The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 5

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2014

Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.



I’m not a police officer, so I don’t know what that life is like. I’m not an African-American, so I don’t know what that life is like either. But when a man says, “I can’t breathe,” you should let him breathe. And if he dies after saying it, then you should have let him breathe.

Fr. James Martin, S.J.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From a pamphlet printed in London in 1641 (Click to enlarge).

Bishop John Atherton Hanged for Buggery: 1640. The delicious irony was that the good bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland was one of the loudest proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. He then became the second person to be hanged under that statute. His his steward, tithe proctor and cohort, John Chidle, was also condemned to death.

The original trial records were destroyed in the civil wars that followed the overthrow of King Charles I in 1649, so virtually everything we know about the case comes from public pamphlets which were the equivalent of our tabloid press. Historians harbor some doubt as to whether Atherton was really guilty. In addition to being a bishop, Atherton was also a lawyer who apparently had some success in winning back some of the church’s lands from Irish landlords, an act for which he undoubtedly collected a number of powerful enemies. Puritans, who were active in trying to abolish the office of bishops in the Church of England — they succeeded in that endeavor after they overthrew King Chuck and lopped off his head nine years later — are also believed to have played a hand in Atherton’s downfall.

We may never know the true story of Atherton’s sexuality. But his death remains a warning to all nations who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.

Massachusetts Bay Court Sentences Woman for “Unseemly Practices”: 1642. The Essex County Court in Salem recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of same-sex relations between women in North America.


30 YEARS AGO: Berkeley Becomes First City To Approve Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1984. Six years earlier, Berkeley joined a growing number of cities and counties which had established a non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of sexual orientation. But when Tom Brougham began working for the city in 1979, he found that he couldn’t sign his partner up for health and dental benefits. They were only available to married spouses of city employees, and marriage was available only to heterosexual couples. Brougham proposed a new category for same-sex couples, which he called a “domestic partnership,” which initially had three requirements: 1) That, aside from being a same-sex couple, the partners would be otherwise meet all the other qualifications for marriage; 2), that they live together in the same residence; and 3) they were the sole domestic partners for each other. Over the next few years, two more qualificaitons were added: a requirement of mutual financial responsibility and both partners must be at least eighteen years old and able to enter a legal contract.

Brougham and his partner, Barry Warren, spent the next two years working with local unions and the University of California at Berkely to lobby the city council, but that effort proved unsuccessful. But in 1982, San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt noticed the proposal from across the bay and decided to try to push through a similar measure in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors approved what proved to be a fiercely controversial proposal, only to see it vetoed by mayor Diane Feinstein in December of that year.

Brougham, Warren and the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club then decided to step back and put together a methodical program to educate the East Bay community about domestic partnership benefits, organize a gay voting block in the city, and elect candidates who would support the proposal. In July of 1984, the city council was prepared to adopt the policy in principle, but they balked at the feared increases in health coverage costs. But the issue didn’t die there. During the November city council race, an approximation of marriage benefits for same-sex couples became a winning electoral issue when all those who had voted against implementing domestic partnerships were defeated. The following month, the new city council approved the measure, making the city the first in the nation to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

[Source: Leland Traiman. “A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]

Larry Kert: 1930-1991. The Hollywood High School graduate was only twenty when he joined a Broadway troupe for 1950 revue Tickets, Please! as his first professional credit. He then spent the next seven years working off-Broadway as a dancer. While dancing in the chorus for Sammy Davis, Jr., his friend and fellow dancer Chita Rivera persuaded him to audition for West Side Story. He didn’t make the cut, but a few months later Stephen Sondheim asked him to audition for the part of Tony, the role that Kert would originate when West Side Story debuted in 1957.

Consider the show’s creating team, and you have what would have had to have been the gayest production on the Great White Way: composer Leonard Bernstein (see Aug 25), lyricist Stephen Sondheim (see Mar 22), director and choreographer, Jerome Robbins (see Oct 11), book-writer Arthur Laurents (see Jul 14). Kert remained with the production for the next three years, and he became so closely identified with West Side Story that he found trouble finding work elsewhere. Even when he was invited to appear on television, it was to sing “Maria.” And yet, he was disappointed to find that he wouldn’t get to play Tony for the 1961 film version. Kert had hoped that it would open the doors to a film career, but the film’s producers didn’t think the thirty-year-old Kert could play a teenager.

From there, Kert’s career was characterized by a few successes in a field of sometimes spectacular failures. He appeared in the 1962 musical comedy A Family Affair, which ran for only 65 performances. The disastrous musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966) closed during previews. In 1968, Kert took over the role of Cliff in Cabaret and stayed with it for a year, but his next venture, 1969’s La Strada, closed on opening night. Kert then took over the lead role in Stephen Sondheim’s Company shortly after it opened on Broadway. Critics raved, and Kert became the first and only replacement actor to receive a Tony nomination.

Kert’s career continued more or less like that through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. While the uneven successes may have frustrated other actors, Kert was known for his upbeat attitude, whether he was performing on Broadway or in regional theater. “I love roller coasters, and I’ve been on one all my life,” he told one interviewer in 1988 while part of a touring company of La Cage of Folles. His last public performance was at the Rainbow and Stars Cabaret, where he joined his West Side Story co-star Carol Lawrence in reprising the musical’s popular numbers. He died eight months later, in 1991, of AIDS at the age of sixty. He was survived by his partner, Ron Pullen.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.


