The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 28

From The Advocate, August 24, 1977, page 34.

From The Advocate, August 24, 1977, page 34.

Before 1970 or so, films with gay characters were either tragic (you just knew someone was going to be killed or commit suicide), or were played for laughs. By the 1980s, films turned turned even more tragic, thanks to AIDS. But there was a brief moment, say in 1974 when A Very Natural Thing debuted, when a film about ordinary love and relationships between men could be released to the general public by a somewhat alt-mainstream company, which is what New Line Cinema was aspiring to be at the time.

A Very Natural Thing is regarded as the first American film about gay relationships intended for a mainstream audience. The film’s reception was ambiguous. Straight critics thought it was too political (two men in love, apparently, made it so), while gay critics were more inclined to think it wasn’t political enough (the characters were too white, too middle-class, too heteronormative). Producer/director Christopher Larkin thought all of the critics were reading too much into the film. “I wanted to say that same-sex relationships are no more problematic but no easier than any other human relationships. They are in many ways the same and in several ways different from heterosexual relationships but in themselves are no less possible or worthwhile.”

The German silent film Anders als die Andern (English title: “Different From the Others”) tells the story of a famous concert violinist, Paul Körner (played by Conrad Veidt, who later appeared in Casablanca as Major Heinrich Strasser) who falls in love with his student Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz). Both men experience disapproval from their parents The real-life Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the famous German sexologist and gay-rights advocate (see May 14), makes several cameo appearances in the film. In one scene, he explains to Körner’s parents that their son “is not to blame for his orientation. is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.”

Hirshfeld’s appearances appear directed more toward the audience than the characters he’s speaking to. In one flashback scene, when Körner first meets Hirschfeld’s character after discovering that an “ex-gay” hypnotherapist was a fraud (some things never change), Hirschfeld tells him, “Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite. This orientation can be found in all levels of society, and among respected people. Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance and bigotry.”

This film was no masterpiece. The acting is stilted, the plot is predictable. Another character, Franz Bollek, sees Körner and Sivers together, and confronts Körner in a blackmail attempt. Körner reports Bollek for blackmail and has him arrested. In retaliation, Bollek exposes Körner. Both men wind up in court, both are found guilty despite Hirshfeld’s testimony on Körner’s behalf (and another soliloquy for the audience). The judge has mercy on Körner by sentencing him to only one week. Apparently letting him go didn’t occur to the judge. Disgraced and shunned by his family, Körner kills himself. Sivers also tries to kill himself, but Hirschfeld intervenes with another polemic: “You have to keep living; live to change the prejudices by which this man has been made one of the countless victims. … Justice through knowledge!”

The film was originally released for general distribution, but it soon fell under official censorship and its showings were restricted to doctors and lawyers. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them. Only small fragments of the film survives today. A version has been reconstructed from those fragments and is available on DVD. Unfortunately, the films reconstruction relies on surviving stills and added title cards, which make up far too much of the reconstructed film to make it a satisfying experience beyond its historical interest. This clip includes one of Hirscheld’s cameos (beginning at 3:10):

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1972, page 15. (Source.)

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1972, page 15. (Source.)

Milwaukee’s Neptune Club appears to have only lasted about a year: “Neptune Club is believed to have been Chuck Cicirello‘s first gay bar. He later opened the Factory, which was to become the legendary Milwaukee dance/disco bar, followed by Factory 2 and 3, and other bars in later years.” As of last October, the ground floor of the building appears to be empty.

Hal Call (Sep 20), who took over the Mattachine Society in 1953 after ousting the old guard who founded the organization (Apr 11), recalled to James T. Sears his year of studying journalism at the University of Missouri after his discharge from the Army following World War II, and the scandal that broke out after he graduated (see below):

There were scandals, yes. E.K. Johnston was a professor and in line for the deanship of the journalism school at the University of Missouri. He was held in high regard and taught us the whole science of advertising and newspaper promotion, merchandising, and direct sales. He was also a faculty counselor — my counselor.

… No, not with me, but he was involved in homosexual activities with some students after I graduated. That spread over Missouri like wildfire.

He had to resign. I was up in Brookfield running a newspaper. Some of the merchants I called on for advertising knew I was a graduate from the school. They teased me about “taking that sex course from old E.K.” I was able to laugh it off. Secretly, I was embarrassed that they were attacking him. But what could I do?

