The Daily Agenda for Thursday, June 26
June 26th, 2014
From a historical perspective, today’s date will forever be a very important day in gay American history. First, on this date in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas, and in doing so it also invalidated similar laws in thirteen other states. This came 42 years after Illinois became the first state in the nation to remove its sodomy laws from the books when the state undertook a massive revision to its criminal code (see Jul 28). Illinois would be the only state in America where homosexual relationships were not criminalized for the next decade, until Connecticut took the same step in 1971, followed by Colorado and Oregon (1972), Hawaii and North Dakota (1973), Ohio (1974), New Hampshire and New Mexico (1975). The big year was 1976, when California, Indiana, Maine, Washington and West Virginia stopped criminalizing homosexuality. The march of states decriminalizing homosexuality however came to an abrupt halt by the 1980s. Where states repealed their sodomy laws after 1982, it mostly came about as a result of state court actions. When the U.S. Supreme Court finally issued its Lawrence v. Texas decision, nearly a third of all Americans were still living in states which criminalized homosexual conduct.
Today also marks the day when, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Windsor v. U.S., which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. That decision not only freed the Federal Government to recognize legal same-sex marriages across the states, it also served as the basis for more than twenty Federal and State Court decisions since then which have either ruled against same-sex marriage bans in eight states, or ruled that the states were required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states (Kentucky and Ohio).
Also today in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, not on its merits but because the appellants (who supported keeping Prop 8 in California’s constitution) lacked standing. With that move opening the way to same-sex marriage becoming legally available in California again, the number of Americans living in marriage equality states nearly doubled, and for the first time in history, that number exceeded the number of Americans living in states which criminalized same-sex relationships a decade earlier. If there ever was a gay history day, June 26 will certainly deserve all of the attention it can get.
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Barcelona, Spain; Baton Rouge, LA; Bend, OR; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava; Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary; Cartagena, Colombia; Catania, Italy; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Corvallis, OR; Dublin, Ireland; Durban, South Africa; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Leamington Spa, UK; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Mexico City, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Naples, Italy; New York, NY; Omaha, NE; Oslo, Norway (Europride); Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Porto, Portugal; Puglia, Italy; Saarbrücken, Germany; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Seattle, WA; Sheffield, UK; Sundsvall, Sweden; Swansea, UK; Tenerife, Spain; Toledo, Spain; Toronto, ON (WorldPride); Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Valladolid, Spain (Friday only); Vancouver, BC; Västerås, Sweden; Venice, Italy; Vigo, Spain; Yellow Springs, OH.
Other Events This Weekend: LGBT Rainbow Days At Six Flags Over Georgia, Austell, GA; Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary, AB; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.
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In the 1950s, San Francisco’s leathermen mostly hung out at the waterfront bars along with the sailors, dockworkers and day laborers. The first dedicated gay leather bar in San Francisco was the Why Not, which opened briefly in the Tenderloin in 1962. Later that same year, the Tool Box opened on the corner of Fourth Street and Harrison, which set the area known as South of Market on the path toward becoming the heart of San Francisco’s leather scene.
The Tool Box was known for its giant black and white mural on the back wall, painted by Chuck Arnett, depicting a variety of very masculine-looking men. The mural achieved a measure of national fame when Life Magazine featured a photograph taken inside the Tool Box for its feature story on “the Homosexuality In America” in 1964 (see below). When Life asked Mattachine Society president Hal Call for help in finding a gay bar they could photograph, he saw an opportunity to break straight America’s stereotypes of gay men and took the photographer to the Tool Box. Mike Caffee, a local artist, remembered that photo shoot. “My mother actually recognized me,” he said. “We chose the people in the picture on the grounds that they were people who like, were self-employed or worked for gay organizations, so that they could not be blackmailed.”
That photo signaled to straight Americans that there was more to the gay stereotype than the limp-wristed lisping swish. It also became a beacon for thousands of gay men who saw San Francisco as, in Life’s words, America’s “gay capital.” Paul Boneberg, of San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society, remarked, “In fact, people have come to me and said, ‘This is the first time I saw a photograph of people like me’.”
