The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, August 4

Jim Burroway

August 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 8.

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 8.

There’s a Thai restaurant there today.


New York TV Station Airs “Introduction to the Problem of Homosexuality”: 1956. The pioneering WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind”. The program, hosted by Richard Heffner, was not only well ahead of its time when it first went on the air in May 1956, it is still an acclaimed syndicated program on American Public Television, which Heffner hosted right up until his death in 2013. On August 4, 1956, Heffner hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality. And fortunately, the Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder featured a review of the program by Sten Russell (real name: Stella Rush). If it weren’t for her review, it might be difficult to reconstruct the discussions that took place that night.

According to Russell, the program featured attorney Florence Kelley, psychologist R.W. Laidlaw, and a clergyman by the name of Dr. August Swift. The program started on a relatively non-condemning note, although it wouldn’t take long for the prevailing prejudices about gay people to take root. When Heffner asked the panel whether homosexuality harmed society and should be punished by law, it was the clergyman who re-cast the question as to whether the law should concern itself with people who were not harming society. Kelley, the attorney, jumped in to counter that the law certainly should apply “when children were involved” — reflecting the common view that gays were child molesters — unless, she added, it was found that “homosexual offenders” could be treated. Laidlaw, the psychologist, said that of course they could be treated, to which Kelly retorted, “Yeah, anything can be treated… but how successfully?” Russell’s account indicated that the program continued along those lines:

The moderator asked if the homosexual could accept himself if society didn’t accept him. The conclusion was that it was very difficult, indeed. The moderator asked if there were cultural factors in the present making for more homosexuality. Miss Kelley asked if homosexuality were [sic] growing or just being more talked about. She cited Kinsey’s books as examples. The moderator said that the matter of national “security” had focused attention on this problem. He mentioned blackmail potential as part of the “security problem”.

Laidlaw said that a homosexual was not necessarily neurotic or psychotic, but that he was more likely to be in certain ways, due mainly to the pressures of public opinion which caused him to have to hide and cover up his actions and desires. Dean Swift was concerned as to the shock children experienced when approached by adult males. Laidlaw said that that depended on the predisposition of the child. Miss Kelley said that she was not worried about the “predisposition of the child,” but that the American Law Institute wished to protect any child from the traumatic shock of any sexual attack.

Despite the obvious prejudices, the program was (for 1956) relatively evenhanded and balanced — as balanced as a program like this could be where people were talking about another group of people who weren’t in the room. But even without the presence of a genuine gay person on the panel, the program proved controversial. New York’s Francis Cardinal Spellman threatened to go to the FCC to have NBC affiliate WRCA’s broadcasting license revoked. That did nothing to deter Heffner or WRCA. They scheduled another program on homosexuality the nearly two months later (see Sep 29) followed by another in January.

[Source: Sten Russell (pseudo. of Stella Rush) “The Open Mind: A Review of Three Programs.” The Ladder 2, no. 2 (November 1957): 4-7, 22.]

20 YEARS AGO: Pres. Clinton Forbids Denying Security Clearances Due To Sexual Orientation: 1995. President Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order officially banning discrimination  in granting security clearances based on sexual orientation. For decades, federal agencies routinely denied security clearances to gay people on the assumption that all gay people were subject to blackmail or were mentally ill. A 1953 Executive Order signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower included “sexual perversion” as a basis for firing from the federal workforce (see Apr 27). That ban was lifted in 1975 (see Jul 3), but policies regarded security clearances remained vague. A GAO study found that eight government agencies had already stopped using homosexuality as a reason for denying clearances, including the Defense Department, State Department, the FBI and the Secret Service, but other agencies continued the practice. Clinton’s Order established uniform standards for granting security clearances, and it added sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause. This Executive Order came two years after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was passed by Congress.

The Family “Research” Council’s Robert Maginnis denounced the move: “In all healthy societies, homosexuality is recognized as a pathology with very serious implications for a person’s behavior. … Even more importantly for security concerns, this is a behavior that is associated with a lot of anti-security markers such as drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity and violence.” FRC hasn’t changed much since then. Rep. Bob Dornan (R-CA), who was never at a loss for words when it came to outrageous statements, called gay people “promiscuous by definition,” and said that Clinton’s action was “something else he didn’t have to do that’s gotten in our face. I wouldn’t trust them with a $5 loan, let alone the nation’s secrets.”

San Franciscans celebrate after Prop 8 is declared unconstitutional.

San Franciscans celebrate after Prop 8 is declared unconstitutional.

