The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 21

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the 1988 Arizona Gay Rodeo Souvenir Program, page 15.

From the 1988 Arizona Gay Rodeo Souvenir Program, page 15. (Source.)

From January 1, 1992:

An onslaught of traffic problems, noise and trash is the issue – not that an establishment frequented by homosexuals wants to move near the area – residents of a northwest Oklahoma City neighborhood said Tuesday.

But City Councilman Mark Schwartz said the sexual preference of patrons of the Bunkhouse bar seems to be a crucial issue to residents protesting the bar’s relocation bid for a site near NW 39 and Frankford Ave. “The nature of the letters (from residents) I have received are very discouraging. The question today is where this is going to be located, not who is going in it. In the letters, they say this is not the issue, yet they go on directly to say, ‘this is the issue, this is the issue. ‘ I find this disturbing,” Schwartz said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The Ward 2 councilman’s comments came as the council considered an application by Susan Cummings Martin for a permit to open a restaurant that serves alcohol at 2800 NW 39, in the building that formerly housed the Sweis’s Family Restaurant. At a previous meeting, Martin said she planned to lease the building to the owners of the Bunkhouse, now a bar at 2807 NW 36, where the owner said many of the patrons are homosexual.

…Residents living near the site adamantly denied that their protest was based on bias against homosexuals. Rather, they are worried that noise, increased traffic and trash that result from some establishments will be dumped on their residential area, said resident Leroy Hatfield.

“At the Planning Commission it was hinted at that our protest was based on lifestyles. Our protest is not against lifestyles, but our right to protect our lifestyles,” Hatfield told the council.

Marlin Hawkins, building controller for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which has offices in the former Allied Bank building at 3800 N May, told the council that the restaurant would “adversely affect our investment in that building” and “cause further retail development to be stymied” and “the slow demise of the neighborhood area. ” After much discussion, and even a 15-minute time-out period where it was hoped that both parties would be able to privately come up with a resolution, the council tabled the matter for three weeks to allow for more talks between the bar owners and nearby residents.

Oklahoma Prohibits Gay Teachers: 1978. When Oklahoma State Sen. Mary Helm (R-OKC) introduced the “Teacher Fitness Statute” in the state Senate, she had more than just gay teachers in her sights. The bill would allow public schools to fire or refuse to hire anyone who engaged in “public homosexuality activity,” which the proposed broadly defined to also include not just sexual activity, but also “advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting public or private homosexual activities in a manner that creates a substantial risk that such conduct will come to the attention of schoolchildren or school employees.”

Think of what that meant. A straight teacher writing a letter to the editor supporting gay rights or, perhaps, denouncing the formation of a student KKK chapter in the public schools to bash gay people — which occurred in the northern suburbs of Oklahoma City soon after the bill was introduced (see Jan 25) — that teacher would be subject to being fired by the school board. But lawmakers weren’t focused on gay bashing, but on anyone who might publicly say that gay bashing was abhorrent. When the bill was introduced into the House by Rep. John Monks (D-Muskogee), he told reporters that the measure would allow school boards to “fire those who are afflicted with this degenerate problem … people who are mentally deranged this way.” (Monks was famous for saying stupid shit. In a successful effort to defeat a bill to ban cockfighting, Monks thundered, “In every country the communists have taken over, the first thing they do is outlaw cockfighting.”)

When the House passed the measure by a lopsided 88-2 vote without debate on February 7, the Associated Press speculated that “it is expected to face stiffer opposition in the Senate.” Fat chance. Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma who was fresh off of her victory in repealing a gay rights ordinance in Miami (see Jun 7), lobbied the state Senate to prohibit “the flaunting of homosexuality.” On February 21, the Senate passed the bill unanimously, and it quickly became law in April.

It took two years before the National Gay Task Force could even find a teacher willing to challenge the law. But after several false starts, the NGTF was finally able to bring a case to Federal Court challenging the law’s constitutionality. After the slow trek through the appeals process, the United States Supreme Court finally let stand an Appeals Court ruling striking down the law in 1985 (see Mar 26).

West Hollywood Enacts First Domestic Partnership Registry: 1985. The City of West Hollywood had only incorporated itself as a city just three months earlier when voters in the unincorporated area approved a proposal for incorporation and, simultaneously in the same election, elected its first city council (see Nov 6). With gays making up an estimated 40% of the new city’s population as well as three of the five new council members, gay leaders hailed the creation of a “gay Camelot.”

And now, three months later, West Hollywood made the first steps toward bringing those hopes to fruition when the city council unanimously adopted a law which allowed unmarried couples the right to register their relationships with the city. Termed “Domestic Partnerships,” the new law was intended to eventually provide insurance coverage for partners of city employees, and more immediately, a guarantee of hospital visitation rights. But domestic partnerships carried more symbolic than legal weight, with very few tangible benefits.

The law had already hit its first roadblock when the city’s Personnel Benefits Commission announced that they had already spent two months unsuccessfully trying to find an insurance carrier willing to provide coverage for domestic partners. As for hospital visitation rights, there were no major hospitals in West Hollywood. Mayor Valerie Terrigno said she planned to meet with officials at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where many West Hollywood residents with AIDS went for hospital care. Paula Correia, Cedars-Sinai’s public relations officers, said that the hospital already allowed friends and relatives to visit during regular visiting hours, except for the “extremely rare” cases when a patient’s relatives object. “We’ve dealt with them on a case-by-case basis,” said Correia, which only served to highlight the pressing need for guarantees of visitation rights.

Atlanta Gay Bar Bombed: 1997. Memrie Wells-Cresswell, of Snellville, GA, went to Atlanta’s Otherside Lounge to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Memrie had not told many people that she was lesbian, but the bombing that night at the popular lesbian bar would change all that. Five people were injured, but hers were the most serious: a three to four inch nail entered her arm and severed a brachial artery. When Mayor Bill Campbell mentioned her by name everyone suddenly knew her secret, including her employer who fired her. She later told The Advocate, “The company ended up giving me some hush money just to make me go away.”

Police found a second bomb just outside the bar, which they detonated with a robot. It had been placed there to harm police and medical workers responding to the first explosion. That fit a pattern established with two earlier Atlanta bombings, one at the Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996 and another at an Atlanta abortion clinic on January 16, 1997. Three days after the Otherside Lounge Bombing, police received a letter from an organization calling themselves The Army of God claiming responsibility. The letter threatened “total war” and promised more attacks against abortion clinics and gay people.

In 1998, Federal Authorities charged Eric Rudolph with the three Atlanta bombings and a fourth one at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. They spent the next four and a half years looking for him around the town of Murphy, North Carolina, where Randolph spent his teenage years. Murphy residents printed tee-shirts reading “Run, Rudolph Run.” He was finally captured there on May 31, 2003. He was well-groomed and well-fed, suggesting he had help in Murphy. On August 13, 2005, Rudolph pleaded guilty to all four bombings in a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid the death penalty. In an eleven page statement, he wrote, “Whether it is gay marriage, homosexual adoption, hate crimes laws including gays, or the attempt to introduce a homosexual normalizing curriculum into our schools, all of these efforts should be ruthlessly opposed.” He also said that the attack on The Otherside Lounge was “meant to send a powerful message in protest of Washington’s continued tolerance and support for the homosexual political agenda.” He is currently serving four life sentences.

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?

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