[Source: James T. Sears. Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Routledge, 2011 ed.): 38, 40.]

From page 1 of The St. Joseph (MO) News-Press, May 27, 1948.

From page 1 of The St. Joseph (MO) News-Press, May 27, 1948.

A veteran University of Missouri journalism professor was arrested and charged with sodomy as Prosecutor Howard B. Lang, Jr. described to reporters fantastical tales of “mad homosexual parties” and “abnormal orgies” in Columbia, Missouri. According to the Associated Press on the day of his arrest:

The prosecuting attorney said he had issued a warrant for the arrest of E.K. Johnston, for 24 years a member of the faculty of the university’s school of journalism, after a long investigation into abnormal sex orgies here and other central Missouri cities. Two other men were held in the Boone County jail on similar charges. They are Willie Coots, a gift shop employee here, and Warren W. Heathman, 35, Rolla, Mo., an itinerant instructor for the Veteran Administration’s farm training program.

Lang said both had signed statements, implicating Johnston as a principal in what he called a homosexual “ring” at Johnston’s apartment which Coots had shared for the last 15 or 16 years. At least of score of University of Missouri students and other residents here, Lang said, also are implicated in the ring. No charges have been filed against any one except Coots, Heathman and Johnston, but several are being held in jail for investigation or as material witnesses.

Heathman, Lang reported, told a near-fantastic story of “mad parties” at Johnston’s apartment and at a cabin near Salem, Mo., in which as many as 30 members of the “ring” gathered to boast of conquests and to indulge in homosexual practices.

Johnston was released after posting a $3,500 bond (that would be nearly $35,000 in today’s money), and the university fired him the next day. Other students were subsequently arrested — some were beaten by police — then released, only to be dismissed by the university and sent home to their parents, who were told why they were expelled. One of the students committed suicide.

Johnson initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of sodomy, but after Coots and Heathman testified against him, he changed his plea to guilty. His attorney then called ten character witnesses in a bid to get Johnston sentenced to probation rather than a prison term. One witness, Dr. Edwin F. Gildea, head of the psychiatric department at Washington University in St. Louis, testified, “I examined him specifically for an hour this morning to find out of he would be a mecance to society. I do not believe that he is.” Other character witnesses included the dean and two professors from the Mizzou’s school of journalism. The testimony paid off, and Johnston was sentenced to four years’ probation under a $2,000 bond. Terms of the probation included “cessation of homosexual practices.” The others also pleaded guilty and were placed on probation.

Johnston was just one of a large number of students and faculty who were caught up in a wider anti-gay witch hunt then taking place on the UM campus, spearheaded by the university’s vice president Thomas A. Brady. In the late 1940s, the university had gained a reputation as a “safe haven” for gay people, and the state legislature exerted pressure to get them out of the university. The university set up an investigative committee under Brady’s guidance, and the committee set about identifying gay students and faculty based on the interviews with those who were offered immunity in return for testifying against the others. That investigation led Johnston’s arrest along with several other students. Decades later, some of those students recalled what those times were like:

“Phillip,” a former MU student interviewed by Jim Duggins of the GLBT Historical Society, describes running into a gay friend who’d been caught “at a party out in the woods in Salem, Mo., in a cabin, having a wild time.”

“The university got rid of everyone,” Phillip says. “Each student who had been involved had his transcripts stamped, ‘This student will not be readmitted to the University of Missouri until he is cleared of charges regarding homosexual activities.’ That’s why one kid killed himself right away, and others killed themselves during the ensuing months. It was just tragic.”

Phillip and the other interviewees also discuss the 1948 dismissal of MU advertising professor E.K. Johnston. “E.K. Johnston had been at the party,” Phillip says. “He was immediately dismissed; the chancellor of the university, or whoever it was, said, ‘We had no idea. Such a respected man,’ though Johnston had been talked about for years.”

The pall of those investigations, and the attitudes toward gay people that they engendered, hung over Mizzou for decades afterward. Bob Callis, who became dean after Brady’s retirement, wrote in a 1966 memo: “The record does show rather clear evidence that several incidences of homicide and suicide were a direct outgrowth of the activities of homosexual rings in operation at that time. Damage to human life and welfare of less serious proportion than suicide and homicide is also evident from the record.”

