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Posts for December, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 6

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 3, 1982, page 15. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 3, 1982, page 15. (Source.)

Lollie JohnsonLollie Johnson, a divorced mother of three, owned a number of gay bars and nightclubs in San Antonio, including the Hypothesis Club (1972-1976), The Zoo Club (1974-1979), Faces (1979-1983), and the Noo Zoo Company (1983-1993). She was also active in numerous San Antonio charities, including the Alamo Human Rights Committee, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, and the San Antonio Tavern Guild. She sold her businesses in 1994, and passed away in 2001 at only 62. Her papers were donated to the University of Texas at San Antonio, which digitized them and made them available online.

An overcrowded ward at Wisconsin’s Mendota State Hospital, 1947.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
70 YEARS AGO: Wisconsin Sheriffs Call For Indeterminate Sentences for Gay People: 1944. The annual convention of the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association, meeting at Milwaukee’s Schroeder Hotel, passed several resolutions, including one endorsing a bill proposed by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association which would mandate medical treatment and indeterminate sentences for gay people, among other sexual offenders, who were charged with disorderly conduct. The problem, apparently, was that the current law only carried light fines and minimal jail sentences.

What the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association was asking for was what would become known as a “sexual psychopath law.” Through much of the 1930s and 1940s, American newspapers found sensational stories in gruesome murders, often of young children, which reporters and authorities attributed to “deviates,” whether there was any evidence linking gay people to the crimes or not. Those newspaper headlines feed the belief that sexual lawlessness was growing across the country. Michigan was the first state to pass a sexual psychopath law in 1935 which required a judge to determine anyone convicted of a sex crime to determine whether that person was “psychopathic, or a sex degenerate, or a sex pervert.” If so found, the judge was to order the defendant to a state mental hospital until the defendant “ceased to be a menace to the public safety because of said mental condition.” How mental health officials were supposed to make that kind of a judgment, the law didn’t say.

By 1967, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia had passed similar laws. Wisconsin’s sexual psychopath law, enacted in 1947, gave broad powers to the local sheriff to place a suspect in detention without a hearing and without a conviction. That law was replaced in 1951 with the Sexual Deviate Act, which required the individual to be convicted of a crime first. In 1954, it was noted that of 22 individuals who were being indefinitely committed under the law, thirteen had been convicted of sodomy. Wisconsin’s Sexual Deviate Act was finally repealed in 1980.

20 YEARS AGO: American Medical Association Opposes Gay Cures: 1994. The AMA’s governing House of Delegates adopted a revised policy paper calling for an end to efforts to change sexual orientation. The old position paper titled, “Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population,” had been adopted in 1981. It read, that “some homosexual groups maintain, contrary to the bulk of scientific evidence, that preferential or exclusive homosexuality can never be changed, these people may be discouraged form seeking adequate psychiatric consultation. What is more important is that this myth may also be accepted by homosexuals.”

But by 1994, the AMA became convinced that the growing evidence showed that whatever disturbance gay people may have felt about their sexual orientation “is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment” and called for “nonjudgmental recognition of sexual orientation by physicians.” The AMA also said that “aversion therapy” — which involved showing a gay man, for example, nude pictures of men and shocking them with a jolt of electricity — “is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.” It went on: “Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the social responses to it.” The new policy paper was adopted without dissent.

FDA Approves First Protease Inhibitor for Treating AIDS: 1995. The Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for Saquinavir(marketed as Invirase), the first protease inhibitor for treating AIDS. This approval was notable for two reasons. First, the FDA gave its approval only 97 days after receiving the application for approval, which was in marked contrast to the years that it would have taken under the normal drug approval process. But after several high profile protests (see, for example, Oct 11), the FDA changed its process for approving drugs for treating HIV/AIDS to allow for a significantly accelerated schedule. But the most important aspect of this approval was that Invirase would prove to be the third part of what would soon become a three-drug cocktail which, for the first time since 1981, gave people with AIDS hope for a reprieve from what had been assumed to be a death sentence.

The first component of that three-drug cocktail, azidothymidine (AZT, marketed as Retrovir), was first approved in 1987. AZT was a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor (or “nuke”), which blocked a particular enzyme associated with HIV. It was virtually the only means for fighting the disease for almost a decade, but it’s effectiveness was sorely limited. In November of 1995, the FDA approved another “nuke”, Lamivudine (3TC, or Epivir) which gave doctors a second option for when patients became unresponsive to AZT. But when taken together, AZT and 3TC seemed to offer an additional “punch” for many people than they experienced when taking the drugs individually. When protease inhibitors became available and were used in combination with AZT and 3TC, doctors soon discovered that this combination therapy reduced the amount of HIV swimming around in patients’ blood by about 99 percent. In early 1996, two more protease  inhibitors, Ritonavir (marketed as Norvir) and Indinavir (marketed as Crixivan), joined Invirase on the market, giving doctors more ingredients to choose from for what would be known as the “AIDS cocktail,” or Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART).

AIDS Diagnoses, Deaths (in thousands).

AIDS Diagnoses, Deaths (in thousands).

Researchers had previously seen too many supposedly promising treatments quickly proved to be ineffective before to get their hopes up too high now. Early reports of a possible breakthrough in 1996 were tentative, but the results soon proved unmistakable. When 3TC joined AZT in 1995 as a viable treatment, there was a noticeable plateau in the number of deaths due to AIDS. But in 1996 when the three-drug cocktail became available, the number of deaths due to AIDS would see its first drop since the epidemic began. And it wasn’t a slight drop either. It was a 20% improvement from the year before. People at death’s door began coming back from the abyss. For some who had prepared to die, finding that they were living again presented an entirely new set of challenges. The emotional whipsaw, dubbed “the Lazarus Syndrome” made restarting a life (including an education, careers, or simply a place to live) that had been systematically dismantled through disease, disability and stigma just one more challenge to surmount while still dealing with the anxiety of wondering whether this combination would soon fail as all of the other treatments had done before.

The three-drug cocktail, which became known as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), wasn’t a cure, but the breakthrough was undeniable. Further improvements in HAART resulted in more effective combinations and dosages which made adherence much simpler. HAART would eventually transform AIDS from a terminal disease to a chronic disease, albeit still a very serious one. More recent research shows that, thanks to HAART, people with AIDS can now expect a near-normal lifespan. And yet, HAART’s side effects can take a brutal toll on the body, and its cost — ranging from $10,000 to $15,00 a year for a single patient — makes life-prolonging medications a severe financial strain for anyone without insurance or governmental assistance. All of which makes finding a cure still as important as ever.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 5

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

EMPHASIS MINE:

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I’m not a police officer, so I don’t know what that life is like. I’m not an African-American, so I don’t know what that life is like either. But when a man says, “I can’t breathe,” you should let him breathe. And if he dies after saying it, then you should have let him breathe.

Fr. James Martin, S.J.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From a pamphlet printed in London in 1641 (Click to enlarge).

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Bishop John Atherton Hanged for Buggery: 1640. The delicious irony was that the good bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland was one of the loudest proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. He then became the second person to be hanged under that statute. His his steward, tithe proctor and cohort, John Chidle, was also condemned to death.

The original trial records were destroyed in the civil wars that followed the overthrow of King Charles I in 1649, so virtually everything we know about the case comes from public pamphlets which were the equivalent of our tabloid press. Historians harbor some doubt as to whether Atherton was really guilty. In addition to being a bishop, Atherton was also a lawyer who apparently had some success in winning back some of the church’s lands from Irish landlords, an act for which he undoubtedly collected a number of powerful enemies. Puritans, who were active in trying to abolish the office of bishops in the Church of England — they succeeded in that endeavor after they overthrew King Chuck and lopped off his head nine years later — are also believed to have played a hand in Atherton’s downfall.