5 YEARS AGO: California’s Prop 8 Declared Unconstitutional in Federal District Court: 2010. It’s hard to believe that only five years have passed since Federal Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision declaring California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. So much has happened since then that it almost seems like a lifetime ago. While Judge Walker found that the ban against marriage equality merited strict scrutiny he held that it didn’t matter because Prop 8 couldn’t withstand any level of scrutiny under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. He also found that animus against a minority was a critical element to Prop 8’s passage:

Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society. … The Proposition 8 campaign relied on fears that children exposed to the concept of same-sex marriages may become gay or lesbian. The reason children need to be protected from same-sex marriage was never articulated in official campaign advertisements. Nevertheless, the advertisements insinuated that learning about same-sex marriage could make a child gay or lesbian and that parents should dread having a gay or lesbian child.

Judge Walker concluded:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligations to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The case then went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which narrowed Judge Walker’s ruling considerably, holding that the key thing that made Prop 8 unconstitutional was that it took away a right from just one group of people who were already enjoying that right. According to the three judge Appeals panel, ” Withdrawing from a disfavored group the right to obtain a designation with significant societal consequences is different from declining to extend that designation in the first place, regardless of whether the right was withdrawn after a week, a year, or a decade. The action of changing something suggests a more deliberate purpose than does the inaction of leaving it as it is.”

The decision was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which took the case, heard oral arguments, and then on June 26, 2013, decided that Prop 8’s supporters didn’t have standing to appeal to the Ninth Circuit. That kicked the entire case back down and left Judge Walker’s ruling the final word on Prop 8. Two days later, gays were marrying again, after a nearly five year interruption to marriage equality.

Virgilio Piñera

Virgilio Piñera: 1912-1979. Born the son of a civil servant father and teacher mother in Cárdenas, western Cuba, Piñera’s childhood was about as normal as anyone else’s, but with one exception: he loved to read. Favorites ranged from Proust and Kafka to Moby Dick and Charles Dickens, which hinted at the future author, playwright and poet’s ability to pair ordinary Cuban street slang with a more rarified Spanish. His family moved to Camagüey while he was in his early teens, and that’s where he began writing. His first published poem El Grito Mudo (The Mute Scream) appeared in a Cuban poetry anthology in 1936, and he wrote his first play Clamor en el Penal (Noise in the Penitentiary) the following year while studying at Havana University.

Piñera’s career was an exercise in provocation and controversy. His 1948 play Electra Garrigó, which blasted the values of Cuba’s upper clsase and elicited angry shouts from the audience, many of whom walked out. It also coincided with his exile to Buenos Aires, where he founded the literary journal Ciclón and collaborated with some of the more innovative and revolutionary writers in Latin America. Piñera returned to Cuba in 1958, just in time to see Batista flee and Castro ride triumphant into Havana. Piñera began working on the newspaper Revolución. His 1962 play, the mostly autobiographical Aire Frío (Cold Air), opened to wide acclaim in Cuba and Latin America.

The good times were short-lived. The Castro regime, influenced by the ideals behind Soviet Realism, started clamping down on artists whose work weren’t transparent and easily accessible, qualities that Piñera’s work clearly did not share. His homosexuality only added to his problems. He was arrested during the government’s campaign against the “three Ps” — prostitutes, pimps and “pájaros,” Cuban slang for faggots. He was released soon after, but for the rest of his life few would touch his work, aside from a brief respite in 1968 when a Cuban literary house honored him theprestigious Casa de las Américas awarded for his play Dos Viejos Pánicos (Two Elderly People in a Panic). He died in Havana in 1979 from a heart attack, largely forgotten and officially ignored. But as the centenary of his birth approached in 2012, the official Cuban newspaper Granma declared the year, “El Año Virgiliano” with an officially-sponsored symposium in Havana and the re-staging of Aire Frío and Dos Viejos Pánicos.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. PLEASE, don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

Eric Payne

August 4th, 2015

Ummm … Guys …

Is everything okay behind the scenes at BTB? I can’t help but notice there’s been no real ongoing discussion among commenters … or that there’s been no updates/news coverage, outside of the “Daily Agenda” since July 23 and “Why not add Gypsies to the Pride Parade?”

Timothy Kincaid

August 4th, 2015


I think we are all just exhausted. Work is keeping me personally swamped and although there are a number of items I’d love to spout my views about (cuz you know you love my views, Eric), I am just too tired at the end of the day.

And weekends haven’t been much better – but for better reasons. It’s been non-stop social obligations all summer.

But I miss writing and promise to get back to it soon.

Eric Payne

August 4th, 2015


Don’t be so hard on yourself. If I didn’t think you displayed a modicum of proficiency, I wouldn’t read your material. If some of the things you say are viewed, by me, as off-the-wall idiocy, I’m going to point that out to you, in calm, measured, polite tones.

If you choose to be emotionally wounded by my commentary c’est le vie (which is French for “suck it up and quit your crying!”).

LOL…. :-)

Jim Burroway

August 5th, 2015

It’s the same situation with me. Ten-hour days at work (plus commute) means very little time and little energy to do much else during the week. As for the weekends, well they’ve been filling up also, not so much with social obligations, but obligations nevertheless.