In 2006, after UM students approved a $63 million expansion and renovation of the student union building which had been named for Brady when it first opened in 1963, a campus controversy erupted when several students uncovered Brady’s anti-gay investigations and publicized them on campus. The students formed a group called Not My Brady and called for renaming Brady Commons. After all, they argued, it would essentially become an entirely new building for a new era, and keeping Brady’s name on it, given his anti-gay policies, was no longer appropriate. The university President and Chancellor both made it clear that they wouldn’t consider the change. But when the building opened in 2010, Brady’s name was quietly dropped. It is now officially the MU Student Center.

After his arrest and conviction in Columbia, Professor Johnston moved to Kansas City, where he lived until his death in 1990.

Daughters of Bilitis Convention Program.

When Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, the tiny group only had eight members (see Oct 19). Five years later, and the Daughters were large enough to hold its first biennial convention at the Hotel Whitcomb in San Francisco. The DoB’s press release announcing the convention was met mostly with silence, with a few sprinkles of condescension here and there. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen typified the latter when, while referring to a gay-baiting mayoral campaign the previous autumn (see Oct 7), he wrote, “Russ Wolden, if nobody else, will be interested to learn that the Daughters of Bilitis will hold their nat’l convention here May 27-30. They’re the female counterparts of the Mattachine Society — and one of the convention highlights will be an address by Atty. Morris Lowenthal titled ‘The Gay Bar in the Courts.’ Oh brother. I mean sister. Come to think of it, I don’t know what I mean.”

Two hundred women and men attended the convention, whose theme was “A Look At The Lesbian.” he convention began on Friday night with a cocktail party at Martin and Lyon’s home. The main convention occurred at the hotel on Saturday, with panels of speakers, a lunch, and a cocktail reception and banquet that night.  Just as lunch was about to be served, a detail from the San Francisco police department also showed up to have their own look at the lesbians, specifically to make sure the ladies were wearing ladies’ clothing. SFPD had a long history of harassing lesbians dressed in slacks, jeans, or shirts with the buttons on the wrong side. As the Daughters had long emphasized outward conformity in the hopes that it would put larger society at ease, they were already prepared for the inspection. Del Martin brought the police inside so they could verify that everyone — the women, anyway — were wearing dresses, stockings and heels.

The convention went off without further disruptions from police, but the same couldn’t be said about some of the invited speakers. As Helen Sandoz (see Nov 2) reported in the DoB’s newsletter, The Ladder:

Saturday was a day to remember. We started out with the usual panel … the pat on the head… the understanding… the back-up by professionals. So, another homophile convention was under way in the usual manner. Then lunchtime came. An Episcopal minister served up our dessert with damnation.

Stella Rush provided more details about the brimstone delivered by Rev. Fordyce Eastburn, Episcopal chaplain at San Francisco’s St. Luke’s Hospital:

Having admitted that homosexuality was an unknown island to him, Rev. Eastburn proceeded to inform us that he felt that homosexuality was a “primary disorder of the Divine Plan.” …Homosexuals, he told us, were: 1, afflicted with a disorder of nature; 2, must attempt to stay away from their sources of temptation; and 3, should take therapy and attempt to make a heterosexual adjustment to life. (If you can’t make number three, I presume that leaves you celibate, presuming further that you’re capable of remaining  celibate and retaining your sanity.) …Well, it was a real different kind of luncheon, you had to admit that!

The gathering remained polite, despite the seething anger building in the crowd. Martin had invited Eastburn in the hopes if “open(ing) a door to communication with the church.” But Rush remembered, “It was awful — once more we were being told we were sinners. The men and women activists held up well, for they had come to accept themselves. But a gay boy I knew in L.A., who had no ties or experience in ONE, Inc., or the Mattachine and had come at my invitation, was harmed rather than helped. I lost his friendship over it.”

