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Posts for May, 2015

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

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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:

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 23

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 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 brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), May 1975, page 28.

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), May 1975, page 28.

Cyril Wilcox,  the Harvard undergrad whose suicide launched Harvard’s ant-gay Secret Court.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
95 YEARS AGO: Harvard’s Secret Court: 1920. On May 13, 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a Harvard sophomore, committed suicide. He had been struggling with his grades and with his health, and returned home to recover. While at home, he told his older brother, George, that he had been having an affair with another man. George apparently reacted very badly to the news, with Cyril’s suicide following shortly after. Soon after Cyril’s death, George intercepted two letters. One was a gossipy letter from a gay classmate, and another was from a recent graduate. Armed with those letters, George demanded that Harvard’s acting Dean, Chester N Greenough rid the college “of this pernicious scourge.” Greenough consulted with Harvard President Abbot Lowell and formed a special five-man tribunal on this date in history which became known as the “Secret Court.”

Acting Dean Chester N. Greenough, who led the investigations for the Secret Court.

The court launched a wide-ranging witch hunt, with Greenough summoning each witness one-by-one with a brief note. The Court’s inquiry was exhaustive, posing questions about masturbation practices, sex with women or men, cross-dressing, overnight guests, parties, and reading habits. The scope of the inquiry soon expanded to area businesses, cafés and bars. Eight students were expelled, ordered to leave Cambridge and reported to their families. They were also told that Harvard would disclose the reasons for their expulsion if employers or other schools sought references. At least one student committed suicide following his expulsion. Four others unconnected to Harvard were also deemed guilty. The school couldn’t punish them directly, but they did pressure one café to fire a waiter.

In 2002, a researcher from Harvard’s daily newspaper, The Crimson, came across a box of files labeled “Secret Court” in the University’s archives. After pressure from newspaper staff, the University finally released five hundred documents related to the Court’s work, and The Crimson published its findings in November of that year. Harvard’s president Lawrence H. Summers responded to the revelations, expressing deep regret for the anguish the students and families experienced. He called the reports “extremely disturbing” and the court’s actions “abhorrent.” Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan responded to Summers’s statement by saying that “Harvard embraces bathhouse values”:

Harvard’s code is now based on Summers’ values, which hold that the old moral code of Christianity, which teaches that sexual relations between men are unnatural and immoral, is “abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university.” Harvard has not only turned its back on its Christian past, it has just renounced its Christian roots as poisoned and perverted. If Harvard is educating America’s leaders, this country is not Slouching Toward Gomorrah, we are sprinting there.

[More information can be found in William Wright’s Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals]

65 YEARS AGO: State Department Announces Tougher Scrutiny for Job Applicants: 1950. By May of 1950, the Truman Administration and its State Department had withstood unrelenting attacks from Republican and Southern Democrats in Congress over charges that the administration was lax about hiring homosexual employees, all of whom allegedly posed as security risks (see Feb 28Mar 14Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14, Apr 18Apr 26, May 2May 5 and May 19). On May 22, the State Department’s top security officer, R.W. Scott McLeod, announced steps in the hiring process to try to address those criticisms. He told Congress that he was ordering his aides to be “completely ruthless” on passing on new job applicants who had a hint of security issues. According to news reports, McLeod said that someone who made a single mistake in the past might be able to “cancel it out” with good performance since then, with one exception. He said that a single homosexual act, no matter how long past, would make the employee subject to blackmail and would never be hired.

Supporters of Eugene's gay rights ordinance gather for a candlelight protest on election night. (Source.)

Supporters of Eugene’s gay rights ordinance gather for a candlelight protest on election night. (Source.)

Eugene Oregon Voters Defeat Gay Rights Ordinance: 1978. Anita Bryant’s successful campaign to defeat a Miami non-discrimination ordinance in 1977 (see Jun 7)) Launched a wave of ballot measures in cities across the country the following year. Voters in St. Paul, Minnesota repealed their ordinance by more than a two-to-one margin (see Apr 25) and Wichita, Kansas voters bested that two weeks later with a five-to-one vote (see May 9). Anita Bryant’s Protect America’s Children had poured $20,000 into those battles ($74,000 in today’s dollars), which were enormous sums for city elections.

The juggernaut next moved on to Eugene, Oregon two weeks later, where residents were asked to vote on whether to approve a gay rights amendment to the city’s human rights ordinance. The amendment would have extended existing prohibitions of housing, employment and public accommodations discrimination to include sexual orientation. The Eugene City Council had passed the amendment on November 28. It would have gone into effect thirty days later, but a group quickly formed, calling themselves the Volunteer Organization Involved in Community Enactments (VOICE), and they managed to collect 10,000 signatures in less than two weeks to place the amendment on the next primary election ballot.

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 3A.

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 3A.

With Eugene being home to the University of Oregon and known for being friendly to more progressive brand of politics, the gay community felt that this fight would give them the best chance to turn back the tide. Early polling, which showed voters about evenly split, was promising. According to local news reports, VOICE and the pro-gay Eugene Citizens for Human Rights (ECHR) “conducted vigorous but restrained campaigns that lacked the inflammatory rhetoric of campaigns on similar gay rights proposals in other communities.” While VOICE sought examples of brochures and advertisements from the other campaigns, they elected to focus their message less on morality and religious beliefs, and more about whether gay people deserved “special” protections under the law. ECHR, similarly, shunned assistance from outside groups. ECHR coordinator Candy Hansen said, “Eugene is Eugene and we want to win this for the people of Eugene.”

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 7A.

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 7A.

That win didn’t happen. The vote was 22,898 to 13,427 — 63 to 37 percent. It was the best margin yet for the gay community, but still a landslide defeat. Turnout among college students was low, which may  partly explain why the polling looked so much more favorable. Lynn Greene, a campaign coordinator for VOICE was ecstatic. “We’ve shown that a liberal community will oppose legislation destructive to moral standards. “It shows that you don’t have to be religious to see that this kind of ordinance can negatively affect the community. The idea that this is a human rights issue is a facade, and people recognize that.” VOICE director Larry Dean called the vote a reaction against a “swing in morals” and said that even in liberal Eugene, voters weren’t ready to endorse what amounted to an “acceptance of homosexuality.” “If they (the gay community) cannot win here, they can’t win anyplace, except perhaps San Francisco.”

That same night, Dean received a congratulatory telegram from Anita Bryant, who praised “the Christian public and all the citizens of Eugene who worked and voted against legalized immorality. Let us continue to reach out in Godly love to all homosexuals who want deliverance, while opposing at the threshold every attempt of the militant homosexuals to represent their lifestyle as ‘normal’ and to impose it on us and our children.” Meanwhile, Edward Rowe, the Executive Director for Protect American’s Children reiterated his denial that his group was directly involved with VOICE’s campaign. “We worked only indirectly with the people in Eugene. There was consultation with our office in Miami Beach and the groups in Wichita and St. Paul. There was no funding in this case.”

While VOICE supporters were celebrating at a Chuckwagon steak house, the gay community and its allies marched quietly from the Eugene Hotel to the courthouse in a candlelight parade.

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?

Where Do You Begin With Something Like This?

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2015

Welcome_Duggar_612x187How about with a little bit of snark? Throughout the Family “Research” Council’s 32-year history, it has promoted the lie that gays and lesbians were far more likely to molest children, even though it is not and never has been true. In fact, we now know that, at least as of yesterday, it’s FRC leaders who are statistically much more likely to molest kids than pretty much any other group.

That fact came to light after Josh Duggar, the executive director of FRC Action, the group’s political lobbying arm, resigned amid allegations that he had molested at least five girls between 2002 and 2003.

Josh Duggar joined the Family “Research” Council in 2013 to become their rock-star anti-gay activist. Last December, he led successful effort to defeat an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He charged that the ordinance would pose a threat to children, an argument that his mother, Michelle Duggar, repeated in a robocall to voters. ThinkProgress has a pretty good round-up of examples of Josh Duggar’s lectures on family values. As FRC’s superstar political executive, he campaigned on behalf of ultra-conservative candidates in Kansas, Virginia, and Mississippi, and he’s had so many photos and selfies taken with GOP presidential aspirants that there’s an entire Tumbler dedicated to them.

DuggerFRCJosh Duggar reached his rock-star status as the scion of the humongous Duggar clan, headed by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The family follows a strict form of conservative Christianity which includes the Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements. The names of those movements are suggestive. The Quiverfull movement eschews birth control so that families can raise up large numbers of children as foot soldiers for Christ, while the Christian Patriarchy movement teaches that families must follow a strict patriarchal order. Millions of viewers have become familiar with these movements through the Duggars’ TLC reality series “19 kids and counting.” It had debuted as “17 Kids and Counting” in 2008. That series grew out of a series of TLC specials, including “14 Children and Pregnant Again!” (2005),  Raising 16 Children” (2005), and “16 Children and Moving In” (2005), in which they move into a 7,000 square-foot house that was partly built by TLC.

But it was at about that time when Springdale, Arkansas, police had opened a felony investigation against the Duggar’s oldest son, Josh. The scandal magazine InTouch Weekly broke the story yesterday, that Springdale police opened their investigation following a tip from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, which had received an email from an un-named Arkansas resident detailing some of Josh’s molestations. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette added that at the same time Harpo Studios passed on the email to authorities, Springdale police were notified about a letter “containing allegations of improper touching in the Duggar home. The report says the letter, written 31/2 years earlier, had been found in a book lent by a family friend of the Duggars to someone else.”

Police followed up and interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who said that they learned in March 2002 that Josh, then 14, had, on multiple occasions, touched another girl’s breasts and genitals while she slept. Their reaction? They “disciplined (Josh) after this incident,” but otherwise kept quiet.

Then nine months later, they found out that “there was another incident” — actually incidents, as multiple girls were involved. This time, Jim Bob consulted church elders — none of whom reported the abuse to authorities — and promised to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling.” That “program” appears to have been little more than helping out a family friend in the remodeling business for three months, although new reports are emerging that the family friend, Harold Walker, was a former leader at the Little Rock-based Institute in Basic Life Principles Training Center. The faith based and unaccredited center was founded by Bill Gothard, who resigned after more than thirty young women and teenagers claimed they were sexually harassed by Gothard.

After Josh returned from Arkansas, Jim Bob took him to family friend and Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens, who gave Josh a “very stern talk,” but otherwise took no official action. Hutchens, it turns out, is serving a 56-year prison on child porn charges. When police asked to talk to Josh, the Duggars lawyered up — after two lawyers refused to take the case — and refused to cooperate further. The investigated ended in late 2000 because the statute of limitations ran out. The Democrat-Gazette reports however than investigators filed a “family in need of services” affidavit in Juvenile Court, which resulted in a trial in 2007. The records of that trial are sealed.

Well, now that this has come to light, TLC has announced that they are pulling “19 Kids and Counting” from their schedule. That was after having unwisely run a three-hour “19 Kids and Counting” marathon last night, which provoked a giant social media backlash. Another seven-hour marathon had been scheduled for tonight.

Immediately following Josh Duggar’s resignation, the Family “Research” Council issued the following statement:

“Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.

“Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved,” concluded (FRC President Tony) Perkins.

You can bet that this statement is a very far cry from the one they would have released had it been the oldest son of a famous same-sex couple who had been accused of molesting children. It’s also interesting that FRC posted the statement to its front page where it will likely disappear over the weekend, instead of to a dedicated press release where it might remain available for future reference. Meanwhile, the Dugger family — Jim Bob and Michelle, Josh, and his wife Anna — posted these three statements on Facebook:

From Jim Bob and Michelle:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

From Josh:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

From Anna:

I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married – it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him. When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn’t know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was — even every difficult past mistakes. At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him… I was able to say, “Yes” knowing who Josh really is – someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right. I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren’t for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you.

Do you notice what’s included in these statements? God has forgiven him and so should you. Also, they’re closer to God now. (Is that supposed to make it okay? I wonder how Josh’s victims feel.) And lots of concern for Josh’s well-being in this “difficult time” — but don’t worry. He’s moved on and is much better now.

Notice what’s missing? Any mention of his victims or their difficult times, which must undoubtedly stretch back at least a dozen years and is being revived all over again today. How are they doing today? Are they thankful for their “journey”?

