Morelos Lawmakers Approve Constitutional Changes To Enact Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2016

Map, Mexico

via @MorelosCongreso on Twitter

via @MorelosCongreso on Twitter

Such is the nature of Mexico’s famously opaque political machinations that it’s really hard to tell what’s really happening. The Congress of the state of Mexico was due to meet yesterday evening to formally validate a package of state constitutional changes to provide full marriage equality. But when religious anti-gay protesters took over and occupied the Congress’s Plenary Hall, lawmakers convened in an alternate location and ratified the constitutional reforms.

Changes to the state’s constitution requires either tacit or active agreement from the majority of the states thirty-two Ayuntamientos (local governments or municipalities). Municipalities can either vote for, against, or abstain from voting. If an ayuntameiento abstains from voting, then that vote is taken as a yes vote. Taken this way, seventeen votes would be needed to defeat a constitutional change. According the tally adopted by the state congress, there were 12 votes in favor, 15 against, and 5 effectively approved by not voting officially.

According to the official tally released by the Congress of Morelos, ayuntamientos officially registering their approval were: Cuautla, Emiliano Zapata, Huitzilac, Jantetelco, Jiutepec, Puente de Ixtla, Tetecala, Tlaquiltenango, Totolapan, Yautepec, and Yecapixtla. (Note: I only count 11 ayuntamientos listed in that tally.)

The ayuntamientos officially registering their disapproval of the measures were Amacuzac, Atlatlahucan, Ayala, Coatlán del Río, Jojutla, Jonacatepec, Miacatlán, Temoac, Tepoztlan, Tetela del Volcan, Tlalnepantla, Tlaltizapán, Xochitepec, Zacatepec, and Zacualpan de Amilpas.

The ayuntamientos that did not submit their decisions “in a timely manner,” according to the Congressional bulletin, were Axochiapan, Cuernavaca (the state’s capital), Mazatepec, Tepalcingo, and Tlayacapan.

According to several conflicting reports, marriage equality opponents charged that Mazatepec and Tepalcingo (and some add Ocuituco, which doesn’t appear on any of the above lists even though it is one of the 32 ayuntamientos) had also voted against the constitutional reforms. If true, that would have raised the “no” vote to seventeen (or eighteen) and killed the reforms. They also accuse the state Congress’s Secretary of Legislative Affairs of “manipulating” the outcomes of the Ayuntamiento meetings to precent a “no” vote.

Members of the conservative National Action Party say they will challenge the constitutional changes in court. Legal changes open a thirty-day window in which the changes can be challenged before the Supreme Court Justice of the Nation (SCJN), Mexico’s highest court. Members of Family Network, an evangelical anti-gay group, say they will launch an appeal.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, June 29

We Are Orlando

Tevin Eugene Crosby

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old.

The Statesville, N.C. native knew what he wanted in life, and set about making it happen. He founded his own retail management company, Total Entrepreneurs Concepts, in Saginaw, Michigan. He ran campaigns for DirectTV and AT&T from kiosks in big box stores like Best Buy and Walmart. He had about 20 employees working for him. One of his employees said, “He was a boss, but we were all like family. We were very, very close.”

Teachers and others who knew him in Statesville remembered Tevin as quiet, polite kid, but also a hard worker who showed perseverance. One friend said that Tevin’s positive attitude helped him become a better person. He wouldn’t judge anyone — he was always smiling and helping someone,” he said. “And now, I always try to help someone when I can. He was like a light, where he would try to help someone else shine brighter — always trying to make everyone better, and made people laugh constantly. He was like a big brother to me.” As a high school senior, Tevin was president of the Future Business Leaders of America and was named an “unsung hero.”

Tevin had travelled from Saginaw to Statesville to attend graduations for several nieces and nephews. He then went to Orlando to visit friends.


Paul Terrell Henry

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old.

Paul was from St. Petersburg, and he loved his son and daughter, who had recently graduated from high school. Paul’ worked as a sales representative at Orange Lake Resorts, and he played piano, organ and sang on the side. He loved dancing and having fun, and spent a lot of time at the Bear Den at Parliament House where he showed off his pool-playing skills.

Paul’s boyfriend, Francisco Hernandez, said that he planned to go back to college because of Paul’s encouragement. “He knew I had the potential for greater things,” said Francisco. “I had three years of college but didn’t finish. He wanted the best for me, to succeed and to help me make something of myself. I am definitely going to do that for him. I am going to make something of myself.”