Things calmed down a bit, only to heat up again during a mid-afternoon debate between opposing lawyers in a gay bar case. Sidney Feinberg, North Coastal Area Administrator of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, defended the ABC’s practice of arresting gay bar patrons who propositioned undercover officers. One man at the convention rose up to ask a simple question:

“Sir,” the man asked timidly, “What is wrong with the person so approached saying ‘no’?” Mr. Feinberg asked in thundering tones whether the young man realized what he was asking. He was implying that to be protected all anyone had to do was say “No.” (Yes, it appeared as if that was what the young man was saying.) Such an implication seemed to inflame Mr. Feinberg greatly; certainly it was clear that such a thesis would put the ABC out of the job it said it wanted to be put out of. Mr. Feinberg expostulated that a man di d not have to accept the proposition of a prostitute either, did the questioner mean to imply that there should be no repression of prostitutes? There was a sprinkling of affirmations from the audience of those who believed there should be no such repression, and Mr. Feinberg became even more agitated. He stated in effect that if the audience did not even see eye-to-eye with the Law on something like that, that we would pursue two parallel lines in discussion and never come to any understanding.

Another queried, “Sir, would it be considered ‘indecent’ in a bar for men to be dancing together?” Mr. Feinberg opined that it would. The young man asked, “Why?” Mr. Feinberg said that such at hing was offensive. Another male member of the audience asked rather curtly, “Offensive to whom?” Mr. Feinberg became even more agitated, and the tension in the audience rose proportionately. “Offensive to the public.” Someone else asked, “Who decides what is offensive to the public? You?”

Finally it was Morris Lowenthal’s turn to speak. Lowenthal was a San Francisco attorney who successfully defended a gay bar that the ABC had tried to shut down. As Lowenthal detailed the ABC’s many attempts to shut down gay bars solely on the basis of the makeup of its clientele — as “resorts for sex perverts,” as ABC policy put it. The heated exchange that followed not only shocked the audience, but even made it into the Sam Francisco newspapers. Again, Rush described what happened:

Mr. Feinberg, who had been crouched over the table all this time, obviously fuming, erupted with a demand that he be allowed rebuttal time at the end of Mr. Lowenthal’s discourse.  …Mr. Feinberg was almost incoherent with fury until he calmed down a bit and tried to refute Mr. Lowenthal. Unfortunately he did not use facts, but sheer passion and sound decibles. I felt a rumble which literally rose from the floor, a very frightening feeling to one who has never been in such a position before. Mr. Feinberg attacked Mr. Lowenthal as having accused State officials of corruption, bribery and blackmail.

The audience, which had borne patiently the fireworks up to that point, became angered at tactics which it felt were not only unfair, but untrue. Also the audience was much impressed by the fact that whatever the merits of anybody’s case, Mr. Lovlenthal had at no time raised his voice, shouted or become angry.

Del Martin managed to calm the waters before open rebellion broke out, and was undoubtedly relieved when the time came to bang the gavel and move the convention to the next item on the agenda. The rest of the convention went on without interruption or aggravation. That night, they even gave out honorary S.O.B.’s — a “Sons of Bilitis” award to nearly a dozen male activists and allies. By Sunday night, while Lisa Ben (see Nov 7) delighted the crowd with her gay-themed songs and parodies, the organizers and attendees were overjoyed at the convention’s success. Sandoz ended her report in The Ladder with a note of thanks to everyone who attended, including those who were uninvited or otherwise less than welcome:

Those of us who attended will never forget the excitement, the living proof of our worth. It was a timely shot in the arm when so much is adverse in so many areas. Thank you, DOB, ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control); Vice Squad, professional folk… thank you all for letting us see you and letting you see us.

[Sources: Sten Russell and Helen Sanders (pseudonyms for Stella Rush and Helen Sandoz). “Convention Highlights.” The Ladder 4, no. 9 (June 1960): 5-6, 25.

Sten Russell (pseudonym for Stella Rush). “DOB Convention: A Look At The Lesbian.” The Ladder 4, no. 10 (July 1960): 6-25.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006): 60-66.

Vernon Scott, UPI’s Hollywood correspondent, filed this breaking news item:

Ask a man what he does for a living in Hollywood — or Tulsa — and if he answers “interior decorator, a deadly silence ensues. He would be better off admitting he is a safecracker or even an actor.

An interior designer is immediately suspect. Any guy who makes a bock matching puce draperies with vermillion carpets and Louis XIV breakfronts must defend his manhood, or at least stake a claim to it, or be classified as, er… well, sissy.

In most cases interior decorators would have a tough time passing ink-blot tests, much less the marine psychological examination.