We may never know the true story of Atherton’s sexuality. But his death remains a warning to all nations who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.

Massachusetts Bay Court Sentences Woman for “Unseemly Practices”: 1642. The Essex County Court in Salem recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of same-sex relations between women in North America.

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30 YEARS AGO: Berkeley Becomes First City To Approve Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1984. Six years earlier, Berkeley joined a growing number of cities and counties which had established a non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of sexual orientation. But when Tom Brougham began working for the city in 1979, he found that he couldn’t sign his partner up for health and dental benefits. They were only available to married spouses of city employees, and marriage was available only to heterosexual couples. Brougham proposed a new category for same-sex couples, which he called a “domestic partnership,” which initially had three requirements: 1) That, aside from being a same-sex couple, the partners would be otherwise meet all the other qualifications for marriage; 2), that they live together in the same residence; and 3) they were the sole domestic partners for each other. Over the next few years, two more qualificaitons were added: a requirement of mutual financial responsibility and both partners must be at least eighteen years old and able to enter a legal contract.

Brougham and his partner, Barry Warren, spent the next two years working with local unions and the University of California at Berkely to lobby the city council, but that effort proved unsuccessful. But in 1982, San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt noticed the proposal from across the bay and decided to try to push through a similar measure in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors approved what proved to be a fiercely controversial proposal, only to see it vetoed by mayor Diane Feinstein in December of that year.

Brougham, Warren and the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club then decided to step back and put together a methodical program to educate the East Bay community about domestic partnership benefits, organize a gay voting block in the city, and elect candidates who would support the proposal. In July of 1984, the city council was prepared to adopt the policy in principle, but they balked at the feared increases in health coverage costs. But the issue didn’t die there. During the November city council race, an approximation of marriage benefits for same-sex couples became a winning electoral issue when all those who had voted against implementing domestic partnerships were defeated. The following month, the new city council approved the measure, making the city the first in the nation to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

[Source: Leland Traiman. “A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Larry Kert: 1930-1991. The Hollywood High School graduate was only twenty when he joined a Broadway troupe for 1950 revue Tickets, Please! as his first professional credit. He then spent the next seven years working off-Broadway as a dancer. While dancing in the chorus for Sammy Davis, Jr., his friend and fellow dancer Chita Rivera persuaded him to audition for West Side Story. He didn’t make the cut, but a few months later Stephen Sondheim asked him to audition for the part of Tony, the role that Kert would originate when West Side Story debuted in 1957.

Consider the show’s creating team, and you have what would have had to have been the gayest production on the Great White Way: composer Leonard Bernstein (see Aug 25), lyricist Stephen Sondheim (see Mar 22), director and choreographer, Jerome Robbins (see Oct 11), book-writer Arthur Laurents (see Jul 14). Kert remained with the production for the next three years, and he became so closely identified with West Side Story that he found trouble finding work elsewhere. Even when he was invited to appear on television, it was to sing “Maria.” And yet, he was disappointed to find that he wouldn’t get to play Tony for the 1961 film version. Kert had hoped that it would open the doors to a film career, but the film’s producers didn’t think the thirty-year-old Kert could play a teenager.

From there, Kert’s career was characterized by a few successes in a field of sometimes spectacular failures. He appeared in the 1962 musical comedy A Family Affair, which ran for only 65 performances. The disastrous musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966) closed during previews. In 1968, Kert took over the role of Cliff in Cabaret and stayed with it for a year, but his next venture, 1969’s La Strada, closed on opening night. Kert then took over the lead role in Stephen Sondheim’s Company shortly after it opened on Broadway. Critics raved, and Kert became the first and only replacement actor to receive a Tony nomination.

Kert’s career continued more or less like that through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. While the uneven successes may have frustrated other actors, Kert was known for his upbeat attitude, whether he was performing on Broadway or in regional theater. “I love roller coasters, and I’ve been on one all my life,” he told one interviewer in 1988 while part of a touring company of La Cage of Folles. His last public performance was at the Rainbow and Stars Cabaret, where he joined his West Side Story co-star Carol Lawrence in reprising the musical’s popular numbers. He died eight months later, in 1991, of AIDS at the age of sixty. He was survived by his partner, Ron Pullen.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 4

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 30.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 30.

From Portland, Oregon.

Roxanne Ellis (L) and Michelle Abdill (R)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill Murdered: 1995. Roxanne and Michelle had had it up to here with living in Colorado Springs, where they felt that the atmosphere was very hostile to gays and lesbians. And after seven years, they decided that it wasn’t going to get better anytime soon, so they packed up and moved to Oregon’s Rogue Valley, just north of the California line. They quickly adapted to their new home in Medford, where they started a property management business, became board members at their church, began restoring their old Craftsman home, and visited Roxanne’s thee-year-old granddaughter as much as possible. They also became active in state politics, working to defeat Measure 9 in 1992 (which would have amended the state constitution to declare homosexuality “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse” and prohibit its “promotion.”) and Measure 19 in 1993 (which would have restricted library access for materials related to homosexuality).

On December 4, 1995, Roxanne met with a potential tenant to show him an apartment. At about 5:00, Michelle left the office, saying she had gotten a call from Roxanne saying her pickup wouldn’t start. Neither Roxanne nor Michelle were seen until their bodies were discovered four days later in the back of Roxanne’s pickup. Both had been shot in the head, and their bodies were covered with drapes and cardboard moving boxes.

That prospective tenant, twenty-seven year old Robert Acremant had just moved to Medford with his mother three weeks earlier. A witness had seen Acremant park the pickup truck and walk away. When police circulated a composite sketch based on the witness’s account, his mother recognized the face as her son who, she thought, was acting strangely. She called the police. When detectives matched the address labels on her moving boxes to those covering Roxanne and Michelle’s bodies, they new they had their man.

He confessed to the murder, claiming it was a simple robbery. But the district attorney was skeptical. After all, victims’ purses, wallets, jewelry, cell phones and money were left at the crime scene. Acremant also confessed to killing Scott Gordon in Visalia, California two months earlier. Later in 1996, he wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper stating that while he had intended to rob the couple, he found it was easier to just kill them knowing they were lesbians. He also wrote that he killed Gordon because Gordon had made a pass at him. He later recanted his story about why he killed his victims, but the reasons he gave remained incoherent. Perhaps the best indication of the state of his mind is the one part of his story which remained consistent: He was trying to raise money so he could afford to resume his relationship with his “girlfriend,” a call girl in Las Vegas who had broken off contact with him after he ran out of money and began stalking her.

On September 11, 1996, Acremant pleaded guilty to the murders of Roxanne and Michelle, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It would emerge later that he had been complaining for years that he heard voices and that there was a transmitter in his head so others could control him. On February 18, 2011, his sentenced was reduced to life imprisonment after he had been found mentally delusional and unable to assist in his own appeals.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Samuel Butler: 1835-1902. The English novelist was both the son and grandson of Anglican clergy. Naturally, his family expected him to continue in the family business. After studying in Cambridge, Butler worked briefly as a lay minister in a poverty-stricken London neighborhood. In 1860, he decided to put off the question of ordination and moved to New Zealand, where he became a successful sheep rancher and writer for the local press. While there, Butler met Charles Paine Pauli, and they returned to England together in 1864. Butler supported Pauli financially for the next 30 years. When Pauli died, Butler discovered a terrible betrayal: Pauli had amassed a fortune from being supported by two other men, and he excluded Butler from his will.

