Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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About North Carolina’s magistrate bill

Timothy Kincaid

May 28th, 2015

Today the North Carolina House of Representatives will vote for the third and final time to approve Senate Bill 2. As it has passed the Senate and there are no revisions, it will go directly to the Governor. And while Gov. Pat McCrory has said that he does not support the bill, he may let it become law without his signature.

Quite a bit of kerfuffle has been raised about the bill with various “EMERGENCY!” emails flying about. But, within the LGBT community, not a lot has been said about the content of the “anti-gay marriage bill”. So I read the bill. And it may not be so very ookie-spookie scary as one otherwise might think.

Here’s what it says:

  • The Register of Deeds in a county cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That is an integral part of their duties and they have to fulfill their obligations.
  • Assistant Registers of Deeds can, however, give up issuing marriage licenses altogether as part of their tasks. But they cannot pick and choose; It’s either all legal marriage licenses or none.
  • Magistrates can give up conducting marriage licenses altogether. But they cannot pick and choose; It’s either all legal marriage ceremonies or none.
  • If all magistrates in a jurisdiction refuse to conduct civil marriages, a magistrate will be assigned by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Until that magistrate is assigned, the Chief District Court Judge (or his assignee) will be deemed a magistrate to conduct civil marriages. There is no down time.
  • Marriages before a magistrate must be available a minimum of ten hours per week and over at least three days per week. This appears to be a new requirement.

This is not an onerous burden on same-sex couples. No gay couples are being turned away where straight couples are accepted. All legal licenses are being issued and every county is providing magistrates for marriage, impartially.

In fact, the greatest imposition of this bill is on the Register of Deeds and the Chief District Court Judge who are tasked with managing staff and ensuring that the newly added minimum service requirements are upheld.

The only question that I see remaining, is whether individuals who work for the State should be compelled to participate in procedures which violate their conscience in order to maintain employment. And that is an matter about which people of good will may differ.

Just in: failed 2012 GOP candidate enters 2016 race

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2015

We are proud to announce exclusively – here at Box Turtle Bulletin – that one of the more colorful candidates for the Republican Party nomination for President during the 2012 race is again pursuing the nation’s highest office.

“I am so delighted to be part of this challenging and thrilling competition”, said the Box of Rocks through his representative. “I considered not running this year, but now that I can be assured that I will never be the dumbest candidate nor the one likeliest to drive voters to select anyone-but-me, I am excited to participate. And I proudly proclaim that my good name is less sullied than at least one other candidate.”

In other news, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has also formally announced his candidacy.

Will Australia be next?

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

tony_abbott2

There is no question but that Ireland is serving as inspiration around the globe. And one person feeling the pressure is Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Abbott is the head of the Liberal Party (which is considered the more conservative of significant parties) and is in a coalition government with the Liberal National Party, the National Party, and the Country Liberal Party. And though Abbott vehemently opposes marriage equality, he recognizes that a large majority of the country, most of the opposing parties, and a growing number of his own party are equality supporters.

And in this upcoming week, the process towards marriage will begin. (gaystarnews)

Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten has become the first leader of a major political party to put forward legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Australia just days after more members of the conservative wing of his party announced they now would vote in favor of marriage equality.

Shorten, leader of the Australian Labor Party, put his intention in writing earlier today, giving notice to the Parliament that he will table such a bill when the House of Representatives meets on Monday.

The success of the bill may depend on the outcome of a conscience vote decision.

Australia, like many multi-party countries, employs block voting where all delegates of the same party cast identical votes. Unlike in the US where every legislator is always free to vote their conscience on any issue (though they may pay politically for bucking the party leaders), in Australia legislators can only veer from the party position with permission.

The success of the bill depends on how the parties approach the vote.

If the Liberals do not allow a conscience vote, all their votes go to oppose equality and the bill cannot pass. If the Liberal do allow a conscience vote and Labor votes as a block, the bill is expected to pass.

But if both sides allow a conscience vote, the numbers are quite close. There are enough Liberal supporters and enough uncertainty to make it too close to call. But Liberal Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull is bullish on the bills success. (skynews)

Cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull expects parliament to legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.

‘I have never seen a social issue which has changed attitudes as rapidly as this one,’ he said, adding his feeling was that legislation was ‘very likely to pass’.

And in response to questions from media today, Prime Minister Abbott seems to be offering some hope.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there will be a ‘very full, frank and candid and decent’ debate inside the Liberal partyroom about legalising same-sex marriage.

Mr Abbott was responding to a Labor move to introduce a private member’s bill to parliament next week with a likely vote later in the year.

‘It is an issue where decent people can differ,’ the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

At some point, nearer to a vote, Liberal MPs would debate the issue in their party room.

The outcome of the party room decision will likely determine whether marriage equality comes to the Land Down Under this year.