This state of affairs — the overwhelming number of effeminate men in the decorating business — infuriates a red-bearded Englishman named Ian Phillips who designs interiors for movie and television personalities. Phillips has decorated the homes of such luminaries as Annette Funicello, Glenn Campbell, Mike Landon, Rod Taylor and Barbara Eden, and Mike Ansara.

“I’m fighting the control the homosexuals have over interior decoration in this town and in other major cities,” Phillips said, pounding the table. “How can these creatures express a truly masculine attitude in a home, or a really feminine touch? They’re lost somewhere in between.”

Phillips finds himself swearing lustily and throwing references into his conversation about his four years as a British naval commando to remove the onus his profession forces on him. “This profession is badly in need of young people who can bring in new ideas. But they don’t want to be tagged as something less than men because the limp-wrist characters have taken over.”

The only reference to Ian Phillips that I can find online is that he was hired as Special Interior Decorator for the 1965 film, How to Stuff A Wild Bikini, starring Annette Funicello and Dwayne Hickman. The New York Times called it “an answer to a moron’s prayer.”

President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality on this date. For several years, Moscow gay rights advocates tried to commemorate the anniversary of this historic event by conducting a gay pride march in Moscow. And every year, Moscow authorities have suppressed the march, usually violently. In 2013, Russia upped the ante when President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure which ostensibly bans distributing “pro-homosexual propaganda” to minors, but which is so broadly written as to ban virtually all pro-LGBT advocacy anywhere in Russia.

The American novelist and short story writer is known among lesbian pulp fiction fans as Vin Packer, and among fans of young adult fiction as M.E. Kerr. Her 1952 paperback, Spring Fire, is often considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel. Maker worked on the novel while working as a proofreader at Gold Medal Books. She got Spring Fire published there by posing as a literary agent representing an author named “Vin Packer.”

Spring Fire, was a hit, but the nature of the audience caught Gold Medal Books by surprised. “Spring Fire was not aimed at any lesbian market,” Meaker said in 1989, “because there wasn’t any that we knew about. I was just out of college. We were amazed, floored, by the mail that poured in. That was the first time anyone was aware of the gay audience out there.” Thrilled with Spring Fire’s success, Gold Medal sought more stories from Vin Packer, who proceeded to produce twenty pulp fiction novels between 1952 and 1969.

Inspired by Donald Webster Cory’s groundbreaking book The Homosexual in America (see Sep 18), Meaker’s second persona, Ann Aldrich, published a series of nonfiction works to describe the the lesbian experience in 1950s America. We Walk Alone appeared in 1955 to mixed reviews. While it was an eye opener to general audiences, lesbians weren’t so taken with it, with many of those criticisms being played out in the pages of the Daughters of Bilitis’ newsletter The Ladder. Aldrich’s 1958 follow-up, We, Too, Must Love (1958), did little to win over her lesbian critics who, in the 1950s, were desperate to see lesbians portrayed in a much more ordinary and “adjusted” (read: unobjectionable) manner as possible. Del Martin (see May 5) wrote:

Your intentions are admirable, Miss Aldrich, but somehow we feel that you have not reached your objective. You have glossed over that segment of the Lesbian population which we consider to be the “majority” of this minority group. We refer to those who have made an adjustment to self and society and who are leading constructive, useful lives in the community in which they live. While we will grant you that the “average” Lesbian, like any other “average”, makes dull reading, you must concede that without inclusion of this group you have not painted a well-rounded and true picture of Lesbian life. …Lesbian life which you have depicted may be likened to a similar study of heterosexual life in which only the Skid Road characters and the well-to-do are delineated. …Surely in your 18 years of Lesbian experience you have met those capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation.”

Meaker became a successful young adult fiction writer under the pseudonym M.E. Kerr, beginning in 1972, covering topics which weren’t usually covered by books for that audience: racism, absent parents, homosexuality and, later, AIDS. Her first book as M.E. Kerr, 1972’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, had as a central character an overweight girl, and was listed by the School Library Journal as one of the 100 most significant books for children and young adults. She also wrote four books for younger audiences under the pseudonym Mary James.

Meaker had a contentious relationship from 1959 to 1961 with the eccentric author Patricia Highsmith (see Jan 19), which Meaker wrote about in the 2003 memoir, Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s. Meanwhile, a whole new audience has rediscovered her pioneering pulp fiction work, with collectors driving up prices on original paperbacks. Cleis Press re-released a large number of titles since 2011 in paperback and for Kindle.