Butler’s more notable works included Erewhon (1872), a futuristic parody of Victorian England; The Fairhaven (1875), a satire of Christianity; and his posthumously semi-autobiographical The Way of All Flesh (1903). Written between 1873 and 1884, Butler dared not publish The Way of All Flesh in his lifetime, as he considered its attack on Victorian values too controversial. It also included a sham marriage by one character who struggles with his feelings toward other men (a mistake which Butler, a lifelong bachelor, avoided in real life). While The Way of All Flesh had to await Butler’s death before it could see the light of day, Butler’s 1899 Shakespeare’s Sonnets Reconsidered put forth Butler’s belief that Shakespeare wrote several sonnets to a younger man who had betrayed him, perhaps a reflection of Butler’s own experience with Pauli.

Ed Flesh: 1931-2011. If you’ve ever watched the game show Wheel of Fortune, then you’ve seen Flesh’s most famous handiwork. The prolific art director designed the famous horizontally-spinning wheel that is the show’s trademark. He also designed the sets for Jeopardy!, the Newlywed Game, The $25,000 Pyramid, and Name That Tune. Ed died in 2011 at the age of 79, leaving behind his partner of 44 years.

65 YEARS AGO: A. Scott Berg: 1949. The biographer has won numerous awards in his career, beginning with his first book in 1978 about editor Maxwell Perkins, which won a National Book Award. He also wrote the story for Making Love, the groundbreaking 1982 film which was the first major Hollywood release to deal with homosexuality in a serious way. In 1998, his highly acclaimed best-seller, Lindbergh, about the famed aviator, won him the Pulitzer. In 2003, he published Kate Remembered which appeared in print just twelve days after Katharine Hepburn’s death. The memoir about his twenty-year friendship with the actress remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for eleven weeks. Berg currently resides in Los Angeles with his film producer partner.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, December 3

Jim Burroway

December 3rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, August 19, 1982, page 38.

From The Advocate, August 19, 1982, page 38.

The idea of gay men dancing together at a cowboy bar must have confounded quite a few straight Angelinos in 1987 when they read about Rawhide:

Cowboys dance the two-step at the Rawhide. They dance with each other. Men crowd around a wooden bar at the center of the club as a country band plays on stage. Sometimes they will join arm-in-arm and sway to the music.

Over the last eight years, the Rawhide in North Hollywood has earned a reputation as one of the best places in Los Angeles to hear live country and western music. It is perhaps better known as the city’s only gay cowboy bar.

For it is in this place, with sawdust on the floors and bartenders who will pat you on the behind, that two very different cultures meet. As local musician Jack Daniels puts it, country music has its roots in “rednecks and Blue Ribbon beer drinkers,” the kind of people who aren’t too understanding when it comes to the gay community.

“It’s really a weird combination, but in L. A. they go for anything,” said Paul Bowman, a country and western musician and disc jockey at KFOX-FM (93.5). “Most redneck cowboys, you mention gays to them and they’re ready to fight. Rednecks don’t go in there.”

…One customer, who asked not to be named, said the gay community needs a place like the Rawhide. “I would never go to the Palomino. Redneck and gay don’t mix well,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to go into a country bar and not have to worry.”

Rawhide appears to have remained in business untill sometime around 2007 or so. That’s when the sawdust was swept out and the place became a gay Latino nightclub.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
New York Business Group Says People with AIDS Should Be Required to Work at Home: 1985. Just as the state of New York was about to release a report showing that workplace AIDS discrimination complaints had gone up from four the previous year to nineteen in 1985 (one was a heterosexual security guard who was fired after a one-week hospital stay), the New York Business Group on Health, which advised 265 businesses including Bloomingdale’s and New York Telephone Co., recommended that employees diagnosed with AIDS should be required to work from home. The group also suggested that supervisors treat workers as they would any other seriously ill employee.

“Our theses is employers should recognize the importance of AIDS as a problem and prepare for its eruption,” said Dr. Leon Warshaw, the group’s Executive Director. “They should form fairly explicit policies and procedures. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves suddenly involved in a crisis situation and as a result they will be liable to take ill-ocsidered actions, knee-jerk reactions that could boomerang.” Like, say, telling a Bloomies sales clerk to try doing his job from his walk-up, instead of following the group’s other recommendation: that companies educate their employees of the then-prevailing medical opinion that AIDS couldn’t be spread through casual contact.

Ron Najman of the National Gay Task Force blasted the proposal. “That suggestion is totally inappropriate,” he said. “It’s counterproductive, and it leads to de facto discrimination. They are speaking with forked tongue here. It’s opening the door to tolerating hysteria and panic.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Allan Bérubé: 1946-2007. He is best known as the author of the best-selling book, Coming Out Under Fire, which documented the stories of gay men and women serving in World War II. Drawing on GIs wartime letters, interviews with veterans and declassified military documents, Bérubé revealed a history that had previously been hidden. What’s more, his timing was prescient; the book came out just three years before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enshrined into law. Bérubé won a Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction. The book was made into a documentary in 1994, which won a Peabody Award in 1995 and earned Bérubé a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. After he died in 2007 the bulk of his personal and professional papers were donated to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 2

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Where It's At (New York, NY), September 1, 1975, page 56.

From Where It’s At (New York, NY), September 1, 1975, page 56.

Choo Choo’s Pier was located on West Street along the docks of the Hudson River, which had long been a known cruising spot for about a century. Wherever there were docks, there were sailors, and wherever there were sailors, there you could find their admirers. Also, wherever there were docks, there were warehouses, and trucks used to park near those warehouses. After the trucks were unloaded for the night, they were left sitting there empty and unlocked. This made the “trucks” a well-known venue for sex in New York. That general cruiseyness drew a particular type of gay bar to the area: the Anvil, Ramrod, Keller’s, Badlands, the International Stud, the Cock Ring — you get the picture. Choo Choo’s Pier was located right next door to the Ramrod, in one of the last wood-frame buildings of New York’s waterfront. A few years later, Choo Choo’s became Sneakers, which in 1980 was the scene of a deadly shooting by a former transit cop who killed two and injured six (see Nov 19). The building today appears empty, despite an eccentric artist’s plans to build a water museum there.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Columbus, Ohio, Police Question 500 “Deviates”: 1962. “At least 500 men with abnormal sex habits walk Columbus streets. Nothing can be done about them unless they break the law,” the Columbus Dispatch breathlessly exclaimed on a December Sunday morning. Police in Columbus, Ohio, had “thoroughly checked” about 2,500 people since the gruesome murder of Columbus Business College student Mary Margaret Andrews two and a half months earlier. Of those checked out,  police tagged five hundred of them as “deviates.”

Detective Chief Wade Knight’s statements to the Dispatch illustrate the confused nature of his investigation. At one point, he said suggested that “the person who committed the crime is abnormal, but not a sex maniac or degenerate.” But then he emphasized what he believed to be the likelihood that the crime was somehow linked to what the Dispatch listed as “molestings, window peeping, exhibitionists, and homosexuals.” Knight added, “I didn’t realize, and I don’t believe the homicide squad realized, how many people there are walking the streets with abnormal sex habits until we got into the Andrews case.”

Knight also suggested that the five hundred was just the tip of the iceberg. “In this case we would uncover more sex deviates than otherwise. Probably many are walking the streets we didn’t pull in.”

Knight complained that Ohio’s laws were inadequate to deal with the problem. “They certainly need help. They realize they need help and many would like to have it. They need psychiatry and an institution for their care. A lot know they are abnormal and don’t want to do anything about it.” Knight acknowledged that courts could work out a psychiatric treatment plan. But under Ohio law, the cost of treatment was borne by the individual being committed for treatment, a cost which many were unable to pay. Knight called on families to “take every step to help them. If they don’t they are only hurting themselves and the people they (they deviates) are associating with.”