World Marriage Map – May 2015

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

World Marriage May 2015

Dark Green – marriage equality
Light Green – either sporadic marriage equality or a lesser form of recognition

Several locations have provided for equality but with a future enactment date:

Ireland – probably by September 2015
Greenland – October 2015
Slovenia – tied up in legal battles
Finland – March 2017

Click on the map to enlarge

Greenland enacts marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

GreenlandIceberg

Following on the heels of Ireland is Greenland where the country’s legislature has just voted to allow same-sex couples to marry, with a wide margin. Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, is mostly a giant mass of ice and snow and most of the 56,000 residents are Inuit.

In 1996 Greenland adopted Denmark’s domestic partnership laws. However, when Denmark upgraded to marriage equality in 2012, Greenland did not go along. In February it was announced that a bill to do so would be brought this spring.

The bill which passed today also gives adoption rights and will go into effect on October 1, 2015.

NOM may have inadvertantly contributed to marriage equality in Ireland

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015

Irish no couple

The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown is furious about the Irish vote for marriage equality and is childishly lashing out at Ireland’s citizens and political parties for not structuring their country’s laws in accordance with his wishes. But perhaps he should add himself to the list of whom to blame.

One of the stronger elements of the vote was the citizenry’s national identity. This was the Irish people voting in Ireland or Ireland’s laws. And there was a great deal of pride as a people that this was a collective and national decision absent foreign involvement.

But both sides of the debate accused the other as having been funded by outside sources, especially by American organizations. And while both sides denied the accusation, evidence against the No campaign was publicized shortly before the vote:

One of the no side’s strongest supporters in the US is the lavishly funded National Organisation for Marriage (NOM). In a letter to supporters around the world, it has urged evangelical Christians to visit keepmarriage.org, which is campaigning for a no vote.

“Just like in campaigns for marriage here in America,” the letter says, “slanted public opinion polls become fodder to influence and depress supporters of marriage. This is happening in Ireland. If [the no campaign] can manage to pull off a victory, it will be a tremendous boost to the cause of marriage worldwide. Please do what you can to bring awareness to their efforts.”

Foreign contributions to lobby groups during referendums in Ireland are banned. But the “please do what you can” language used by NOM hints at an effort to thwart the law.

Also hurting the No campaign’s image was the use of stock photos in their advertising, a tactic regularly employed by NOM. While the Yes campaign made a point of using real Irish supporters, the No side selected as their primary campaign image a photo of a young couple with a baby, who turned to the media to declare that not only do they not live in Ireland, they are both ardent marriage equality supporters.

The fact that NOM was associated with the No campaign served only to give that campaign some flavor as a non-Irish import. And to the extent that NOM advised the No side on it’s campaign and image, their efforts backfired.

Brian Brown Reacts

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 2015

Marriage equality opponents have been almost uniformly graceful in their concession statements in the wake of today’s landslide in Ireland. David Quinn of the Iona Institute tweeted “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well Done.” The Iona Institute’s official statement congratulating the Yes campaigners described their win as “a handsome victory0.” Another group, Mothers and Fathers Matter offered their  “warm congratulations” as well. All the major groups expressed their typical concerns going forward, but you get the idea of the tenor of their reactions to today’s vote.

Brian BrownOn this side of the pond however, things are a bit different, with the usual suspects blowing a gasket over the Irish vote. NOM’s Brian Brown, for example, sent out a statement which blamed the loss on ” the utter abandonment of principle by every political party in the nation, all of whom endorsed the referendum” and what he claimed to be an “intense harassment of any group or individual who spoke out in opposition to the referendum.” Also —

“Despite this, millions of Irish citizens stood to vote to uphold the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Millions? Try just 734,300. The “millions” were on the yes side, at 1,201,607. Idiot.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 28

Jim Burroway

May 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

AVeryNaturalThing-Advocate1977.08.24p34

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 was what made it so), while gay critics were more inclined to think it wasn’t political enough (the characters were too white, too middle-class, and 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.”

TODAY IN HISTORY:
First Pro-Gay Film Released 1919. The German silent film Anders als die Andern (“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, and Körner becomes the subject of a blackmail attempt. 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.”

The acting is stilted, as is common for that era, and the plot is fairly predictable. Körner reports Bollek for blackmail and has him arrested. In retaliation, Bollek exposes Körner. Both men wind up in court, and both are found guilty, despite Hirshfeld’s testimony on Körner’s behalf (and another soliloquy for the audience). The judge has mercy on Körner however, and sentences him only to one week. Disgraced and shunned by his family, Körner kills himself. Sivers also tries to kill himself, but Hirschfeld intervenes. “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, surviving stills and added title cards describing missing plot points. It’s available on DVD. This clip includes one of Hirscheld’s cameos (beginning at 3:10):

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

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Michael Brown lies about Irish vote

Timothy Kincaid

May 27th, 2015

michaelbrowndvd

Anti-gay activist and Charlotte pastor Michael Brown has long been fond of demonstrating his contempt for gay people, his callousness towards bullying, and his astonishing arrogance as to his own discernment of truth. He will twist and turn any factlet that he encounters and has less credibility than your ordinary used car salesman, but generally he has, in our interactions, avoided demonstrably false declaration of observable facts.