House GOP Caucus Heard “Homosexuals Worthy Of Death” Verse Before Spending Bill Vote

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

I mentioned this earlier, but Roll Call has just come out with more details:

Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment it included from Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York that would prevent federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” read lines 28-32, which Allen also read, according to his office.

The night before, the full House — with the help of 43 Republicans — approved an amendment offered by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) Malone to restore President Obama’s LGBT non-discrimnation Executive Order. The order is threatened by a clause inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) into a VA spending bill passed by the House last week that would overturn it.

Following the prayer/sermon/caucus meeting this morning, 130 of the 246 House Republicans– well more than half the caucus — defeated the energy spending bill, with many of those voting against it citing specifically citing Maloney’s amendment. When Maloney heard about the GOP conference prayer/sermon, he declared, “To suggest that protecting people from being fired because of who they are means eternal damnation, then I think they are starting to show their true colors.”

Only 106 Republicans joined six Democrats to support the bill. Democratic opposition centered around a another amendment added to the spending bill after Maloney’s amendment was approved that would prevent the Obama administration from reducing Title IX and other funding to North Carolina over that state’s discriminatory anti-trans legislation. Exchanging one form of discrimination for another made the prospect of voting for the larger spending bill anathema to all but six Democrats.

What Went Wrong Today: Same As Before, But With A Twist

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

Emmarie Huetteman at the New York Times has an interesting analysis of what went wrong today when House Republicans derailed their own spending bill due to the inclusion of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-NY) amendment restoring Obama’s Executive Order requiring federal contractors to provide anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That Executive Order is threatened by a clause inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) into a VA spending bill passed by the House last week that would overturn it. After Maloney’s amendment to the Energy spending bill restoring Obama’s order was approved late yesterday, the House turned around and voted down the entire bill today.

So what happened?

During the revolt that drove out Speaker John A. Boehner last fall, Republicans demanded a more rule-abiding House, where members would be allowed to introduce amendments and there would be votes on appropriations bills. (House Speaker Paul Ryan), so dedicated to procedure that in January he cut off a key vote to rebuke tardy lawmakers, agreed.

Now, with bipartisan majorities forming around amendments like anti-discrimination legislation for gay men and lesbians, some House Republicans are having second thoughts.

…After the amendment’s passage, several Republicans told Mr. Ryan during a private meeting Thursday that they were not so keen on regular order, as the process of parliamentary rule-following is called, after all, according to members present.

Mr. Ryan said the collapse was to be expected. When he agreed to more amendments, he said, he understood “that some bills might fail, because we’re not going to tightly control the process and predetermine the outcome of everything around here. Well, that’s what happened here today.”

It might be tempting to say that the Tea Party wing of the GOP was hoisted on its own petard, but in the end it’s hard to know exactly whose petard got hoisted. Ryan blamed the Democrats for the bill’s failure. Only six voted for the measure. But the thing is, 130 Republicans — more than half of the GOP caucus, joined the Democrats to defeat the bill, against only 106 Republicans supporting it. That same infighting is also why House Republicans haven’t been able to produce a budget this year. So House Republicans continue to demonstrate their ongoing inability to govern their own caucus, let alone the House.

Ryan’s ascendency to the Speakership was supposed to usher in a new era, with the House getting things done and following the rules. The past two weeks have demonstrated that this new era, lasting not quite five months, now lies in shambles. In the end, the new era — the new ways of doing things — fell victim to the same forces that brought down the old era under Boehner. So how do they fix that? Well, it looks like there’s even more  talk today about dropping “regular order” and going back to the way things were done when Boehner was Speaker. We know how that worked out.

Did Chiapas Just Legalize Gay Marriage?

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

Mexico Map

Note: Sonora (cross-hatched) had it briefly, but it’s back on hold for now.

