The Daily Agenda for Saturday, June 28
June 28th, 2014
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.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
Four women — Leslie Cohen, Michelle Florea, Barbara Russo and Linda Goldfarb got together and opened New York’s Sahara in May, 1975. In 2011, Cohen looked back on those days:
In 1974, I was working as a curator at the New York Cultural Center. I met dozens of famous artists, writers and rich people who lived in fancy Park Avenue apartments. I say this only because it made the contrast between the other part of my life even more apparent. My friends (who were eventually my partners in Sahara) and I were going out to girl bars that were seamy, run-down, often mafia-owned joints that lacked any semblance of style whatsoever, a holdover from when homosexuality was considered abnormal and criminal. Here we were — young, hip, well educated — feminist and post-Stonewall gay. What were we doing in these clubs?
Four women opening a club for women was unheard of at the time. The State Liquor Authority made my mother and brother sign affidavits stating that I wasn’t a hooker or a front for the mafia. After many trials and tribulations, Sahara opened in May 1976 on Second Avenue and East 65th Street — a very visible, out-of-the-closet location. No more hiding for us. “A club created by women for women” was what our opening invitation read.
When the women entered the club for the first time, they gasped. Sahara was housed in a two-story building. On the first floor was the cocktail lounge with sleek Italian sectionals facing a bar and a small stage in the back. On the second floor was another bar and the dance floor. Fantastic contemporary art by women hung on the walls, groundbreaking in itself since women artists, with the exception of a few well-established ones like Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson, had little opportunity then to show their work. Pat Benatar was our most frequent performer. We threw fund-raisers for politicians, and everyone from Patti Smith to Jane Fonda appeared at Sahara on one occasion or another. It was a heady stew.
The Sahara lasted for three and a half years. The location is now part of the Silver Star Restaurant.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► 45 YEARS AGO: Stonewall: 1969. What can I possibly tell you about Stonewall that you don’t already know? You know the story, like you know the story of Paul Revere’s ride and the Battle of Lexington. It’s our origin myth. Like all such origin myths, some of what we “know” is true, and some not. But also like all origin myths, such distinctions are barely relevant anymore. It’s not so much about what happened, but what happened after. It’s the idea of what happened that matters today: a police raid against a dingy and not particularly popular mafia-owned gay bar, people who had nothing to loose and fought back, a community that organized against all odds and marched, and kept marching for more than four decades to bring us where we are today. It all traces back, like a straight line — at least that’s what it does in our imagination — to that hot Friday night on Christopher Street.
Mythmaking is not an entirely bad thing. It’s what we humans naturally do to carry our stories from one generation to the next. But it can obscure some actual facts that would otherwise be forgotten. One myth, that Stonewall was “the first time gay people fought back,” simply isn’t true, as regular readers of these Daily Agenda know very well. It wasn’t the first time gay people protested (see Sep 19), it wasn’t the first time gay people organized against injustice (see, for example, Dec 10, Jun 23), and it wasn’t the first time patrons fought back physically against a police raid on a gay bar (see Jan 1). But it’s Stonewall that we commemorate today. The very word “Stonewall” has acquired a meaning thta goes far beyond the name of a dark and dingy bar patronized by drag queens, street kids and the hustlers of Sheridan Square.
Well, like all things in history, it seems to be a matter of two critical elements coming together in a near-perfect fashion. Stonewall 1) happend at the right place, and 2) it happened at the right time.
The Stonewall Inn’s location couldn’t have been more perfect for building a legacy. It didn’t just happen in a very dense part of America’s largest city and media capital, it took place just a few blocks from the Village Voice. Two Voice reporters just happened to be in the neighborhood when New York Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, commander of Lower Manhattan’s vice squad, decided that the Stonewall needed to be cleared out. Lucian Truscott IV wrote his eyewitness account of what happened from outside the Stonewall, and Howard Smith wrote about how he wound up being trapped inside the Stonewall with the besieged police. Those eyewitness accounts, and numerous articles which followed, meant that the history of Stonewall was written while it happened. Prior confrontations were typically ignored or downplayed by the mainstream press. The mainstream press was content to downplay Stonewall too — except for an infamous article in the New York Daily News which dismissed the whole affair more than a week later with “Homo Nest Raided! Queen Bees are stinging mad!” (see Jul 6).
But the Village Voice, the go-to paper for the city’s radicals, leftists, cultural savants, hippies, civil rights workers, (and in more modern-day parlance) community organizers and change agents, transmitted those nights’ events to a larger audience that was already engaged in bringing about sweeping social and political changes. If Stonewall had been located further away from the Voice’s offices, say, across any of the three rivers that separate Manhattan from the rest of America, it’s very likely that the rebellion would have been just another riot, one of so many that the media was growing tired of counting them all.