Not so today.

In a desire to “explain” the decision of the people of Ireland to include gay Irish citizens fully into civil life – or to do so in a way that demonizes gay people (his favorite tactic) – Brown repeats a lie and calls it “absolutely right”.

In a hit piece hosted by Family Research Counsel’s American Family Research’s OneNewsNow, Brown pushed his theme of “tried and true tactics of bullying, intimidation, media bombardment, aggressive activism, and massive U.S. funding” by the horrible horrible gays. And as evidence, he presents a letter that he claims is from “a woman who supports our ministry and lives in Ireland”:

We tried so hard to prevent it, but were up against every political party and up against millions of US dollars that were being poured into the yes campaign. American billionaire, Chuck Feeney alone contributed over $24 million.

See there! Americans paid for the Yes campaign! Feeney gave $24 million!

Except that isn’t true. Not even close. It’s a false statement presented by The Irish Catholic and the National Catholic Register and other opponents of equality in an effort to conflate social pressure efforts with a political referendum so as to suggest that the results are not valid. For example:

Between 2004 and 2014, Feeney’s foundation virtually created the gay-rights movement in Ireland, with direct investment of more than $17 million and priceless indirect support, according to Breda O’Brien, a Catholic columnist at The Irish Times, research compiled on the blog Yes Funding Exposed and Atlantic Philanthropies’ own website and reports.

Wow, that certainly sounds damning. Except that the referendum hasn’t been going on since 2004. And most of the funds had nothing at all to do with same sex marriage.

Here’s what happened: Mr. Feeney and many others both in and outside Ireland have contributed over the years to various groups, including those who have the goals of advocating for gay Irish people. And part of their efforts include public outreach to change hearts and minds as to how one treats your gay son, niece, or neighbor. And, over time, part of that discussion included the notion that civil services should be offered to gay people on the same terms as straight people, including the rights of marriage.

In 2010, the government set in place civil unions so as to offer rights without the prestige of marriage. They argued that the nation’s constitution prohibited same-sex marriage and only through a vote of the people could that be change.

Then, a few years ago, a referendum was set by the government and scheduled for 2015. Campaigns were created to support or oppose the referendum.

But Ireland bans foreign contributions to political referendums. And, after accusations by the No Campaign, the press made inquiries. (TheGuardian)

Atlantic Philanthropies declined to answer questions about the claims, but backers of the yes campaign firmly rejected them. They said their group adhered to the strict rules on campaign funding set up by Ireland’s Standards in Public Office (Sipo) commission. The Sipo register of lobby groups shows that at least 10 of the pro-gay marriage organisations have fully complied with its rules, including a ban on foreign donations.

Brian Sheehan, the co-director of pro-gay marriage group Yes Equality, said: “Atlantic Philanthropies are not funding the Yes Equality referendum campaign. Yes Equality is fully funded through its supporters organising fundraising initiatives throughout Ireland.

“In addition we ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise monies for our poster, bus tour and booklet campaigns. All elements of the Yes Equality campaign are appropriately registered with the Standards in Public Office commission. Yes Equality is entirely dependent on generous small donations from around the country. The average donation made to Yes Equality has been €70.”

Get that? The Yes Campaign registered it’s fund with an oversight agency and the media verified their compliance. Feeney’s funds may have gone to various groups, but none went to the Yes Campaign.

Now Brown and others may say that this is splitting hairs, a mere technicality. They might argue that because Mr. Feeney funded organizations that advocate for marriage equality, he is funding the campaign in a more general sense. He’s not actually funding buttons and flyers and posters, maybe, but he’s helping fund groups that are pro-gay so it’s all the same really.

But that is nonsense. A contribution to Amnesty International is not a contribution to the Yes Campaign. A contribution to a Child and Family Agency is not a contribution to the Yes Campaign. Even if some members of each group – like most Irish – voted Yes.

It makes as much sense to say that anyone who has given to the Catholic Church in Ireland is “funding the No Campaign”. After all, Catholic Bishops called for the adherents to go to polls and vote No.

There is a difference between funding organizations with an ideological bent and who seek a social position, and funding an actual campaign for a referendum. This is a clear distinction and one that Michael Brown knows well.

But, as is becoming more and more the case with anti-gay activists, honesty holds little currency. And it appears to me that Michael Brown has taken the step from truth-spinner and fact-bender to blatant liar.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, May 27

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, November 1965, page 7.

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, November 1965, page 7.

The Daughters of Bilitis’ official magazine The Ladder first appeared in October, 1956 as a twelve-page typewritten, mimeographed and hand-stapled newsletter. One hundred and seventy-five copies of that first issue were sent out, and from those humble beginnings, The Ladder went on to become first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the U.S. In Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement, Marcia Gallo wrote “For women who came across a copy in the early days, The Ladder was a lifeline. It was a means of expressing and sharing otherwise private thoughts and feelings, of connecting across miles and disparate daily lives, of breaking through isolation and fear.” The Ladder appeared monthly from 1956 until 1970, then every other month until its demise in 1972.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Homosexual Ring Broken Up”: 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” 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. Johnson initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of sodomy, but after the other two testified against him, he changed his plea to guilty in exchange for 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:

“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.”

