The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 28
October 28th, 2013
Hawaii Legislature Begins Special Session for Marriage Equality: Honolulu, HI. The entire marriage equality march began in the Aloha state twenty years ago, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that it was discriminatory to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The ruling prompted an immediate conservative backlash, which resulted in the Defense of Marriage Act becoming law in 1996. The Hawaii legislature responded by enacting a law banning, contrary to the Supreme Court ruling, banning same-sex marriage in 1994, and in 1998 Hawaii voters covered for the legislature by approving a constitutional amendment that took jurisdiction away from the courts and put that power solely in the hands of the legislature and the governor.
And so today, the question is now back before the legislature once again. All of the usual anti-gay forces are on hand to voice their displeasure, including Mark Regnerus, and the National Organization for Marriage — which donned Hawaiian shirts and played ukeleles in a totally not pandering video touting “our local culture.” In 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed a civil unions bill into law after his predecessor, Gov. Linda Lingle (R) vetoed it in 2010. But with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act making civil unions no longer an approximation to marriage, Gov. Abercrombie is pushing hard to get the marriage equality bill passed. “I think Hawaii has always celebrated its sense of Aloha for one another,” he told Reuters. “This is a question of equity.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the marriage equality bill begins at 10:30 A.M. in the State Capitol Auditorium. That should lead to a vote before the full Senate on Wednesday. The House Judiciary Committee and House Finance Committee are expected hold hearings later this week, setting up a possible vote in the House next Monday. You can track the bill’s progress here. Meanwhile, a lawsuit, Jackson v. Abercrombie, is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in case the legislative effort falls short.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Veterans Administration Strengthens Ban on Benefits for Gay Veterans: 1954. Since 1943, the U.S. Military, rather than sending all of the gays and lesbians it found through courts-marshal, decided to streamline the process by letting them go with an administrative “blue” discharge — neither honorable nor dishonorable. The discharges, named for the color of paper they were originally printed on, occupied something of a middle ground as “undesirable.”
With the millions of veterans with honorable discharges in their hip pockets, the distinction between having an undesirable and a dishonorable discharge was meaningless to prospective employers. But for the Veterans Administration, the distinction still had a difference, albeit a tiny one. Anyone with a dishonorable discharge was ineligible for VA benefits. In 1946, the VA added restrictions to benefits for two classes of blue discharge holders: those who accepted an undesirable discharge to avoid a trial by court-marshal, and
(d) An undesirable or blue discharge issued because of homosexual acts or tendencies generally will be considered as under dishonorable conditions and a bar to entitlement under Public No. 2, 73d Congress, as amended, and Public No. 346, 78th Congress. However, the facts in a particular case may warrant a different conclusion, in which event the case should be submitted to central office for the attention and consideration of the director of the service concerned.
In other words, beginning in 1946, gays and lesbians would be automatically barred from receiving VA benefits, but there was an appeals process. Over the next nine years, minor changes were made to that appeals process. Finally on October 28, 1955, the VA promulgated another rule change, eliminating the last sentence of Section (d), and with it, all possibility of appeal.
[Source: Mackinneth Fingal. "Uncle Sam Keeps Hacking Away the Rights and Benefits of the Homosexual Veteran." Mattachine Review 1, no. 4 (July 1955): 29-31.]
Francis Bacon: 1909-1992. He was born in Dublin to English parents while Ireland was still under British rule. He later pointed to violence of the Irish Civil War in 1922-23 as one of his artistic influences. His other great influence was his sexuality, which he refused to hide ever since his family ejected him from their home in 1927 for sleeping with his father’s horse grooms. Violence and sex, love and hate, and anguish — all were featured, often coexisting, in his paintings. His debut came his 1933 painting Crucifixion, which he said he finished “in about a fortnight when I was in a bad mood of drinking.” The English art world was taken aback, but his success appeared secured. But other exhibits the following year were met with bad reviews and little attention. He destroyed his canvases and quit painting for the next eleven years as dark storm clouds gathered across Europe.