[Source: James Speckman. “500 Sex Deviates Quizzed by Police.” The Columbus Dispatch (December 2, 1962): 22A.]

Gay Activists Challenge “Gay Cure” Psychiatrist at Cooper Union: 1964. Two and a half months after organizing the first known gay rights picket on American soil (see Sep 19), New York activist Randolphe Wicker (see Feb 3) decided to try another direct challenge, this time against the medical profession which held that homosexuality was a mental illness. Dr. Paul Dince, Associate in Psychiatry at New York Medical College was scheduled to speak on “Homosexuality, a Disease” at the popular Cooper Union Forum.

Wicker and four activists arrived early to hand out literature and display signs reading, “We Request 10 Minutes Rebuttal Time.” They got their rebuttal time during the Q&A session following Dince’s talk. Wicker pointed out that all of the so-called experts disagreed and contradicted each other over why some people became gay and whether they could be cured. He lambasted the research to date which had been conducted almost entirely of “unhappy, ill-adjusted homosexuals” who were patients undergoing therapy. He derided the so-called experts for starting with the assumption that homosexuality was a disease, and drawing conclusions which supported their prejudices. He also warned that those who were firmly committed to the homosexuality-as-disease theory were happily charging exorbitant hourly fees and draining the bank accounts of homosexuals or their parents while promising a cure.

The Ladder gleefully reported, “Applause for the challenger topped applause for the lecturer, who appeared stunned for a moment by the reaction of the audience.” Dince was also forced to concede the point about unscrupulous therapists. “Unfortunately, they do exist,” he admitted. And he admitted his own surprise at being picketed and receiving such a strong rebuttal during his first public lecture.

[Source: Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “‘Expert’ Challenged.” The Ladder 9, nos. 5-6 (February-March 1965): 18. For Kay Lahusen’s bio, see Jan 5.]

CDC Freezes AIDS Education Grants: 1985. Fearing a backlash from the White House and conservative political leaders on Capitol Hill, officials at the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that they were putting on ice more than $1.6 million in AIDS “innovative risk reduction” grants for education on safe sex practices. CDC spokesperson Donald Berreth confirmed to reporters, “There was some concern that there would be a backlash against the federal government funding ‘pornography.’ This is a problem that existed before with sexually transmitted diseases, not just AIDS. It’s something we have struggled with within the CDC.”

Berreth denied that the CDC’s decision was due to “outside influence.” But CDC director Dr. James O. Mason had told gay rights groups and others that he was under considerable pressure from the White House not to sponsor what was termed “sexually graphic” educational materials, even though Mason had argued that such education “could stop this epidemic in its tracks.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Gianni Versace: 1946-1997. For the man known simply as “Versace,” fashion had long been a family affair. He began his apprenticeship at home, where his mother ran a sewing workshop that employed as many as a dozen seamstresses. When he began selling at his own boutique in Milan in 1978, his older brother, Santo, joined him to oversee the growing firm’s organization, distribution, production and finance, while younger sister Donatella served as Gianni’s publicist, critic and muse. Versace would go on to design for such celebrities as Princess Diana, Madonna, Elton John, Cher, Eric Clapton, and Sting.

Versace’s designs, which were a mash-up of ancient Roman and Greek art with splashes of pop and abstract art thrown in, reflected the opulent, jet-setting lifestyle he enjoyed with his partner, designer and model Antonio D’Amico. Versace met D’Amico in 1982, and D’Amico would later design Versache’s Sport. The two remained partners for the next fifteen years, until July 15, 1997, when mass-murderer Andrew Cunanan gunned down Versace outside of his Miami Beach mansion. Versace was Conanan’s fifth victim in four months, before Cunanan killed himself on a houseboat eight days later.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, December 1

Jim Burroway

December 1st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
World AIDS Day: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 35 million people are are living with HIV/AIDS. The good news is that the rate of new HIV infections worldwide are still declining, as have AIDS-related deaths. Where access to antiretroviral (ARV) medications is available, AIDS changed from being a fatal disease to a chronic one, albeit a very serious one. Those who are on ARVs can now expect a near-normal lifespan.

More good news, I think, is the growing acceptance in the gay community of PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylactic, typically in the form of the anti-retroviral drug Truvada). This looks to be a game changer in the battle against AIDS. After more than thirty years with our only weapon being the condom, men who have sex with men (MSM) in the U.S. still accounted for 64% of all new HIV infections in 2012. Recent research has prompted the CDC to recommend PrEP for those who are at risk. In addition, ongoing research is showing that those who are HIV-positive and are on ARV’s with an undetectable viral load have now a very low likelihood of passing the virus on to others.

Neither approach represent a cure, which is still the holy grail of the AIDS battle. But if you could have told the founders of GHMC and ACT-UP thirty years ago that a single drug regiment could make a serious dent in both the transmission and acquisition sides of the equation, who could doubt that they’d be beating down the doors to ensure access to ARV’s for everyone? Access, it turns out, still remains a problem. At about $13,000 per year, the cost of Truvada is out of reach for just about everyone without health insurance, and even for some who have it.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

AIDSSafetyPin-TWN1987.10.21

From The Weekly News (Miami, FL), October 21, 1987, page 5.

AZT became the first FDA-approved drug to combat AIDS in March of 1987. Beyond that, there was nothing else in the arsenal besides safe sex messages. But given the reluctance of the Reagan Administration and Congress to allow funding for organizations which provided clear and direct safe sex information, exactly what “safer sex” meant was still often left unspoken. If you didn’t know any better, would you be able to figure out what “safer sex” was supposed to mean from reading this ad that appeared in Miami gay newspaper? The word “condom” doesn’t appear anywhere. In the nearly three decades since then, we’ve learned that safety pins don’t work, and preaching about condom use is little better among a generation that has grown up with condom fatigue.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Connecticut Passes It’s First Sodomy Law: 1642. “If any man lyeth with mankind as hee lyeth with woman, both of them shave committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. — Levit. 21. 13.” If it’s any consolation, the same penalty also applied to adultery.

Miami Reinstates Gay Rights Ordinance: 1998. Miami first passed a gay rights ordinance more than two decades earlier (see Jan 18), but it was overturned following an acrimonious campaign led by Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant (see Jun 7). That victory led Bryant to spearhead campaigns to overturn similar ordinances in St. Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25), Wichita, Kansas (see May 9), and Eugene, Oregon (see May 23). That tidal wave reached its high-water mark in 1978 when voters in Seattle turned back a Bryant-inspired attempt to rescind that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance (see Nov 7). That same day, California voters turned down the Brigg’s Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools.

In the decades that followed, eleven states, 27 counties and 136 cities had passed anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment. But gays and lesbians in Miami, where the anti-gay backlash against such legislation first became a major political force, remained without those protections. That changed in 1998, when the Miami-Date Commission voted 7-6 to approve an ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment. The vote came after more than four hours of public debate while opponents of the measure prayed on their knees outside.

“It says that we’ve grown up,” said Carlos Hazday, a local gay activist who spearheaded the campaign for the ordinance. “We’re not perfect, we still have differences, but we’re learning from our mistakes.” Miami Beach mayor Neisen Kasdin welcomed the vote after arguing that an image of intolerance was bad for the area’s tourism-dependent economy. “Greater Miami is no longer a provincial, backwater town,” he said. “Let’s not retreat from our destiny as a major international city.” Reporters seeking comment from Anita Bryant tried leaving messages on an answering machine at her theater in Branson, Missouri. They were apparently unaware that she had been forced to close her theater and declare bankruptcy.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Matthew Shepard: 1976-1998. I’m not sure what to say about him that hasn’t already been said. He has become so much larger in death than he was in life — except, of course, to those who knew him. For the rest of us, he’s an icon, not unlike the golden images venerated in Orthodox churches of impossibly heroic saints who suffered their unimaginable tortures in stoic silence. Most of what we know about him can be summed up in a simple creed: he suffered, died, and was buried. One popular description of how he was found — tied to a fence with his arms outstretched — took on religious significance, even if the image it portrayed was inaccurate. Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, has always been uncomfortable with the deification.