I keep hoping the schedule will ease back up soon. There has been tons of stuff I’ve been wanting to write about, but I just haven’t had the time to give it the attention it deserves. Things should ease up by September, but I had once thought that would happen last May.

Eric Payne

August 5th, 2015

Jim and Timothy,

With the deaths, in the last 18 months, of Pam’s House Blend,, Bilerico and GayAmerica Blog, my concern is/was that the spark of creativity that is BTB might have burnt out, and that it was just, silently, going away.

I’m glad to see that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Hmmm … maybe you need someone to contribute who has a lot of time on their hands … who’s got a different, more liberal, point-of-view… who always seems to have something to say… and earned their living as a reporter/commenter in the gay press through the 1990s… but where to find such a person?

Ben in oakland

August 5th, 2015

There is probably another person, retired for the past few years, passionate about gay rights, and capable of writing complete sentences, who might also be able to contribute. The problem is, how to find such a person, And get his husband not to think that he’s wasting time writing to strangers and not making any money doing it.

Eric Payne

August 5th, 2015

@Ben in Oakland — How is it these people of whom we speak never had their paths cross in the past? BARring being prevented from meeting by some over-zealous sentinel, you would think the two would have crossed any frontiers to meet so that. At least, they could have bumped into each other in some metropolitan center and compared notes…

Ben in oakland

August 6th, 2015

So you’d think. But I would suspect that Either of us have met so many people over the last forty years that I’ve been living in the Bay Area. I wasn’t writing at the time for any of those publications, although I’m pretty sure I submitted a few articles or letters to them.

Perhaps it was this: back when I was working against the Briggs initiative in 1978, I Wrote the handbook that was used statewide to fight that asshole and his demagoguery, all this while being a full-time graduate student at Berkeley and doing an internship at the San Francisco child abuse Council. I was told by the radical left – my first Communists! Yay! – That I was far too conservative, and needed to be “politically correct.” When they used those words, I thought they were joking. I didn’t understand that communists don’t have a sense of humor.

When proposition eight raised its ugly head, I was told by the very conservative idiots running the campaign (so deep in the closeted mentality that they had a p.o. Box in Narnia) that I was far too radical, and needed to tone it down. Again, I thought they were joking. I didn’t understand that very conservative people also don’t have a sense of humor.

I’d like to think that if they had listened to me, as well as probably a few hundred other grounded, Gay individuals – I could not possibly have been the only one telling them what they didn’t want to hear – we would’ve won that one. I ended up working alone, writing to every single newspaper in the state worthy of the name with a letter or op-Ed.

In other words, I did my thing, whatever that was, unappreciated by both the left and the right. So we might have met – who knows – back in the day, and we just don’t remember it.

Eric Payne

August 8th, 2015

Hmmmm… I wasn’t around at the time of the Briggs Initiative, and had moved to Phoenix with my husband by the time Prop 8 rolled around. But I’d wager we met during Wilson’s AB101 fiasco.

Ben in oakland

August 8th, 2015

Was the the time he was so very supportive of gay rights until he actually had to be supportive of gay rights, and then remembered he had left the bathtub running?

Eric Payne

August 8th, 2015

That was the time that, when running for Governor, he had fundraisers in the City and LA specifically reaching out to the gay community and specifically promising to sign into law AB101 if it got out of the legislature and onto the governor’s desk. 1991’s AB101 was a statewide California ENDA-esque legislation.

Wilson got elected. AB101 passed out of the Assembly, and landed on now-Governor Pete Wilson’s desk … and languished. Weeks later, and the day before the bill would have become law without need of the governor’s signature, he vetoed it in the early evening of a Sunday.

There was immediate semi-rioting that Sunday night, but those riots were more of a rally than anything else. But on Tuesday night, there was a massive, planned “gathering” at the state offices in the City that became a full-on break-all-the-windows-and-glass-doors while setting fire to police cars, White Night redux.

Ben in Oakland

August 8th, 2015

That’s what I remember.

it’s why I haven’t voted for a Republican since Milton Marks and John Anderson.


August 10th, 2015

For what it’s worth, I would love to see Ben and Eric contribute. It has been rather depressing to see interesting news on my Facebook feed, only to see silence from this blog. I have always loved BTB’s diversity of opinion coupled with its measured, thoughtful approach to news. When so many blogs and “news” sites are happy to claim things like “so-and-so totally trashed this hater” or “Isn’t this person just totally awful, even though they haven’t done anything of relevance lately?” I could always rely on BTB to clarify that the trashing and awfulness were only true from a certain perspective, while offering legitimate critiques of anti-gay groups and their efforts. I hope we can see new discussions soon.

Ben in Oakland

August 10th, 2015

Thanks, Nathaniel.

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