According to Francisco, Paul didn’t appear to be out to his family. “He kept many aspects of his life private from family. He felt that there was no need for them to know what he does in his life. His priority was to make sure his kids were taken care of.” Meanwhile, Paul’s pastor at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Orlando described Paul as “an accomplished musician, prolific preacher and ambitious spirit. I shall always cherish the many opportunities he gave me to share the gospel.”


Darryl Roman Burt II

Darryl Roman Burt, II, 29 years old.

He was born at Fort Lee, Virginia, and much of his family is in Amelia County. He moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in 2012. He worked as a financial aid officer for Keiser University, where he worked closely with military veterans as a liason from enrollment through graduation. He was also a dedicated community volunteer and a member of the Jacksonville Jaycees. The chapter president remembered, “Both socially and professionally he was always interested in making positive impact on people’s lives and in the community. …He was the type of person that was always willing to help. If someone needed anything he’d usually just ask for the details, where, when and what are the deadlines.”

Friends said that Darryl loved to travel, go to the beach, and shop. One friend said that also worked out, but was “addicted to Starbucks Passion Tango Tea Lemonade.” She also said that they had recently gone to Aruba together, and were planning a cruise with his parents in September. He had skipped a trip to New Orleans though, because he wanted to go dancing in Orlando.

The New York Post in 1969 was a very different than the Murdoch rag it is today. In 1969, it was a fairly respected liberal newspaper. Its first story about the police raid on the Stonewall Inn on June 28 appeared on page 14 under the headline, “Village Raid Stirs Melee”:

PostA police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a tavern frequented by homosexuals at 53 Christopher St., just east of Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, triggered a near-riot today.

As persons seized in the raid were driven away by police, hundreds of passersby shouting “Gay Power and “We Want Freedom” laid siege to the tavern with an improvised battering ram, garbage cans, bottles and beer cans in a protest demonstration.

Police reinforcements were rushed to the tavern to deal with the disturbances, which continued for more than two hours. By the time calm returned to the area, at least 12 persons had been arrested on charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct.

Among those arrested was folk singer Dave Van Ronk, 33, of 15 Sheridan Sq., who was charged with felonious assault on a police officer. Van Ronk was not in the tavern, but got into the fight when it spilled out not the street, police said.

Police said the raid was staged because of unlicensed sale of liquor on the premises.

The Post’s coverage was fairly typical. Only one perspective was covered: that of the police. With no statements from the “near-rioters” presented to provide readers with any sense of context. The New York Times first report, buried on page 33, was no better:

NYTimesArticle4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid
Melee Near Sheridan Square Follows Action at Bar

Hundreds of young men went on a rampage in Greenwich Village shortly after 3 A.M. yesterday after a force of plainclothes men raided a bar that the police said was well known for its homosexual clientele. Thirteen persons were arrested and four policemen injured.

The young men threw bricks, bottles, garbage, pennies and a parking meter at the policemen, who had a search warrant authorizing them in [sic] investigate reports that liquor was sold illegally at the bar, the Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square.

Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine said that a large crowd formed in the square after being evicted from the bar. Police reinforcements were sent to the area to hold off the crowd.

Plainclothes men and detective confiscated cases of liquor from the bar, which Inspector Pine said was operating without a liquor license.

The police estimated that 200 young men had been expelled from the bar. The crowd grew to close to 400 during the melee, which lasted about 45 minutes, they said.

Arrested in the melee, was Dave Van Ronk, 33 years old, of 15 Sheridan Square, a well known folk singer. He was accused of having thrown a heavy object at a patrolman and later paroled in his own recognizance.

The raid was one of three held on Village bars in the last two weeks, Inspector Pine said.

Charges against the 13 who were arrested ranged from harassment and resisting arrest to disorderly conduct. A patrolman suffered a broken wrist, the police said.

Throngs of young men congregated outside the inn last night, reading aloud condemnations of the police.

A sign on the door said, “This is a private club. Members only.” Only soft drinks were being served.

Neither report provided any real information about why the “melee” or “near-riot” occurred. Readers were left with the impression that the violence was simply perpetrated by lawless youth, in the kind of story that had become commonplace in major urban areas across the U.S. by 1969. If readers even noticed these small news items, they likely shrugged. Ho hum. Just another example of the breakdown of law and order, and of hippies and homosexuals disrespecting authority. The city’s major news outlets would need several more months before they could figure out the importance of what really happened that night.

