Posts for May 5th, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Monday, May 5

Jim Burroway

May 5th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 12, 1983, page 23.


Marriage In Hawaii, Almost: 1993. In the case of Baehr v Lewin, Nina Baehr sued the state of Hawaii over the state’s refusal to issue her and her partner a marriage license. That refusal, according to their lawsuit, amounted to illegal discrimination. On May 5, 1992, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that her argument had merit. They didn’t rule Hawaii’s ban illegal, but remanded the case to a lower court, and placed the burden on the state to prove that it had a compelling interest under strict scrutiny for denying same-sex partners a marriage license.

The case would drag on for another six years with little doubt about where the state Supreme Court would go if the case made its way back there again. And so on 1998, voters approved Amendment 2 to the state constitution, which made Hawaii the first state to amend its constitution to address same-sex marriage. But unlike other state constitutional amendments that would follow, Hawaii’s Amendment 2 didn’t ban same-sex marriage outright. It granted Hawaii’s legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, which it later did by passing a law that banned same-sex marriage.

In February of 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombe signed into law a bill granting civil unions to the state’s same-sex couples. That law took effect on January 1, 2012. A bill to allow same-sex marriage was introduced into the legislature in January 2013, but it quickly died without legislative action. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, a move which made civil unions unquestionably inferior to marriage at the federal level, Gov. Abercrombe called the state legislature back for a special session to take up a marriage equality bill. After a contentious hearings, the Senate and House finally approved the bill and Gov. Ambercrombe signed it into law, the state that started the first steps toward marriage equality twenty years earlier became the fifteenth state to make it available to same-sex couples in December.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

Del Martin: 1921-2008. When young Dorothy Taliaferro was six years old, she experienced her first act of discrimination when she was denied a magazine delivery route just because she was a girl. That alone made her a life-long feminist, and it was that awareness that informed everything she did as an activist.

Her adult life started out rather conventionally. She studied journalism, married James Martin when she was nineteen, had a daughter, and divorced four years later. So much for conventionality. By 1950, Del was living in Seattle, writing for a construction trade magazine, where she met Phyllis Lyon (see Nov 10). In 1953, the couple moved to San Francisco, moved into a home together, established a joint bank account, and embarked on more than a half-century together as a couple.

But being a lesbian couple in the 1950s was a lonely experience for them. In their search for lesbian friends, Martin and Lyon, along with six other women, founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, which became the first major lesbian organization in the United States (see Oct 19). The DOB grow from a small Bay-area club to a national organization dedicated to “the education of the variant; education of the public at large; participation in research projects; and investigation of the penal code as it pertains to the homosexual.” In 1956, the DOB began publishing a monthly newsletter, The Ladder, with Lyons acting as its first editor and Martin contributing a groundbreaking essay in the very first issue. The DOB struggled to stake out its place in the emerging homophile movement. Martin chaffed when, as happened all too often, DOB was dismissed as the “women’s auxiliary” of the Mattachine Society. At the Mattachine’s 1959 convention in Denver, Del addressed the delegates and defended the need to keep DOB as a separate, women’s-only organization:

What do you men know about lesbians? In all of your programs and your Mattachine Review you speak of the male homosexual and follow this with — oh yes, and incidentally there are some female homosexuals, too. … ONE magazine has done little better. For years they have relegated the lesbian interest to a column called “Feminine Viewpoint.” So it would appear to me that quite obviously neither organization (the Mattachine Society nor ONE) has recognized the fact that lesbians are women and that the twentieth century is the era of emancipation of women…

In 1964, Del and Phyllis helped to found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing together national religious leaders and gay and lesbian activists for a discussion of gay rights (see Jan 1). In the late sixties, Del and Phyllis became active in the National Organization for Women, with Martin becoming the first open lesbian elected to the gruop’s board of directors. As Martin saw it, lesbian issues were feminist issues, and she consistently lambasted examples of chauvinism among the male leaders of the gay rights movement. In 1970, Martin wrote a scathing article for The Advocate titled, “Goodbye, My Alienated Brothers,” which became a clarion call for a separate lesbian movement that was completely independent from the male-dominated gay movement. “Goodbye to the male homophile community,” she wrote. “‘Gay is good,’ but not good enough …We joined with you in what we mistakenly thought was a common cause.” But her commitment to lesbian causes didn’t end all cooperation with other gay activists. A year later, she flew to Washington D.C. for the annual American Psychiatric Association meeting to speak on a panel of “nonpatient” homosexuals, where Martin accused psychiatrists of becoming “the guardians of mental illness rather than promoting the mental health of homosexuals as a class of people in our society.”

In the next decade, Martin’s activism turned to domestic violence with the 1976 publication of her groundbreaking book Battered Wives. That book, which is still in print, helped to launch battered women’s shelters across the country. She also co-founded the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women and chaired NOW’s Task Force on Battered Women and Household Violence. In the 1980s, Martin and Lyons became involved in advocacy on behalf of ageing gays and lesbians. They both served as delegates for the 1995 White House Conference on Ageing, where they represented the interests of older lesbians and prodded the conference into including sexual orientation in a nondiscrimination declaration. The couple also became heavily involved with Bay area Democratic politics. In 2008, Martin and Lyons became the first same-sex couple to be married after the California’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality. Del passed away two months later.

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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Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
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Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
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Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

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Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

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