Despite the Tool Box’s important place in American history, its popularity was short lived. The influx of gay men into SOMA led to more bars and more competition, and the Tool Box quickly lost its niche position and its dominance of the leather scene. It finally closed in 1971. But when it was being demolished for redevelopment, the wall containing the mural against the building next door remained intact for the next two years, now as an outdoor mural rather than an indoor one. It finally came down in 1973 as the block underwent further redevelopment. The spot where the Tool Box once stood is now occupied by a Whole Foods supermarket.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► 50 YEARS AGO: Life Magazine’s “Homosexuality In America”: 1964.
“These brawny young men in their leather caps, shirts, jackets and pants are practicing homosexuals, men who turn to other men for affection and sexual satisfaction. They are part of what they call the “gay world,” which is actuall a sad and often sordid world. …
“Homosexuality shears across the spectrum of American life — the professions, the arts, business and labor. It always has. But today, especially in big cities, homosexuals are discarding their furtive ways and openly admitting, even flaunting, their deviation. Homosexuals have their own drinking places, their special assignation streets, even their own organizations. And for every obvious homosexual, there are probably nine nearly impossible to detect. This social disorder, which society tries to suppress, has forced itself into the public eye because it does present a problem — and parents especially are concerned. The myth and misconception with which homosexuality has so long been clothed must be cleared away, not to condone it but to cope with it.”
Over the next fourteen pages, Life magazine explored that so-called “sordid world”: in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, “which rates as the ‘gay capital’ [with] 30 bars that cater exclusively to a homosexual clientele.” The articles provide interesting vignettes and photos of gay life in the pre-Stonewall era, but reading through them today probably tells us more about society’s revulsion towards gay people than it does about gay people themselves. At one point, author Paul Welch accompanies a Los Angeles police officer acting as a decoy to try entrap a gay man into propositioning him. Even if the proposition involves going to a private home for the evening — the same type of invitation being made in straight bars all across Los Angeles that very same night — it would end badly with an arrest and possible lifetime registration as a sex offender. LGBT activist Dale Jennings’s 1952 arrest in the privacy of his own home and the city’s embarrassing failure to secure a conviction in a well-publicized case (see Jun 23) had still done nothing to stem police harassment twelve years later.
One educational pamphlet compiled for Los Angeles police warned that what gay men really want is “a fruit world.” Welch continued: “Although the anti-homosexual stand taken by the Los Angeles police is unswervingly tough, it reflects the attitude of most U.S. law-enforcement agencies on the subject.” Three years later, gay Angelenos would reach their breaking point and the Black Cat riots would become the high water mark — thought not the end — of police harassment in Los Angeles (see Jan 1), more than two years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York.
[Source: Paul Welch. "Homosexuality In America." Life 26, no. 26 (June 26, 1964): 66-74. Available online via Google Books here.
Earnest Havemann. "Scientists search for the answers to a touchy and puzzling question: Why?" Life 26, no. 26 (June 26, 1964). 76-80. Available online via Google Books here.]
► Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. Pickets the Civil Service Commission: 1965. Picketing was a new and controversial tactic for East Coast gay rights activists, but the year 1965 saw them finally shedding their reservations and, in keeping with the times, assuming a more confrontational posture in their demands for equal treatment. To test the waters for picketing, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. held their first gay rights protest in front of the White House earlier that year (see Apr 17). They had decided not to publicize the hour-long protest ahead of time because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent an excuse to block their demonstration. They were so excited over how well that protest went that they decided to do it again a month later, and this time they invited the press to cover it (see May 29).
But it was the federal government’s ban on employment of gay people that really stuck in the Mattachine Society’s president and co-founder Frank Kameny’s crawl. Eight years earlier, Kameny had been fired from his civilian job by the U.S. Army map service over his homosexuality (see Dec 20), and after he exhausted his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kameny turned his attention to organizing local activists to confront the Civil Service Commission over its discriminatory ban. Their earlier efforts to sit down with the Commission to discuss the matter were curtly rebuffed (see Sep 28: “It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.”), and all further requests for meetings were stonewalled.