In 1943, Bacon returned to the art world with his startling Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, a triptych which, according to one reviewer, contained “images so unrelievedly awful that the mind snaps shut.” His Head series captured what he called “figures in moments of crisis, with acute awareness of their mortality …(and) of their animal nature.” Head VI was a re-working of Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, in which all that remains of the pontiff’s head is a howling mouth. Five years later, Bacon returned to that same painting with Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, in which the howling pope is seated on his thrown in a decidedly hellish setting. But horror and violence weren’t his only subjects. One of Bacon’s solo exhibitions in New York featured Two Figures, which depicted two naked men wrestling on a bed (or, perhaps, depending on how you saw it, one man raping another).
Bacon’s personal life was as messy as his paintings. He was given morphine as a child for his asthma. When he was sixteen, his father had him horsewhipped by the stable hands when the younger Bacon was caught wearing his mother’s underwear. Banished from home, Bacon lived in London on a £3 a week allowance, taking advantage of rich men. A relative took him to Berlin to “make a man of him” — during the height of the Weimar Republic. You can imagine how that went. Two months later, Bacon went to Paris and spent the next year and a half there before returning to London where he would ultimately launch his art career.
In 1952, after a lifetime of rent boys and society types, Bacon entered his first long-term relationship with a former RAF pilot, Peter Lacy, who often beat him and destroyed his paintings in drunken ranges. They loved each other, beat each other, and experimented with S&M. “Being in love in that extreme way,” Bacon said, “being totally obsessed by someone, is like having some dreadful disease. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.” Lacy died on the day before Bacon’s first retrospective in 1962, probably the result of too much drinking.
Two years later, Bacon met the extraordinarily handsome George Dyer when Dyer broke into Bacon’s apartment. Dyer was another raging alcoholic, but their rocky relationship lasted seven years until 1971, when Dyer overdosed and killed himself the day before Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. Dyer’s death came just as Bacon was being proclaimed Britain’s “greatest living painter,” but Bacon told friends that “daemons, disaster and loss” were his only companions. Bacon was offered a knighthood and the Order of Merit, but he refused them both. He died in Madrid in 1992 of cardiac arrest after his chronic asthma turned into a respiratory infection.
Frank Ocean: 1987. Christopher “Lonny” Breaux was born in Long Beach but grew up in New Orleans, where he listened to local jazz music and his mom’s Celine Dion and Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack CDs. After Hurricane Katrina hit, Lonny moved to L.A., and became a songwriter for Justin Bieber, Brandy and others while working on his debut solo album for Def Jam records. But when his album remained unreleased, Lonny changed his name to Frank Ocean, joined the alt-hip hop collective Odd Future, and rediscovered his DIY drive. He released his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra as a free download — unknown to Def Jam — on his Tumblr, and the buzz quickly began to spread throughout the music industry with Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Beyonce singing his praises. Critics compared Nostalgia, Ultra with Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear and Prince’s ballads. Rolling Stone’s Jonah Weiner called him a “gifted avant-R&B smoothie.”
On July 4, 2012, Ocean issued his declaration of independence when he posted on his Tumblr that his first love, at the age of nineteen, was with another young man of the same age. As Ocean explained to The Guardian: “I was thinking of how I wished at 13 or 14 there was somebody I looked up to who would have said something like that, who would have been transparent in that way. But there’s another side of it that’s just about my own sanity and my ability to feel like I’m living a life where I’m not just successful on paper, but sure that I’m happy when I wake up in the morning, and not with this freakin’ boulder on my chest.”
Tyler the Creator, another member of Odd Future, took to Twitter to congratulate his fellow artist, which was significant because Tyler debut album had him repeating the word “faggot” and other anti-gay epithets 213 times. Hip hop impresario Russell Simmons’s support for Ocean was effusive: “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? … Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.”
On July 10, 2012, Ocean’s studio-released album Channel Orange debuted on iTunes for download and was streamed for free from his blog before becoming available as a CD a week later. Channel Orange was greeted with nearly universal critical acclaim and six Grammy nominations, winning two: for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “No Church in the Wild” with Kanye West and Jay-Z. Ocean is currently working on his second studio album.
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