The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 6

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2013

THE DAILY AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Buenos Aires Pride, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Florence Queer Film Festival, Florence, Italy; Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN; Mazipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Bear Pride, San Francisco, CA; Open Mind Fest, Santiago, Chile.

London’s Piccadilly Circus.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: Britain Lift Ban on Plays Portraying Gay Themes: 1958. The Lord Chamberlain’s office, which acted as the nation’s official censor, notified the Theatres National Committee that the ban on the portrayal of homosexuality in plays in public productions was officially lifted. Previously, plays such as Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” or Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” had been produced in London, but only at private theater clubs and not in public theaters. The Earl of Scarborough, Sir Roger Lumley, who was serving as the Lord Chamberlain, wrote in a letter to the Committee, “This subject is now so widely debated, written about and talked of that its complete exclusion from the stage can no longer be regarded as justifiable. In future, therefore, plays on this subject which are sincere and serious will be admitted.”

One couple among many who registered their partnerships on the first day Domestic Partnerships became available.

San Francisco Voters Approve Domestic Partnerships: 1990. The road to providing even limited recognition of same-sex couples was long and plagued by seeming dead ends. In 1983, and in response to numerous reports of longtime partners being barred from their loved ones’ hospital rooms and funerals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted a Domestic Partnership ordinance. The law created a partnership registry and gave registered partners of city employees the same benefits as those available to spouses of married couples. It also ensured that domestic partners were granted the same visitation rights at city hospitals. But owing to tremendous pressure exerted by Catholic Archbishop John Quinn and much of the rest of the major religious leaders — including the Episcopal bishop — Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed the bill, much to the fury of San Francisco’s gay community.

Feinstein left office in 1988, and the following year the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Domestic Partnership ordinance which, this time, was signed into law by Mayor Art Agnos. But before it could take effect, the ordinance became the subject of a repeal initiative. That initiative narrowly won by fewer than 2,000 votes with an unusually high turnout for an off-year election. This time the gay community fought back in 1990 with Proposition K, which provided for a more limited version of Domestic Partnership without formal benefits. This time, Prop K prevailed, 60% to 40%. The registry went into effect the following Valentine’s Day.

Sunset Blvd.

West Hollywood Residents Approve Incorporation as a City: 1984. Voters in the an unincorporated area of Los Angeles known as West Hollywood voted to incorporate as a city and elected a city council in a combined election. Attention in the news media focus on the fact that three of the five new council members were gay or lesbian in the new municipality, while many gay leaders hailed the new city with gays making up an estimated 40% of the population as a “gay Camelot.” But the main issue that ignited the incorporation campaign in a city where 90% were renters was the decision by the County of Los Angeles to significantly reduce its rent-control regulations. Nevertheless, gay leaders saw incorporation as yet another stepping stone toward full acceptance.

Valerie Ferrigno, who was selected by the council to serve as mayor for the council-manager city government, became the first known lesbian mayor of an American city. “You don’t have to say avowed lesbian or admitted lesbian,” she said. “I am a lesbian. I won’t deny it.” She then summed up the significance: “We were illegal not too long ago. The first consenting adults bill wasn’t proposed until 1968. Ten years ago I couldn’t have been elected, and not because I was too young. We’ve come a long way in a very short time.” The city’s incorporation took effect on November 29.

1 YEAR AGO: Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington Approve Marriage Equality: 2012. This year would prove to be Gettysburg of the battle for marriage equality when, for the first time in history, voters in three states turned back aggressive challenges by anti-gay forces and made their states the first in the nation to enact marriage quality by popular vote. In Maine, voters approved Question 1 by 53-47%, in a vote which reversed a 2009 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage, which had passed by the very same margin. In Maryland, voters approved Question 6 and allowed that state’s marriage equality law to go forward in a 52-48% vote. Washington state voters came through even more strongly for Referendum 74 by approving marriage quality by a 54-46% vote.

And just to add icing on the cake, Minnesota voters voted against Amendment 1, which would have placed a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in that state’s constitution. Minnesotans rejected that ban 53-47%.

This marked the first time in history in which every attempt by anti-gay forces to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples went down in defeat. Same-sex marriages began in Washington on December 6, followed by Maine (December 29) and Maryland (January 1). Five months later, Minnesota joined the marriage equality movement after the legislature and governor gave their approval legalizing same-sex marriage.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Jackie Forster: 1926-1998. She began her adult life as an aspiring actress in London’s West End before becoming (as Jacqueline MacKenzie, her maiden name) a television presenter and reporter in the mid-1950s. In 1957, she went on a lecture tour in North American and entered her first lesbian affair, but it wasn’t enough to convince her she was lesbian:

“I didn’t see myself as being a Lesbian, or her, because I didn’t look as I imagined they did, and nor did she. We weren’t short back and sides and natty gent’s suiting. I got the image from The Well of Loneliness, like we all did. There were drug stores around the States, with these pulp books, lurid stories about lesbians who smoked cigars and had orgies with young girls. I thought, Where are these women? We never met anyone we knew were lesbians. There were no other books that I found about lesbians, no films that we ever saw: nothing at all.”

She returned to Britain and married novelist Peter Forster in 1958. They divorce four years later when she decided she was one of them after all. She joined the Minorities Research Group, an early UK lesbian rights organization, and she came out publicly in 1969 as a member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. She was a founding member of London’s Gay Liberation Front in 1970 and co-founded Sappho, whose eponymous magazine became one of Britain’s longest running lesbian publications. In 1992 until her death, she was an active member of the Lesbian Archive and Information Centre, which is currently housed at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

Brad Davis: 1949-1991. Born Robert Davis and known as “Bobby” while growing up, Brad Davis took his stage name after learning that there already was a Bob Davis registered in Actors Equity. Acting was always his ambition, from appearing in productions at Theater Atlanta at the age of sixteen, and moving to New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at the American Place Theater. Television roles soon followed, in a short-lived soap opera and in the miniseries Roots and Sybil (both 1976). But it was his role as Billy Hayes in the film Midnight Express which rocketed him to fame and won him two Golden Globes.

Davis’s career should have taken off. Instead, it languished, somewhat due to homophobia — his bisexuality was generally known if not always acknowledged — and more directly due to his own drug and alcohol abuse. He sobered up in 1981 in time to take a minor role in Chariots of Fire. In 1983, he took a professional risk playing a gay sailor in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle (which flopped), and a dying man of AIDS in Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart. That last role mirrored, somewhat, his own life. When he died in 1991, news reports distinguished him as “the first heterosexual actor to die of AIDS.” Only a small part of that phrase was true. His bisexuality aside, he didn’t, strictly speaking, die of AIDS. He decided to end his life on his own terms when it became clear that death from AIDS was imminent.

Michael Cunningham: 1952. He’s gay and he’s a writer, but don’t call him a gay writer. That’s not what he does. He wins Pulitzers for writing novels with the title of The Hours, or at least he did in 1998. He also won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1999. In 2002, The Hours was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Nicole Kidnam, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.

Born in Cincinnati, raised in Pasadena, Cunningham studied English Lit at Stanford and received a Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While studying for his Masters, he had short stories published in Atlantic Monthly (back when Atlantic used to publish short fiction) and Paris Review. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 and an NEA Fellowship in 1998. He has taught at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and at Brooklyn College. He currently teaches at Yale. His most recent novel, By Nightfall, was released in 2010.

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?

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