This is more than mere hypocrisy. That word is far too trivial to use here. This is abusive, both in the original acts of molestation, and in the parents unconscionable decision to turn their entire family into a public spectacle. Because here’s the thing: At least one of the victims was a daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle.* That fact right there, which they well knew at the time and were busy sweeping under the rug, makes their decision to turn their entire family reality TV starts all the more revolting. For the sake of their pride and the opportunity to become big-time TV stars and culture war activists, they coerced at least one sexual abuse victim in their own family to smile and pretend that nothing was wrong. I can’t imagine too many things more vile than that.

* A number of other sites have reported this detail about Josh’s victims, and it’s not too difficult to find out more, including the precise numbers and other details. I recognize how important it is to keep sexual abuse victims’ details private, and I struggled with whether to provide this information here. But I decided to include this because it is particularly germane to a broader issue of abuse that goes beyond Josh’s activities and the parents’ egregious response. Please do no disclose any further details about the victims in the comments. They will be deleted, without exception.

Ireland Goes to the Polls

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2015

Irish voters today will consider a very important question, the outcome of which would make available a very important institution to larger numbers of Irish citizens: whether to lower the minimum age from 35 to 21 for those running for President.

I have no idea how that referendum will go since it’s hard to find any polling data on this important question. That’s because everyone is talking about the other question on today’s ballot, whether to enshrine marriage equality for same-sex couples in Irish law. On that question, one major poll (PDF: 1.1MB/5 pages) commissioned for The Sunday Independent shows the yes vote for marriage equality outpaces the opposition by 69% to 31% — but that is after excluding the undecideds:

But as always, there is more to this than meets the eye. Let’s look at the figures including the potential floating voters – they account for nearly one in four. On this basis, support for the plebiscite is just over half (53pc – down significantly by thirteen points), whilst the No side has shifted marginally upwards by three to 24pc.

…Much has been said about the “silent No” vote. In light of the UK election, and the “Shy Tory” theory, this may be the case for some. Even still, the Yes side’s lead seems unassailable. The fear for them will not be the silent No vote, but rather the danger of complacency, and the effect this will have on turnout.

With headlines assuring the public that the marriage referendum enjoys wide support, the actually turnout will be key. If turnout is low — especially if younger people fail to cast their ballots — then it will likely disproportionately affect the yes vote. Another wild card is Irish expats, who will also have a say. This trainload of expats from London looks promising, and the #hometovote hashtag is trending on Twitter. Turnout looks good in the early going, but with the high number of undecideds, this one isn’t in the bag. Polls will be open until 10:00 p.m. IST. Vote counting begins Saturday at 9:00 a.m. IST (4:00 a.m. EDT), with solid returns expected about three to four hours later. The Irish Times is live-blogging it here.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, May 22

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2015

<strongTODAY’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 brought to you by:

AnitaBryant.DivorceCruise-Blade1980.06.12p21

From The Washington Blade, June 12, 1980, page 21.

Randy Rohl and Grady Quinn.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
First Gay Couple To Attend High School Prom: 1979. Randy Rohl, a 17-year-old senior at a Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, embarked on the most quintessential high school rite of passage: attending the senior prom. His date wasn’t so quintessential: his friend, 20-year-old Grady Quinn. The couple wore matching powder blue tuxes, rose boutonnieres and matching silver pierced earrings.

Rohl wore his sexuality rather lightly, especially considering the times and the locale. He later told a friend that it wasn’t meant to be a political act. He just wanted to go to the prom. The school’s principal, Fred Stephens, granted permission for the couple to attend the dance, saying “My belief is that people need their rights protected. Homosexuals have rights.” Rohl told reporters, “The principal was very concerned for my well-being.”

And aside from a few pre-prom threats (which brought out a police presence in case anything came from those threats), and some raised eyebrows and a heavy media presence with glaring bright lights, it all went off without a hitch. . The couple danced five times. “The first one was a slow dance,” Rohl told reporters, “and people were a little surprised to see two guys dancing together.” The Washington Post reported that they got was a lot of extra room on the dance floor. But when the faster disco tunes were played, they attracted less attention.

“I think it’s rather sad that my date and I have to get more publicity or more acknowledgement from the press than any other couple,” he said. “I don’t think we’re any more worthy of special attention. Yes, maybe it’s a milestone in gay rights, but it’s being made into more of a freak show.” He also said that despite the threats, several students came over and congratulated the couple. “A lot of people were really glad we stuck to your guns and went.”

According to the National Gay Task Force, this was the first time an acknowledged gay couple attended a high school prom together in the U.S., even though the two were just friends. (Grady Quinn was the partner of a local gay rights activist.) This would be Randy Rohl’s only act as an activist. After high school, he moved to Minneapolis to attend college, and retreated back into private life. He died on December 31, 1993 of AIDS.

[Additional source: “‘It’s a Good Feeling,’ Says Gay Who Took Boyfriend to His Prom.” The Advocate, no. 271 (July 12, 1979): 7.]

BryantGreen 35 YEARS AGO: Anita Bryant Files for Divorce: 1980. The Associated Press described her as a “strong-principled advocate of God, family and flag.” Nevertheless, she announced that she was divorcing her husband and manager, Bob Green because he “violated my most precious asset: my very conscience.”

Bryant’s statement, which the AP reported she released “from her 25-room Miami Beach home,” charged that Green cooperated “with certain hired staff members who conspired to control me and to use my name and reputation to build their personal careers instead of my ministry.” Her statement brought to a close their twenty year marriage. She also announced that she was resigning from Anita Bryant Ministries.

Green answered Bryant with an open letter, which was also released to the press:

Dear Anita:

I love you with all my heart and I am awaiting your return as my wife and the mother of our children. God’s love and forgiveness is open to both of us if we will but seek it.

Let us both put aside all other earthly considerations and reunite our lives in Christian love.

Your husband,
Bob

Bryant wasn’t interested in Green’s overture, such as it was, and she went ahead with the divorce, even though it was “against everything I believe in.” Green, citing his religious beliefs, refused to recognize the divorce, saying they were still married “in God’s eyes.” He also blamed gay people: “Blame gay people? I do. Their stated goal was to put [Bryant] out of business and destroy her career. And that’s what they did. It’s unfair.” He died, an embittered old man, in 2012.

As for Bryant, she married again, relaunched her career in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. When that failed, she moved to Branson, Missouri. When that failed, she declared bankruptcy and moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to start over one more time. That also failed, leaving a pile of unpaid creditors and abused employees in the wake.

Harvey Milk

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
85 YEARS AGO: Harvey Milk: 1930-1978. Also known as the Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk finally succeeded in becoming California’s first (and the nation’s fourth) openly gay non-incumbent candidate to win a political office for two reasons: he refused to hide who he was; and he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. So to those who knew Harvey well weren’t surprised when his 1977 as San Francisco City Supervisor that he was good terms with conservative supervisor Dan White. White, a former cop, was supported by the city’s police union whose leaders were angry over city policies which they considered to be soft on crime and homosexuals. The local media ate it up as the two made joint appearances on local talk shows where they both talked warmly of each other. Harvey began to privately telling friends that he thought White was “educatable,” and that the two might actually be able to work together.

But all that changed when Milk wound up voting against White’s proposal to bar a psychiatric treatment center from opening in White’s district. White retaliated by voting against Milk’s gay rights bill (it passed anyway), and for the next several months, White would not speak to Milk or his aides. Other supervisors noticed that White stopped spending as much time at his office in City Hall, and he was sullen during the weekly board meetings. White abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. When he had a change of heart a few days later, Mayor George Moscone refused to commit to re-appointing him to the board. On November 27, 1978, White snuck into City Hall and confronted Moscone in his office, and shot him twice in the abdomen, then twice more in the head. He then walked down the hall to Milk’s office. After arguing with Milk, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back and twice in the head.

Milk’s short political career changed the face of LGBT politics. During the 1978 campaign against the Briggs Amendment which would have required the firing of gay teachers and any school employee who supported gay rights, Milk insisted on aggressively confronting the anti-gay campaign by raising the visibility of the gay community. The campaign against the Briggs Amendment was also a campaign against the closet. He told a crowd during San Francisco’s Gay Pride that year:

“On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”

45 YEARS AGO: Mark Bingham: 1970-2001. A true hero, Mark Bingham was among the passengers who stormed the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93 after it had been hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. His personal bravery was well known before that fateful day. His boyfriend of six years, Paul Holm, recalled that Bingham had thwarted two attempted muggings, one at gunpoint. His friends recalled that he proudly showed off the scars he received during a running of the bulls in Pamplona. During the hijacking, Bingham, who was sitting in first class, made a brief call to his mother. She later called him back after learning of the other 9/11 attacks and said the flight was being used on a suicide mission. Bingham has been honored with several others for bringing the aircraft down and preventing a much greater loss of life.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 21

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 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 brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 19.

The Elephant Walk — named after the Elizabeth Taylor movie, and not the early 1970s fratboy hazing ritual — opened in the Castro on November 27, 1974. Inspired by the massive plate glass windows at the Twin Peaks Tavern just up the street (Twin Peaks, by the way, is still in business), Fred Rogers opened the bar with similarly large, clear windows because he wanted a bright, cheerful place with a view onto the street where he could sit, relax, and chat with friends. It was a huge success. Sylvester (see Sep 6) often performed there on Sundays, and the bar featured daily brunches that were served until 3:00. p.m.

The Elephant Walk saw a lot of good times and a lot of hard times. In 1979, the bar was almost destroyed by rioting San Francisco police officers after the gay community rioted downtown following the light sentence given to Dan White for murdering gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, but the bar quickly recovered and reopened. In 1985, bar manager Jack McCarty and his lover were vacationing in Greece when their return flight, TWA 847, was hijacked and diverted to Beirut. They were released and returned to the U.S. seventeen days later to a hero’s welcome. In 1988, the bar was destroyed in a four-alarm fire that consumed the upper floor of the building, and thus, the Elephant Walk came to an end. After years of reconstruction, the building today houses a restaurant called “Harvey’s,” in honor of Harvey Milk whose camera shop was just up the street on the same block.

motorcade3

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Los Angeles Armed Forces Day Motorcade: 1966. Los Angeles Armed Forces Day Motorcade: 1966. Representatives of various East Coast homophile groups had already been protesting in support of gay rights over the past year and a half, in New York (see Sep 19 and Apr 18), Washington (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Aug 28, and Oct 23) and Philadelphia (see Jul 4). And so how appropriate is it that when gay rights leaders decided to stage one of the earliest organized protests in Los Angeles, a city known for its car culture and not for its walkability, their protest took place in cars and not on foot?

The occasion for the Los Angeles protest was Armed Forces Day, scheduled to take place that year on May 21. It was military policy that “The homosexual is considered unsuitable for military service and is not permitted to serve in the Armed Forces in any capacity.” On February 19, representatives of a dozen homophile groups had gathered in Kansas City to take part in the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations, with the idea being to form a national confederation of gay rights groups. Little was accomplished at that meeting, except a general agreement to protest the exclusion of gay people the military on Armed Forces day. The idea was met with great enthusiasm, initially, with a burst of plans and coordinating communications taking place among committees in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

But it didn’t take long for the first obstacles arose. The principal one was due to the unpopularity of the war in Viet Nam. Some gay men of draft age found the Defense Department’s policy to be one of the very few distinct advantages they had over others who opposed the war and didn’t want to serve. Aside from the political debates over the morality of the war, why would they want to protest against one of the very few advantages that gay people had in society, at least for those of draft age who didn’t want to fight?

Pretty soon, all national coordination stopped, but planning continued in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From the Aimed Forces. It was an all-volunteer effort, directed out of the offices of Don Slater’s magazine Tangents (see Aug 21) with Slater and Harry Hay (see Apr 7) co-chairing. The committee issued a press release in late March announcing the Armed Forces Motorcade, which caught the attention of L.A’s newspapers and radio and television stations. That press release not only publicized the event, but also acknowledged some of the anti-war arguments against it. The statement pointed out that while the military was “publicly paying lip service to the idea that homosexual persons are unfit for military service, (it) has quietly instructed induction centers to make discreet ‘exceptions’ to the rule (in) the case of homosexuals who are not the ‘obvious’ types.”

