The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 20
November 20th, 2013
Transgender Day of Remembrance: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the brutal violence endured by the transgender community. TDoR began in reaction to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998. Her murder resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead web site and a candlelight vigil in 1999. Observances for the Transgender Day of Remembrance typically consist of the reading of the names of those who have died because of their gender identity, expression, presentation or perception of gender variance. Observances are being held in cities all around the world. Click here to find an observance near you.
Gov. Quinn To Sign Marriage Equality Bill: Chicago, IL. Some 3,00o people are expected to fill the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum to witness Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as he signs the same-sex marriage bill into law. Gov. Quinn is so excited about signing the bill that his office has created a special web page to encourage people to turn out for “this momentous celebration.” Of course, not everyone will be celebrating. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield Thomas Paprocki will take the opportunity to offer prayers of “exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage.” Last week, Paprocki called same-sex marriage something that “comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.” But according to the Chicago Tribune, “In fact, some Catholics believe the ritual Wednesday could cast off more Catholics than demons. On Tuesday, 14,000 petitioners called on the bishop to cancel the event.” The Sun-Times responded, “Human nature compels us to crane our necks at the car wreck in Springfield. But please, the real action will be in Chicago.”
Gov. Quinn will reportedly respond with some dramatic symbolism of his own. The Sun-Times’ Michael Sneed says that Quinn will sign the marriage equality bill on the very same desk Abraham Lincoln used to pen his first inaugural address — the one in which he called on all Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.” The ceremony takes place this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. CST. When the law takes effect next June, the Land of Lincoln will become the sixteenth state in the nation, in addition to the District of Columbia and eight Indian tribes, to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Other Events This Weekend: Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
California Supreme Court Restores Teacher’s Credentials: 1969. In the spring of 1963, Marc S. Morrison, a teacher in Whittier, California, became friends with a fellow teacher, Fred Schneringer, who was in the process of getting a divorce and was experiencing serious financial troubles. Morrison did what he could to help his friend out by providing advice and support. One night, that support extended to what court documents described as “a limited, non-criminal physical relationship which Morrison described as being of a homosexual nature.” It lasted a week, and while the two remained friends, nothing further happened. There was no arrest and no conviction, just whatever that “non-criminal” activity happened to be — the California Supreme Court ruling would only say “It would serve no useful purpose to describe or detail them except to note that they did not fall within the statutory offenses of sodomy or oral copulation.” But for whatever reason, Schneringer reported the incident to the Lowell Joint School District a year later, and that led to Morrison’s resignation in May of 1964.
Nineteen months later, Morrison found himself at State Board of Education hearing fighting to retain his two lifetime teaching diplomas, where he told the board that, aside from a homosexual problem at the age of 13, his contact with Scheringer was the only time he “experienced the slightest homosexual urge or inclination for more than a dozen years.” An investigator backed him up, and assured the board that this was “was the only time that [Morrison] ever engaged in a homosexual act with anyone.” Furthermore, there was no arrest and no evidence that Morrison had engaged in any other misconduct while teaching.
Nevertheless, the Board decided that the lone, solitary incident constituted immoral and unprofessional conduct involving “moral turpitude,” and stripped Morrison of his lifetime teaching diplomas. Morrison went to court, but the Los Angeles Superior Court upheld the Board’s decision, saying Morrison “was unfit for service as a teacher in the California public school system.” Morrison then appealed to the California State Supreme Court, which ruled 4-3 that an individual cannot be denied his teaching credentials unless evidence shows that homosexual behavior affected his fitness as an instructor. The Court criticized the Board for failing to uncover any such evidence:
The board called no medical, psychological, or psychiatric experts to testify as to whether a man who had had a single, isolated, and limited homosexual contact would be likely to repeat such conduct in the future. The board offered no evidence that a man of petitioner’s background was any more likely than the average adult male to engage in any untoward conduct with a student. The board produced no testimony from school officials or others to indicate whether a man such as petitioner might publicly advocate improper conduct. The board did not attempt to invoke the provisions of the Government Code authorizing official notice of matters within the special competence of the board. This lack of evidence is particularly significant because the board failed to show that petitioner’s conduct in any manner affected his performance as a teacher.
The ruling was a narrow one, both in the vote and in the ruling’s reach:
Our conclusion affords no guarantee that petitoner’s life diplomas cannot be revoked. If the Board of Education believes that petitioner is unfit to teach, it can reopen its inquiry into the circumstances surrounding and the implications of the 1963 incident with Mr. Schneringer. The board also has at its disposal ample means to discipline petitioner for future misconduct.
Finally, we do not, of course, hold that homosexuals must be permitted to teach in the public schools of California. As we have explained, the relevant statutes, as well as the applicable principles of constitutional law, require only that the board properly find, pursuant to the precepts set forth in this opinion, that an individual is not fit to teach. Whenever disciplinary action rests upon such grounds and has been confirmed by the judgment of a superior court following an independent review of the evidence, fn. 51 this court will uphold the result.
15 YEARS AGO: John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner Fined $200: 1998. One of the biggest steps toward gay equality, the end of America’s sodomy laws, began on November 17, 1998 when a 911 operator received a call about “a black male going crazy with a gun” at John Geddes Lawrence’s home in the Houston suburbs. Harris County sheriff’s deputies responded to the call and entered Lawrence’s unlocked apartment. There, they purportedly found Lawrence and Tyron Garner engaging in consensual sex. What they actually found is a matter of debate. Lawrence and Garner weren’t lovers — in fact, that false report had been phoned in by Garner’s actual lover, Robert Eubanks, who suspected Garner and Lawrence were having an affair. One deputy wrote in his report that he saw Garner on the bed “on all fours” on the receiving end of anal sex with Lawrence, and that both were completely naked. Another said that he saw them on the floor, and that Garner wasn’t naked. He wasn’t sure whether he saw them having anal sex or oral sex — two completely different acts which would be very difficult to confuse. “The black guy was giving him head or they was [sic] doing each other from behind. I don’t remember.”
Lawrence and Garner were arrested, held in jail overnight, and charged with violating Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, otherwise known as the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law, which prohibited engaging “in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” They both denied having sex that night, but their lawyers, sensing that the case might have the makings of a landmark case, advised them to plead no contest, neither admitting guilt nor protesting innocence. Because they didn’t actually have sex, the lawyers didn’t want to make the case about their innocence. After all, it’s hard to argue that two consenting adults of the same sex have the right to have sexual relations in the privacy of their home when the two adults in question hadn’t actually had sex. And so on November 20, 1998, Lawrence and Garner were convicted of the Class C misdemeanor by a Justice of the Peace in Houston, and were fined $200 each.
And with that, landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas began to make its way through the court system: to the Texas Criminal Court (which rejected the defense’s request to dismiss the charges), a three-judge panel of the Texas 14th Court of Appeals (which ruled the law unconstitutional), and the full nine-judge panel of the 14th Court of Appeals (which reversed the three-judge panel). The appeal then reached the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which serves as Texas’s Supreme Court for criminal cases. That court refused to hear the case, which left the lower court’s decision standing. Lawrence vs. Texas was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law, along with similar laws in twelve other states. But it wasn’t until 2011, when Dale Carpenter published Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, did we learn the ironic fact that the case about two men having sex was almost certainly based on a case in which neither man had ever had sex with the other, before that fateful night or since.
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