The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, February 19

Jim Burroway

February 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Cape Town Pride, Cape Town, SA; National Student Pride, London, UK; Telluride Gay Ski Week, Mountain Village, CO; Elevation: Utah Gay Ski Week, Park City, UT; Arctic Pride, Rovaniemi, Finland; Bear Essentials, Sydney, NSW; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW; Regenbogenball (Rainbow Ball), Vienna, Austria.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 5, 1981, page 25

 
From what I can gather, the Express may have closed sometime in the 1990s, and perhaps re-opened as Deja Vu, and then it became the Express again in 2002 when the club’s last owners bought the business. They kept it going until January, 2013.

Deputies check patrons’ identification during a raid at Hazel’s Inn.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Raid on Hazel’s Inn: 1956. San Mateo County Sheriff Earl Whitmore, accompanied by deputies, Army military police, state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents and members of the California Highway Patrol, began the raid by striding into Hazel’s Inn, a gay bar in Sharp Park, south of San Francisco, and announced simply, “This is a raid!” Patrons were ordered to line up in single file and pass before a group of officers at the rear of the door. Those who were recognized by undercover agents as being gay were ordered to step to one side and loaded into a waiting van outside. About 88 of the 200 or more patrons were singled out and taken away to be fingerprinted, their mug shots taken, and charged with vagrancy for being a “lewd and dissolute person” and for committing “acts outraging public decency” — common misdemeanor charges used against those deemed to be engaging in “immoral” acts, which in this case was, basically, being caught in a gay bar. The bars owners were also charged with operating a dance establishment without a license (some patrons were seen dancing to a jukebox).

Sheriff Whitmore told the press, “The purpose of the raid is to make it very clear to these people that we won’t put up with this sort of thing.” The American Civil Liberties Union of San Francisco’s Executive Secretary Ernest Besig took exception to that reasoning. “As far as can be ascertained, none of the patrons of the tavern were misbehaving or breaking any laws when the arrests occurred,” he wrote in the chapter’s newsletter. “The complaint seems to be that these men were making the tavern a ‘hang-out.’ Of course, there is no law against that, so long as their activity was lawful. …The ACLU is investigating the matter and the local staff counsel will appear on behalf of some of the alleged homosexuals at the court hearing.”

Those who were arrested were told by law enforcement officers and their bail bondsmen that if they forfeited bail, all further proceedings would be dropped. Thirty took the deal and on March 1, the remaining 57 were arraigned. About 30 entered not guilty pleas and requested jury trials, which were set for March 26 and 27. The judge offered to reduce the charge to disorderly conduct in exchange for guilty pleas, and all but three took him up on that offer. (I don’t have any further information on what happened to the three who didn’t.)

[Sources: Unsigned. “Civil Liberties Union looks into mass arrests.” Mattachine Review 2, 2nd special issue (March 1956): 4-5.

Unsigned. “American Civil Liberties Union acts to appeal California’s lewd vagrancy laws after convictions resulting from mass raids and arrests.” Mattachine Review 2, no. 3 (June 1956): 3-4, 36.]

15 YEARS AGO: Billy Jack Gaither Murdered: 1999. The thirty-nine year old Sylacauga, Alabama resident was beaten to death with an axe handle, covered with kerosene, and burned on a pile of old tires. His attackers said that he had propositioned them, so killing him was the only logical thing to do.

On February 19, Billy Gaither went to The Tavern, a Sylacauga nightclub, where he had been friends with the owner, Marion Hammond, for twenty years. Gaither was a regular there, if he wasn’t at the Tool Box in Birmingham forty miles away. Hammond remembered that he was nonchalant about his sexuality. ” If they walked over to Billy Jack and they say, ‘Are you gay?’ he’d say, ‘Yes, and I love it.’ You couldn’t hurt his feelings on it, so we wasn’t worried about it.”

Another regular, Steve Mullins, 25, also started to hang out at the Tavern. His presence wasn’t so benign. He sometimes showed up wearing racist t-shirts and harassing African-American customers. He was known locally as a wannabe tough-acting skinhead. “He tried to walk around like a bully, but he wasn’t,” Hammond said. “He was mostly talk.” His buddy, a construction worker named Charles Butler, Jr., was quieter.

Gaither had a reputation for getting along with pretty much everyone, so nobody’s eyebrows were raised when Gaither left The Tavern that night with Mullins and Butler. The three drove to a remote area where Mullins and Butler beat Gaither, stuffed him into the trunk, and went for supplies: kerosene, matches, an axe handle and old tires form Mullins’s home. They then drove to the banks of Peckerwood Creek in neighboring Coosa County. They poured kerosene on the tires and set them ablaze. Then they pulled Gaither out of the trunk of his car. He tried to stand up and they beat him with the ax handle, cut his throat, and threw him onto the pile of burning tires. They moved Gaither’s car to another dirt road and set it on fire. It was found the next day.

After spending a night in jail for an unrelated offense, Butler went to police to tell them about the murder, saying God told him to confess. Butler claimed the gay panic defense, telling the police, “Well, sir, he started talking, you know, queer stuff, you know, and I just didn’t want no part of it.” Mullins also confessed, with the two blaming each other for taking the lead in the killing, but neither expressing remorse. In June, Mullins pled guilty to capital murder to avoid the death penalty and agreed to testify against Butler, who was also found guilty. he victim’s father, Marion Gaither, had asked that Mr. Butler not be sentenced to death, saying, “I can’t see taking another human beings life, no matter what.” Both men were sentenced to life with out parole.

Lisa Pond (left) and Janice Langbehn (second from right) with three of their four children as they prepared to board an RFamily cruise ship.

Miami Hospital Denies Access to Partner of Dying Patient: 2007. Janice Langbehn, her partner of nearly 18 years, Lisa Pond, and three of their four children flew from Oregon to Miami to board a cruise Miami to the Bahamas. But Pond suffered a brain aneurysm while in Miami before they could board the ship. Pond was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where a social worker told Langbehn that they were in an “anti-gay state” and that they needed legal paperwork before Langbehn could see Pond. But even after a friend in Olympia faxed the legal documents showing that Pond had authorized Langbehn to make medical decisions for her, Langbehn was refused permission to visit Pond or to make any medical decisions. She was even refused basic information about Pond’s condition. It was only because of the intervention by a Catholic priest who was called to perform last rites that Langbehn was able to spend a few minutes with Janice before she died.

After Pond died, the cold shoulder continued. Hospital officials refused to provide Langbehn with Pond’s medical records, and the county refused to provide her with Pond’s death certificate, items needed for their two children’s Social Security benefits. Langbehn sued, but a Federal Judge dismissed the lawsuit, based on the narrow fact that Pond was in the trauma unit where rules about visitation were more restrictive. “The court’s decision paints a tragically stark picture of how vulnerable same-sex couples and their families really are during times of crisis,” said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. After the Judge’s ruling, President Barack Obama ordered new regulations on hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples for all facilities receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds. Those new rules went into effect in 2010. In 2011, Janice Langbehn was named one of thirteen honorees of the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.

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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