(d, 1972) Pro-gay activism in the U.S goes back a very long way, far longer than most people realize. Henry Gerber, a Bavarian immigrant to Chicago, served in the U.S. Army’s occupation of Germany following World War I, where he came in contact with the growing German gay rights movement. He subscribed to German homophile magazines and made several trips to Berlin, where he discovered the city’s vibrant gay night life and learned about the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, organized by Magnus Hirschfeld (May 14) as the first organization in the world working to advance gay rights. He contrasted the situation in Germany, where gay people were organizing and there was only one set of laws were in force throughout the nation, with the markedly different situation in the U.S., where gay people hadn’t even thought of organizing and the laws in the U.S. were a patchwork of different definitions and penalties in each of the 48 states:

To go before each State legislature and argue the real nature of homosexuality would be plainly a job too costly to be considered. The conduct of many homosexuals in their unpardonable public behavior clearly led to public protest against all homosexuals. Here were only two stumbling blocks on the road to reform.

I realized at once that homosexuals themselves needed nearly as much attention as the laws pertaining to their acts. How could one go about such a difficult task? The prospect of going to jail did not bother me. I had a vague idea that I wanted to help solve the problem. I had not yet read the opinion of Clarence Darrow that “no other offence has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.” All my friends to whom I spoke about my plans advised against my doing anything so rash and futile. I thought to myself that if I succeeded I might become known to history as deliverer of the downtrodden, even as Lincoln. But I am not sure my thoughts were entirely upon fame. If I succeeded in freeing the homosexual, I too would benefit.

Soon after returning to the U.S., Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in 1924 (see Dec 10). With an African-American clergyman named John T. Graves as president, SHR is believed to be America’s first gay rights organization. Gerber also founded Friendship and Freedom, the first known American gay publication. As Gerber explained in 1962:

The outline of our plan was as follows:

1. We would cause the homosexuals to join our Society and gradually reach as large a number as possible.

2. We would engage in a series of lectures pointing out the attitude of society in relation to their own behavior and especially urging against the seduction of adolescents.

3. Through a publication named Friendship and Freedom we would keep the homophile world in touch with the progress of our efforts. The publication was to refrain from advocating sexual acts and would serve merely as a forum for discussion.

4. Through self-discipline, homophiles would win the confidence and assistance of legal authorities and legislators in understanding the problem; that these authorities should be educated on the futility and folly of long prison terms for those committing homosexual acts, etc.

The beginning of all movements is necessarily small. I was able to gather together a half dozen of my friends and the Society for Human Rights became an actuality. Through a lawyer our program was submitted to the Secretary of State at Springfield, and we were furnished with a State Charter. No one seemed to have bothered to investigate our purpose.

Gerber got that charter by omitting any mention of homosexuality in his application. Instead, the application spoke of promoting more general values of freedom and independence. Nevertheless, Gerber found getting SHR of the ground difficult, and he had to finance the whole enterprise out of his own meager earnings as a postal worker. He managed to put out two issues of Friendship and Freedom, before running out of money. (Despite being the first known homophile publication in the U.S., no copies are known to survive.) He tried to gain support from medical authorities, but none would help him. He also had trouble finding people to join his group. “Being thoroughly cowed, they seldom get together,” he observed. “Most feel that as long as some homosexual sex acts are against the law, they should not let their names be on any homosexual organization’s mailing list any more than notorious bandits would join a thieves’ union.” Those who did join had few resources themselves.

The only support I got was from poor people: John (Graves), a preacher who earned his room and board by preaching brotherly love to small groups of Negroes; Al (Meininger), an indigent laundry queen; and Ralph whose job with the railroad was in jeopardy when his nature became known. These were the national officers of the Society for Human Rights, Inc. I realized this start was dead wrong, but after all, movements always start small and only by organizing first and correcting mistakes later could we expect to go on at all. The Society was bound to become a success, we felt, considering the modest but honest plan of operation.

SHR didn’t last long. It turns out that Al Meininger, “the indigent laundry queen” turned out to be married with two children. She found a copy of Friendship and Freedom, and informed her social worker, who notified police. When police raided Meininger’s apartment, the found him in the act with another man. Both were arrested, and Meininger named the other SHR members during questioning.