“People call him a martyr, but I take exception to that,” she said. “I’ve tried very hard to keep him real. It’s unfair to make him larger than life. He had foibles. He made mistakes. He was not a perfect child by any means.

“When he was killed he was not on a victory march or a protest march or anything that you would consider fighting for gay rights. He was just living his life as a 21-year-old college student who smoked too much, drank too much and didn’t study enough. He was a college kid trying to figure out his future.”

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, November 30

Jim Burroway

November 30th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Pride, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia; Skellefteå Snow Pride, Skellefteå, Sweden.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From ONE, August 1964, page 6.

From ONE, August 1964, page 6.

The Jacket of a Camp 45 rpm. The title refers to the ad campaign for Tareyton cigarettes.

The Jacket of a Camp 45 rpm. The title refers to the ad campaign for Tareyton cigarettes. (Source.)

Camp Records appears to have been in business in Southern California for a few years in the mid-1960s. Little else is known about the company or the artists. It’s address was a Post Office box in Hollywood, and the artists were either uncredited or were obviously made up — Byrd E. Bath, B. Bubble, Sandy Beach. Camp released two albums and about a dozen 45 rpm singles, all of them were either parodies sung with effeminate voices or, in the case of Mad About the Boy, of Broadway and cabaret numbers, sung ordinarily by women, but in this album were sung by men. You can learn more about Camp Records and listen to several mp3’s here.

Robert Odeman (right) and Martin Ulrich “Muli” Eppendorf (left).

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
90 YEARS AGO: Robert Odeman: 1904-1985. Born Martin Hoyer in Hamburg, he took his stage name when he began traveling throughout Europe performing as a classical pianist. When his playing career ended after suffering a hand injury, he turned to the theater as an actor. He met his first love, Martin Ulrich Eppendorf, at the age of 17, and they remained together for the next ten years. After his beloved Muli died in 1932, Odeman became musical director of a theater in Hamburg, and in 1935 he opened his own cabaret. The Nazis closed it a year later on the grounds that it was politically subversive. A year after that, in 1937, the Nazi’s pressured a bookseller to renounce Odeman as a homosexuals, and he was convicted under Paragraph 175, Germany’s notorious statute that outlawed homosexual acts between men.

After serving in prison for 27 months, he was released in 1940 under the terms of a Berufsverbot, or a professional ban on certain professions including public performances. He was also kept under police surveillance. In 1942, he was arrested again under Paragraph 175 and was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was assigned an office job, which probably saved his life. An estimated 30,000 prisoners lost their lives there, from exhaustion through forced labor, disease, or were executed. When the Red Army advanced on Sachsenhausen, the camp’s SS guards ordered the 33,000 remaining inmates on a forced March. Thousands more prisoners did not survive the death march. But Odeman and two other “175’ers” were able to escape.

After the war, Odeman returned to Berlin where he worked as an actor, composer, and author of satirical poems. Because Paragraph 175 remained on the books, Odeman continued to be regarded as a convicted criminal and, like others convicted under the statute, he was denied compensation that was given to other Holocaust survivors. He died in 1985 at the age of 81.

Ryan Murphy: 1965. The screenwriter, director, producer and creator or co-creater of Nip/Tuck, Glee, and The New Normal grew up in a writerly Irish Catholic family in Indianapolis: his father was newspaper circulation director and his mother, though a stay-at-home mom, had written five books and worked in communications for more than 20 years. Murphy ended up being outed to his parents at the age of fifteen when they discovered that he had been having a covert affair with a 21-year-old. They removed him from summer camp, sold his car, threatened to file statutory rape charges, and sent him to a therapist in the hopes of making him straight. Murphy drew a lucky card with his therapist, “who after two sessions called my parents in and said, ‘Your child is very smart and manipulative, and clearly he’s getting A-pluses in school even though this is going on, so either you deal with it honestly or he will turn 18 and you will never see him again.’ There was a long silent car ride home, and we never spoke of it again.”

Murphy wrote for the school newspaper while attending Indiana University, then got jobs at papers in Miami, L.A., New York, and Knoxville before selling his first script to Steven Spielberg in the late 1990s for something called, “Why Can’t I Be Audrey Hepburn?”. Murphy’s first television project was with the WB teen comedy series Popular, but his first critical and popular hit came with FX’s Nip/Tuck. He followed that with Fox’s Glee, which was based, in part, on Murphy’s own experiences in choir back in Indiana. In addition to his writing and producing duties, Murphy selects much of the music that gets covered on Glee, which has led to a number of public spats with Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, and the Followill brothers of Kings of Leo, over their refusals to allow their music on Glee.

Murphy also co-created American Horror Story, which debuted in 2011 on FX. A horror anthology, each season of American Horror Story operates as a self-contained miniseries with separate casts, characters and story lines. In 2012, Murphy was co-creater of NBC’s The New Normal, about a gay couple and a surrogate who will carry their child. Again, Murphy’s inspiration for The New Normal was drawn on real life. In 2012, Murphy and his husband, photographer David Miller, welcomed their first son in December.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 29

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Pride, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia; Skellefteå Snow Pride, Skellefteå, Sweden.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

Black Friday may be over, but Christmas shopping has barely begun. Here’s a gift idea for that someone who’s always so hard to shop for.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Der Spiegel Reports On Arrests of 750 Gay Men: 1950. The Third Reich had been defeated five years earlier, but Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175 lived on to claim more victims. On this date in 1950, Germany’s news weekly Der Spiegel featured a surprisingly sympathetic report on the arrest of 750 gay men by the Frankfurt Criminal Police resulting in 140 criminal charges as of November 25. Magistrate Kurt Romini denied that an official campaign had been launched, saying he was only responding to complaints from “young persons.” But it turns out that Romini himself had been in charge of handling criminal cases against gay men as State Attorney during the Nazi regime. “During his work in the Third Reich,” Der Spiegel reported, “it was not in the interest of a defendant to admit to homosexuality. As soon as he confessed, he was on the way to the concentration camp (with a pink triangle on his chest) and certain to eventually be castrated.”

Castration was no longer in vogue, but Der Spiegel discovered a new twist in this latest campaign. Police relied almost entirely on street hustlers to make arrests and build cases. “They (the hustlers) are driven, for example, through the city in unmarked cars. Then they indicate which passers-by they recognize in the street traffic. The auto stops, and the subject is arrested and interrogated. Moreover, he is entered into the criminal records system. That is, he is photographed; the picture is then shown to all hustlers in custody and informants until someone recognizes him. When someone admits that he visits bars frequented by homosexuals, then a detailed description of a sex act by a hustler is sufficient for a court to convict him. There are known cases where such relationships persons with homosexual tendencies with a certain hustler did not exist. The ‘boys’ invented experiences, and a conviction resulted.”

One hustler, identified as 19-year-old Otto Blankenstein, had been the star witness (and often the only witness) in at least 40 cases. This was true even though “tangible symptoms of mental illness are apparent” in Blankenstein. Der Spiegel also reported that a number of the cases involved blackmail, where the men refused to pay a bribe to some of the street hustlers in exchange for not naming them to police. It’s likely that some of the men weren’t even gay. Their only “crime” was to respond to a few innocuous questions from a hustler at a train station, who then surreptitiously followed them as they walked home. On learning the man’s address, the hustler could then learn more about him; if he was unmarried, the hustler was extra-lucky and his mark would be easier for the inevitable blackmail demands. Refusal to pay resulted in being turned over to police.