But even with the advance publicity, it wasn’t easy drumming up support within the gay community. As Harry Hay told Time magazine the night before the Motorcade:

We’re all tired from the work,” said Hay, “but if this comes, off, it will be something our city has never seen before. If it comes off. Imagine a motorcade of 15 cars and about a 20 mile route through Los Angeles. Ideally we should have had the support of the entire homophile, community; then we could have staged a really grand demonstration. But most homosexuals are still hiding.” He continued vehemently: “With the work we have put into this thing and with the thousands of homosexuals in the area, it is fantastic to realize we will be lucky to have 40 persons show up for the motorcade tomorrow —and at least 20 who do will not be gay.”

motorcade2The motorcade, consisting of more than a dozen cars with four-sided signs attached to their roofs, wound their way through the streets of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Despite the initial interest expressed in the press, only the alternative Free Press, a Time photographer and a CBS News crew showed up to cover the event. The city editor of the Los Angeles Times said he’d send a reporter “only if someone was hurt. All our reporters and cameras are in Watts.” The incident went off without a hitch, with no adverse reaction from the public, no interference from police. That in itself was a major accomplishment.

While national coordination all but disappeared soon after the February meeting in Kansas City, other Armed Forces Day protests went ahead. The Mattachine Society of Washington D.C., picketed the White House and marched from there to the Pentagon. Frank Kameny, the group’s past president (see below) then flew to New York to be the principal speaker at a rally sponsored by the Daughters of Bilitis. Protesters also handed out leaflets at the Philadelphia Navy Yards, and picketed the Federal Building Plaza in San Francisco.

[Additional Source: C. Todd White. Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009): 183-187.]

White Night Riots: 1979. On this date, Dan White was found guilty in the shooting death of San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a paltry seven years in prison. (He would only serve five.) The jury bought the defense arguments that White was suffering from diminished capacity due to depression and an overload of junk food, a defense that has since been derided as the “Twinkie defense.”

The gay community was already angry with the police and fire department, which had raised money for White’s defense. That anger boiled over when the verdict was announced, leading to rioting at City Hall. A dozen police cars were set ablaze as protesters waged a four-hour battle against police in riot gear — their badges were covered with black tape to prevent identification –on Civic Center Plaza.

Later that night, San Francisco police staged a retaliatory raid in the Castro, catching people by surprise, since most of those still in the Castro that evening hadn’t gone downtown. Police descended on the Elephant Walk, a popular gay bar, with shouts of “dirty cocksuckers” and “sick faggots” while beating patrons with batons and shattering a large plate glass window. For the next two hours, police officers indiscriminately attacked passers by on the street. Fred Rogers, the bar’s owner, described the melee:

San Francisco Police charging into the Elephant Walk.

San Francisco Police charging into the Elephant Walk.

A tactical squad had charged the doors, smashing news cameras attempting to record the raid. Once inside they made a sweep from the front of the 1,800-square-foot room all the way to — and over — the bar, swinging their clubs at anything that moved. Or didn’t. Brian, one of the bartenders, was sporting head bandages. He said that it all happened fast, without warning. There was no place to hide. Behind the bar I could see our industrial-strength, stainless-steel blender. It bore the deep imprint of a police baton, mute testimony to the fierceness of the assault. My cocktail waitress, Paula, was just finishing her first week on the job when the assault began. Luckily, she found refuge behind a closed gate in the kitchen area. She said that she had not seen such police brutality since her days on the UC-Berkeley campus.

Later that night, a freelance reporter overheard a group of police officers celebrating at a downtown bar. “We were at City Hall the day [the killings] happened and we were smiling then,” one officer said. “We were there tonight and we’re still smiling.” Gay leaders refused to apologize for the riot at city hall, and an investigation into police misconduct in the Castro and City Hall ended without any charges being filed.

Wesleyan University Offers Specialized Transgender Housing: 2003. Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut announced that it would become the first American college to offer special housing option to accommodate transgender students. Incoming freshmen will have the option of living in a new “gender-blind” floor of a dormitory without specifying their gender. According to the new university policy, those who choose to live in the gender-blind area “will be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender.” Mike Whaley, dean of student services, estimated that there were twelve to fifteen transgender students on the 3,000-student campus. But after opposition and obstruction from other members of the administration, the transgender housing policy was very nearly scrapped a year later when the dean in charge of student housing refused to pair students who were not of the same “biological gender.” Finally, with input from mental health professionals and transgender advocates, a new policy was implemented in 2010.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Raymond Burr: 1917-1993. He started out as a stage actor, landing on Broadway in 1941 for Crazy with the Heat. It didn’t take long for him to switch to the silver screen for the film noir classic Raw Deal (1948). He was adept at playing the heavies, as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place in the Sun (1951), and as the murder suspect in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). But he is best know for his two long-running television roles, in Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967 -1975). Like most gay actors, Burr rarely spoke about his private life. His official biography listed three marriages, but later investigations could only verify the second one. What has been verified is that Burr enjoyed a long 35-year relationship with his partner, Robert Benevides, who he met on the set of Perry Mason. Benevides was not only his life-long partner until Burr’s death in 1993, but together they owned an orchid business(orchids were one of Burr’s passions) and then a vineyard. Benevides still operates the Raymond Burr vineyards today.

90 YEARS AGO: Frank Kameny: 1925-2011. Easily one of the giants of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny fell into it when he was fired from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality (see Dec 20). Kameny took on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and argued his appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case. They missed out on quite case. Kameny wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court, in which he denounced the government’s ban on hiring gay people as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”

Throughout his lifetime, Kameny placed himself in the middle of many first in the gay rights movement. He founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961, a group which distinguished itself for its aggressiveness. In 1965, Kameny helped to organize the first gay rights protests in front the White House (see Apr 17), the Pentagon (Jul 31), the U.S. Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and the State Department (see Aug 28). That same year, Kameny published a ground-breaking essay which declared the gay rights movement’s independence from the mental health professions and its shoddy pseudo-scientific research on homosexuality, proclaiming, “We are the true authorities on homosexuality” (see May 11). That landmark declaration proved a turning point from or the gay rights movement, which soon shifted from a position of deference to professional authorities who declared that gays were mentally ill, and toward an eight year struggle to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). In 1968, Kameny created the slogan “Gay is Good” (see Aug 12) and in 1971 he was the first openly gay candidate for Congress (see Feb 22).

Kameny has been recognized as a national treasure; his papers are now a part of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian holds several of Kameny’s picket signs and other artifacts in its collection. His home is now recognized as a D.C. Historic Landmark, and in 2009, he received an official apology for his firing from the Office of Personnel Management. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 86.

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Marriage Equality Support Hits 60%

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2015

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As trends go, that’s a the largest one-year jump since 2011, when a majority of Americans supported marriage equality for the first time. We are quickly closing in on the day when twice as many Americans will support marriage equality as those who don’t. When looking at the political affiliation cross-tabs, you can see a very sharp divergence based on party affiliation:

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Another trend worth watching this political season:

About a quarter of Americans (26%) say they vote for a political candidate solely based on his or her stance on gay marriage. Many others say it is but one of several important factors (43%). … Those who are opposed to gay marriage are a good deal more likely to say that a candidate’s stance on the issue can make or break whether that candidate receives their vote (37%) than those who are supportive of gay marriage (21%). And both are more likely to say the issue is a defining factor than they have been in the past.

The margin of sampling error is ±5% at the 95% confidence level. The surveys were done with a 50/50 split between landline contacts and cell phone contacts.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, May 20

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 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 brought to you by:

From Wisconsin In Step (Milwaukee, WI), May 17, 1984, page 28. (Source.)

From Wisconsin In Step (Milwaukee, WI), May 17, 1984, page 28. (Source.)

According to the Wisconsin GLBT History Project:

My World bar in Green Bay was opened by Bob Hackl and Scott. It advertised itself as “Leather Levi Country/ Country Rock Music” bar. It enjoyed great success, and celebrated its 5th anniversary in April-May 1984. For a time, My World also was home to another bar, the Silver Saddle. It advertised in 1982-1983 as a lesbian bar, entered via the rear entrance of My World. The bar changed ownership in February 1985. It was shown in the same issue of In Step as being owned by “Jerry and Dwight” and advertised as being owned by “Dwayne and Jerry”. Shortly after, the bar was renamed “Brandy’s”.

The location is now a parking lot.

L-R: Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo

TODAY IN HISTORY:
AIDS Virus Identified: 1983. In a paper published in the US journal Science, a team from France’s Pasteur Institute, led by Luc Montagnier, described a suspect virus which had been isolated in a patient who had died of AIDS. Montagnier’s groundbreaking work led to the determination by US researcher Robert Gallo in 1984 that the virus was indeed the cause of AIDS. Gallo named his virus HTLV-III, and promptly claimed credit for discovering the virus. But the rest of the world began calling it the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. A three year acrimonious spat between Gallo and Montagnier ensued over who was the first to discover it. The dispute was finally settled after intensive negotiations resulting in both parties being awarded credit, and everyone lived happily ever after, as it were.

Photo of an Amendment 2 Protest from the Nov. 11, 1992 issue of Out Front.

Romer v. Evans: 1996. On this date, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2 to the state constitution which would have disenfranchised that state’s LGBT citizens from the right to petition their state and local governments for laws banning discrimination.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, rejected Amendment 2 supporter’s arguments that the ban on anti-discrimination laws were meant solely to deny LGBT people “special rights”:

[W]e cannot accept the view that Amendment 2’s prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability upon those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint. They can obtain specific protection against discrimination only by enlisting the citizenry of Colorado to amend the State Constitution or perhaps, on the State’s view, by trying to pass helpful laws of general applicability. This is so no matter how local or discrete the harm, no matter how public and widespread the injury. We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society.

…(Amendment 2) is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence. …We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Colorado is affirmed.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer joined Kennedy in the majority opinion.

Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, considered Colorado’s attempt to disenfranchise an entire class of people “unimpeachable under any constitutional doctrine hitherto pronounced.” Pointing to Bowers v Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court Decision which declared sodomy laws constitutional, Scalia wrote, “If it is rational to criminalize the conduct, surely it is rational to deny special favor and protection to those with a self-avowed tendency or desire to engage in the conduct.” Seven years later, the Court would correct that contradiction in Lawrence v Texas, which finally struck down anti-sodomy laws in the 13 states where such laws were still in effect.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Cher: 1946. She started out as one-half of the husband-and-wife singing duo Sonny & Cher with their 1965 hit, “I Got You Babe.” After a string of hits and a popular television series, their marriage ended and Cher’s solo singing career took off. She also became an Academy Award winning actress, winning a Best Actress award for her role in 1987’s Moonstruck. In 2002, Cher began her Farewell Tour, after which she said she would retire from show business. The tour lasted three years, and at some point she re-named it the “Never Can Say Goodbye” Tour. But in 2005, she finally retired the show and retired herself. Then she retired from retirement in February 2008 for a show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas which lasted until February 2011. A recent single from the 2010 Burlesque soundtrack is fitting: “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me.” She released her 26th solo studio album in 2013 after a twelve-year gap, Closer To The Truth.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 19

Jim Burroway

May 19th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From NW Fountain, May 1979, page 15.

In 1964, San Francisco drag performer and LGBT rights activist José Sarria proclaimed himself “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton,” and established a national Imperial Court System which raised millions of dollars for charity (see Dec 12) across the country. But Portland, as it turns out, was six years ahead of Sarria in establishing its own Court system that was remarkably similar to what would later appear in San Francisco. Bartender Duane Frye, who worked at Portland’s Half Moon Tavern, remembered:

Queen Eugenie I, Mother Superior of Transylvania. From William Holman’s “A Gay History: Let It Be Forgotten,” Northwest Gay News, June 1977, section 2, page 3. The caption adds: “This photo, taken inside the old Half Moon Tavern, is the only known photo taken inside that venerable establishment.”

Sometime around 1958… the first Queen Eugenie I (alias Sam) was self-proclaimed in the Court of Transylvania. This mythical court allowed for a whole plethora of other regal titles to come about including a Lord High Sheriff, and a number of other drag queens including Sr. Mary Wanna (Michael Patrick Dillon, who later got caught in a 1963‑1964 sex scandal; see the Oregonian, Oct. 25, 1963, p. 26; Mar. 25, 1964, p. 13). In the back of the bar was erected a throne for the Queen (who would later become known as Empresses). An unbroken line of succession was created to the present day—with the earliest Empresses declared by someone (but who knows who?), and later by community-wide elections held in the city’s bars.