Gerber would later claim that when police showed up at his door on July 13, 1925, they had a reporter from the Chicago Examiner in tow. According to Gerber, the Examiner’s headline that afternoon screamed, “Strange Sex Cult Exposed,” which claimed (falsely) that Graves was arrested while in the middle of an orgy in full view of his wife and children. Recent scholarship reveals that there was no Chicago Examiner at the time of Gerver’s arrest, and no paper carried the story he describes. Nevertheless, the Chicago American published its front page story, with several disputed details, under the headline, “Girl Reveals Strange cult Run By Dad”:

Police of the East Chicago av. Station today began investigation of a weird cult brought to light when 12 year old Betty Meininger, 532 N. Dearborn st., appeared and asked the policemen to find out “why her father carried on so.”

She described afternoon and night meetings in the Meininger home, attended by men and devoted to séances at which stranger rites were performed by her father and men who came to take part. Her description led to a raid.

They found Meininger, who is 37, married, and the father of the four children; the Rev. John Graves, self-declared pastor of a church, and one Henry Gerber, 1710 Crilly Court, publisher of the cult paper, Friendship and Freedom.

Meininger, Graves and Gerber, arraigned in court today, were given continuances until Thursday, Meantime the police intended to see if federal action can be taken as a result of sending the paper through the mails.

Meininger pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and was fined $10 (roughly $140 today). Gerber was tried three times, but the charges were eventually dismissed, thanks largely to his lawyer who was well versed in the financial needs of Chicago judges. Charges were also dismissed against Graves. Gerber was nevertheless ruined, fired from his job (“for conduct unbecoming a postal employee”) and drained of his meager life savings. “The experience generally convinced me that we were up against a solid wall of ignorance, hypocrisy, meanness and corruption. The wall had won.”

Gerber became embittered over his failed attempt to organize fellow homosexuals. He would later write, “Most bitches are only interested in sex contacts, not in challenging legal and social stigmas of homosexuality.” On anther occasion, he wrote “I have absolutely no confidence in the Doran crowd, mostly a bunch of selfish, uncultured, ignorant egoists who have noting for the ideal side of life.”

Gerber moved to New York, got a job as a proofreader at a newspaper, and then reenlisted in the army, where he served until his retirement in 1945. In 1930, he started a pen-pal club called CONTACTS, mimeographed monthly newsletter which, while not exclusively gay, did provide an exchange for those like himself, “favored by nature with immunity to female ‘charms’.” He also published a literary magazine called Chanticleer, and he wrote an essay defending homosexuality, under the pseudonym of Parisex, in the magazine Modern Thinker. His activism was mainly confined to essays and letter-writing. In 1942, Gerber’s army career was jeopardized when he was arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. “They put me before a Section VIII board and tried to get me out of the army on that. When I told the president of the board I only practiced mutual masturbation with men over 21, the psychiatrist told me, ‘You are not a homosexual.’ I nearly fell out of my chair! Imagine me fighting all my life for our cause and then be told I was not a homosexual!”

When ONE magazine got started in Los Angeles, Gerber contributed several articles, including a translation of several chapters from Magnus Hirscheld’s Homosexuality in Man and Woman, as well as his own history in Chicago.  He died on New Year’s Eve in 1972 at the age of 80, in his lodgings at the U.S. Soldiers’  and Airmen’s Home in Washington, D.C. He was buried in the cemetery next to the Soldier’s Home. In 1981, the Midwest Gay and Lesbian Archive and Library changed its name to the Henry Gerber-Pearl Hart Library in honor of Gerber and gay rights lawyer Pearl M. Hart (Apr 7)

[Sources: St. Susie de la Croix. Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012): 73-87.

Henry Gerber. “The Society for Human Rights — 1925.” ONE 10, no. 9 (September 1962): 5-11. Also available online here.]

Social Conservatives In Morelos Mobilize To Block Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2016

Map, Mexico

The news earlier today that the Mexican state of Morelos is about to enact marriage equality for its LGBT residents has brought anti-gay activists out of the woodwork to try to block the pending changes to the state’s constitution.