Political and judicial processes in Mexico can be pretty inscrutable sometimes. And the political realities of Chiapas adds yet a layer of complexity way beyond what you find in the rest of Mexico. Add to that, this report itself is quite a challenge to my clearly-non-native-speaking Spanish skills (I can still mostly read it, but I can no longer hear it or speak it fluently) and to Google Translate. So let’s give it a try with what I do know. To begin with, let’s get up to speed with what has been going on in the southern state of Chiapas (and also Puebla). Take it away, Rex:

When any law is passed in Mexico and takes effect, there is a 30-day window for specific governmental entities to challenge that law with an “action of unconstitutionality” filed with the full Supreme Court. What Jalisco did is change the legal age for marriage and, in the process, in one sentence of the revised law, it mentioned that marriage is man-woman. This qualified that man-woman language as a “new” law that could be challenged during the 30 days after it took effect. The National Human Rights Commission filed an action of unconstitutionality against the language and the SCJN struck down Jalisco’s ban on same-sex marriage in a unanimous ruling with immediate effect.

The states of Chiapas and Puebla also recently altered their marriage laws — again not specifically having to do with marriage being between a man and a woman — and made the same “mistake” (or perhaps deliberate decision) that Jalisco did. They mentioned in the revised law that marriage is man-woman. Lawsuits were quickly filed with the Supreme Court and are pending.

Given recent Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) rulings, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that it will strike down the newly-revised marriage laws in Chiapas and Puebla as it did in Jalisco.

With everybody able to see the writing on the wall, there has been considerable rumblings in Chiapas that they want to get on the right side of things before the SCJN acts. This article quotes Maria Mendoza, a representative of the indigenous United Chiapas party and president of the State Congress’s Equity and Gender Commission, as giving assurances that an initiative to reform the state constitution and a final draft of changes to to its civil laws will be presented to the legislature “to guarantee legal unions between persons of the same sex.” Citing forthcoming SCJN rulings and President Enrique Peña Nieto’s initiative to reform the federal constitution to legalize same-sex marriage, Mendoza added that the commission was working to gain consensus with other groups in Chiapas, but that in the end “we must comply with a mandate from the Supreme Court.”

This article gets a bit more specific about what the Equity and Gender Commission planned to propose: “By proposing reforms to articles 144 and 145 of the Civil Code, the Legislature would modify the definition of marriage so that is is not a contract celebrated exclusively between a man and a woman, but between two people, independent of gender.” The article goes on the state that this initiative would allow Chiapas to avoid a Supreme Court mandate to change the code in response to the pending “action of unconstitutionality.”

Then there’s this article, the main thrust of which discusses the local Catholic bishop’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Towards the end, it confirms that the Equity and Gender Commission is working to get the marriage equality legislation approved “before the federal reform.”

So we know that something is in the works, which brings me back to that very first confusing article. The title is clear: “(Chiapas) Congress Approves Amendments to the Law For Equal Marriage”. The report goes something like this:

“With 33 votes in favor, Tuesday the LXVI Legislature approved, in general and particular, the dictamen presented by the Equity and Gender Commission on the initiative decree for reforming and adding various implementations to enable the celebration of marriage equality in Chiapas.”

What is a dictamen? Some dictionaries render it as an authoritative report (i.e. expert witness report), and others describe it as a legal opinion, a ruling or a verdict. And so if the legislature adopts the dictamen in a roll-call vote, does that mean that it also adopted the dictamen’s proposals to reform the Civil Code?

Misael Zeñay, writing for the Oye Chiapas website, seems to think so, adding that “the vote was made very quickly, with seven deputies not in attendance, and with the support of the remaining 33 in attendance voting in favor.”

So based on this single report, it looks like this is a done deal. My only problem right now is that this, so far, is the only report that I’ve been able to find in the Mexican media saying that Chiapas legalized same-sex marriage. There may be good reasons for this. The debate and vote was very quick, as Oye Chiapas reported. The session was moved up four hours due to a threat of violent protests which would prevent lawmakers from leaving Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state’s capital. Those protests also incentivised the legislature to hurry up and get out of there, taking just twelve minutes to dispense with all three items on its agenda.

chiapas-marchaUndoubtedly some of those protests (one of which the next day involved the brief abduction of the state Congress’s president and another deputy) overshadowed anything else happening in the state. I can find all kinds of news articles about a massive teacher’s protest that broke out in Tuxtla Gutierrez blocking the main highways and paralyzing the city. Also, a mayor of Chenalhó was forced to resign — that protest led to those abductions I mentioned earlier. And if that weren’t enough, four pregnant women in Chiapas were confirmed to have been infected with the Zika virus.