The line wasn’t entirely unbroken. It had apparently petered out in the early 1960, but was revived in 1965 as a more formally organized endeavor, complete with Spring and Fall Balls. In 1969, the Rose Queen’s title was changed to Empress, in keeping with titles being bestowed in other Imperial Courts across the country. Portland’s Imperial Sovereign Rose Court is still going strong as part of Portland’s oldest LGBT organization, and is headed today by Her Most Imperial Majesty Rose Empress LVI The Lady Ambrosia Schock.

The Half Moon Tavern first opened in 1939 at 72 SW Morrison Street in downtown Portland near the Willamette River. It’s not clear when it became a gay bar, but it was probably a popular gay watering hole by 1952 when two male patrons were assaulted by a visitor in what the papers described as an “unprovoked attack.” In addition to the Court of Transylvania, the Half Moon sponsored an LGBT bowling team. In 1960, the Half Moon Tavern moved a block away to 124 SW Yamhill Street and remained in business until it was forced to close in 1981 due to a fire. The original Morrison Street location was razed and replaced with a mid-century modern hotel. The Yamhill Street building still stands and today houses a yoga studio.

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TODAY IN HISTORY:
Rhode Island Colony’s Sodomy Law: 1647. Roger Williams established Providence Plantation (“Plantation” was a synonym for a settlement or colony) in 1636 as a refuge for religious freedom and on the principle of majority rule among the heads of households for “civil things.” He had established his colony after Massachusetts banished him for spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous position.” Those positions included theological and legal disputes with the leaders of Massachusetts colony, and since Massachusetts laws were based on Puritan theology, Williams was found guilty of sedition and heresy simultaneously. His Providence Plantation would be far different, becoming the first outpost to uphold the diverse, new, and dangerous position of the separation of church and state.

The following year, Massachusetts banished the followers of Anne Hutchinson, who preached the doctrine of Antinomianism, which held that if salvation came through faith and divine grace alone, then the strict imposition of a moral law by political authorities was an unbiblical reliance on good works over faith. Hutchinson’s followers settled in present-day Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Other settlements soon followed.

In 1647, representatives from Providence, Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick came together in Portsmouth to establish a government for the Rhode Island Colony, and to draw up a body of laws which would become one of the earliest governmental codes enacted by colonists in the New World. With Rhode Island being a refuge for those “distressed of conscience,” Rhode Island’s new code was modeled more on the statutes of England rather than on Biblical texts as in Massachusetts. But that didn’t mean it was devoid of Biblical citations — Rhode Island Colony may have prized religious freedom, but there was still an assumption that Biblical principles were important in public life. And so Rhode Island Colony’s law addressing sodomy cited, in addition to English law, Paul’s letter to the Romans as part of its justification. That section read:

Touching Whoremongers. First of sodomy, which is forbidden by this present Assembly throughout the whole colony, and by sundry statutes of England 25 Hen. 8, 6: 5 Eliz 17. It is a vile affection, whereby men given up thereto leave the natural use of women and burn in their lusts toward another, and so men with men work that which is unseemly, as that Doctor of the Gentiles [St. Paul] in his letter to the Romans once spake, i. 27. The penalty concluded by that state under whose authority we are is felony of death without remedy. See 5 Eliz 17.(2)

The citations of 25 Henry 8, 6 and 5 Elizabeth 17 refer to, respectively, the 1533 buggery statute enacted under King Henry VIII, and its 1563 reenactment under Queen Elizabeth I. The reference to Paul’s letter to the Romans was unusual. Legislation at that time would have much more typically referenced Leviticus 20:13. But remember, Rhode Island Colony was settled by colonists who rejected salvation by works of the law, and there’s nothing more workier-of-the-law than Leviticus. Hence, the New Testament citation rather than the Old.

By imposing the death penalty for men who “work that which is unseemly” with other men, sodomy joined treason, murder, manslaughter, witchcraft, robbery, arson, and rape as crimes meriting the death penalty. There were no recorded persecutions under this law or any subsequent laws which included the death penalty, although that may be due to a lack of rigorous record keeping rather than a lack of prosecutions. The ultimate penalty was eliminated in 1844 and replaced with one to twelve years’ imprisonment. The minimum penalty was raised to seven years in 1872, and the maximum was raised to twenty years in 1881. The Rhode Island legislature didn’t get around to decriminalizing consensual sex between same-sex couples until 1998.

Oscar Wilde Released from Prison: 1897. This date in history ended a two-year ordeal for Oscar Wilde, which began in 1895 when he was denounced as a homosexual by the Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde, who was involved with the marquess’ son, Alfred Douglass, sued the Marquess for libel but lost the case when evidence supported the marquess’ allegations (see Apr 5). Because homosexual behavior among men was still considered a crime in England, that evidence led to Wilde’s arrest. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, but a second jury in 1895 sentenced him to two years of hard labor (see May 25). Wilde was imprisoned in Pentonville and then Wandsworth prisons in London. The regime consisted of “hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed.” Ill with dysentery and weakened from hunger, Wilde collapsed during Chapel, bursting his right ear drum. He spent two months in the infirmary, and his health never fully recovered.

He was later transferred to Reading prison, where he wrote a 50,000 word letter to Douglass. He wasn’t allowed to send the letter, but he was permitted to take it with him when he was released. The letter, since named De Profundis was published in 1962’s Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. It reads, it part:

When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.

65 YEARS AGO: DC Police Estimate 3750 “Sex Perverts” in Federal Government: 1950. In the first half of the 1950s, the Lavender Scare had actually eclipsed Wisconsin GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare as the most talked-about scandal in Washington (see Feb 28Mar 14,Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14Apr 26, and May 5). The scandal was led by the Republican caucus in coalition with Southern Democrats who were angry at President Truman’s relatively progressive racial attitudes. (Truman had ordered the integration of the Armed Forces and survived a walkout of “Dixicrats” during the 1948 Democratic Convention before going on to win re-election.)

The GOP and Southern Dems saw the Lavender Scare as a great opportunity to gain the upper hand over the President, and th uman received a memorandum advising him “that‘the country is more concerned about the charges of homosexuals in the Government than about Communists.” And an ABC Radio news commentator observed that “It looks as if the enemies of the State Department, and of the
administration generally, have gotten hold of a more profitable issue than communism.” That profitable issue got a greater boos when the following United Press article appeared in newspapers nationwide:

3750 Perverts Listed on Payroll

Senate Republican Leader Kenneth S. Wherry said today that Washington police estimate there are 3750 sex perverts in the Government here.

In a report to a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Wherry said police authorities testified that 300 to 400 State Department employees are “suspected or allegedly homosexual.”

The Nebraskan also said that Washington police reported they have uncovered “what purported to be a plan of Communists to sabotage and damage” Washington in case of war with Russia; that a Red Fifth Column is using sex degenerates for subversive purposes; and that “there are 1000 bad security risks” in Washington.

The report gave no details on the purported plot to sabotage Washington.

The New York Times had a more in-depth account, which revealed that Police Lieutenant Roy Blick, head of the department’s vice squad, testified that his estimate of 300 to 400 gays employees in the State Department was based on “a quick guess”:

This, he said at one point, was a “quick guess,” in the sense that it was based upon his experience that arrested persons not connected with the State Department would sometimes say: “Why don’t you go get so-and-so and so-and-so? They all belong to the same clique.”

“By doing that,” Lieutenant Blick added, “their names were put on the list and they were catalogued as such, as the suspect of being such.”

Senate Majority Leader Kenneth Wherry (R-NE)

Senate Majority Leader Kenneth Wherry (R-NE)

Sen. Wherry and his Democratic counterpart Lister Hill (D-AL), alarmed at what they considered a lax attitude toward homosexuals in government employment, had been conducting closed-door hearings with DC police and federal agency witnesses since March 23. More than a dozen witnesses had testified, including those from the State Department, Defense Department, the FBI, and D.C. police. The Navy protested that more than 7,800 “known or alleged homosexuals” had been “separated” from the service since 1947, and the Army claimed that more than 5,000 were discharged during the same period.

But Blick wound up being the star witness by suggesting that the work in rooting out homosexuals wasn’t completed. Wherry was pleased that Blick was a “one-man watchdog of the city’s morals,” but was disappointed that the city’s vice squad didn’t maintain a master list of arrested homosexuals. He wanted to cross-check such a list against federal employment rolls. But Block wound up providing the crucial testimony that Block was looking for: a confirmation that there were “thousands” of homosexuals working in the government, far more than the 91 that the State Department had acknowledged to have gotten rid of during testimony in February (see Feb 28). But Blick’s arrival at the 3,750 number was, by his own admission, based on pure guesswork. He gave a “quick guess” of five thousand homosexual men in the District of Columbia (out of a population of 800,000). He guessed that three-fourths of them were government jobs.

Sensing a political advantage, Republicans leaked Blick’s secret testimony to the press in late March — but without Blick’s dubious methods for coming up with his number. By the time Wherry released his report to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, no one was bothering to fact-check Blick’s number. His “quick guess” was simply repeated as fact. Later that July, Blick admitted to a reporter that his numbers were dubious and he regretted having been “caught between the Democrats and the Republicans.”

[Additional source: Randolph W Baxter. “‘Homo-Hunting’ in the Early Cold War: Senator Kenneth Wherry and the Homophobic Side of McCarthyism,” Nebraska History 84 (Fall 2003): 119-132. Available online here (PDF: 2MB/16 pages).]

Scott Lively (left) and Lon Mabon

Scott Lively (left) and Lon Mabon

Springfield, OR, Voters Approve Anti-Gay Ordinance: 1992. About three years earlier, Vietnam vet, ex-hippie and born-again Christian by the name of Lon Mabon had formed the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) with support from the Oregon branch of Pat Roberston’s Christian Coalition. By 1991, budding firebrand Scott Lively joined the group, where he had quickly earned his reputation for being a loose canon. In October of that year, the photographer Catherine Stauffer attended a church meeting where the OCA was previewing a videotape it had cobbled together in preparation for a campaign in support of a series of local anti-gay ballot measures across the state. Lively forcefully ejected Stauffer from the meeting by physically throwing her against the wall and dragging her across the floor. She sued Lively and OCA. The jury determined that Lively was guilty of using unreasonable force and awarded Stauffer $20,000.

What the OCA was preparing was a series of local ballot measures that would prohibit “promoting, encouraging or facilitating homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism” — restrictions which would, in addition to equating homosexuality with pedophilia, determine such basic community issues as which books could be accepted into the local library and which groups could access city facilities, including streets and parks. They would also institute a double standard: for example, OCA would be allowed to hold meetings in city buildings, while Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) would not.

Those ballot measures found their first success in Springfield, a more conservative working-class suburb of Eugene, where voters approved a proposed city charter amendment, Ballot Measure 20-80, by a 54-46 margin. City Councilman Ralf Walters, was elated. “What this means is that Springfielders have shown their commitment to traditional family values. They want to maintain Springfield as a terrific place to raise a family, and they don’t want their leaders and public institutions to promote as an alternative lifestyle.”

But Mayor Bill Morrisette, an outspoken opponent of the measure, was more cautious. “I think there’s more to the city of Springfield than this particular question of sexual orientation. It certainly would be a mistake for the OCA to think if they win this that they’ve got a lock on the city.” Planning Commission member Tom Atkinson, who helped lead the opposition, said the vote “does stamp Springfield with Hate City USA. I just don’t believe that it’s true about Springfield. The low turnout really makes me believe the real will of the people of Springfield was not expressed tonight.”

Even though a similar vote in Corvallis failed by a wide margin, OCA’s Scott Lively saw the Springfield vote as a prophetic omen for future ballot measures in the state. “The votes in Springfield — and Corvallis, too, even though it failed there — vindicate our position that traditional family values are shared by a large number of people in this state. The attempt by the opposition to equate the simple ‘no special rights’ message with hatred and bigotry was a lie, and the people of Springfield proved it.”

