The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, May 21
May 21st, 2014
Will Pennsylvania’s Governor Appeal Yesterday’s Marriage Ruling? Yesterday’s ruling by a Federal District Judge declaring the state’s laws against same-sex marriage unconstitutional has really put Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a no-win position. His office demurred yesterday on whether the governor would seek a stay and appeal. “The opinion’s just been published. We’re currently reviewing all the legal issues presented in the opinion,” said Joshua Maus, a spokesman for Corbett’s legal office. Recent polling already puts Corbett’s approval ratings in the 20s and 30, and he trails Democratic businessman Tom Wolf, who handily won yesterday’s primary. With recent polling showing that Pennsylvanians approve of marriage equality by a 57 to 37 percent margin, any attempt to reverse yesterday’s ruling and putting a stop to those joyous wedding photos will likely hurt his approval ratings even more. On the other hand, if he throws in the towel, he runs the risk of losing his conservative base, which he’s clearly making a play for today when he kicks off his re-election campaign in Canonsburg with Texas Governor and failed presidential candidate Rick Perry by his side. No matter which course he chooses, his already uphill battle for re-election appears to have gotten much steeper.
Pride Events This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Birmingham, UK; Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Eskilstuna, Sweden; Kerry, Ireland; Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Melbourne, FL; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Washington, DC (Black Pride); Winnipeg, MB.
Other Events This Weekend: Harvey Milk Day Events, various locations across the U.S.; International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; AIDS Walk, Honolulu, HI; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; BUPA London 10,000, London, UK (Monday); KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Great Plains Rodeo, Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Elephant Walk — named after the Elizabeth Taylor movie, and not the early 1970s fratboy hazing ritual — opened in the Castro on November 27, 1974. Inspired by the massive plate glass windows at the Twin Peaks Tavern (which is still in business), Fred Rogers opened the bar with similarly large, clear windows because he wanted a bright, cheerful place with a view onto the street where he could sit, relax, and chat with friends. It was a huge success. Sylvester (see Sep 6) often performed there on Sundays, and the bar featured daily brunches that were served until 3:00. p.m.
The Elephant Walk saw a lot of good times and a lot of hard times. In 1979, the bar was almost destroyed by rioting San Francisco police officers after the gay community rioted downtown following the light sentence given to Dan White for murdering gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, but the bar quickly recovered and reopened. In 1985, bar manager Jack McCarty and his lover were vacationing in Greece when their return flight, TWA 847, was hijacked and diverted to Beirut. They were released and returned to the U.S. seventeen days later to a hero’s welcome. In 1988, the bar was destroyed in a four-alarm fire that consumed the upper floor of the building, and thus, the Elephant Walk came to an end. After years of reconstruction, the building today houses a restaurant called “Harvey’s,” in honor of Harvey Milk whose camera shop was just up the street on the same block.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
35 YEARS AGO: White Night Riots: 1979. On this date, Dan White was found guilty in the shooting death of San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a paltry seven years in prison. (He would only serve five.) The jury bought the defense arguments that White was suffering from diminished capacity due to depression and an overload of junk food, a defense that has since been derided as the “Twinkie defense.”
The gay community was already angry with the police and fire department, which had raised money for White’s defense. That anger boiled over when the verdict was announced, leading to rioting at City Hall. Police officers — their badges were covered with black tape to prevent identification — broke up the riot. Later that night, San Francisco police staged a retaliatory raid on the Elephant Walk, a gay bar in the Castro, shouting “”dirty cocksuckers” and “sick faggots” while attacking patrons and shattering a large plate glass window. For the next two hours, police officers indiscriminately attacked passers by on the street. Fred Rogers, the bar’s owner, described the melee:
A tactical squad had charged the doors, smashing news cameras attempting to record the raid. Once inside they made a sweep from the front of the 1,800-square-foot room all the way to – and over – the bar, swinging their clubs at anything that moved. Or didn’t. Brian, one of the bartenders, was sporting head bandages. He said that it all happened fast, without warning. There was no place to hide. Behind the bar I could see our industrial-strength, stainless-steel blender. It bore the deep imprint of a police baton, mute testimony to the fierceness of the assault. My cocktail waitress, Paula, was just finishing her first week on the job when the assault began. Luckily, she found refuge behind a closed gate in the kitchen area. She said that she had not seen such police brutality since her days on the UC-Berkeley campus.
Later that night, a freelance reporter overheard a group of police officers celebrating at a downtown bar. “We were at City Hall the day [the killings] happened and we were smiling then,” one officer said. “We were there tonight and we’re still smiling.” Gay leaders refused to apologize for the riot at city hall, and an investigation into police misconduct in the Castro and City Hall ended without any charges being filed.
Wesleyan University Offers Specialized Transgender Housing: 2003. Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut announced that it would become the first American college to offer special housing option to accommodate transgender students. Incoming freshmen will have the option of living in a new “gender-blind” floor of a dormitory without specifying their gender. According to the new university policy, those who choose to live in the gender-blind area “will be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender.” Mike Whaley, dean of student services, estimated that there were twelve to fifteen transgender students on the 3,000-student campus. But after opposition and obstruction from other members of the administration, the transgender housing policy was very nearly scrapped a year later when the dean in charge of student housing refused to pair students who were not of the same “biological gender.” Finally, with input from mental health professionals and transgender advocates, a new policy was implemented in 2010.
Raymond Burr: 1917-1993. He started out as a stage actor, landing on Broadway in 1941 for Crazy with the Heat. It didn’t take long for him to switch to the silver screen for the film noir classic Raw Deal (1948). He was adept at playing the heavies, as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place in the Sun (1951), and as the murder suspect in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). But he is best know for his two long-running television roles, in Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967 -1975). Like most gay actors, Burr rarely spoke about his private life. His official biography listed three marriages, but later investigations could only verify the second one. What has been verified is that Burr enjoyed a long 35-year relationship with his partner, Robert Benevides, who he met on the set of Perry Mason. Benevides was not only his life-long partner until Burr’s death in 1993, but together they owned an orchid business(orchids were one of Burr’s passions) and then a vineyard. Benevides still operates the Raymond Burr vineyards today.
Frank Kameny: 1925-2011. Easily one of the giants of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny fell into it when he was fired from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality (see Dec 20). Kameny took on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and argued his appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case. They missed out on quite case. Kameny wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court, in which he denounced the government’s ban on hiring gay people as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”
Throughout his lifetime, Kameny placed himself in the middle of many first in the gay rights movement. He founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961, a group which distinguished itself for its aggressiveness. In 1965, Kameny helped to organize the first gay rights protest in front the White House (see Apr 17), the Pentagon (Jul 31), the U.S. Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and the State Department (see Aug 28). That same year, Kameny published a ground-breaking essay which declared the gay rights movement’s independence from the mental health professions and its shoddy pseudo-scientific research on homosexuality, proclaiming, “We are the true authorities on homosexuality” (see May 11). That bold, landmark declaration proved a turning point from or the gay rights movement, which soon shifted from a position of deference to professional authorities who declared that gays were mentally ill, and toward an eight year struggle to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). In 1968, Kameny created the slogan “Gay is Good” (see Aug 12) and in 1971 he was the first openly gay candidate for Congress (see Feb 22).
Kameny has been recognized as a national treasure; his papers are now a part of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian holds several of Kameny’s picket signs and other artifacts in its collection. His home is now recognized as a D.C. Historic Landmark, and in 2009, he received an official apology for his firing from the Office of Personnel Management. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 86.
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