Professor Johnston moved to Kansas City, where he lived until his death in 1990.

Daughters of Bilitis Convention Program.

 55 YEARS AGO: Daughters of Bilitis Hold First National Convention: 1960. 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 — was wearing dresses, stocking and heels.

The convention went off without further disruptions from police, but the same couldn’t be said of 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 POL1t, became angered at tactic s 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 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 (pseudonym 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.

Russia Decriminalizes Homosexuality: 1993. President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality on this date,. Since 2006, Moscow gay rights advocates have attempted 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.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Marijane Meaker: 1927. 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. 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: racisms, 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-releaseda large number of titles since 2011 in paperback and for Kindle.

25 YEARS AGO: Chris Colfer: 1990. If you watch Fox’s “Glee,” you know him as Kurt Hummel, the fashionably gay kid who is routinely bullied in school. He had auditioned for the role of Artie Abrams, but the show’s creators were so impressed with Colfer that they created the role of Kurt especially for him. Colfer, who is gay himself, says that he was accepted by his family but often bullied in school. You can see Colfer’s video for the “It Gets Better” project here.

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

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 26

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 16

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 16

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Massachusetts Buggery Law: 1697. After the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies were united into the new Massachusetts Colony, a revision to the old Massachusetts Bay Law of 1672 revised its old sodomy law. The death penalty remains, but now “Buggery” is defined to include bestiality as well as sodomy:

For avoiding of the detestable and abominable Sin of Buggery with Mankind or Beast, which is contrary to the very Light of Nature; Be it Enacted and Declared … That the same Offence be adjudged Felony … And that every Man, being duly convicted of lying with Mankind, as he lieth with a Woman; and every Man or Woman that shall have carnal Copulation with any Beast or Brute Creature, the Offender and Offenders, in either of the Cases before mentioned, shall suffer the Pains of Death, and the Beast shall be slain and Burned.

Massachusetts abolished the death penalty for sodomy and bestiality in 1805.

First Known Intersex Actress On Film: 1976. She made her debut on the screen in the 1976 movie Drive-In. Set in small town Texas, the story portrays a slice of life as the town’s teens gather at the local drive-in to watch a disaster flick. The film’s movie-within-a-movie (the movie being screened at the drive-in) is a hilarious sendup of action movies. Among the cast is Katherine Connella (billed as Neely Richlond) who plays a student and is the first intersexed person to star in a motion picture. Katherine’s biography, released in 2001, describes her experience of being born and growing up a combination of genders.

Maryland Adds Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to Hate Crime Law: 2005. Five days after vetoing a bill that would provide domestic partnership for same sex couples, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) signed a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crime law. Conservative religious groups naturally protest.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Sakia Gunn: 1987-2003. If she were alive today, she’d be celebrating her twenty-eighth birthday. Instead, she didn’t quite make it to sweet sixteen. On May 11, 2003, she and her friends were waiting for the #1 New Jersey Transit bus in downtown Newark when they were propositioned by two men. The girls rejected their advances by declaring themselves to be lesbians. The men attacked, and when Gunn fought back, one of the attackers stabbed her in the chest. After both attackers fled, Gunn was rushed to the hospital where she died. The murder became the subject of several protests in Newark, and more than 2,500 people attended her funeral.

One of the attackers, Robert McCullough, was arrested and charged with murder. In a tale that could have come from a bad comedy sketch, McCullough claimed that Gunn died after she ran into his knife. He eventually agreed to a plea bargain in which the murder charges were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea for manslaughter, aggravated assault and bias intimidation. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Memorial Day

Jim Burroway

May 25th, 2015

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives for this country. With the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011, gay and lesbian service members have been able to serve their country openly and with honor and pride. And gays and Lesbians, both servicemembers and their civilian spouses and loved ones, can also, without shame or fear, remember and honor the sacrifices of their loved ones. That, in particular, was perhaps one of the cruelest aspects of DADT and prior bans on gays and lesbians serving, and dying, openly. In prior years, loved ones were made to mourn in silence. In 1961, ONE magazine published a poignant letter from one such World War II army veteran who still mourned another who didn’t come home:

Dear Dave:

This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theater in Canastel — perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran — a misunderstanding — an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

Drinks at “Coq d’or” — dinner at the “Auberge” — a ring and promise given. The show for 1st Armoured — muscatel, scotch, wine — someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible — a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player -= competition –miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theater and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms — the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea –pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better — you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

Goodnight, sleep well my love.

Brian Keith

[Source: Brian Keith. “Letter to a G.I.” ONE, 9, no. 9 (September 1961): 19.]

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Out (Washington, D.C.), May 21, 1981, page 30.