So the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. decided to take it to the streets once again, as eighteen men and seven women, all conservatively dressed — “If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”, Kameny ordered — carried picket signs demanding and end to the employment ban. The two-hour protest in front of the Civil Service Commission headquarters generated just enough publicity for the CSC to request a meeting in September. Nothing much came from that meeting, but for the first time in history, federal officials were forced to justify their policies directly to the very group that was most affected by them. That meeting was followed by another ten years of letters, phone calls, lawsuits and meetings before the CSC finally capitulated, in a phone call to Kameny personally, in 1975 (see Jul 3). Times continued to change, and in 2009, Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.
[Source: Unsigned. "Homosexuals Picket in Nation's Capital." The Ladder 9, no. 10-11 (July-August 1965): 23-25.]
► U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Nation’s Sodomy Laws: 2003. One of the most important gay rights cases to reach the Supreme Court had its beginnings under very unusual circumstances. In 1998, Houston police were called to the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence over what was supposed to be some kind of a “weapons disturbance.” As the story went, police arrived and caught Lawrence and Tyrone Garner having oral sex, or anal sex, or no sex at all, depending on which eyewitness you want to believe. But if they were having sex, then that meant that they were breaking Texas’s anti-sodomy law. They were held overnight in jail and charged with violating Chapter 21, Sec. 21.06 of the Texas Penal code, a class C misdemeanor, for engaging “in deviate sexual intercourse with an individual of the same sex.”
Lawrence and Garner hadn’t had a sexual relationship, as author Dale Carpenter revealed in his 2012 book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. But gay rights advocates were looking for a test case to try to overturn the state’s sodomy law. This case wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough. They convinced Lawrence and Garner to plead no contest. After they were convicted by a Justice of the Peace, they exercised their right to a full trial before the Texas Criminal Court, where they asked for the case to be dismissed on Fourteenth Amendment grounds. When the court rejected that argument, they pleaded no contest again and were fined $200 each. Lawyers appealed on their behalf to a three-judge panel of the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, which ruled in their favor. That decision was then overturned by the full Appeals court, and the case was appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which operates as the state’s supreme court for criminal matters. After that court declined to hear the case, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down Texas’s sodomy law, and other laws like it in thirteen other states. In the 6-3 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the decision specifically overruled the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision which upheld Georgia’s sodomy law. “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled.” Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, one part of which has proved to be very prescient:
If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct…what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.
► 1 YEAR AGO: U.S. Supreme Court Declares Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional: 2013. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer shared a modest Greenwich Village apartment for three decades before they finally decided to marry in Canada in 2007. The decided to formally marry after Spyer, already paralyzed with Multiple Sclerosis, was diagnosed with a heart condition. Spyer died at home in 2009, which sent the grieving Windsor to the hospital with a heart attack. When she came home, she found a $363,053 estate tax bill on the inheritance that Spyer had left her. Windsor filed for a refund from the IRS, but it was denied because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing their marriage. Windsor got a lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, and sued, arguing that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
The lawsuit was filed in November of 2009, just three months before U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama Administration agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional and that the Attorney General’s office would no longer defend the law in court. This left the door open for the Republican-led House of Representatives to defend DOMA instead, but to no avail. On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision in October, which sent the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 26, 2013, the court issued its 5-4 decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, finding that Section 3 of DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” because the Federal Government was treating some state-sanctioned marriages differently from others. This federal action, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “demean[ed] the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” Kennedy also noted the broad reach of DOMA’s effects:
DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in person hood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. [Emphasis mine]
The Windsor decision had both immediate effects and far-reaching ones. Immediately, Edith Windsor got her estate taxes back from the IRS. Soon after, the Obama Administration began issuing instructions for granting federal recognition of same-sex marriages with regard to taxes, employment benefits, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, and other areas impacted by marital status.
