some people who try to fool the examiners. But only a very few get away with it.” And with draft calls shooting up to 45,000 men a month, the armed forces had relaxed their examination requirements somewhat. “A man with a high school diploma is now virtually assured of acceptability,” Hershey said.
But there was still one sure-fire way to beat the draft: “If he tells the examiner that he’s a homosexual, he’ll be rejected. We recognize that he might be lying, but a person who’ll say that has certainly got something wrong with him. We have enough men to defend this country without having to draft self proclaimed homosexuals.”
Gay Activists Hold Third White House Picket: 1965. Gay activists wrapped up an ambitious year of public protests with a third picket in front of the White House, demanding an end to the bans on federal employment, military service, and security clearances for gay people. Earlier protests took place at the White House (see Apr 17, May 29), the United Nations (see Apr 18), Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and the Pentagon (see Jul 31). The pickets were an outgrowth of an increased determination among gay activists for more direct action, in contrast to the aversion to publicity exhibited by the prior generation of activists.
This protest, like many of the others, was sponsored by the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), a loose coalition of independent gay rights groups. About 45 demonstrators showed up for the two-hour afternoon march, including representatives from the Mattichine Societies of Washington, D.C., New York, Miami, and Chicago, along with Philadelphia’s Janus Society. Frank Kameny (see May 21), head of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., notified police and the media ahead of time, and picketers distributed leaflets and an open letter to President Lyndon Johnson listing their demands. FBI informants were there too. Their reports also described a small counter-demonstration by two teenage males carring placards which read, “Are You Kidding?” and “Get Serious.”
Mel White Meets With Jerry Falwell: 1999. Mel White had been a successful evangelical minister, television producer and ghostwriter for such popular televangelists as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. When White finally came to terms with his own homosexuality and came out of the closet, he quickly became one of Falwell’s biggest critics, accusing Falwell of fostering anti-gay rhetoric which had the effect of encouraging violence against LGBT people. Having worked closely with Falwell before coming out, White repeatedly called on Falwell to meet with him to discuss the problem. After several years of back-and-forth negotiations, that meeting finally tool place on an October Saturday when about 200 members of White’s pro-LGBT advocacy group, SoulForce, joined members of Falwell’s congregation in the gymnasium of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The gathering was billed as an Anti-Violence forum, as the two groups sat down to discuss the impact of hate speech and hate-motivated violence. Falwell took the opportunity to complain that Christian fundamentalists were being singled out for violence because of pro-gay rhetoric. Falwell also infuriated White and the Soulforce attendees when a prominent ex-gay spokesman, Michael Johnston, got up to speak to the gathering about his “ultimate goal is to bring you out of the lifestyle and into the Lord.” (Four years later, Johnston’s ministry would end in disgrace when his double life of gay orgies and unprotected sex came to light. See Aug 1.)
Falwell later told White that he didn’t know anything about Johnston, claiming that Johnston just showed up that day and asked to speak. White also challenged Falwell over his web site, which claimed that the gay community’s quest for equality was “a sewer of moral filth,” created “an environment that’s incredibly dangerous to our children,” and represented “a culture that despises Christian faith and morality.” Falwell claimed that those statements were neither written nor approved by him, but he pledged to “look very carefully” at those statements and others in the future.
At a press conference afterward, White characterized the meeting as an important first step in an ongoing dialogue. “We’re listening to each other. I think, down the long road, we’re going to be reconciled, and it starts today,” White said. Falwell, in turn, praised White and said, “And I hope that evangelicals might build a bridge to gay and lesbian people just as we have built a bridge to drug addicts, alcoholics and unwed mothers.” It’s as if he never heard a thing.
Demonstrations Against Montreal Police Raids: 1977. About two thousand of Montreal’s gay community took to the streets and jammed downtown Ste. Catherine Street very early on Sunday morning shouting “fascist dogs” and “gestapo” at motorcycle police who were called to clear the area. The focus of the anger was the brutal “morality squad” raids early Saturday morning at Truxx and Le Mystique, two gay bars. Police barged in wielding machine guns and bullet-proof vests as they arrested 144 men for being in a “bawdy house” or for “gross indecency” — common charges for anyone who was thought to be gay.
Those raids capped two years of nearly constant police harassment and raids which had begun as a campaign to “clean up” the city in preparation for the 1976 Olympics. But with this latest raid, the gay community fought back in what was later dubbed, “Quebec’s Stonewall.” Also different this time, gays and lesbians had the news media’s support. By the end of the year, the Parti Québéois adopted Bill 88 which ensured that sexual orientation would be covered under the province’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which prohibited all forms of discrimination. However, the change failed to have much of an appreciable affect, and police raids would continue until Montreal’s “other” Stonewall rebellion in 1990 following a riotous raid of a loft party.
120 YEARS AGO: Jean Acker: 1893-1978. She appeared in several silent films in the 1910s and 1920s, thanks, in part, to a relationship she struck up with another silent film actress, Alla Nazimova (see Jun 3), who introduced Acker to a group of lesbian and bisexual actresses known as the “sewing circle.” Acker’s greatest claim to fame, however, is in her real-life role as Mrs. Rudolph Valentino (see May 5). They married in 1919 after a two month courtship, but the marriage was reportedly never consummated (it’s said that she locked him out of the hotel bedroom on their wedding night). They filed for divorce, although she insisted on using the name Mrs. Rudolph Valentino for some time after. In 1923, Acker met former Ziegfeld Follies girl Chloe Carter, and they remained together for the rest of their lives. Acker died in 1978 of natural causes and was buried next to Carter.
Lilyan Tashman: 1896. The actress got her start in Vaudeville and Broadway before moving to Hollywood to become a well-known film star. Most of her roles were as a “bitchy” other woman or as a sharp, clever villainess. She married a vaudevillian performer in 1914, but they divorced in 1921. In 1925, she married openly gay actor Edmund Lowe, and they had what Hollywood reporters described, perhaps with a bit of snark, as an “ideal marriage.” The couple entertained lavishly at their home, where their weekly parties reportedly becoming “full-blown orgies.” One reporter described her as “the most gleaming, glittering, moderne, hard-surfaced, and distingué woman in all of Hollywood.” She died young, at the age of 37, of cancer shortly after filming her final film in New York in 1934.
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