From Out (Washington, D.C.), May 21, 1981, page 30.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
120 YEARS AGO: Oscar Wilde Convicted: 1895. Author, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was the toast of London. He made his mark in literature in The Picture of Dorian Gray (an annotated edition with some of the more homoerotic themes restored was released in 2011). His essays made him a respected man of letters, while his popular plays (Salome, A Woman of No Importance, and especially The Importance of Being Earnest) burnished his reputation for sophisticated wit.

But the wild success of Earnest, which premiered February 14, 1895, was quickly eclipsed by Wilde’s conviction and sentencing for homosexuality. Four days after the premiere of Earnest, Wilde was denounced as a homosexual by the Marquess of Queensberry (see Feb 18). Wilde, who was involved with the Marquess’s son, Alfred Douglass, ignored the advise of his friends and sued the Marquess for libel. That proved disastrous. During cross-examination, Queensberry’s lawyer asked Wilde whether he had ever kissed a particular young man, Walter Grainger, in greeting. “Oh, dear no,” Wilde replied, “He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was unfortunately extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnbury’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s admssion for not kissing Grainger: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular “ugly” man.

In short order, Wilde lost the case (see Apr 5). The next day, he was arrested and charged with gross indecency. His first trial began on April 26, with Wilde pleading not guilty. It was during that trial that Wilde uttered these famous lines under cross-examination:

Charles Gill (prosecuting): What is “the love that dare not speak its name”?

Oscar Wilde: “The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.

Despite that admission, Wilde’s first trial ended in a hung jury. But a second jury on May 25 found him and another friend guilty. Justice Alfred Wills sentenced them to the maximum sentence allowed by law: to two years of hard labor:

Justice Wills: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Taylor, the crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon one’s self to prevent one’s self from describing, in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise in the breast of every man pf honor who has heard the details of these two horrible trials. That the jury has arrived at a correct verdict in this case I cannot persuade myself to entertain a shadow of a doubt; and I hope, at all events, that those who sometimes imagine that a judge is half-hearted in the cause of decency and morality because he takes care no prejudice shall enter into the case, may see that it is consistent at least with the utmost sense of indignation at the horrible charges brought home to both of you.

It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame, and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. It is the worst case I have ever tried. that you, Taylor, kept a kind of male brothel it is impossible to doubt. And that you, Wilde, have been the center of a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men, it is equally impossible to doubt.

I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my judgment it it totally inadequate for a case such as this. The sentence of the Court is that each of you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years.

[Cries of “Oh! Oh!” and “Shame!”]

Oscar Wilde: And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?

The court adjourned.

The Redl Affair: 1913. Col. Alfred Redl was a Galician native from a poor family in what is now Ukraine but was then a part of the Austrian Empire. He joined the Austrian army where his keen intelligence and facility with languages outweighed his poverty-stricken background and opened doors into the officer corps. That was a rarity, since officers were nearly uniformly drawn from the rich and the politically well-connected. Redl was appointed to the counter-intelligence service, and his innovations quickly led the way to a series of promotions which led to his becoming the service’s chief in 1907. In 1911, Redl was honored with the Expression of Supreme Satisfaction, which was a personal honor bestowed by Emperor Franz Josef himself.

But while that was happening, Redl was also an spy for Russia, starting probably around 1903 (although the Austrian Empire’s official rendition of events had him starting only in 1912). How he became a spy for the Austria’s arch enemy isn’t clear, but we do know that Russia became aware of Redl’s homosexuality as early as 1901, and it is believed that Redl was blackmailed. Before World War I broke out, Redl handed over Austria’s plan for invading Serbia, revealed the names of Austrian agents in Russia, and underestimated Russia’s military strength to the Austrian military. The results were disastrous for Austria. With Russia and Serbia knowing Austria’s moves ahead of time, it is estimated that Redl may have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Austrian soldiers and civilians.

Ironically, Redl’s innovations in Austria’s counter-intelligence service proved to be his undoing. When Redl was promoted up and out of the counter-intelligence service, his successor and protégé, Major Maximilian Ronge, became aware of some suspicious envelopes, stuffed with cash but no note, being delivered to the Vienna post office for a Herr Nikon Nizetas for General Delivery (in other words, with no address; the post office was to hold the envelopes for Nizetas to pick up). Because of the large sums of money involved and evidence that the envelopes may have come from Russia, Ronge personally led the investigation. To Ronge’s surprise, it was Redl who arrived at the post office to claim the envelopes. When Ronde and a group of officers confronted Redl at the Hotel Klosmer where Redle was staying, Redl cordially invited them into his room and admitted his crimes. Redl then asked to borrow a revolver. Knowing what would come next, Ronge and his men left a Browning pistol and left, waiting outside the hotel for the sound of the gunshot. Redl removed his uniform, wrote one last farewell letter, and shot himself.

At first, Emperor Franz Josef tried to keep the circumstances behind Redl’s suicide under wraps, but Redl’s death soon became a rallying point for a number of factions within the government. Aristocrats pointed to Redl’s humble background to demand that the officer corps be returned to its all-aristocratic foundations. His Galician upbringing brought all Slavs in the officer corps under suspicion, despite the fact that Redl was ethnically German. And a rumor that Redl was Jewish, despite his Roman Catholic upbringing, stoked yet another wave of anti-Semitism in central Europe.