OCA’s victory in Springfield gave Mabon and Lively all the encouragement they needed to propose a state constitutional amendment with language that was very similar to the Springfield measure. They saw Springfield as their testing ground, but it would also prove to be their high water mark. Following a nasty state-wide campaign led by Mabon, Lively and the OCA, Measure 9 was defeated by voters just nine months later (see Nov 3). Meanwhile, Springfield’s new law was challenged in court, and in 1995 the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that a state law passed in 1993 pre-empted local governments on gay rights issues.

[Sources: Jim Burroway. “Lively’s Lies: A Profile of Scott Lively.” Political Research Associates (March 1, 2011). Available online here.

Ann Portal. “Voters approve anti-gay measure.” Eugene Register-Guard (May 20, 1992): 1A. Available online here.

Randi Bjornstad. “OCA issue hinged on ‘special rights’.” Eugene Register-Guard (May 21, 1992): 1A. Available online here.

Paul Neville. “Appeals court deals setback to gay rights foes.” Eugene Register-Guard (April 13, 1995): 1A. Available online here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Peter Wildeblood: 1923-1999. In 1954, Peter Wildeblood was a diplomatic correspondent for London’s Daily Mail in 1953, when he was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for homosexual offenses. In essence, he was convicted of refusing to be ashamed. Wildeblood has one of four men caught up in the so-called “Montagu Case,” named for Lord Montagu (see Oct 20), whose beach house was raided by police on a tip that a homosexual orgy was taking place. Montagu had offered Wildeblood the use of the beach house, and Wildeblood in turn invited two friends from the RAF, his lover Edward McNally and John Reynolds. Montagu’s cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers, had also joined the group.

Wildeblood later said that the whole affair had been “extremely dull,” while Montague elaborated, “We had some drinks, we danced, we kissed, that’s all. But McNally and Reynolds turned Queen’s Evidence and claimed that “abandoned behavior” had occurred. Wideblood was charged with “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons,” among other charges, and was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment.

After his release, Wildeblood considered his battle only half over. Just as he proclaimed his homosexuality during his trial, he published his audacious, ground-breaking memoir Against the Law, which revealed his experiences during his arrest and trial, and the appalling conditions of his imprisonment. He also described being on the receiving end of popular scorn when news of his arrest hit the papers:

That night, a woman spat at me. She was a respectable looking, middle-aged, tweedy person wearing a sensible felt hat. She was standing on the pavement as the car went by. I saw her suck in her cheeks, and the next moment a big blob of spit was running down the windscreen.

This shocked me very much. The woman did not look eccentric or evil; in fact she looked very much like the country gentlewomen with whom my mother used to take coffee when she has finished her shopping on Saturday mornings. She looked thoroughly ordinary, to me. But what did I look like to her? Evidently, I was a monster.

The following year, Wildeblood came out with another book, A Way of Life, which included twelve essays describing various gay people he had come in contact with. This helped to put a human face on the hitherto faceless “homosexuals.” Wildeblood’s two books also helped to inform the Wolfenden Report, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalization of homosexual acts in Britain. But those recommendations wouldn’t be acted upon for another ten years (see Jul 28).

Wildeblood went on to become a television producer and writer, first for Granada Television, and then CBC Toronto. He became a Canadian citizen in the 1980s, and died in Victoria, British Columbia in 1999.

Mike McConnell: 1942. Growing up gay in Oklahoma wasn’t easy, but the experience quickly made Mike realize that people like him were, at best, second-class citizens. While attending the University of Oklahoma, his friend, Joe Clem, was also gay and rather cautiously open about it, even among his frat brothers. During one bout of drinking, those so-called “brothers” became enraged with Clem being a “faggot,” beat the crap out of him, and drove him out to a deserted road outside Norman and dumped him there. Clem eventually made his was back to Norman, but he didn’t dare call the police.

Mike McConnell, with Jack Baker, ca 1970. Photo by Kay Lahusen (see Jan 5).

McConnell met Jack Baker (see Mar 10) at a barn party in 1966 outside of Norman. McConnell was completing his Masters degree in Library Science, and Baker was working as a field engineer in Oklahoma City. Both were 24, and they hit it off right away. Six months later, Baker proposed to McConnell, and McConnell accepted, on one condition: that they would find a way to marry legally.

In 1969, Baker moved to Minneapolis to study law at the University of Minnesota. Six months later, McConnell was offered a job at the University’s library. Three weeks after McConnell moved to Minneapolis, the pair went to the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis to apply for a marriage license (see May 18). Their application was denied. Not only that, but after the news about what they had done had hit the papers, the university’s Board of Regents voted to withdraw its job offer to McConnell.

Those events launched two separate lawsuits: Baker v. Nelson challenged Hennepin County’s denial of their marriage license, and McConnell v. Anderson challenged the University’s withdrawal of McConnell’s job offer. Baker v. Nelson worked its way up the Minnesota state courts, with courts ruling against Baker and McConnell every step of the way. The case eventually made it to the Minnesota Supreme Court in October 1981, which also ruled against them. The U.S. Supreme Court then dismissed an appeal “for want of a substantial federal question,” and Baker v. Nelson was treated as though it were an established precedent for the next several decades.

McConnell’s lawsuit against the University went little better. He got an early victory when the Federal District Judge issued an injunction against the University. He called the couple’s attempt at getting married “rather bizarre,” but found that even a “homosexual is after all a human being and a citizen… He is as much entitled to the protection and benefits of the laws… as others.” But McConnell never did get his job at the University. The judge stayed his injunction pending appeal, the Eight Circuit overturned the lower court’s ruling, and the Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

While the cases were winding their way thought the courts, McConnell and Baker continued to pursue legal recognition of their relationship through other means. McConnell legally adopted Baker in August 1971, which allowed them at least some of the benefits of marriage (inheritance, medical decision-making, even reduced tuition for Baker). A month later, they managed to obtain a marriage license from a clerk in Blue Earth County, Minnesota and were married by a Methodist minister (see Sep 3). That license was never officially revoked, although questions remained about its legal force. The IRS, for example, refused to recognize their marital status.

McConnell later found work in the Hennepin County Library system, and continued working there for the next thirty-seven years before retiring in 2010 as a Coordinating Librarian. In 2012, University of Minnesota president Erik Kaler formally apologized to McConnell fir his treatment forty-two years earlier. When marriage equality finally arrived in Minnesota in 2013, it was natural to ask whether Baker and McConnell would formally tie the knot. Maybe even as the honorary first same-sex couple to marry. No need for that, they answered. As far as they were concerned, they had been legally married since 1971. They are still living together as a married couple in the suburbs of south Minneapolis, quietly and well out of the spotlight.

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 Monday, May 18

Jim Burroway

May 18th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, July 1973, page 22.

The Noble Roman opened in 1970 on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, in a space that had been a supper club. It became a gay bar somewhat by accident: “The Roman was particularly popular because its heterosexual owner was overwhelmingly concerned with profit; she left event planning and day-to-day management to the all-gay staff. [Mary] Kester’s lax attitude permitted the bar’s popular free stage—the venue hosted innumerable drag acts, politely-received ventriloquism shows, and musical numbers. …The owner’s carefree management style had positive and negative effects on the community. The Noble Roman was an early site of faux gay weddings, and drag queens received a small stipend for their Sunday performances on its free stage. When it came to paying bills, her ownership was detrimental—the bar closed several times due to mortgage truancy.” Kester  sold the bar in 1976 and the new owners turned it back into a straight establishment. The address today is now home to a restaurant called the Wild Onion.

Mike McConnell and Jack Baker applying for a marriage license in Minneapolis.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
45 YEARS AGO: Baker and McConnell Seek A Marriage License: 1970. Mike McConnell (see May 19) met Jack Baker (see Mar 10) in 1966 on a blind date at a Halloween party in Oklahoma where they were both 24-year-old grad students. On Baker’s 25th birthday, they became “betrothed,” as they put it, in a private ceremony, and moved in together. After moving to Kansas City, Missouri, they met activists Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31)and Frank Kameny (see May 21). “That’s what lit our fires of pride,” recalled McConnell. “These fine people were willing to say, ‘Look, I’m as good as anybody else.’ That’s all I needed to hear.”

In April, 1970. McConnell accepted a job at the University of Minnesota’s library and Baker enrolled as a first year law student. Three weeks later, on the day before McConnell’s birthday, the couple went to the city clerk’s office in Minneapolis and asked for a marriage license. Baker told the nervous workers, “If there’s any legal hassle, we’re prepared to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. This is not a gimmick.” There were legal hassles. Not only were the denied a license, but the university fired McConnell when news of their application hit the papers. A federal judge blocked McConnell’s firing. He called the episode “rather bizarre, but concluded that “An [sic] homosexual is after all a human being and a citizen…. He is as much entitled to the protection and benefits of the laws… as others.” But that decision was reversed on appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

Meanwhile a state judge, ruling on the marriage case itself, sided with county officials and ordered them not to issue a license. While McConnell and Baker appealed that decision, McConnell legally adopted Baker in August 1971, which allowed them at least some of the benefits of marriage (inheritance, medical decision-making, even reduced tuition for Baker). Later that same year, they managed to obtain a marriage license from a clerk in Blue Earth County, Minnesota and were married by a Methodist minister (see Sep 3). But in October, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Nelson that state law prohibits same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal “for want of a substantial federal question,” Baker v. Nelson became an established precedent.

In 2012, Minnesotans defeated a proposed constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by a Republican-controlled legislature that would have permanently barred same-sex marriages in the state. Voters also elected a Democratic-Farm-Labor (DFL, the state Democratic party’s name in Minnesota) majority in both houses of the legislature. Elections have consequences, and the new legislature passed a marriage equality bill in 2013, which Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) quickly signed into law. That law went into effect on August 1. Baker and McConnell weren’t among those to line up for marriage licenses that day. As far as they were concerned, the license they obtained in Blue Earth County was still valid and they saw no need for another one. They still live a quiet life together, well out of the spotlight, in Minneapolis.

[Source: Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price. Courting Justice: Gay Men And Lesbians V. The Supreme Court (New York: Basic Books, 2001): 163-171.]

45 YEARS AGO: Therapist Warns of Homosexual Epidemic: 1970. New York psychiatrist Charles Socarides warned the nation’s physicians in the May 18, 1970 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, that “Homosexuality is a medical disorder which has reached epidemiologic proportions; its frequency of incidence surpasses that of the recognized major illnesses in the nation.” Socarides, who had appeared three years earlier on the infamous CBS documentary “The Homosexuals” (see Mar 7), had become a nationally-recognized authority on the so-called “disease” of homosexuality and its cure, and so his article in the AMA’s prestigious journal carried considerable weight. Socarides chided his fellow physicians for not taking the new epidemic seriously:

Attempts to obfuscate the fact that homosexuality is a medical problem have not been met head on by those most qualified to clarify the situation.  Only in the consultation room does the homosexual reveal himself and his world. No other data, statistics, or statements can be accepted as setting forth the true nature of homosexuality. All other sources may be heavily weighted by face-saving devices or rationalizations or, if they issue from lay bodies, lack the scientific and medical background to support their views. The best that can be said for the well-intentioned but unqualified observer is that he is misguided because he does not have and can not apply those techniques which would make it possible to discern the deep underlying clinical disorder or to evaluate the emotional patterns and interpersonal events in the life of a homosexual.

Socarides distinguished between two types of homosexuals: the “obligatory” and the “episodic.” Only the former were true homosexuals as he put it. “The latter is characterized by isolated homosexual acts without the stereotypy, the compulsivity, of the former.” As for the former:

There is a high incidence of paranoia or paranoid-like symptomatology in overt homosexuals. This is related to the medical fact that overt obligatory homosexuality is either a fixation or regression to the earliest stages of ego development. As a result, archaic and primitive mental mechanisms belonging to the earliest stages of life characterize the homosexual’s behavior. Also, homosexuality, obligatory or not, can be seen in the schizophrenic in his frantic attempt to establish some vestige of object relations as an expression of the fragmented and disorganized psychic apparatus with which he has to struggle.