The Voice carried the news of the Stonewall rebellion beyond the boundaries of New York City, but Stonewall’s legacy wasn’t all the Voice’s doing. Another factor in Stonewall’s geography that worked in its favor was that the rebellion happened on the streets of Greenwich Village, in dense neighborhoods filled with young people where news spread almost as fast as modern-day tweets. And what happened next leads to the second critical element that made Stonewall what it is today: it happened at the right time, at the tail end of the 1960s. It was a decade that taught those young people what to do when confronted with war, the draft, segregation, assassinations, injustice, and police oppression. They organized. They formed committees, councils, alliances, liberation fronts, and task forces. They held meetings and rallies, rap sessions and zaps. They organized marches and political campaigns. They turned a small movement led by careful strategists doing the best they could with little support into a mass movement propelled by a youthful energy that defied containment. And they did all of this because by 1969 it was in their DNA. They saw no other way. The knew no other way. And the fact that Stonewall touched on that other hallmark of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, was just icing on the cake.
The Stonewall Inn wasn’t the only place our origin story could have taken place. There were countless other locations in countless other cities which were just as ripe for starting a revolution. It just happened that the Stonewall Inn was in one of those places, and that’s where it happened. It was perfectly placed and the timing was perfectly right to fire our shot heard around the world.
► First Gay Pride Marches to Commemorate Stonewall: 1970. The actual Stonewall uprising received scant attention in the mainstream media. There were very few reporters there and only a bare handful of photos taken of the uprising as it occurred. By in the space of a year, Stonewall had already become a single word that meant more than just a run-down bar in the Village. Gay people across the country took June 28 as their own Independence Day with commemorative marches taking place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and, of course, New York. The day was celebrated as “Christopher Street Liberation Day” for several years before Pride took over. (The celebration is still called CSD, or Christopher Street Day, in Germany.) One of the more interesting articles to appear in the mainstream media for those first Christopher Street Liberation Day marches was a brief description of the parade up Christopher Street on June 28, 1970 that appeared in July 11 edition of The New Yorker
A number of policemen were standout around, looking benevolent and keeping an eye on things. Many of the marchers were carrying banners that identified them as members of homosexual organizations, like the Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society, and the Gay Activists Alliance. The symbol of the G.A.A. is a lambda, which physicists use as a symbol for wavelength, and many of the kids were wearing purple T-shirts with yellow lambdas on them.
Most of the marchers chatted in anticipatory tones, and a few reporters were among them looking for interviews. One approached two boys standing together and asked them the question that reporters always ask: “How do you feel?”
One of the boys said, “I feel proud.”
At the head of the parade, one boy stood carrying the American flag. Near him stood a man talking to another man. “Homosexuals are very silly,” said the first man. “They congregate in certain areas and then spend all other time walking up and down the street ignoring each other.”
While “Pride” as a name for these marches was still several years ago, you can already see that pride was already the operative word for the day. The author (whose name is not given) reported that marchers carried signs reading “Homosexual is not a four letter word,” “Latent Homosexuals Unite!” and “Hi Mom!” Anti-gay protesters were there as well, one with a sign reading simply “Sodom + Gomorrah.” But despite a few sour notes, the parade was more than just a success: it was cathartic for some:
An eighteen-year-old boy from Long Island who was marching in the middle of the parade with his arms around two friends said, “I’ve been up since six-thirty, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t going to come, but then I figured I’m gay and I might as well support my people. So here I is!” Sometimes the marchers addressed the onlookers. “Join us!” they called, and “Come on in, the water’s fine!” They got a few grins for this, and once or twice somebody did step out from the crowd to join the parade. These people were roundly cheered by the marchers. Just south of Central Park, a well-dressed middle-aged woman on the sidewalk flashed a V-sign. A marcher, a young man with a mustache, shouted to a cop, also a young man with a mustache, “It isn’t so bad, is it?” The cop shouted back, “No!”
As the parade entered the Park, a young marcher said, “Would you believe it! It looks like an invading army. It’s a gay Woodstock. And after all those years I spent in psychotherapy!”
A friend of his laughed and said, “What will your shrink do without you? He’s dependent on your for the payments on his car.”
[Thanks to BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of the New Yorker article.]
