The Daily Agenda for Friday, May 23
May 23rd, 2014
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:
This weekend marks the 36th annual International Mr. Leather weekend in Chicago, otherwise known as Peter LaBarbera’s favorite springtime festival. The first IML, which took place exactly 35 years ago earlier this week, was an expanded version of an earlier contest that the Gold Coast bar had been staging since the early 1970s. The Mr. Gold Coast competition became the bar’s most popular promotion, and by 1979 the contest needed a larger venue. So the Gold Coast rented the ballroom at the Radisson Hotel, recruited Tom of Finland as one if the judges, and organized an entire weekend of activities. David Kloss of San Francisco was the first International Mr. Leather. Today, IML is a fundraising project for the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Harvard’s Secret Court: 1920. On May 13, 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a Harvard sophomore, committed suicide. He had been struggling with his grades and with his health, and returned home to recover. While at home, he told his older brother, George, that he had been having an affair with another man. George apparently reacted very badly to the news, with Cyril’s suicide following shortly after. Soon after Cyril’s death, George intercepted two letters. One was a gossipy letter from a gay classmate, and another was from a recent graduate. Armed with those letters, George demanded that Harvard’s acting Dean, Chester N Greenough rid the college “of this pernicious scourge.” Greenough consulted with Harvard President Abbot Lowell and formed a special five-man tribunal on this date in history which became known as the “Secret Court.”
The court launched a wide-ranging witch hunt, with Greenough summoning each witness one-by-one with a brief note. The Court’s inquiry was exhaustive, posing questions about masturbation practices, sex with women or men, cross-dressing, overnight guests, parties, and reading habits. The scope of the inquiry soon expanded to area businesses, cafés and bars. Eight students were expelled, ordered to leave Cambridge and reported to their families. They were also told that Harvard would disclose the reasons for their expulsion if employers or other schools sought references. At least one student committed suicide following his expulsion. Four others unconnected to Harvard were also deemed guilty. The school couldn’t punish them directly, but they did pressure one café to fire a waiter.
In 2002, a researcher from Harvard’s daily newspaper, The Crimson, came across a box of files labeled “Secret Court” in the University’s archives. After pressure from newspaper staff, the University finally released five hundred documents related to the Court’s work, and The Crimson published its findings in November of that year. Harvard’s president Lawrence H. Summers responded to the revelations, expressing deep regret for the anguish the students and families experienced. He called the reports “extremely disturbing” and the court’s actions “abhorrent.” Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan responded to Summers’s statement by saying that “Harvard embraces bathhouse values”:
Harvard’s code is now based on Summers’ values, which hold that the old moral code of Christianity, which teaches that sexual relations between men are unnatural and immoral, is “abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university.” Harvard has not only turned its back on its Christian past, it has just renounced its Christian roots as poisoned and perverted. If Harvard is educating America’s leaders, this country is not Slouching Toward Gomorrah, we are sprinting there.
[More information can be found in William Wright's Harvard's Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals]
State Department Announces Tougher Scrutiny for Job Applicants: 1950. By May of 1950, the State Department had withstood blistering attacks from members of Congress over allegations of homosexual employees allegedly posing as security risks (see Feb 28, Mar 14, Mar 23, Apr 18, Apr 26, May 2, and May 19). On May 22, the State Department’s top security officer, R.W. Scott McLeod, announced steps in the hiring process to try to address those criticisms and ordered his aides to be “completely ruthless” on passing on new job applicants who had a hint of security issues. According to news reports, McLeod said that someone who made a single mistake in the past might be able to “cancel it out” with good performance since then, with one exception. He said that a single homosexual act, no matter how long past, would make the employee subject to blackmail and would never be hired.
Eugene Oregon Voters Defeat Gay Rights Ordinance: 1978. Anita Bryant’s successful campaign to defeat a Miami non-discrimination ordinance in 1977 (see Jun 7)) Launched a wave of ballot measures in cities across the country the following year. Voters in St. Paul, Minnesota repealed their ordinance by more than a two-to-one margin (see Apr 25) and Wichita, Kansas voters bested that two weeks later with a five-to-one vote (see May 9). Anita Bryant’s Protect America’s Children had poured $20,000 into those battles ($74,000 in today’s dollars), which were enormous sums for city elections.
The juggernaut next moved on to Eugene, Oregon two weeks later, where residents were asked to vote on whether to approve a gay rights amendment to the city’s human rights ordinance. The amendment would have extended existing prohibitions of housing, employment and public accommodations discrimination to include sexual orientation. The Eugene City Council had passed the amendment on November 28. It would have gone into effect thirty days later, but a group quickly formed, calling themselves the Volunteer Organization Involved in Community Enactments (VOICE), and they managed to collect 10,000 signatures in less than two weeks to place the amendment on the next primary election ballot.
With Eugene being home to the University of Oregon and known for being friendly to more progressive brand of politics, the gay community felt that this fight would give them the best chance to turn back the tide. Early polling looked promising, which showed voters about evenly split. According to local news reports, VOICE and the pro-gay Eugene Citizens for Human Rights (ECHR) “conducted vigorous but restrained that lacked the inflammatory rhetoric of campaigns on similar gay rights proposals in other communities.” While VOICE sought examples of brochures and advertisements from the other campaigns, they elected to focus their message less on morality and religious beliefs, and more about whether gay people deserved “special” protections under the law. ECHR, similarly, shunned assistance from outside groups. ECHR coordinator Candy Hansen said, “Eugene is Eugene and we want to win this for the people of Eugene.”
That win didn’t happen. The vote was 22,898 to 13,427 — 63 to 37 percent. It was the best margin yet for the gay community, but still a landslide defeat. Turnout among college students was low, which may partly explain why the polling looked so much more favorable. Lynn Greene, a campaign coordinator for VOICE was ecstatic. “We’ve shown that a liberal community will oppose legislation destructive to moral standards. “It shows that you don’t have to be religious to see that this kind of ordinance can negatively affect the community. The idea that this is a human rights issue is a facade, and people recognize that.” VOICE director Larry Dean called the vote a reaction against a “swing in morals” and said that even in liberal Eugene, voters weren’t ready to endorse what amounted to an “acceptance of homosexuality.” “If they (the gay community) cannot win here, they can’t win anyplace, except perhaps San Francisco.”
That same night, Dean received a congratulatory telegram from Anita Bryant, who praised “the Christian public and all the citizens of Eugene who worked and voted against legalized immorality. Let us continue to reach out in Godly love to all homosexuals who want deliverance, while opposing at the threshold every attempt of the militant homosexuals to represent their lifestyle as ‘normal’ and to impose it on us and our children.” Meanwhile, Edward Rowe, the Executive Director for Protect American’s Children reiterated his denial that his group was directly involved with VOICE’s campaign. “We worked only indirectly with the people in Eugene. There was consultation with our office in Miami Beach and the groups in Wichita and St. Paul. There was no funding in this case.”
While VOICE supporters were celebrating at a Chuckwagon steak house, the gay community and its allies marched quietly from the Eugene Hotel to the courthouse in a candlelight parade.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?