But more crucially, the Redl Affair became a worldwide symbol of the vulnerability of high-level government officials to blackmail, particularly where homosexuality was concerned. During the Cold War, the Redl Affair, along with the 1951 defection to the Soviet Union of British spies Guy Burgess and Don MacLean, reinforced the argument that gay people could not be trusted in government, and during McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade in the 1950s, homosexuality and communism were further linked as twin threats to national security.

Rep. William G, O’Neill (D-Ocala), chairman of the Legislative Investigations Committee.

Florida Legislative Committee Calls Schools “Veritable Refuge for Practicing Homosexuals”: 1961. That charge was levied in a report by the Florida Legislative Investigations Committee, which was Florida’s homegrown version of the McCarthy Red and Lavender Scares from a decade earlier. Known popularly as the Johns Committee for its first chairman, state Senator and former acting Governor Charley Johns, it was established in 1956 to investigate alleged communist links to the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1957, the Legislature broadened the committee’s mandate to investigate gays in the state’s colleges and universities. In 1961, just as that mandate was about to expire, the Johns committee issued a biennial report to the Legislature which claimed that it found a “call ring” in an unidentified populous county which put teenage boys “through what amounts to a regular course in training in homosexual acts. When properly trained they are made available to older homosexuals the same as female prostitutes.”

The report, filed by Rep. William G, O’Neill (D-Ocala), the committee’s chair, claimed that the investigation was ongoing and three men had been arrested, but provided no other details of the alleged ring. ONE magazine was skeptical of the charges:

It seems to this reporter that there have been entirely too much acceptance of alleged happenings as reported by investigative bodies or individuals who are never required to give absolute and irrefutable proof. We have for years been hearing about supposed homosexual “rings” and “clubs” that serve their memberships play-boy style. I defy anyone to show me one.

ONE was right to be skeptical, as no such case has ever hit Florida’s newspapers as far as I’ve been able to determine. But the report did tally the damage the committee had done to people lives as of 1961. Since 1959, 39 teachers’ certificates had been revoked and fourteen more cases were pending before the state Board of Education (see Apr 22 for the case of five teachers from St. Petersburg) “The committee is in possession of sworn testimony concerning homosexual conduct in excess of 75 additional public school teachers,” the report added, but added that disclosure of details would derail its investigations.

The Florida Legislature approved an additional appropriation to the Johns Committee and renewed its charter for another two years. In 1963, the Committee said that its work still was not done so the Legislature renewed its charter again for two additional years. In 1964, the fruits of that “exhaustive investigation” were finally made public when the Johns Committee issued its final report, “Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida” (see Mar 17). Known as the “purple pamphlet” for the abstract purple cover that was added to obscure the more provocative photos inside, the report was blasted as an exercise in taxpayer-funded pornography. The Legislature responded to the controversy by finally pulling funding for the committee and forcing its disbanding.

Everard Bathhouse Fire Kills Nine: 1977. In 1976, the fire officials ordered the Everard to install a sprinkler system. They were installed by May 1977, but they hadn’t been hooked up to a water supply yet when, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 25, 1977, a mattress fire broke out. Occupants when through several fire extinguishers trying to put out the flames before finally calling the fire department.

By the time firefighters arrived, about 80 to 100 occupants had managed to flee the building, many of them clad only in towels or robes. Others clung to windows awaiting rescue by the more than 200 firefighters who arrived at the scene. Nine customers didn’t make it.. Seven died from smoke inhalation, one from respiratory burns, and one from injuries sustained after jumping from an upper floor.

Identification of the victims was complicated by the fact that many of them had registered under assumed names. Friends wound up identifying them rather than family. They were: Hillman Wesley Adams, 40, South Plains, NJ; Amado Alamo, 17, Manhattan; Anthony Calarco, age unknown, The Bronx; Kenneth Hill, 38, Manhattan; Brian Duffy, 30, address unknown; Patrick Knott, 38, Manhattan; Ira Landau, 32, Manhattan; Yosef Signovec, 30, a Czech refugee whose address was unknown; and James Charles Stuard, 30, Manhattan, who was a well-known DJ at the club 12 West.

George Ames, manager of the Club Baths in Boston, was on the premises when the fire broke out. He told reporters later that the customers remained calm, although “the young employees… were hysterical. … The management at the Everard showed no regard for the customers. They are just a bunch of straight people coining money at the expense of the gay community.” Ames criticized the club for its lack of sprinklers, fire escapes, and emergency lighting. The National Gay Task Force’s Bruce Voeller (see May 12) described the Everard as a “shabby, dreadful place, run down and grubby beyond words.” He pointed out that there had been a fire five years earlier, and there was nothing more than a “cosmetic renovation,” of the facility. The only reason the Everard was still popular, he said, was because of its long history and its location in a safe neighborhood.