Earlier reports stated that eighteen of the state’s thirty-three Ayuntamientos (local governments) had approved the constitutional reforms needed to allow equal marriage for same-sex couples, meeting the minimum threshold of seventeen jurisdictions needed to approve any changes to the state constitution. It appears that the tally of actual vote taken to support the reform package were 12 in favor, and fifteen against. However, with six Ayuntamientos not voting, their votes automatically default to “yes” votes, which brings us to 18-15 in favor of marriage equality.

I’m seeing conflicting and confusing reports all over the place, but it appears that equal marriage supporters in the state Congress say that they have received minutes from all the remaining Ayuntamientos except for the city of Ocuituco. Even if Ocuituco rejected the reforms, they would still pass 17-16.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 2.51.51 PMBut anti-gay activists representing Catholic, Evangelical and Mormon groups, as well as the conservative National Action Party (PAN) allege the state Congress is rushing ahead of a July 3 deadline for the remaining Ayuntamientos to submit their results. (I don’t know where that deadline comes from. Congress approved the reforms on May 18, and what I’m reading says that Ayuntamientos have one month to reject or approve the reforms.) Opponents also allege that both Mazatepec and Tepalcingo are in the “no” camp. If so, that would result in a 16-17 defeat. They also accuse the state Congress’s Secretary of Legislative Affairs of “manipulating” the outcomes of the Ayuntamiento meetings to precent a “no” vote.

The state Congress is scheduled to meet today at 7 p.m. local time (Central time in the U.S.), when it is expected to release a report declaring that the proposed constitutional reforms have been approved.

Same-sex marriage is effectively legal throughout Mexico. In nine states and Mexico City, same-sex couples only need to obtain a marriage license using exactly the same process as opposite-couples use. But in Mexico’s remaining twenty-two states, same-sex couples need to hire a lawyer and undergo the time consuming and expensive process of obtaining a court order called an amparo from a Federal Judge. Each amparo is only good for that particular couple. It takes five consecutive, identical amparos issued in the same state for them to become binding for everyone in that state.

The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) has already ordered all federal judges to issue amparos whenever a same-sex couple asks a court for permission to marry. Marriage equality supporters point out that this makes full marriage equality inevitable throughout the country. If the state legislatures fail to act, LGBT-rights activists say that they will continue to expand full marriage equality nationwide, state by state, amparo by amparo.

Federal Court Re-opens Marriage Equality Case Over Mississippi’s “Religious Freedom” Law

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2016

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves declared Mississippi’s state ban on marriage quality unconstitutional, and issued an injunction requiring the state’s county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision striking marriage bans nationwide effectively closed the case in Mississippi, although that injunction remains in place. Yesterday, Judge Reeves agreed to re-open the case in response to Mississippi’s passage of a “religious freedom” law which, among other things, allows local clerks to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples. In his order issued yesterday, Judge Reeves writes:

Obergefell “is the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit.” Mississippi’s elected officials may disagree with Obergefell, of course, and may express that disagreement as they see fit — by advocating for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, for example. But the marriage license issue will not be adjudicated anew after every legislative session. And the judiciary will remain vigilant whenever a named party to an injunction is accused of circumventing that injunction, directly or indirectly.

Judge Reeves’s order reopens the case “for the parties to confer about how to provide clerks with actual notice of the Permanent Injunction.”

Mississippi’s HB 1523 allows clarks to deny licenses to same-sex couples, and it allows businesses and individuals to refuse services to LGBT people. It also allows health care professionals to opt out of providing transition-related care to transgender individuals. The law is set to go into effect July 1. Two other lawsuits have  been filed to block the other portions of the law.

Morelos On the Cusp Of Enacting Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2016


Map, MexicoLast month, the state of Morelos just south of Mexico City began the process of amending its state constitution and civil laws to allow same-sex couples to marry without having to go through the cumbersome and expensive process of getting an amaro from a federal judge. As part of that process, state congress approved a package of constitutional reforms which must then be approved by a majority of the state’s 33 Ayuntamientos (regional governments) for ratification.

State congressional members were telling reporters yesterday that votes have taken place in all of the Ayuntamientos, which approved the constitutional reforms 18-15. The next step if for Congress to officially declare the the results in its next session and order its publication in the official legal gazette, Tierra y Libertad. It’s not clear when that is expected to take place, but at least the biggest hurdles to marriage equality have been cleared.