If the victim was lucky and wasn’t convicted, his problems still weren’t over. “The citizen is recorded as a suspected homosexual, and a duplicate of his mug shot, which he had to let the police take, is now placed in the Frankfurt mug shot library, and will be shown to hustlers and other people in custody. They will point at it and say, ‘That one, that one, I saw him too in the Kleist Kasino (a popular gay bar), and he offered me DM10 for the night.'” At the peak of the campaign, Judge Romini, who was in charge of all Paragraph 175 cases, was presiding over four trials per day. At least six of the accused men committed suicide.

On February 14, 1951, Der Spiegel carried a brief update revealing that Romini’s star witness, Otto Blankenstein, had been declared mentally ill, and Romini himself had been accused by his housekeepers of “severe night-time disorderly conduct and outburst in the presence of his professional colleagues.”

[Thanks to BTB reader Rob in NYC for the translations]

Bush Signs Immigration Bill Ending Gay Ban: 1990. When Congress overhauled the nation’s immigration laws in 1950, it was still in the grip of the McCarthy Red and Lavender Scares. Consequently, Congress banned Communists and “persons afflicted with psychopathic personality” from entering the U.S. That latter clause was added by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee with the express purpose of excluding “homosexuals and other sex perverts.” The legislation that was ultimately signed into law didn’t mention homosexuals, but the U.S. Public Health Service consistently interpreted the language to be “sufficiently broad to provide for the exclusion of homosexuals and sex perverts.” When Congress addressed immigration reform again in 1965, it added “sexual deviation” to the list of characteristics that would preclude immigration. But even then, the law didn’t single out homosexuality for exclusion, but it nevertheless remained official immigration policy even after homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders in 1973.

The nation’s doctors may have changed their understanding of gay people, but immigration authorities did not. That change wouldn’t come about until Congress again set out to reform the nation’s immigration laws again in 1990. This time, Congress decided to lift the political litmus test which automatically barred Communists and people with other potentially controversial political views from entering the U.S., and it also specifically struck down the exclusion of entry based on sexual orientation. When President George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law, gay people, for the first time, could enter the U.S without fear of automatic exclusion if their sexuality were discovered.

The new law was supposed to go further, with a clause which was intended to eliminate the automatic exclusion of people with AIDS from immigrating. But the law contained another clause which left it up the Health and Human Services Department to determine the list of communicable diseases which would prevent travel and immigration to the U.S. That list, as of 1990, still included HIV/AIDS, thanks to an amendment added to a 1987 appropriations bill by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) which required that HIV/AIDS be included on the list of excludable diseases. When public health officials tried to remove AIDS from the list, it touched off a massive political firestorm of opposition from conservatives. HHS backed down, and the HIV travel and immigration ban would remain in place as an interim policy. When HHS moved to remove AIDS from the list in 1993, Congress retaliated by approving a measure that made the HIV/AIDS immigration and travel ban law. That ban was finally lifted in 2010.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Billy Strayhorn: 1915-1967. Born in Dayton and raised in Pittsburgh, Billy Straygorn was a classical music enthusiast from a very early age. But imagine how hard it was for a black kid to try to become a concert pianist in the 1930s. There was little encouragement for him, but Strayhorn persisted, even taking a job in high school so he could buy his own piano. His musical focus shifted when he hears his first jazz record. From then on, Strayhorn’s compositional focus turned toward jazz, but always with a classical influence.

Strayhorn composed “Lush Life,” which would become his signature song, while still performing in Pittsburgh. That changed when he met Duke Ellington in 1938. Ellington, who was certainly no slouch as a bandleader and composer himself, was immediately impressed with Strayhorn’s talent. Strayhorn moved to Harlem, where he and Ellington composed such standards as “Take the A Train,” and “Satin Doll.” Ellington was hit-or-miss in giving Strayhorn credit. He gave Strayhorn credit for some of their collaborations, but for others Ellington took sole credit (and royalties). But there was little doubt that Ellington valued the quiet young composer, and if anything bothered Strayhorn, it seemed to be centered more on his own lack of independence than on any perceptions that Ellington was taking advantage of him.

But if Strayhorn lacked independence, there was something of a benefit for him being out of the spotlight. He was one of the few openly gay jazz musicians in Harlem. In fact, he met one earlier long-term partner, musician Aaron Bridgers, in 1939, who was friends with Ellington’s son. Strayhorn and Bridgers remained together, as an openly gay couple, for eight years until Bridgers moved to Paris in 1947.

In the 1940s, Strayhorn composed several songs for Lena Horne, including “Maybe,” “Something to Live For,” and “Love Like This Can’t Last.” That raised his profile somewhat, even as he continued composing for Ellington. By the 1950s, Ellington gave Strayhorn full credit on several larger works like “Such Sweet Thunder,” “A Drum Is a Woman,” and “The Far East Suite.” Ellington later said of him, “Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.” In 1960, Ellington and Strayhorn collaboration on a Jazz interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” That album featured Strayhorn’s name and likeness along with Ellington’s on the front cover.

Strayhorn was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1964, and he died in 1967 with his partner, Bill Grove, by his side. Before he died, he handed off his final composition to Ellington, “Blood Count,” which appeared on Ellington’s 1967 memorial album, And His Mother Called Him Bill.

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Finland votes for marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

November 28th, 2014

finland

Finland has had partner recognition since 2002, a fairly early participant in the quest for equality for same-sex couples. But, unlike other Scandinavian nations which have full equality, Finland stalled.

In 2010 we predicted that marriage equality would come within the next year. But although there is large popular support for the gay community, political will didn’t seem to materialize.

However, today the Finnish Parliament finally voted to bring their nation into the family of states that fully honor the relationships of their gay citizens. (yle)

The Finnish Parliament voted on Friday afternoon to allow gender-neutral marriage, 105-92. The vote had been expected to be closer.

The result was a sweet triumph for the thousands of supporters of marriage equality who gathered around the Parliament this afternoon. Many of them waved rainbow-coloured flags and banners. Shouts of “I do!” – the battle cry of the movement – echoed through the streets. Opponents of the measure also turned out for the session, but found themselves vastly outnumbered.

The reform will force wide-ranging changes in other legislation, which will take well over a year to finalise. The law will therefore not take effect until 2016 at the earliest.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, November 28

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Pride, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia; Skellefteå Snow Pride, Skellefteå, Sweden.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 3. (Source.)

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 3. (Source.)

Today’s Agenda is an all-Dallas edition. From Our Community of Dallas, October 1971:

Co CoaCO COA is her name, and she’s tan, talented, and terrific! She, sings and strips–heaven only knows she has the voice and the body. This unique personality was born and raised in Florida. But her story reads like that of countless young boys and girls allover the nation: when she was eight, she slowly became aware that she was “somehow different” from other little girls her age. She was drawn, with deep affection towards other girls, something she wasn’t go “outgrow.” Her parents (meaning well) encouraged her to marry. Needless to say, this didn’t make her straight. Next her parents (again meaning well) sent her to a psychiatrist. Needless to say, this didn’t work either. Eventually she was to tell her psychiatrist, “Look, I’m me!” Now she, her parents and her psychiatrist accept her for what she is — not for what somebody wants her to be.

Still in her mid-twenties, she’s been a professional singer and stripper for ten years. Most of her experience has been in straight bars, where she was unhappy as she was required to “push champaign.” She considers herself a serious artist, does not drink champaign, nor does she want to push it.