Socarides argued that because homosexuals were suffering from a mental illness, they should not be penalized legally for consensual activities “so long as it is not accompanied by antisocial or criminal behavior.” Despite increasing calls to decriminalize homosexuality, homosexual behavior was still criminalized in every state except Illinois (see Jul 28). Socarides cautioned that ” any change in the legal code should be accompanied by a clearcut statement as to the nature of obligatory homosexuality, its diagnosis as a form of mental illness, and a universal declaration of support for its treatment by qualified medical practitioners.” And only those “qualified medical practitioners,” he concluded, were qualified to pass judgment whether gay people were sick:

It is vitally important to realize this fundamental point: the diagnosis of homosexuality can not be self-made, imposed by jurists, articulated by clergy, or speculated about by social scientists. … If the homosexual is to be granted his human right as a medical patient, issues which becloud his status should be clarified. Above all, the homosexual must be recognized as an individual who presents a medical problem.

The whole issue of homosexuality must be transformed into one more scientific challenge to medicine which has time and again been able to alleviate the plaguing illnesses of man. With this respected leadership on the part of the physician, we will see a surge of support for the study and treatment of the disorder by all the techniques and knowledge available through the great resources and medical talent of the United States.

[Source: Charles W. Socarides. “Homosexuality and medicine.” Journal of the American Medical Association 212, no. 7 (May 18, 1970): 1199-1202.]

First Published Report Of New “Exotic” Disease Among New York Gays: 1981. June 5, 1981 is typically cited as the date of the first published report on a new disease which would become known as AIDS, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a notice concerning five previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles who died from rare infections which were normally easily curable (See Jun 5). But the first published report actually appeared in a New York gay newspaper a month earlier, tucked inside an issue of the New York Native on page seven. Dr. Lawrence Mass, who wrote a regular health column for the small weekly, had heard rumors of several new exotic diseases striking down gay men in Gotham. Some were coming down with a rare kind of a skin cancer that had previously only affected older Jewish or Mediterranean men. Others were stricken with a rare form of pneumonia which typically only appeared in people with severely suppressed immune systems such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and transplant recipients. There were also a host of other odd diseases that gay men were coming down with, but so far nobody had figured out that there might be a single cause to link them all together.

After Mass was assured by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that there was no evidence of an emerging “gay cancer,” Mass wrote an article titled, “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded,” which began:

Last week there were rumors that an exotic new disease had hit the gay community in New York. Here are the facts. From the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Steve Phillips explained that the rumors are for the most part unfounded. Each year, approximately 12 to 24 cases of infection with a protozoa-like organism, pneumocystis carinii, are reported in the New York City area. The organism is not exotic; in fact, it’s ubiquitous. But most of us have a natural or easily acquired immunity.

“What’s unusual about the cases reported this year,” Mass explained, “is that eleven of them were not obviously compromised hosts. The possibility there exists that a new, more virulent strain of the organism may have been ‘community acquired.'” But Mass reported that there was not enough evidence (yet) to make a clear connection between the new disease and the gay community.

It wouldn’t be long before that link was made. Chroniclers of the AIDS crisis now recognize Dr. Mass as being the first to write about the emerging epidemic in print. Dr. Mass went on the help found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and was the principle author of the organization’s Medical Answers About AIDS through four revisions spanning ten years.

Papa Choux’s defiant ad stating they “will never allow this charade.” (Click to enlarge.)

CA Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Discrimination Decision for Lesbians Denied Restaurant Seating: 1984. On January 13, 1983, Zandra Rolon and Deborah Johnson made dinner reservations at Papa Choux, a very elegant Los Angeles restaurant. They specifically reserved a “Romantic Booth” in the restaurant’s Intimate Room, which featured sheer curtains around the booths, strolling violinists, and a measure of privacy. When they arrived for dinner, they were seated at the reserved booth, at first, but then they were told that they had to move. The manager told them, falsely, that a city ordinance prohibited such seating.

The couple filed suit, and were represented by civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who told reporters, “We intend to end this dinner discrimination and give Papa Choux’s their just desserts.” Papa Chou’s owner, Seymour Jacoby, countered with a newspaper ad declaring that “Papa Choux’s will never allow this charade. It would certainly make a mockery of true romantic dining.” But Rolon and Johnson won, and the case was upheld on appeal.

On May 18, 1984, the California denied the restaurant’s request for a hearing, and Jacoby took out another ad saying that “true romantic dining died on this date.” Allred countered, “This is not the death of romance. It is the death of discrimination.” A few days later, about 100 or so bar customers gathered for a “wake” as the restaurant closed its six curtained booths.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Patrick Dennis: 1921-1976. The name given him at birth was Edward Everett Tanner II, but his father had already begun calling him Pat before he was born, and so Pat he remained throughout childhood. When he published his 1955 novel, Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade, based on growing up with his real life Aunt Mame Dennis, it became one of the best-selling books of the 20th century and gave him the name the public would know him by. The book remained  on the New York Times bestseller list for 112 weeks, and became the basis for the movie Auntie Mame in 1958 starring Rosalind Russell. But that wasn’t fabulous enough. It went on to become a Broadway musical in 1966 starring Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur. From there it became a Hollywood musical starring Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur. Mame’s outrageous main character defined camp. Mame’s commitment to imagination and style can best be summed up in her most famous line: “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death. Live!”

Dennis married in 1948 and had two children. He struggled with his bisexuality and was said to have been a fixture in Greenwich Village. He tried to commit suicide at one point, and after years of leading a double life, he decided to leave his family after he had fallen in love with another man. By the 1970s, his novels fell out of favor and out of print. His caviar tastes and extravagant nature, not unlike those of his quasi-fictional Mame, soon had him flat broke. He began a second career as a butler, and a rather anonymous one at that, having reverted back to using his real surname. He worked at the estate of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, where it is said that his employers had no idea who he really was. He died in at age 55 of pancreatic cancer.

Top: Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood. Bottom: Isherwood sitting for Bachardy

Don Bachardy: 1934. He met the famous writer, Christopher Isherwood (see Aug 26), on Valentine’s day when he was eighteen and Isherwood was 48, and they remained together as partners until Isherwood’s death in 1986. Bachardy still lives in the house they shared together in Santa Monica. It’s a shame that virtually every biography about Bachardy starts with that association with the acclaimed author because he is a talented painter in his own right. He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and the Slade School of Art in London. His first one-man exhibition was held in 1961 at London’s Redfern Gallery. Most of his work is portraiture, and several of his sketches appeared in Isherwood’s novels.

If Bachardy was sometimes overshadowed by his relationship with Isherwood, he seems to have come to terms with it. But it did pose problems between them earlier in their relationship. During a particularly difficult period when Bachardy was studying in London, they almost broke up. Isherwood imagined what it would be like to live without Bachardy, and wrote A Single Man in which Bachardy’s character was already dead before the novel began. If you know the novel’s story, the result is not a happy one.

But they did remain together, and were life-long collaborators as artists and as a couple, sharing in each other’s successes. As Bacardy explained in the 2007 documentary Chris & Don. A Love Story:

I don’t take any credit for what’s happened to me in my life. It all seems fate — my destiny and Chris’s destiny. We were actually exactly what the other wanted and needed, whether we knew it or not. Well, Chris knew it. I didn’t for a long time …. I know that Chris would agree that the last ten years or so were our best — not the early years when we were younger and beautiful, but the later years when we really just enjoyed each other’s company and worked together in a variety of ways. It all just enhanced our basic unity — unity with each other, our harmony.

They continued collaborating, even as Isherwood was dying of cancer, when Bachardy would sketch him every single day, sometimes nine or ten times. “Chris was in a lot of pain towards the end,” he told The Sunday Times. “But he had sat for me so often over the years, and I knew this was something we could still do together. Each day, I could be with him intensely for hours on end.” On the day he died, Bachardy kept working on a sketch, a sketch of the man’s body with whom he had spent his entire adult life. “Chris would have been proud of me,” he said in the documentary. “He’d have said ‘that’s what an artist would do.’ And that’s what an artist did.”

And that’s what Bachardy did. He even drew eleven more sketches of Isherwood after he died, and was spared from drawing a twelfth when the doctor arrived. He later said, “Sometimes I see those drawings now and I can hardly bear them. I think, ‘How did I manage to do that without breaking up?’” The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy was published in 2013.

[Source: Chris Freeman. “Lives in Art: Isherwood and Bachardy.” The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, n0. 5 (September-October 2008) 30-33.]

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, May 17

Jim Burroway

May 17th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Brussels, Belgium; Chisinau, Moldova; Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Kerry, Ireland; Long Beach, CA; New Hope, PA; Poitiers, France; São Paulo, Brazil; Springfield, IL.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Bear Watch, Galveston, TX; Urban Bear Weekend, New York, NY.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Albatros (Houston, TX), October 1, 1965, page 6.

From Albatros (Houston, TX), October 1, 1965, page 6. (Source.)

Eddie Foster

From Albatros, October 1, 1965, page 5. (Source.)

Houston’s Red Room, which first opened in 1964, was a very well known upscale club that, by 1970, featured (gasp!) dancing:

I don’t know what to expect next! The Red Room is the first and only beer bar open to the public with dancing. Dancing is not new to Houston in the gay clubs but in beer bars where membership is required, unheard of. There has been a sizeable investment as well as time put into this feature for your enjoyment. If you haven’t been in lately go see the new additions in this going establishment. Red Room has for years been a symbol in Houston’s gay night life. I wonder if the management will have music that the older group might enjoy dancing to or will it be for the swingers only? Much luck “Big George”

— From Nuntius (Houston, TX), August 1970, page 17.

But just five months later, the Red Room drew a demonstration by the University of Houston’s Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which called attention the the club’s racial discrimination policies. The GLF demonstrated and handed out flyers reading (PDF:613KB/5 pages):

BOYCOTT THE RED ROOM — The Gay Liberation Front of Houston regrets that the gay brothers and sisters of Houston are not together. The management of a local Gay Bar, the Red Room unfortunately refuses service to blacks. The discriminatory actions of the Red Room management are clearly racist moves that are a continuation of the repressive and racist attitudes of white Houstonians. These racist attitudes oppress all gays as long as the Red Room and others discriminate against blacks. Disposal of oppressive attitudes is a necessity and demand. We are all prisoners of the Amerikan death culture.

Ironically, Red Room’s management called the police to complain about the demonstrators. Ironically, I say, because the Houston police were notorious for raiding gay bars and harassing gay people. The Red Room was still in business in 1974, but it appears to have disappeared by early 1975. If you go to the address today, you’ll see what looks like a fairly new building housing a franchise of a Chicago-based  dueling-piano bar chain.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
25 YEARS AGO: Gays Cured Worldwide: 1990. It’s amazing that it took so long, but the World Health Organization finally removed homosexuality from the tenth edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (also known as ICD-10). It took the WHO nearly seventeen years to catch up with the American Psychiatric Association (see Dec 15), and when they did they followed the APA’s same cautious approach by including the diagnosis of “Ego-Dystonic Sexual Orientation,” for those who were troubled by their homosexuality. That diagnosis served as a loophole allowing therapists to continue to try to “cure” gay people of a mental disorder that no longer existed. The APA removed that diagnosis from its list of mental disorders in 1987. It is still in the WHO’s list of disorders, although there is currently a review process taking place to have it removed.

Massachusetts Becomes First State With Marriage Equality: 2004. Six months earlier, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a 4-3 ruling, found that the state could not bar same-sex couples from marrying and gave the legislature 180 days to “take such action as it may deem appropriate” before issuing licenses to gay couples (See Nov 18). The state Senate responded by asking whether civil unions would suffice, but the four justice who made up the majority of the original decision wrote, “The dissimilitude between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’ is not innocuous; it is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status.”

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney issued a statement supporting an amendment to the state constitution which would have banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions (reversing a 2002 campaign promise that he had made to gain the endorsement of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts) but the legislature narrowly defeated it. The second proposal, a compromise amendment which would have banned marriage equality only,” mustered enough support, with Romney’s reluctant support (he still preferred the first proposal) to be held for a second vote a year later (proposed constitutional amendments require 25% support in two consecutive years before being passed on to voters). Meanwhile, the legislature took no action to implement the court’s decision.