(Note: This video of the fire erroneously give the year as 1975.)

The fire destroyed the top two floors. They were rebuilt and the Everard reopened in 1979 — this time with sprinklers — only to close again in 1986 during a campaign by New York mayor Ed Koch during the AIDS epidemic.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Ian McKellen: 1939. His roots are in theater, mainly Shakespeare, where he continues to perform in a number of state productions in Britain. But beginning in 1969, he branched out in film and television, covering a wide range of genres from drama (And the Band Played On, Gods and Monsters), to mystery (Six Degrees of Separation, The Da Vinci Code), to action and fantasy (X-Men, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as Gandolf).

McKellen was among the earliest actors to come out publicly as gay. He came out in 1988 during a BBC interview while discussing the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, which stated that local governments “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” (see May 24). According to a 2003 interview, McKellen said he visited Environment Secretary Michael Howard (who was responsible for local governments) to lobby against the bill. Howard reaffirmed his approval of Section 28, and in a defining moment of chutzpah, asked McKellen to leave an autograph for Howard’s children. He did. It read, “Fuck off, I’m gay.” McKellen remained politically active and co-founded the British gay-rights group Stonewall in 1989. In 2007, he became a patron of The Albert Kennedy Trust, an organization that provides support to homeless and troubled LGBT youth.

McKellen is properly called Sir Ian McKellen. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979, was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts. He was also named a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to LGBT equality in 2008.

Anne Heche: 1969. She got her start on the NBC soap opera Another World, where she won a Daytime Emmy in 1991. Appropriate, given that so much of her life reads like a soap opera. She was the daughter of a Baptist choir director who disclosed his homosexuality to his family just before dying of AIDS in 1983. That same year, her brother died in a car accident. Four years later, Heche launched her acting career with Another World as soon as she got out of high school. From there she took a series of roles in television and film, including If These Walls Could Talk (1996), Walking and Talking (1996), Wag the Dog (1997), and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

It was at about that time that Heche began dating comedian Ellen DeGeneres. They had said they would get a civil union if it became legal in Vermont, but they broke up in August, 2000. Just hours after news broke of their relationship ending, she appeared that the rear door of a house in Fresno County wearing nothing by shorts and a bra, asking if she could take a shower. She had curled up on the couch for a nap when sheriff deputies arrived. She told officers that she was “God, and was going to take everyone back to heaven in a spaceship.” She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, but was released a few hours later.

That episode became the stuff of tabloid headlines and served as a turning point in her 2001 memoir Call Me Crazy (which she wrote in only six weeks), where she described the her sexual abuse by her father, and her subsequent emotional problems and drug abuse. Meanwhile, her mother, Nancy Heche capitalized on her daughter’s fame and became an important speaker at ex-gay conferences where she claimed that her prayers “cured” Anne’s lesbianism. Anne, who is bisexual, says that her mother’s campaign is “a way to keep the pain of the truth out.” In 2011, Anne said that she doubted that she would ever reconcile with her mother.

In 2001, Heche married a cameraman who she met during DeGeneres’s 2000 standup comedy tour, and had a son the following year.  They divorced in 2007. That same year, she moved in with actor James Tupper, who was her co-star in the ABC comedy-drama Men in Trees (2006-2008). She had her second son with Tupper in 2009.

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

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, May 24

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is bought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1977, page 20.

Milwaukee’s Sugar Shack opened in 1976 as a bar “by and for women.” It lasted until 1985 when the two women who owned it sold it . It then re-opened as another lesbian bar, D.K.’s Tavern. That lasted just two years until 1987, when it changed hands again and became a men’s gay bar, The Triangle, which finally closed down in 2012. The building has since been renovated beyond recognition and houses a chic restaurant.

Pat Buchanan

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Pat Buchanan Calls AIDS an “Awful Retribution”: 1983. “The sexual revolution has begun to devour its children,” proclaimed Pat Buchanan in a New York Post op-ed that was relayed in newspapers across America. “And among the revolutionary vanguard, the Gay Rights activists, the mortality rate is higher and climbing.”

By 1983, the known AIDS epidemic was about to reach its two-year mark. A general panic was spreading in the gay community, and a general backlash was brewing everywhere else. Buchanan fueled that backlash with this op-ed, warning that no homosexual should be permitted to handle food. He also warned that the Democratic party’s decision to hold their 1984 convention in San Francisco would leave their delegates wives and children at the mercy of “homosexuals who belong to a community that is a common carrier of dangerous, communicable and sometimes fatal diseases.” And he attributed all of it to divine retribution with his now-infamous money-quote: “The poor homosexuals… they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”

Buchanan had a flair for the dramatic turn of the phrase, having served as an opposition researcher and speechwriter for President Richard Nixon. He would go on to become communications director for the Reagan White House from 1985 to 1987. In 1992, as Buchanan ran for the Republican nomination for President, he again called AIDS “nature’s retribution for violating the laws of nature in many ways” (see Feb 27). His speech before the Republican National Convention later that summer brought the term “culture war” to a nationwide audience.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Britain Enacts Section 28: 1988. When Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party swept into Government in 1979, it brought with it sweeping changes throughout Britain touching on all levels of society. With “Thatcherism” came a wholesale transformation of the economy, widespread cuts in social programs, open warfare with trade unions, and a retrenchment on a wide range of social issues including homosexuality. British society’s attitudes towards gay people hardened further during the early 1980s as AIDS began to take root in the U.K.