► U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Boy Scouts’ Gay Ban: 2000. James Dale joined a Cub Scouts pack in Monmouth County, New Jersey and stayed with it through Boy Scouts, where he became an Eagle Scout at the age of seventeen. In fact, his Eagle Award was presented to him by none other than M. Norman Powell, a descendent of the founder of international scouting, Lord Baden-Powell. When he turned nineteen, Dale became an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 73 while a freshman at Rutgers University, where Dale also became co-president of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance. In July of 1990, he was a featured speaker at a Rutgers Conference where he spoke about the health care needs of gay and lesbian teens. He was interviewed by the Newark Star Ledger, which quoted him as saying he was gay. When local Boy Scout officials saw the interview, they promptly expelled him for violating “the standards for leadership established by the Boy Scouts of America, which specifically forbid membership to homosexuals.
Dale sued the BSA in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that the Boy Scouts had violated a New Jersey statute forbidding discrimination in a public accommodation. Superior Court Judge Patrick J. McGann ruled for the BSA and against the “active sodomite” — McGann’s very words in his ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court however overturned the lower court’s ruling in a unanimous decision, and held that the BSA’s actions violated state law. The Boy Scouts then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s application of its public accommodations law violated the Boy Scouts’ rights of free expressive association under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the majority, wrote that “[t]he Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill,” and that Dale’s presence “would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the young members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” He then added:
We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts’ teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization’s expression does not justify the State’s effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization’s expressive message. “While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government.” Hurley, 515 U.S. at 579.
Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined Rehnquist in the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens dissented. In Stevens’s dissent, he noted that the Boy Scouts had been inconsistent in its policies towards gay people, and its newfound opposition to homosexuality was inconsistent to the guidance it gave scout leaders on sexual and religious matters:
Insofar as religious matters are concerned, BSA’s bylaws state that it is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward . . . religious training.” App. 362. “The BSA does not define what constitutes duty to God or the practice of religion. This is the responsibility of parents and religious leaders.” In fact, many diverse religious organizations sponsor local Boy Scout troops. Because a number of religious groups do not view homosexuality as immoral or wrong and reject discrimination against homosexuals, it is exceedingly difficult to believe that BSA nonetheless adopts a single particular religious or moral philosophy when it comes to sexual orientation. This is especially so in light of the fact that Scouts are advised to seek guidance on sexual matters from their religious leaders (and Scoutmasters are told to refer Scouts to them); BSA surely is aware that some religions do not teach that homosexuality is wrong.
He then concluded:
The only apparent explanation for the majority’s holding, then, is that homosexuals are simply so different from the rest of society that their presence alone— unlike any other individual’s— should be singled out for special First Amendment treatment. Under the majority’s reasoning, an openly gay male is irreversibly affixed with the label “homosexual.” That label, even though unseen, communicates a message that permits his exclusion wherever he goes. His openness is the sole and sufficient justification for his ostracism. Though unintended, reliance on such a justification is tantamount to a constitutionally prescribed symbol of inferiority.
… That such prejudices are still prevalent and that they have caused serious and tangible harm to countless members of the class New Jersey seeks to protect are established matters of fact that neither the Boy Scouts nor the Court disputes. That harm can only be aggravated by the creation of a constitutional shield for a policy that is itself the product of a habitual way of thinking about strangers. As Justice Brandeis so wisely advised, “we must be ever on our guard, lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles.”
The Boy Scouts’ gay ban wasn’t limited to leaders, but extended to Scouts themselves. In 2013, after a long and contentious debate, the Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would rescind their ban against gay Scouts beginning January 1, 2014. The ban on gay leaders, however, remains in place.
► 5 YEARS AGO: Fort Worth Police Raid the Rainbow Lounge: 2009. Exactly forty years earlier, the New York police’s raid of Stonewall Inn and sparked a revolution. Forty years later, LGBT people across America were reflecting on that important milestone. But the Fort Worth Police Department and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) observed the occasion by raiding the newly-opened Rainbow Lounge and dragging about twenty outside before deciding to arrest seven of them.
Officers claimed that bar patrons were drunk, groping officers and acting aggressively. Eyewitness accounts however contradicted the Police Department’s claims. Todd Camp, a former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter who was at the bar, said, “No one was acting aggressive to officers.” Another eyewitness, Chuck Potter, told a local CBS affiliate, “I can guarantee there wasn’t a man in this bar that would’ve touched one of those officers, knowing they were arresting people.” Brandon Addicks, a straight man who was there with his girlfriend and some of her friends, said, “I saw a cop walk up behind a guy who was sitting at a table. The cop told him to stand up, and when the guy asked what for, the cop said, ‘You’re intoxicated.’ Then there was that guy getting the crap beat out of him there in the back. I have been in bars before when police have come in, and I have never seen anything like this.”