On May 17, the day the court’s decision was due to go into effect, Gov. Romney cited a 1913 law prohibiting non-residents from marrying in Massachusetts if the marriage would not be valid in their home state, and instructed town clerks to deny marriage licenses to out-of-state gay couples. The 1913 law, which had been enacted to block interracial marriages for out-of-state couples subject to Jim Crow laws in their home states, hadn’t been enforced in decades.

When the compromise proposed constitutional amendment came up for a second vote in 2005, Gov. Romney withdrew his support, saying that it confused voters who wanted to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The measure lost the necessary support in the legislature. Romney then backed a revival of the first proposed amendment which would have banned marriage and civil unions both, but that proposal failed to gain the necessary 25% support in the state legislature in 2006. Romney left office in 2007, and the 1913 law was repealed in 2008. In the past decade, the sky has not fallen, civilization did not collapse, and Massachusetts continues to enjoy the lowest divorce rate in nation.

 IOC Allows Trans People To Compete As Self-Identified Gender: 2004. The International Olympic Committee ruled that post-operative transgender people will be able to compete in events in Athens according to their self-identified gender, provided the new gender is legally recognized and the athlete is two years into post-operative hormonal therapy. IOC Medical Commission Chairman Arne Ljungqvist announced the rule change in response to the increasing numbers of transgender athletes attempting to qualify for Olympic competition. “Although individuals who undergo sex reassignment usually have personal problems that make sports competition an unlikely activity for them, there are some for whom participation in sport is important,” he said. The IOC’s rule change came about after it become apparent that case-by-case evaluations were insufficient. Transgender advocates criticized the post-operative requirements, noting that many athletes cannot afford the surgeries where national or private health insurance doesn’t cover it.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
65 YEARS AGO: Howard Ashman: 1950-1991. Playwright and lyricists, Ashman first achieved acclaim for his collaboration with Alan Menken on Little Shop of Horrors. That collaboration put the songwriting duo on a course for greater hits to come. In 1986, Ashman wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation and wrote the lyrics for two new songs, “Some Fun Now” and “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space.” The latter of two received an Academy Award nomination. In 1989, he was co-producer, lyricist and occasional writer for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It was his idea to give Sebastian the Crab a Jamaican accent, and the calypso song, “Under the Sea,” earned Ashman and Menkin the 1989 Oscar for Best Original Song. Asman died in 1991 of complications from AIDS shortly after completing work on the Disney films Beauty and the Beast and before he could complete Aladdin. Ashman was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 2001, and Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to him. Ashman was survived by his partner, architect William Lauch.

Annise Parker: 1956. The Houston native had worked for over 20 years in the oil and gas industry as a software analyst, but she was never far from public service. In 1986, she was president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is the South’s oldest LGBT organization. Taking the position at the height of the AIDS scare was daunting “It was a scary, very different time,” she said. “The two most visible lesbian activists in Houston were myself and Sue Lovell (who later became a City Council member). We had regular death threats, our tires slashed, vandalism.”

But the narrow focus of LGBT politics wasn’t a good fit for her. “I was bored with gay stuff,” she said. “I threw myself just as hard into 10 years of neighborhood activism.” That neighborhood activism led to her becoming president of the Neartown Association in 1995, and in 1997 she won an at-large seat on Houston’s City council, making her the first openly gay individual elected to citywide office in Houston. In 2003, she won her bid to become city controller, the second highest office in city government. But her greatest triumph came in 2009, when she overcame blistering attacks from anti-gay groups to win the race to become Houston’s mayor on December 12, 2009. When she assumed office on January 2, 2010, Houston became the largest U.S. city to have an openly gay mayor.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 16

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Brussels, Belgium; Chisinau, Moldova; Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Kerry, Ireland; Long Beach, CA; New Hope, PA; Poitiers, France; São Paulo, Brazil; Springfield, IL.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Bear Watch, Galveston, TX; Urban Bear Weekend, New York, NY.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), December 1974, page 13.

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland and Seattle), December 1974, page 13.

The Crescent opened in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood in 1948, and has been a welcoming place for gays and lesbians since at least the 1960s. It’s still there, still catering to just about anyone who walks through the door. And despite the overall redevelopment changes taking place in Capital Hill, the Crescent looks like it’s going to be around for quite a while longer:

For decades, The Crescent Lounge has been a constant of Capitol Hill nightlife sustained, it turns out, by a sacred pledge. … (Manager Kyle) Horner attributes much of the Crescent’s consistency over the years to the fact that the bar is essentially employee-run. Steve Song, a Tacoma-area real estate broker, bought the Crescent in 2008 after longtime owner Jim Feigley became ill. Song told CHS that, despite his name, he has very little to do with the Crescent’s day-to-day operations, but that he has no intentions to close the Capitol Hill mainstay. It’s possible he couldn’t even if he wanted to.

Feigley passed away last year at age 86, but not before he apparently secured the Crescent’s future to remain a karaoke institution. While CHS was unable to confirm all of the business details, Feigley’s estate does still own the building and, according to Song, it is to remain in the estate’s hands for a number of years. Eventually control of the building is to pass on to Feigley’s three adopted sons. The sons want to continue the Crescent’s tradition “seven years to forever,” Song said.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
65 YEARS AGO: “Homosexual Coed Tries to End Life”: 1950. That was the headline of a brief United Press article, datelined May 16 in Seattle:

A 25-year-old University of Washington co-ed, who police said admitted being a homosexual for the last eight years, was in jail today after threatening to kill herself.

The pretty coed, whose name police refused to divulge, telephoned the police department late yesterday and told officer Kenneth Dahl she had a high-powered 30.06 rifle “and I’m going to use it.”

“I haven’t anything else to live for,” she sobbed hysterically.

Dahl persuaded her to give him her address and he would try to help her out of her trouble. Meanwhile, four prowl cars were sent speeding to the rooming house district adjacent to the university campus. In the basement of one of the houses officers found the woman with the rifle she had taken from a locker.

Detective L.W. Webb said she begged to be locked up. She said she just “gave up” and after quitting school last week decided she might as well kill herself. The woman told officers she had wanted to become a social worker but every time she applied she was turned down because of her affliction. She said she was from Los Angeles and that she had been studying zoology at the university before she quit.

Webb said the girl would be examined by a psychiatrist today and “probably be committed to a mental institution.”

It’s hard to draw specific causes and effects in cases like this, but it’s worth remembering that the nation was consumed by McCarthy-led lavender scare over the previous several months (see Feb 28Mar 14,Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14, Apr 18Apr 26 and May 2). It had gotten so bad that  by mid-May, President Harry Truman’s advisers were warning him that “the country is more concerned about the charges of homosexuals in the Government than about Communists.”

Tamara de Lempicka (top) and “Auto-Portrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti),” 1925 (bottom)

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Tamara de Lempicka: 1898-1980. The Polish Art Deco painter known as “la belle Polonaise,” she personified the glamor of the Great Gatsby society of the interwar years. In 1978, The New York Times called her the “Steel-eyed goddess of the automobile age.” Her famous self-portrait, Auto-Portrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti) portrayed a woman who was utterly free, independent, and self-assured. Automobiles provided women with a freedom and mobility that they had never known before, and the portrait’s depiction of a 400 horsepower Bugatti added raw speed and power to the mix.

During the roaring twenties, Tamara lived the bohemian life in Paris, hanging out with Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide. She was famously, infamously bisexual, and she scandalized society with her very public affairs. She reveled in her notoriety. “I live on the fringe of society,” she announced, “and the rules of normal society have no currency for those on the fringe.”

In 1928, she was commissioned to paint a portrait of the mistress of Baron Raoul Kuffner. By the time she was finished, she replaced the mistress’s position, and eventually became Kuffner’s wife in 1933. In 1939, the couple took an “extended vacation” to America, and ended up staying through the Second World War, where she became a favorite in Hollywood. But by the time the War ended, her style was no longer popular. She switched from using a brush to a pallet knife, but critics savaged her work. She retired from active painting in 1962, determined never to show her work again.

In subsequent years, she not only complained that the paints and materials were now inferior to the “old days,” but that people in the 1970s lacked the qualities and “breeding” that inspired her art. After her husband died, she moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1978 to rejoin the society of aging artists and aristocrats. By then, the art world was rediscovering the Art Deco era and her paintings were rediscovered and became highly sought after. She died in 1980, and her ashes were scattered over the volcano Popocatepetl.

Top: Liberace’s signed photo to his mother. He was always Walter to her. Bottom: Liberace’s transparent closet.

Liberace: 1919-1987. Born Wladziu Valentino Liberace, he was known as Lee to his friends, Walter to his family, and Liberace to everyone else. His father, a french horn player, loved music but his mother saw it as an unaffordable luxury. His father prevailed, taking his children to concerts and insisting on excellence in their music lessons. Liberace later recalled, “My dad’s love and respect for music created in him a deep determination to give as his legacy to the world, a family of musicians dedicated to the advancement of the art.”

On “Mr. Showmanship’s” terms, the advancement of the art took on an entirely new meaning. The word “synonymous” doesn’t do justice to the connection between Liberace’s name and flamboyance. He raised eyebrows by wearing a relatively simple white tuxedo at the Hollywood Bowl in 1952, and he continued to wear it so he could be easily seen in darkened concert halls. But it didn’t take long before that gave way to sequined jackets, then entire rhinestone-encrusted, fur-trimmed monstrosities that were “just one tuck short of drag,” as he put it. In the 1950’s he installed a Plexiglas lid on his piano so as to not obstruct the view; by the 1960s his pianos were often encrusted with jewels and mirrors. And then there was the candelabrum. Always the rococo candelabrum. His entrances at the start of his Las Vegas shows were legendary. Sometimes he’d step out of a sequined limousine that rolled onto stage (driven by his very young and handsome lover, Scott Thorson), sometimes he flew in by invisible wires. After making a grand runway walk, he’d hold out his arms to show off his outfit and yet, “I hope you like it! You paid for it!” The audience roared back their approval.

He was as out as any closeted gay man could possible be, and as closeted as every fearful performer was determined to be. His verbal denials aside — he even sued London’s Daily Mirror in 1956 when they questioned his sexuality in print and, incredibly, won! — Liberace didn’t otherwise put a lot of effort into trying to fool his audience. In that respect, Liberace joined a long line of not-entirely-closeted public figures whose non-closeted closets became an essential part if their identities as public figures, daring their audiences to see what was right there in front of them. Art critic Dave Hickey, in his essay “A Rhinestone as Big As The Ritz,” I think, put it best:

He never came out of the closet; he lived in it like the grand hypocrite that he was, and died in it, of a disease he refused to acknowledge. But neither, in fact, did Wilde come out of it, and he, along with Swineburn and their Belle Époque cronies, probably invented the closet as a mode of subversive public/private existence. Nor did Noel Coward come out of it. He tricked it up with the smoke and mirrors of leisure-class ennui and cloaked it in public-school double entendre. What Liberace did do, however, was Americanize the closet, democratize it, fit it out with transparent walls, and take it up on stage and demand our complicity in his “open secret.” …”A bit like cousin Ed, ain’t he,” my grandfather said. Getting it but not saying it.

Scott Thorson and Liberace

In 1982, Thorson, by then Liberace’s 24-year-old lover of five years, sued Liberace for $113 million in palimony after they broke up. The lawsuit made for sensation headlines, but Thorson wound up settling for a pittance. Liberace’s closet remained sealed right up until he died in 1987, and after. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest due to congestive heart failure brought on by sub-acute encephalopathy. Before he died, Hank Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, wrote in a front-page story that he had known Liberace for 40 years and that he, Greenspun, had the medical records, laboratory reports and other documentation to prove that Liberace had AIDS. Liberace and his handlers continued to deny the reports. After Liberace’s death, Thorson published a tell-all book, Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace, in which Thorson described the “tender love” he shared with Liberace and their reconciliation at Liberace’s death bed. But despite that, and even despite Betty White’s 2011 revelation that she was a beard for some of Liberace’s dates for publicity’s sake, Wikipedia had an entire section devoted to questioning the “allegations of homosexuality” until 2013. That section is still there, but the contents have changed considerably now that the question has been pretty much settled in the public’s mind, once and for all, when HBO’s biopic, Behind the Candelabra, based on Thorson’s book and starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson, premiered in 2013.