Her ambition is to someday own her own bar, where she will produce and direct shows. In he meantime Co Coa will be playing the Cotton Club Review at the State Fair of Texas this October. Then she will return to the Chip Inn on Wednesday nights where she gives a show around 9 pm and again at midnight. On other nights she will entertain (grandly) at the Neptune.

EMPHASIS MINE:
You just never know what you’ll find as you leaf through these old newspapers. Just after preparing the Today in History item below, I went looking around for a Dallas “sponsor” in some old Dallas papers. That’s where I found the above information and, in the same paper, where I also found this highly appropriate article that closely ties to today’s Today in History story. It just goes to show that some things never change:

BeatingI have just returned from the Emergency Room at Parkland Hospital, where 40 stiches [sic] were sewn into my chest to close a two inch deep knife wound. There are four stiches [sic] in my chin, and eight in the back of my head, the result of being kicked and stomped while on the ground. My jaw is fractured, and it is extremely painful for me to talk, swallow, move or even breathe. Fortunately my jaw will not have to be wired, but the left side of my face is swollen, and there are multiple bruises all over my body. Painful as it is to write this, I feel I must, as a warning to others of the dangers of Lee Park.

Early Sunday morning, around 2 am, September 12, I left friends and was walking home. I did not enter Lee Park, but was walking on the sidewalk, on the right-hand side of Hall street, going south of Turtle Creek. A man stepped from the shadows of a tree and asked me for a light. When I replied that I had none, three other men jumped me. One man placed a gun at my throat and I was forced into the park. They beat me to the ground, kicked, and stomped me. They ripped off my shirt and demanded my wallet and boots. Finding only one dollar, one of my attackers cooly said, “You’re not going to like what I’m going to do to you.” I was then stabbed in the chest. Desperately trying to shield myself from the slashing knife, I was cut on the chin, hand, and neck. Fighting for my life, I somehow was able to break away and run to my apartment nearby.

…A similar incident happened near Lee Park on Labor Day. About 8:30 that night, I was driving home and passed the same area. Two men, one of whom I knew, ran out of the park into the street. I quickly stopped and asked the matter, and was told that a companion was being beaten by two men in the bushes nearby. Hurriedly I grabbed a lead pipe from the back of my car, ran into the darkness, and found two men beating a blond youth — one man held the youth’s arms behind him, while the other beat him. I clubbed one of the men on the head with the pipe, knocking him to the ground unconscious; the other man ran a way. I grabbed the dazed youth and told him to get the hell out of there. I did not know the youth, and have not seen him since.

I am not asking you, the readers of my story, to stay out of the parks; everyone has a right to unmolested use of the parks. But I do want to warn everyone in our community of the possible danger, and to suggest that none go to the parks alone or unwarily.

– Unsigned. “Beatings and stabbings continue at Lee Park.” Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, pp 1-2. (Source.)

Lee and Reverchon Parks are part of a chain of parks alongside Dallas’s Turtle Creek, which, then as now, is part of the gayborhood of Oak Lawn. Also, then as now, they are well-known cruising areas as well as scenes of unknown numbers of gay bashings.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Dallas Judge Gives Light Sentence In Double Murder: 1988. It was a common sport among Dallas-area high school students throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s: drive into the Oak Lawn gayborhood on a weekend night and spend the evening “gay bashing” — their term for it. (One of my friends was stabbed in the chest and spent days in intensive care in one such attack while walking along Throckmorton Street with his boyfriend. His assailants were never found.) In one case, nine guys from North Mesquite High School drove to Oak Lawn one night in May to “pester the homosexuals.” According to the New York Times’s description of the event:

Witnesses who were in that group said the boys were standing on a street corner and shouting at passers-by, and then Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, drove up and invited the boys into their car. [Richard Lee] Bednarski was said to have persuaded one more friend in his group to get in the car. After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Mr. Bednarski is said to have ordered Mr. Trimble and Mr. Griffin to remove their clothes. On their refusal, a witness said, Mr. Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing. Mr. Trimble died immediately. Mr. Griffin died five days later.

At first, the crime was thought to be a botched robbery. Former Dallas Gay Alliance president William Waybourn later remembered, “Reverchon Park was a notorious mugging point. We don’t even know they would gay at first.” But as details unfolded, it became clear that there was more going on. Bednarski, the son of a police officer, began bragging about the shootings, then he became worried that Griffin might live to identify against him.

Bednarski was found guilty of two counts of murder, but Texas law allows the defendant to decide whether the judge or jury would determine the sentence. Bednarksi’s defense lawyer sensed that Judge Jack Hampton was sympathetic and chose him. Prosecutors demanded the maximum: life in prison. But Hampton announced that he considered, among other things, that Bednarski has no prior criminal record, was attending college, and was raised n a “good home.” He then handed down the sentence: 30 years in prison instead of life.

Judge Jack Hampton

Judge Jack Hampton

The sentence was considered light. Hampton explained his reasoning two days later to the Dallas Times Herald: “The two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the street picking up teenage boys. I don’t care for queers cruising the streets picking up teenage boys. I’ve got a teenage boy.” He also said that he would have handed down a much harsher sentence if the victims had been “a couple of housewives out shopping, not hurting anybody. I put prostitutes and gays at about the same levee, and I’d be hard pressed to give someone life for killing a prostitute.”

Those remarks touched off a furor in the gay community. Paul Varnell of the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up the reaction and said, “It appears that we do have one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals.” John Wiley Price, the outspoken African-American activist and Dallas County Commissioner, said, “The only difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Judge Hampton is that one wears a white robe and the other a black robe.” On December 19, 200 people attended a rally outside the county courthouse. The next day, Sen. Edward Kennedy joined another protest at City Hall Plaza, where he described Hampton’s comments as “bigotry at its worst.”

Hampton had his supporters though. Two days later, fifty of them demonstrated outside the courthouse. The Rev. Donald Skelton of Victory Tabernacle Church said that his reason for demonstrating had less to do with supporting Hampton as it was to “protest sodomy.” He explained, “Our sole thrust is against sodomy. I feel sorry for them [homosexuals].” That same day, Hampton called a press conference and apologized for his “poor choice of words,” although he also protested that the Time Herald reporter had “distorted” his remarks. “I did not intend to state that any victim of crime was entitled to less fair treatment.”

The gay community wasn’t satisfied. Waybourn responded that Hampton had “raised the question of his judicial fitness and ability to be impartial.  This question cannot be answered with a simple apology.”

LGBT leaders filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which publicly censured Hampton for making “irresponsible statements” that “created an additional burden for the entire judiciary.” But it fell short of condemning his prejudice or removing him from the bench. Hampton, who had been first elected judge in 1981 and would be up for re-election in 1990, remained unconcerned. “Just spell my name right,” he told the Times-Herald. “If it makes anybody mad, they’ll forget by 1990.” He was right. He was re-elected in 1990, but his judicial career finally ended when he ran for an appellate court seat in 1992 and lost.

Bednarski was released in 2007 after serving less than nineteen years in Huntsville.

[Additional Source: Arnold Wayne Jones. “Jack Hampton’s Injustice.” The Dallas Voice (October 17, 2008): 1, 12-13, 16. Available online herehere, here and here.]

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Happy Thanksgiving

Timothy Kincaid

November 27th, 2014

layendecker thanksgiving 19

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving Day is filled with joy, family, and friends and that you have much to be thankful for this year.

Federal judge tosses Mississippi’s anti-gay marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

November 27th, 2014

marriage 2014

FEDERAL COURTS:
Dark Purple – marriage equality states
Light Purple – marriage equality ruling but only some localities are granting marriage licenses
Red – federal judges have ruled for equality but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled
Pink – favorable rulings are stayed for appeal
Baby-puke – unfavorable ruling on appeal

Same-sex couples in Mississippi have something to be thankful for this year; by Christmas they might be married. (Geidner)

A federal judge in Mississippi on Tuesday night ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional — but the decision has been put on hold for two weeks.