Windsor has also had some very important legal effects which influenced dozens of other court rulings over the past year. Windsor has provided a considerable amount of legal justification for nearly twenty federal and state court decisions knocking down bans on marriage equality in ten states. Two of those states, Oregon and Pennsylvania, have opted not to appeal. Three more states — Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming — came into play yesterday when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the Utah decision, making it effective for the entire Tenth Circuit. Windsor also played a part in federal court decisions in Ohio and Kentucky decisions requiring those states to recognize marriages from from other states. And it served as a foundation for the California Federal Court ruling in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Labs which held that gays and lesbians constituted a suspect class. That, in turn, led the Nevada Governor and Attorney General to pull their state’s defense of their marriage ban before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (The lower court upheld the state’s ban in 2012, and the plaintiffs have appealed to the Ninth.) Those developments make the scathing Windsor dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia both entertaining and somewhat prescient:
In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion … is that DOMA is motivated by “bare… desire to harm” couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.
…As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listeni.ng and waiting for the other shoe. By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.
► 1 YEAR AGO: U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of California’s Prop 8: 2013. On the same day that the U.S Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the court also issued another ruling that was near and dear to Californians. In a 5-4 decision, the court declined to review the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision which upheld a lower court’s finding that Proposition 8, the 2008 Constitutional Amendment that banned same-sex marriage, was unconstituional. The Supreme Court ruled that because the state of California declined to defend Prop 8, the ban’s supporters did not have standing to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. And because they didn’t have standing to bring the case to the highest court, the Court ruled that they also lacked standing to appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court instructed the Ninth to vacate its rulling, which sent the case all the way back to the orignal district court ruling.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out when high-powered lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies made their bold announcement in 2009 that they would challenge Prop 8 in federal court. It was a controversial move. Lambda Legal and the ACLU oppposed the suit, fearing that a federal challenge at that time might do more harm than good if there was an adverse rulling. But Olson and Boies insisted that not only could they win marriage equality for California, but that they could also leapfrog the long-held state-by-state strategy favored by other gay rights organizations and win marriage equality for everyone at the Supreme Court. In the end, they only achieved the first half of their objectives, and Hollingsworth v. Perry has been legally inconsequential in the two score federal and state court rulings since then overturning marriage bans in other states. But by restoring same-sex marriage rights for Californians, this Supreme Court decision doubled the number of Americans living in marriage equality states in one fell swoop. Another accomplishment is perhaps less tangible, but no less important: the discussions about marriage equality prompted by Hollingsworth as it made its way through the court system undoubtedly contributed to Americans’ growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
► Lance Loud: 1951-2001. PBS aired the groundbreaking documentary series An American Family in 1973 which would become the first reality television series in history. Millions of Americans were glued to their television sets watching the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California, go about their daily lives with film cameras in tow. Lance Loud, the family’s eldest twenty-year-old son who was living in New York City, quickly became the star of the program. He came out to America in the second episode when his mother went to visit him at the Chelsea Hotel, and his daring nonconformity became an inspiration for young Americans, gay and straight.
Loud had returned to California by the time the series aired, so he decided to move back to New York City to take advantage of his new-found fame. He formed a band called the Mumps, which played New York’s famed CBGB and Mix, and toured with the Talking Heads, Television, Ramones, Cheap Trick and Van Halen. But after five years and a loyal following, they failed to attract a major recording contract. After the band broke up, Loud returned to Los Angeles and became a writer. His articles were published in Interview, Details, Vanity Fair, among others. He also had a regular column, “Out Loud,” in The Advocate.
Loud found the fame he earned from An American Family to be hollow. Americans had watched as his parents’ relationship careened toward divorce, leading Loud to say, “Television ate my family.” Loud himself went through years of substance abuse. When he was diagnosed with AIDS and hepatitis C, Loud agreed to appear in one final cinema verité documentary for PBS. But this time he chose to perform as an example of what not to do with one’s life. Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family aired in 2003, two years after he died of liver failure.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?