December 5th, 2014

Gays fracture another political party in Alberta!

After the turmoil over the lack of support for LGBT and racial minorities in the Alberta Wildrose Party (far right) led to the exit of some party members, it’s now the turn of the Progressive Conservative Party (right of center).

“Third reading of Bill 10, a controversial bill about student-led gay-straight alliances, has been put on hold for more consultation, says Alberta Premier Jim Prentice.”

“The province’s Progressive Conservative Party introduced the legislation on Monday, which effectively killed a private member’s bill to make gay-straight alliances mandatory in schools where students want them.”

“Liberal [center left] member of the legislature Laurie Blakeman said earlier this week that pressure from Catholic school boards compelled the Tories to jettison her Bill 202, which would have made the alliances mandatory in schools where students want them.”


December 5th, 2014

“But his death remains a warning to all nations who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.’

This is so true, but rarely said. It is just about the only argument that homophobes may be receptive to. It needs to be shouted in countries that criminalize or want to criminalize homosexuality and gay sex, especially African, Caribbean, Islamic and post-Soviet countries.


December 5th, 2014

Why was it necessary to ” take down” the man for selling cigarettes in the first place?


December 5th, 2014

Gay-straight alliance bill put on hold, says Alberta Premier Jim Prentice. Controversial Bill 10 had passed 2nd reading.

It is rather surprising that some elected members of the Conservative Party (equivalent to GOP in the USA), which forms the majority government, are opposing their own government’s plan to give schools (in practice, religious schools and right-leaning school boards) the option not to set up GSAs within schools, provided their students could attend GSAs in other ways (e.g. outside school).

The bill was all set to get 3rd reading, which is usually just a formality.


December 5th, 2014

Because unauthorized street vendors are removed by police all the time, and shops were complaining about vendors out in the streetwalk.

The problem was npt removing a guy for illegally selling cigarettes. The problem was a police officer used an illegal chokehold and on top of that applied all his wight on the guy’s neck.

More upsetting is the fact that while a grand jury failed to indict the negligent cop, a grand jury was happy to indict the guy filming the encounter.

You know, because we can’t have civilians filming cops to prevent their abuse of power. On top of the ridiculous syndicate protections cops have where they dodge jail terms a civilian would surely face.

Timothy Kincaid

December 5th, 2014

I was conflicted about Ferguson. There was enough contradictory testimony that I was uncertain as to whether Wilson could have felt threatened or would have been justified in shooting. I think a trial might have been a better result, but the grand jury sat through 70 hours of testimony that I wasn’t privy too.

But this… this we saw. With our own eyes.

This we need not know the thinking of a grand jury. We need not know counter evidence. We don’t have to ask who saw what and with what bias.

Here my eyes tell me that a forbidden chokehold was used. Forensics can tell me that Garner’s neck wasn’t damaged, but it cannot convince me that he wasn’t tackled by the neck.

Here my ears tell me that Garner couldn’t breath. Forensics can tell me that his airway was sufficiently clear, but it cannot convince me that Garner wasn’t having trouble breathing.

Garner died of cardiac arrest. But it did not come on out of the clear blue. And to dismiss Pantaleo’s role here is something that I cannot do.

And it gives me greater disquiet when thinks like Ferguson happen – I find myself now less willing to trust a jury system. It causes me to distrust the process that acquitted Pantaleo and to note that the same system plays out across the country.


December 5th, 2014

The Alberta GSA story may seem obscure and minor but it represents the change that deeply conservative American states are going through or are going to have to face in the near future. The suicide of a 12-year old California boy because he liked being a cheerleader reminds us – as if we needed it – that school kids are being bullied to death; GSAs have been shown to reduce bullying.

The right-wing Progressive Conservatives have been in power continuously since 1971. The Tar Sands boom has led to an influx of new workers with young families who are rapidly changing the demographics of the province.

In this video from CityTV Edmonton (owned by Rogers Communications = cable, cellphone, TV and radio stations), the breakfast show host sounds off on Bill 10.

“But Jespersen, echoing the sentiment of many Albertans, calls the bill “ridiculous,” “backwards,” and “hillbilly,” adding that it perpetuates “the rumours and the notions and the misconceptions that the rest of Canada has about some of Alberta’s population.””


December 6th, 2014

Hue-man: “The Alberta GSA story may seem obscure and minor but it represents the change that deeply conservative American states are going through or are going to have to face…”

I agree.

Hue-man: “But Jespersen, echoing the sentiment of many Albertans, calls the bill ‘ridiculous,’ ‘backwards,’ and ‘hillbilly,’ adding that it perpetuates “the rumours and the notions and the misconceptions that the rest of Canada has about some of Alberta’s population.””

I agree that this is telling and rather surprising, since at one time most Albertans aped Texas and would have been proud to be considered hillbilly. However, as you noted, Alberta has gotten a huge influx of newcomers from the rest of Canada and from foreign countries due to the oilsands boom, and they are younger and less conservative than native Albertans. This is moving Alberta’s politics to the right-of-centre and even the centre from the far-right.

As in Alberta, larger cities in many red US states benefit from internal migration from the rest of the USA, and younger generations are replacing older generations everywhere. However I am not sure that the influx of Hispanics will have a similar effect in Texas and other deep South states, since they may be just as conservative as local Americans.

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