When Morelos makes it all official, it will be the tenth state, along Mexico City (which is not a part of a state), to provide marriage equality on the same terms as opposite-sex couples. Marriage equality is legal nationwide, although in the remaining 21 states same-sex couples have to go to court and obtain a court order, called an amparo, from a federal judge. The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), Mexico’s highest court, has ordered all federal judges to grant all amparos brought before their courts.

Morelos is located just south of Mexico City, with Cuernavaca as its capital. It has always been a popular getaway for Mexico City residents, and is slowly becoming something of a bedroom community for the congested capital. It boasts a long list of impressive museums, botanical gardens, a famous hacienda that once belonged to Hernán Cortés, impressive Tlahuican ruins (complete with a preserved Aztec-influenced handball court) and a dizzying array of magnificent churches. I haven’t traveled Mexico extensively, but I have spent time in Morelos. Cuernavaca is probably my favorite city, and it would make a magnificent wedding destination.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 28

We Are Orlando

Joel Rayon Paniagua

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 31 years old.

7513942-3x2-940x627-cJoel was one of three Mexican citizens who were killed at Pulse. He grew up in the very poor neighborhood known as Colonia Fredepo, just outside of the colonial city of Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico. (Personal note: I know the town fairly well. It’s only about 15 miles east of Orizaba, where I spent my summer exchange while in high school.) He moved to Ocoee, Florida, where his brother lived, in the early 2000s. He returned to Mexico so he could be with his family, but returned to Florida about a year ago to escape the drug war that has turned the state of Veracruz into the most dangerous state in Mexico. “We came because here in the United States there are many opportunities here and because we were fleeing, because in our country there was a lot of crime, violence and death … and we expect it should be more peaceful here,” said his cousin Jose Paniagua.

He had just saved enough to pay off the coyote who brought him across the border, and was beginning to save money to send home. He kept in touch with his family via WhatsApp while living near Tampa and working in landscaping. His mother said that the last time she heard from Joel, he had not worked in a week due to heavy rains in Florida. One friend in Florida remembered him as humble, cheerful, and religious, and he loved to dance. “He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better.”

FuneralJoel’s mother and two brothers made the dangerous trip from Colonia Fredepo to Nuevo Laredo, where they crossed the border on a humanitarian visa so they could go on to Orlando to officially identify Joel’s body. Back in Colonia Fredepo a few days later, chocolate, tamales, bread, and a mariachi band playing “México Lindo y Querido” (“Mexico Beautiful and Beloved”) greeted Joel’s return, thanks to donations from neighbors. When the casket was opened, the mariachis broke into “Mi Último Deseo” — “My Last Wish.” He was buried in a donated plot in the community’s cemetery.


Juan Chevez Martinez

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old.

160614-orlando-victim-juan-chavez-martinez_11bd742feacf248f4a66175c948d7219.nbcnews-ux-600-700Juan was from Huichapan, Hidalgo, Mexico, a small impoverished village of 800 residents. Hidalgo state officials estimate that about 250,000 Hidalguienses are in the U.S., most of them undocumented. Juan was the seventh of nine children, and was just sixteen and barely out of high school when he decided to go al Norte. “There was no work, and they had to go to survive,” one relative explained. Two of his bothers had also made the trek north, but because Juan was single, he was his parent’s main financial support.

Juan lived in Davenport, Florida, where he worked as a housekeeping supervisor for a company that serviced Reunion Resorts in Kissimmee. His supervisor remembered Juan as a dedicated, hard working employee. “He was extremely friendly, very dedicated to his family, to his co-workers. … It is very difficult. Everybody loved him.” A co0worker added, “I was a housekeeper and he was a supervisor. He was very well known among us as very kind and loving. … There was nobody else like him. It is a devastating loss.”

When Juan left Huichapan nine years ago, his family’s home had a dirt floor. When he returned in a casket, the family’s home was still rustic, but at least now it was made of brick and had a real floor, thanks to the money he sent back home.


Miguel Angel Honorato

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old.

14victims20-master768-e1466523809711Originally from Tenanguillo de las Cañas, near Ixcateopan in Guerrero, Miguel came to America in 1991 with his family when he was four years old. He was married and the doting father of three children in Apopka, Florida, where he co-owned FajitaMex Mexican Catering. His business partner described him as hard working and compassionate toward his employees: “He enjoyed life and wanted to make sure everyone else did,” his partner said. Miguel had gone to Pulse that night with two lesbian friends. When the shooting started, his friends managed to escape, but Miguel was’t so lucky.