But in areas in which either the Labour or Liberal Party held sway, gay rights activists were able to get a number of local councils to include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies. The Greater London Council authorized several grants between 1981 and 1984 to local gay groups and the London Lesbian and Gay Community Centre in Islington, and in 1985, the Labour Party called for an end to all legal discrimination against gays and lesbians. When the Daily Mail, in its characteristic alarmist fashion, discovered the book  Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin by the Danish author Susanne Bösche in a school library, all hell broke loose.

On December 2, 1987, Conservative MP David Wilshire responded to the outcry with a proposed amendment to the Local Government Act to prohibit local authorities from “promoting homosexuality” or teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” in schools. The clause which later became known as Section 28, was inserted at the committee stage on December 7, debated in Committee on December 8, and was adopted by the full House of Commons on December 15. The House of Lords approved it the following spring, and the law took effect on May 24, 1988.

The law had its intended effect. Where local governments had previously allowed gay groups to meet on government property and libraries to keep LGBT publications, many now were reluctant to do so. It also had an unintended effect: Section 28 almost singlehandedly revived the gay rights movement on a national scale. Ian McKellen came out on the BBC and helped to found Stonewall, while Peter Tatchell established OutRage!, and the two spent the next decade campaigning against Section 28. In 1997, Labour was swept back into Government in a landslide victory, but the first two legislative attempts to repeal Section 28, both in 2000, were defeated in the House of Lords. After another Labour landslide in the 2001 elections, opponents of Section 28 made another run at repeal again. in 2003. This time it was successful, and the repeal went into effect on November 18, 2003.

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

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

62% Said Yes

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 2015

The official results were announced at Dublin Castle at about 7:00 p.m. IST (2:00 p.m. EDT).  With all 43 constituencies counted, and with a turnout of 60.52% of the eligible electorate, the ayes have it 62% to 38% (1,201,607 to 734,300 in raw vote counts). Only one constituency, Roscommon-South Leitrim, voted against marriage equality, and even there it was fairly close at 48.6% to 51.4%. With this vote, the following text will be added to Article 41 of the Irish Constitution:

Féadfaidh beirt, gan beann ar a ngnéas, conradh pósta a dhéanamh de réir dlí.

Which means,

Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

The Irish Times describes what happens next:

To give effect to the amendment, the Oireachtas will enact the Marriage Bill 2015, which will state in law for the first time the principle that being of the same sex is no longer an impediment to marriage. Officials in the Department of Justice will begin drafting the legislation next week. A spokesman said the Bill would be prioritised with a view to it being passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess.

…When the Marriage Bill has been drafted, it will go to Cabinet for a formal sign-off. It will then be enacted by the Oireachtas – probably in July – before practical work is done on changing marriage forms and procedures. Finally, the Minister for Justice will sign a commencement order.

A three-month notice period for civil marriages means that, all going to plan, the first same-sex marriage in Ireland could take place before Christmas.

Civil partnerships will not be automatically upgraded to marriage, but will remain in effect. No new civil partnerships will be issued once the Marriage Act goes into effect.

 

Yes!

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 2015
Ireland election officials count their votes the tried-and-true way. No hanging chads here.

Ireland election officials count their votes the tried-and-true way. No hanging chads or fiddly electronics here.

Irish eyes were already smiling this morning before the official referendum count began with reports of heavy turnout in Dublin and comparatively light turnout in the rural areas. This news, many observers felt, would bode very well for the marriage equality referendum. The official hand-count began at 9:00 local time, and by 9:14 there were already strong results from Dublin North with marriage equality being approved with a 65% to 70% yes vote. As other constituencies began reporting similar margins, the yes count had already gathered into an obvious landslide by 9:30, with even a number of rural constituencies throwing their weight onto the yes side’s lead. The “no” side tweeted their concession to the yes campaign at 10:00.Ballot counting is continuing, so the final count hasn’t been released yet. But when all is said and done, Irish voters will have approved marriage equality with an astounding 2:1 margin:

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has predicted that the referendum will carry in Dublin with a 70-30 Yes majority.

He said he thought other cities in Ireland, including Limerick, Galway and Waterford, would be close at 60-40

He said he believed even in rural conservative constituencies we were seeing 50-50 and that some might be a slight majority for No and others would be a slight majority for Yes.

Minister Coveney said right across the country there is a big endorsement of a new attitude towards a minority that had been discriminated against for far too long.

This makes Ireland the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality through a popular vote. Here’s a likely timeframe going forward, from an Irish Times reporter:

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