One patron suffered broken ribs, second had a broken thumb, and another experienced severe bruising and muscle strain. But that guy “getting the crap beat out of him” ended up in intensive care. Chad Gibson was walking down a hallways to a mens’ room when police threw him against the wall and slammed him down onto the brick floor. He suffered severe head trauma, which resulted in a brain hemorrhage. Police Chief Jeff Halstead however went to the media to claim that Gibson had “severe alcohol poisoning” and not a head injury, despite a number of credible eyewitness reports to the contrary.
The afternoon following the raid, a couple hundred people showed up to protest in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse to protest the raid. Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, addressed the crowd and called for “an immediate and thorough investigation Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member.
On July 1, the TABC acknowledged that Griffin had indeed suffered a head injury. At a community meeting that evening, Chief Halstead retreated from his earlier statements and announced that he would appoint an LGBT liaison — up until then, the nation’s seventeenth largest city still didn’t have one — and he would institute sensitivity training for the department’s officers. On July 2, TABC reassigned two agents to desk duty. while the Fort Worth Police Department announced they were suspending operations with state agents. Two weeks later, TABC Administrator Alan Steen apologized for the raid and said that his agents violated the agencies policies. “If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there.” In all, TABC tallied nineteen violations of state policy and fired three agents. Halstead also announced several FWPD policy changes as a result of the raid, and two officers were officially reprimanded for failing to follow procedures.
► John Inman: 1935-2007. The quintessential British poofter known for his role as Mr. Humphries in Are You Being Served? He was also a pantomime dame, a distinctly British form of drag performance (Dame Edna is actually Australian, but think of her and you get the idea.) “I’m a tits and feathers man,” he once said in explaining his love for show business. His character’s high camp and trademark high-pitched “I’m free!” in Are You Being Served? became a catchphrase in Britain.
Not everyone was amused. He was picketed by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality because they felt that his character posed a bad image for gay men. Inman said, “they thought I was over exaggerating the gay character. But I don’t think I do. In fact there are people far more camp than Mr. Humphries walking around this country. Anyway, I know for a fact that an enormous number of viewers like Mr. Humphries and don’t really care whether he’s camp or not. So far from doing harm to the homosexual image, I feel I might be doing some good.” In December 2005 he and his partner of 35 years, Ron Lynch, took part in a civil partnership ceremony at London’s Westminster Register Office. Inman died in 2007.
► Jim Kolbe: 1942. He is the former Republican Congressman for Arizona’s 8th congressional district — the district more recently held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before she resigned after being seriously injured in a 2011 shooting. Kolbe was outed in 1996 after voting for the Defense of Marriage Act. He was reelected to his seat in 1998, and in 2000, he became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention, although his speech did not address gay rights. He also continued to defend his vote for DOMA. “My vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was cast because of my view that states should be allowed to make that decision, about whether or not they would recognize gay marriages,” he said. “Certainly, I believe that states should have the right, as Vermont did, to provide for protections for such unions.” He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006.
By the time he was wrapping up his congressional service in 2006, Kolbe was a supporter of same-sex marriage, telling local audiences in Tucson that “in a few years,” same-sex marriage would be normal and uncontroversial. In 2008, his good friend Tim Bee, who was the state Senate Majority Leader, announced that he would run against Giffords for Congress, Kolbe agreed to serve in Bee’s election campaign. Kolbe withdrew his support however when Bee cast his tie-breaking vote to place the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot. Kolbe is currently a fellow at the German Marshall Fund.
► David Kopay: 1942. A former American football running back in the National Football League before retiring in 1972, David Kopay became one of the first professional male athletes to come out as gay in 1975. His 1977 biography, David Kopay Story, dished about the sexual adventures of his fellow heterosexual football teammates and revealed their widespread homophobia. In 1986, Kopay revealed his brief affair with Jerry Smith, who played for the Washington Redskins from 1965–1977 and who died of AIDS in 1986 without ever having publicly come out of the closet. He is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation, and he has been active in the Federation of Gay Games. Since Kopay came out, two other former NFL Players have come out as gay: Roy Simmons (1992), and Esera Tuaolo (2002). In February, University of Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam came out as gay. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, making him the first out current player in NFL history.
In 2007, Kopay announced he would leave an endowment of $1 million to the his alma mater University of Washington’s Q Center, a resource and support center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and faculty. He has said that it is one of the most important efforts he will ever undertake.
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?