One more note: U.S. news outlets reported that there were three Mexican citizens who were killed that night in Orlando. This is, strictly speaking, correct. But because Mexican culture places such a strong emphasis on both family and community, newspapers throughout Mexico mourned the loss of four Mexicans. The fourth was Luis S. Vielma, an American citizen. His parents were from Coyuca de Catalán, Guerrero, and they made arrangements for his burial back home. We remembered Luis here.

Stonewall RebellionI’m not going to go into a blow-by-blow description of what happened that night. You already know what happened, even if the things you know didn’t really happen the way you know they happened.  In some ways, what happened or didn’t happen that night, the things that made it special in ways that weren’t all that special, the “groundbreaking” fight that was far from groundbreaking — those details, details, details — they just don’t matter.

It’s kind of like the story about Paul Revere’s ride and the Battle of Lexington. Or the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving. Or the story about Christ in the manger or Adam and Even in the Garden. What actually happened that day matters relatively little because Stonewall has gone way beyond all those mundane details. It has become our origin myth. And like all origin myths, it’s all about the idea of what happened when that world began: a police raid on a dingy and not particularly popular mafia-owned gay bar, people who had nothing to lose and who 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 in our imagination — to that hot Friday night on Christopher Street.

Stonewall RebellionMythmaking is not an entirely bad thing. In fact, it’s the most human thing we can do. But it can obscure some actual facts that would otherwise be forgotten. For example, let’s take this myth, which we hear all the time: it was “the first time in history Gay people refused to accept the status quo of oppression and stood up for themselves.” That’s from the Stonewall Inn’s official website. But it simply isn’t true, as regular readers of these Daily Agenda know very well. It wasn’t the first time gay people protested (Sep 19), it wasn’t the first time gay people organized against injustice (Nov 11Dec 10, Apr 25), and it wasn’t the first time patrons fought back physically against a police raid (Jan 1, Aug 21).

But Stonewall gets remembered for all of these things. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down marriage bans nationwide, the news media went to Stonewall to repeat to America our creation myth and say that this place is where it all started.

But why is that? Why Stonewall? Why not the Black Cat? Or Compton’s Cafeteria or Dewey’s?

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.

Stonewall InnThe Stonewall Inn’s location couldn’t have been more perfect for building a legacy. It wasn’t just in a very dense part of America’s largest city and media capital, it was also 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 that followed, meant that the history of Stonewall was being written, however imperfectly, while it happened. Prior confrontations were typically ignored or downplayed by the mainstream press.

The mainstream press would have been content to downplay Stonewall too. They either buried it deep inside their papers or they mocked it, as the New York Daily News did with the headline, “Homo Nest Raided! Queen Bees are stinging mad!” (Jul 6). But the Village Voice, the go-to paper for the city’s radicals, leftists, cultural savants, hippies, and civil rights workers, transmitted those nights’ events to a larger readership that was already primed to usher in 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 one more riot that the media was already tired of counting.

Gay Power, 1970The Voice may have carried the news about Stonewall beyond the boundaries of New York City, but Stonewall’s legacy didn’t begin or end there. Because it happened on the streets of Greenwich Village, in dense neighborhoods filled with young people, news of it 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.

That was the decade that taught 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 but weary 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 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 that were just as ripe for starting a revolution. It just happened that the Stonewall Inn was there, and that’s where it happened. It was perfectly placed and perfectly timed to fire our shot heard around the world.

As is true with all origin myths, this one gets recast with each generation’s telling, complete with new heroes. Last summer, the semi-fictionalized Stonewall movie, which bombed at the box office, was criticized for “whitewashing” the rioters and “erasing” other minority communities who were out that night. That criticism was part of a newer re-telling of Stonewall, where some argue that it was a specifically transgender uprising and a specifically people-of-color movement. Gay white men, that argument goes, have stolen the real history of Stonewall.

People who were actually there in 1969, including two leading transgender activists, dispute that. Dana Bryer wrote, “I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night, too, and the streets were overwhelmingly filled with white men (which included the way I was perceived back then, too).” Lesbian activist Robin Tyler added, “I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night. The majority of protesters were white gay men.”

But of course, transgender people were there. So were people of color. And women. Some were all three, and more. All of that is true. And it’s also true that history is typically recorded from a white male viewpoint. And so ensuring that history is accurately recorded matters a lot, as does making sure it is comprehensively recorded.