So there’s a lot going on in Chiapas, and their news media, like ours, can only handle so many big stories at a time. But still — only one published story two days after the deed was done? I don’t know. It looks like something happened, but it looks like we will have to wait and see to know for sure.

Updated: The House May Have Passed the LGBT Amendment, But They Defeated The Larger Bill

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

The House rejected a appropriations bill for the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation and several other commissions. The huge $37.4 billion spending bill went down 112-305. Dems lined up against the measure, citing such poison pill provisions as amendment targeting the Iran nuclear deal and prohibiting the Obama administration from revoking Title IX funds previously appropriated for North Carolina and Mississippi over those states’ anti-trans bathroom bills. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) was among those voting against the bill:

Ultimately, though, Maloney said he voted ‘no’ on the Energy-Water bill, which included his LGBT anti-discrimination amendment. He pointed to a subsequent amendment by Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.,   which prohibits the Obama administration from blocking North Carolina from receiving federal funds in retaliation to its transgender bathroom law. That measure was adopted 227-192.

“I wasn’t about to support the Pittenger amendment … having fought all week to get workplace protections,” Maloney said. “We won the vote last night. That’s an important victory. It shows there is a majority in the House that supports work place protection.”

Update:  Politico adds this bit of inside baseball:

Some GOP lawmakers were furious over Rep. Rick Allen’s (R-Ga.) comments on the LGBT issue at a GOP Conference meeting prior to the vote.

Allen read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles if they supported the bill.

But moderate Republicans were stunned by Allen’s remarks, and some walked out of the meeting in protest, according to GOP lawmakers.

“A good number of members were furious,” said one Republican, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “There was some Scripture that was read and the like … Nothing good was going to happen to those that supported [the LGBT provision.] A good number of members were furious.”

An amendment offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) added a line saying that Maloney’s provision, which restored Obama’s Executive Order requiring federal contractors to provide anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, would not conflict with “the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.” The hope was that this caveat would reassure more conservative members of the caucus. But this morning, those conservatives informed leadership that they would not support the appropriations bill with Maloney’s amendment attached. Those conservatives said that GOP leadership never should have allowed Maloney’s amendment to be vote on in the first place. Meanwhile, Democrats also abandoned the bill over the Title IX amendment and other provisions targeting climate change science and withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities.”

House Finally Passes LGBT Anti-Discrimination Measure

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2016

Remember that amendment that Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) tried to attach to veterans spending bill last week that would uphold President Obama’s Executive Order requiring federal contractors to maintain anti-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity? Remember that he tried to attach that amendment because Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) had inserted a provision that would have overturned Obama’s Executive Order? And remember how House GOP leaders went through extra lengths — even going so far as to openly break their own House rules to do it — to see Maloney’s amendment defeated?

Well, the House has approved Maloney’s measure as an amendment to an Energy Department appropriations bill. The vote was 223-195 late Wednesday night. Forty-three Republicans joined all voting Democrats to support the amendment. According to The Hill:

Republicans were more prepared this time for Maloney’s amendment since it was clear ahead of time that it would come up for a vote. Last week’s vote, meanwhile, came with little warning, which resulted in GOP leaders partaking in the last-minute arm-twisting.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) offered a counter-amendment so that Maloney’s proposal would be modified by stating that no funds could be used in contravention of the LGBT executive order except as “required by the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.”

“Does anyone in this chamber seriously oppose Article I of the constitution, the First Amendment, or the 14th Amendment?” Pitts asked.

Maloney allowed Pitts’s amendment to pass by voice vote, saying that he had no objection to simply stating adherence to the Constitution.

“What do you say we abide by the whole Constitution? The part that tries to make it more progressive, more inclusive of people like me, of people of color, of women, of people who were shut out when it was written. How about we include the whole Constitution? Can we do that?” Maloney said.

All seven Republicans who switched their vote last week wound up voting for Maloney’s amendment.

Earlier that evening, the House approved an amendment from Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) which prohibits the Obama administration from revoking Title IX funds previously appropriated for North Carolina over the state’s anti-trans bathroom bill.

The whole bill goes before the House on Thursday, and will need to be reconciled with the Senate version which does not include Maloney’s amendment.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 26

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 16.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 16.

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