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 Friday, May 15

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Brussels, Belgium; Chisinau, Moldova; Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Kerry, Ireland; Long Beach, CA; New Hope, PA; Poitiers, France; São Paulo, Brazil; Springfield, IL.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Bear Watch, Galveston, TX; Urban Bear Weekend, New York, NY.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Times of Louisiana Communities (Baton Rouge, LA), July 1981, page 4.

From the Times of Louisiana Communities (Baton Rouge, LA), July 1981, page 4.

Jefferson Withers

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 “Writhing Bedfellows”: 1826. Few intimate letters between men survive from the early nineteenth century, which makes this one so remarkable. Back when the nation was young, Jefferson Withers, 22, wrote to his dear friend, James Hammond, 18, a letter which is both frank and playful — even “campy”:

Dear Jim:

I got your Letter this morning about 8 o’clock, from the hands of the Bearer . . . I was sick as the Devil, when the Gentleman entered the Room, and have been so during most of the day. About 1 o’clock I swallowed a huge mass of Epsom Salts — and it will not be hard to imagine that I have been at dirty work since. I feel partially relieved — enough to write a hasty dull letter.

I feel some inclination to learn whether you yet sleep in your Shirt-tail, and whether you yet have the extravagant delight of poking and punching a writhing Bedfellow with your long fleshen pole — the exquisite touches of which I have often had the honor of feeling? Let me say unto thee that unless thou changest former habits in this particular, thou wilt be represented by every future Chum as a nuisance. And, I pronounce it, with good reason too. Sir, you roughen the downy Slumbers of your Bedfellow — by such hostile — furious lunges as you are in the habit of making at him — when he is least prepared for defence against the crushing force of a Battering Ram. Without reformation my imagination depicts some awful results for which you will be held accountable — and therefore it is, that I earnestly recommend it. Indeed it is encouraging an assault and battery propensity, which needs correction — & uncorrected threatens devastation, horror & bloodshed, etc. …

[The letter goes on for two more pages on unrelated matters, then signs off–]

With great respect I am the old
Stud,
Jeff.

James Henry Hammond

Withers would later become a judge in South Carolina and delegate to the conferences that established a provisional government for the Confederacy. He also served as a Congressman for the Confederacy from South Carolina. Hammond became a Congressman, Senator and Governor of South Carolina, and one of the South’s more important advocate for slavery as a Christian institution, as a blessing and a moral good. the greatest of all the great blessings which a kind Providence has bestowed upon our glorious region.” Slavery was also, according to Hammond, “is not only not a sin but especially commanded by God through Moses and approved by Christ through His Apostles.” Hammond’s personal diaries revealed he made sexual advances on his three teenage nieces, and he detailed his sexual relationship with a slave who bore him several children, and his sexual exploitation of her twelve year old daughter who bore several more children. Neither Withers nor Hammond, from the standpoint of American history, come across as admirable people, yet Hammond has become a modern-day hero for David Barton and others who promote the “Christian Nation” view of American history.

But all of that came later. Meanwhile back in 1826, Hammond replied to Wither’s letter on June 3, although that letter is now lost. But Withers followed with another letter the following September (see Sep 24.)

[Source: Martin Duberman. “‘Writhing Bedfellows': 1826.” Journal of Homosexuality 6, no. 1 (1981): 85-101. Available online here.]

Gay men wearing the pink triangle as convicts under §175 during the Nazi era.

Gay men wearing the pink triangle as convicts under §175 during the Nazi era.

Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code Adopted: 1871. Germany’s history has been, much more often than not, a history of several separate countries and kingdoms. It had only existed as a unified country for 75 years before it was divided again in the aftermath of World War II. It remained divided until the 1990 reunification, which means that Germany has experienced only a little bit more than a century’s worth of unity. The history of Paragraph 175, the part of the German legal code which criminalized homosexual acts between men, in many ways mirrors Germany’s history of unification and division.

In the early 1800s, what we now know as Germany was actually a fractured realm of some 300 smaller political entities which were, more or less, content to fight or cooperate with each other, as interests and politics dictated. But Napoleon’s invasion of Europe brought about a rising feeling of “Germanness” among the German-speaking people of central Europe. After France’s withdrawal, much of the rest of Germany’s history was marked by increasing competition between the two largest powers, Austria and Prussia, a contest which was finally decided in 1866 when Prussia emerged victorious in the Austro-Prussian war. With Austria sidelined, Prussia formed the North German Confederation with Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, and the city of Frankfurt. Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria formed alliances with Prussia which brought them into its sphere of influence.

The proclamation of the German Empire at Versailles. Painting by Anton von Werner, 1885.

The Proclamation of the German Empire at Versailles. Painting by Anton von Werner, 1885.

Now it was France’s turn, as the newest threat to the German states, to play a critical role in Germany’s unification. As France sought to increase its influence in the region, the German states which were still independent became increasingly reliant on Prussia for protection. When tensions finally exploded in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, France experience something of a nineteenth-century version of the Blitzkrieg. Prussia, whose armies were much more mobile, quickly overwhelmed the disorganized French. Prussia quickly captured an entire French arming, along with Paris and Emperor Napoleon III. On January 18, 1871, the German princes gathered in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles to proclaim King Wilhelm I of Prussia the first German Kaiser.

This new Germany, comprised of what had been four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies, seven principalities, three free cities and the imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine, each with their own systems of law. Prussia had already begun a process of systematically codifying its laws, and its penal code served as the basis for the penal code of the North German Confederation, which in turn became the basis of the united Germany’s penal code. On May 15, 1871, Paragraph 175 was adopted straight from the Prussia’s Paragraph 143, which read simply:

§ 175 Unnatural fornication

Unnatural fornication, whether between persons of the male sex or of humans with beasts, is to be punished by imprisonment; a sentence of loss of civil rights may also be passed.

§175: The Disgrace of the Century!, 1922, by Kurt Hiller (see Aug 17).

§175: The Disgrace of the Century!, 1922, by Kurt Hiller (see Aug 17).

A notable feature of §175 was that lesbians weren’t criminalized under the law. In fact, sexual relations between women were never expressly prohibited. As for the men convicted under §175, they were subject to prison sentences ranging from one to four years. Prussia’s legal code proved a disappointment in some of the more liberal German states, where privacy rights were held in higher regard, and efforts to repeal §175 began almost immediately (see May 6, Aug 17Aug 28.) By the turn of the century, about 350 prosecutions per year for homosexuality were taking place, with a similar number of prosecutions for bestiality. It was about this time that Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14) co-founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee) whose first priority was §175’s repeal.

It might seem that the Weimar Republic years, between 1919 and 1930, would have been the best time to bring §175 to its rightful end. After all, the Weimar years are often regarded as the high water mark for homosexual rights advocacy and culture in the early twentieth century. That was especially true in Berlin during the so-called “golden era” of 1923 to 1929. Berlin’s legendary cabarets, theaters and salons saw an explosion of creativity, and dozens of clubs catered almost exclusively to the newly visible gay and transgender communities. But such liberal attitudes weren’t so prevalent outside of Berlin. Criminal charges for homosexuality rose from a little over 200 for 1920 to a peak of more than twelve hundred in 1925 and eleven hundred in 1926.

Arrests and convictions fell by 1929 to about eight hundred, which is when Hirschfeld’s committee almost succeded in its goal. The Reichstag’s Commission for Law Reform voted 15 to 13 in favor of a resolution to repeal it (see Oct 16). But two weeks later, stock markets crashed around the world and Germany was soon overtaken with political instability. The Nazis came to power in 1933 and expanded §175 to punish a broader range of “lewd and lascivious” behavior between men. This broader measure, which no longer required evidence of “fornication,” resulted in over 8,000 convictions annually by 1937. Many of those were sent to concentration camps, marked with a pink swastika.

Down with §175": A 1973 gay rights poster.

Down with §175″: A 1973 gay rights poster.

Germany was defeated and Nazism vanquished, but §175 remained in place. While allied armies liberated Jews, Poles and other prisoners from the ghastly concentration camps, gay men were sent to German prisons to serve out the remainder of their sentences. In West Germany, arrests and convictions under the Nazi-era §175 continued apace, averaging between 2,000 and 3,000 each year. In 1969, West Germany modified the code to exempt anyone over the age of 21, although, oddly, those between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one were still subject to up to five years imprisonment. In 1973, the age of consent was lowered to eighteen, leaving §175 only punishing sex with minors of the same gender, although at a different standard than similar convictions for heterosexual acts with minors. Meanwhile East Germany informally reverted its practice back to the original pre-1935 version of §175 in 1950, although the Nazi revision remained officially on the books until 1968 when homosexuality was officially decriminalized between adults.

Germany’s 1871 unification brought §175 into existence. Germany’s 1990 reunification set the stage for finally killing it off for good. The reunited Bundestag finally repealed §175 altogether as part of the process of harmonizing the penal codes of East and West Germany.

65 YEARS AGO: Homosexual Drives As Menstrual Cycles: 1950. This was a time when Congress was preoccupied with two color-coded scares: The Red Menace of imaginary communists hiding in every cupboard and The Pink Menace of homosexuals working in federal offices. Congressman Arthur L. Miller (R-NE) was particularly incensed over the latter. He was also a doctor and a surgeon, which made this speech during a committee hearing particularly strange:

Some of these people are dangerous. They will go to any limit. These homosexuals have strong emotions. They are not to be trusted and when blackmail threatens they are a dangerous group. … It is found that the cycle of these individuals’ homosexual desires follow the cycle closely patterned to the menstrual period of women. There may be three or four days in each month that this homosexual’s instincts break down and drive the individual into abnormal fields of sexual practice.

Episcopal Church Allows Ordination of Gay Deacons: 1996. An Episcopal Church court threw out a heresy charge and ruled that an Bishop Walter C. Righter, did not violate the church’s core doctrine when he ordained openly gay Barry Stopfel as a deacon, the rank below that of a priest, in the Dioceses of Newark in 1990.

Phyllis Lyon and and Del Marton

California State Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Same-Sex Marriages: 2008. In a 4-3 decision, the California State Supreme Court ruled:

“[T]he language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union “between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In addition, because the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples imposed by section 308.5 can have no constitutionally permissible effect in light of the constitutional conclusions set forth in this opinion, that provision cannot stand.”

The decision took effect on June 16, 2008, when gay rights pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin’s 55-year relationship was solemnized by the first official same-sex wedding in San Francisco. But two weeks earlier, California’s Secretary of State reported that marriage equality opponents had turned in enough signatures to place a proposed amendment banning same-sex marriages on the November ballot. Prop 8 passed, but was later declared unconstitutional in Federal Court. That decision is now working its way through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel has upheld the lower court’s ruling but narrowed its reasoning. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to rule on the merits because the appellants lacked standing. That sent the case all the way back to the Federal District Court which declared Prop 8 unconstitutional in the first place, making that original decision the one that stuck.

Jasper Johns’s “Map,” 1961 (Click to enlarge.)

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
85 YEARS AGO: Jasper Johns: 1930. He probably best known for his 1955 painting Flag, which is, just as its name implies, simply a painting of an American Flag. His focus on the mundane as subjects have led some to consider him a pop artist with an abstract impressionist streak, but it’s probably more accurate to see him as a ne0-Dadaist. Flag exemplifies that movement by taking an object or a popular image imbued with intense meaning and removing it from its context and thereby reducing it to a simple abstract design. Map (1961) does the same thing. It’s an ordinary map of the United States portrayed in an abstract impressionist style which reduces the iconic image to a series of color splotches and shapes. Flags, maps, stenciled words and numbers — all of these mundane yet symbolic images were subjects for Johns’s paintings.

Jasper Johns receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Johns was born in South Carolina and studied for three semesters at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York to study briefly at the Parson’s School of Design in 1949. After a stint in the military during the Korean War, Johns returned to New York where he met Robert Rauschenberg and they became lovers for eight years. It was through his connection with Rauschenberg that Johns was discovered by the art world. When prominent gallery owner visited Rauschenberg’s studio in 1958 and saw Johns’s work, he offered Johns a show on the spot. At that debut show, the Museum of Modern Art anointed Johns as a major figure in the art world by purchasing three of his paintings. By the 1980s, John’s paintings fetched higher prices than any other living artist in history. In 2011, Johns was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, making him the first painter to receive the award since 1977.

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