The scene in front of the Stonewall moments after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, June 26, 2015.

The scene in front of the Stonewall moments after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, June 26, 2015.

Yet the arguments over “whitewashing” (or historical revisionisms to accommodate political imperatives, depending on your perspective) miss the far bigger picture. Because Stonewall has become our creation myth, we all have a natural human need to see ourselves, directly, in that story. Just as Ethiopian Orthodox Christians have for millennia painted their icons depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as Africans, just as Asian missionaries gave the saints Asian facial features, just as Egyptian Coptics drew the martyrs and prophets (perhaps most accurately) as inhabitants of a harsh Mideast desert, and just as Caucasians around the world turned their prayerful gaze upon a Nordic blue-eyed Jesus, we too, in our rich diversity, also need to see ourselves in our foundational story. Those very parochial responses are powerful illustrations of the truly universal ways those stories speak to us. As I said, no impulse could ever be more human.

Mourners gather at the Stonewall to remember the victims of the Pulse gay night club massacre in Orlando.

Mourners gather at the Stonewall to remember the victims of the Pulse gay night club massacre in Orlando.

Stonewall is as much a real physical place as it is a place of inspiration that we carry in our hearts. It’s where we return to whenever we need to find ourselves. As soon as the news of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage hit the airwaves, the first instinct for thousands of us was to make a pilgrimage to Stonewall. And when news broke about the horrible massacre in Orlando, Stonewall was one of the first places New Yorkers gathered to remember the dead — not just the dead of Orlando, but all of our dead. And while we mourned the dead, we also renewed our resolve to keep the fight alive. Again and again, we return to Stonewall, because it is our Bethlehem and our Golgotha, and the empty tomb where we refuse to lay down.

Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day

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. 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.”

Pride MarchersAt 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:

Pride at Central Park

Arrival at Central Park.

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.”

The Village Voice has another first-person account of the 1970 celebration. A short film by Lilli Vincenz, Gay and Proud, documenting New York’s march can be seen at the Library of Congress.

[Thanks to BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of the New Yorker article.]

James Dale at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony, 1988.

James Dale at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony, 1988.

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. 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 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, remained in place until July 27, 2015, when the National Executive Board formally amended its adult leadership policy, although “religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders.”

Rainbow Lounge raid

Exactly forty years earlier, the New York policed raid the  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.”

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor.

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor.

One patron suffered broken ribs, second had a broken thumb, and another experienced severe bruising and muscle strain. But the guy getting the crap beat out of him ended up in intensive care. Chad Gibson was walking down a hallways to a men’s 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. Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, addressed the crowd and called for “an immediate and thorough investigation”

Chad Gibson

Chad Gibson

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. Chief 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(d. 2007) The quintessential British poofter was best known as Mr. Humphries in the BBC sitcom 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.

He is the former Republican Congressman for Arizona’s 8th congressional district — the same Tucson and Southeast Arizona district later 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 KopayAfter the former American football running back in the National Football League retired in 1972, David Copay assumed that his future would be in coaching since he had been working as a player-coach during his last few years. “But I wasn’t getting any interviews,” he later revealed. “There were all kinds of rumors about me being gay — you know, bullshit stuff. All those rumors about how gay men are into sex constantly, how they can’t control themselves in the locker room. The whole bullshit that you’re one of those people who lurks in the bathrooms at the park, who’s after young boys.”

“That kind of talk really bothered me and made me angry — that’s one of the reasons I spoke out.” Which he did in December of 1975 when he became one of the first professional male athletes to come out as gay. By then, he said, “I had nothing left to lose. … I didn’t have the $150,000 or $200,000 beer commercial to lose. … I felt, Dammit! I can do something here and I know it’s important because I wish I had that kind of person to read about when I was younger.”

Whatever hope he may have harbored for a coaching job evaporated when the Washington Star broke his coming-out story. So he wrote a book. 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, his close friend and David Kopay Story co-author 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.

Dave KopayHe is today 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, four other NFL players came out and one more was publicly outed, but only after their playing days were over. In February of 2014, 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, although he was cut from the team’s final roster before the regular season began.

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.

[Additional source: David Copay. “The Jock.” In Eric Marcus (ed.) Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990: An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 275-278.

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