“Today’s decision may cause uneasiness and concern about the change it will bring,” U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote. “Mississippi continues to change in ways its people could not anticipate even 10 years ago. Allowing same-sex couples to marry, however, presents no harm to anyone. At the very least, it has the potential to support families and provide stability for children.”

(sorry folks, it looks like I forgot to click “publish” on this – so here it is late)

The Daily Agenda for Thanksgiving Day

Jim Burroway

November 27th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:

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When Chris and I were in Britain in 2003, we discovered that they have a lot of different words and expressions. Lorries, lifts, rubbers, aubergines, trollies, chips (which should not be confused with crisps), pants (which are quite different from trousers), getting pissed, sauce, bangers, fags, pavement, carriageway take-away — we knew about those. And we learned some new ones as well. For example, we learned that they call Thanksgiving day “Thursday.” Our Thanksgiving dinner was Thai food in Ely. Massaman curry, to be exact. We’re not having anything nearly that exotic this year. Hope your Thanksgiving is brilliant. Cheers!

Other Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Pride, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia; Skellefteå Snow Pride, Skellefteå, Sweden.

EMPHASIS MINE:

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted — a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.

— Rabbi Harold Kushner

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:,

From Arizona Gay News, November 17, 1978, page 2.

From Arizona Gay News, November 17, 1978, page 2.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Pennsylvania Outlaws Sodomy: 1700. The Pennsylvania assembly passed a new sodomy law to replace the old one which had been abrogated in 1693. The new law read:

…whoever shall be legally convicted of sodomy or bestiality, shall suffer imprisonment during life, and be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates, once every three months during the first year after conviction. And if he be a married man, he shall also suffer castration, and the injured wife shall hae a divorce if required.

In keeping with the pacifist nature of the Quakers who dominated the political structures in Pennsylvania, the colony’s law against sodomy was quite lenient: it was the only colonial law which didn’t call for the death penalty. That relative pacifism however didn’t extend to those of African descent. Another law, “An Act for the Trial of Negroes,” added this:

…”if any negro or negroes within this government shall commit a rape or ravishment upon any white woman or maid, or shall commit murder, buggery or burglary, they shall be …. punished by death.”

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 122-123.]

Harvey Milk Assassinated: 1978. Harvey Milk finally succeeded in winning political office as a gay man for two reasons. One, he refused to hide who he was; and two, he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. Among those alliances, initially, was with the most conservative member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There couldn’t have been two politicians from more opposite ends of the political spectrum. White, a former cop, was a conservative Catholic representing a blue-collar neighborhood, while Milk, a gay Jew from New York, represented the growing gay districts surrounding the Castro. Milk and White made several media appearances in which they spoke warmly of each other, and Milk began telling friends that he thought White was “educable.” That began to change however when Milk changed his mind about White’s opposition to a proposed psychiatric treatment center in White’s district. Harvey initially supported White, which would have given White the 6-5 majority he needed to block the facility. But as Harvey learned more about the center, he discovered that San Francisco children would be sent instead far away to a state hospital where they would be cut off from their families. He concluded that “they’ve got to be next to somebody’s house,” and switched his vote.

The loss stunned White, and for several months he refused to speak to Milk or his aides. He also tried to retaliate by switching his vote on Harvey’s gay rights bill, but the bill passed anyway 10-1. White became increasingly disillusioned with politics, and abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. He quickly regretted his decision, and asked Mayor George Moscone to re-appoint him as Supervisor. Instead of complying with the request immediately, Moscone said he would think it over and announce his decision on November 27.

The night before the scheduled announcement, White learned through a reporter that he would not get the reappointment. The next morning White went to City Hall with his loaded .38 Smith & Wesson. He went to Moscone’s office and asked for a meeting. Moscone agreed and invited him into the mayor’s office. There, White shot Moscone twice in the abdomen and twice in the head. He then went down the hall to Milk’s office. When Milk got up out of his seat to greet White, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back, and twice more in the head.

News of the two assassinations sent the city reeling. To make matters worse, San Franciscans were still grappling with the shocking news of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre and mass suicide the week before, which had been led by San Francisco-based preacher Jim Jones and resulted in 918 deaths. That night, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Aravosis: 1963. An attorney, Democratic political consultant, gay activist and blogger, Aravosis is the founder of Americablog. His first major success as a gay activist came in 1998 when he defended U.S. sailor Timothy R. McVeigh (not to be confused with the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh), who was being kicked out of the Navy after he was outed by America Online. The internet provider had released the identity behind McVeigh’s email account even though the Navy never bothered to get a court order or warrant, in direct violation of AOL’s terms of service. McVeigh was days from being discharged when Aravosis embarked on a massive publicity campaign that caught the attention of ABC News, Time and Newsweek. It also got the attention of another lawyer, who took McVeigh’s case pro bono. McVeigh not only won an honorable discharge from the Navy, but also a large settlement from AOL.

Aravosis founded AmericaBlog in 2004. AmericaBlog first received widespread media attention in 2005 after it outed “Jeff Gannon” (real name: Jeff Guckert), a member of the White House press corps who had a reputation for fielding softball questions during news conferences.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 26

Jim Burroway

November 26th, 2014

EMPHASIS MINE:

MemorialIt was Jem’s turn to cry. “It ain’t right,” he muttered, all the way to the corner of the square where we found Atticus waiting. Atticus was standing under the street light looking as though nothing had happened.

“It ain’t right, Atticus,” said Jem.

“No son, it’s not right.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

Shelly’s Midway later became known as Gus’ Midway. One imagines that its location a block away from the Jesuit-run St. Louis University was rather convenient for at least a few of its patrons. Today, the location is occupied by a newer building of the expanded university.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
British Parliament Shelves Wolfenden Report Recommendations: 1958. More than a year had passed since the Wolfenden committee issued its groundbreaking report urging Parliament to decriminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults (see Sep 4). The Wolfenden committee, named for chairman Lord John Wolfenden, had spent the previous three years combing through studies and soliciting testimony from experts in medicine, science, theology, ethics, and the law. The first print run of 5,000 copies of the Wolfenden Committee’s 155-page “Report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution” sold out within hours of its publication. In it, the committee recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence… It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour.”

When Parliament finally got around to considering the report on November 25, 1958, Conservative Home Secretary Rab Butler opened the debate by announcing that the government was not prepared to alter the country’s laws with regard to homosexual relationships. He explained the reasons, in part, in terms of what he believed the effect the law’s removal would have on those who were not particularly religious:

Home Secretary Rab Butler

Many people outside the influence of religion found no other basis for their notions of right and wrong but in the criminal law. Could we be sure that if the support of the criminal law were removed from these people they would find any other support?

What is clear to me is that there is at present a large section of the population which strongly repudiates homosexual conduct and whose moral sense would be offended by an alteration ot the law seeming to imply approval or tolerance of what they regard as a great social evil. Therefore the considerations I have indicated satisfy the Government that it would not be justified, on the basis of opinions expressed so far, in proposing legislation to carry out the recommendations of the Committee.

Opposition MP Anthony Greenwood (Lab-Rossendale) spoke in favor of the Wolfenden Committee’s recomendations, although he stressed that his position was not an official Labour position. He said that he hoped that during the debate, Members would “extend tolerance to each other and compassion to minorities in our midst who are denied the happiness and fulfilment which is the lot of most of us.” He then added:

MP Anthony Greenwood

What we have to decide is whether men who, for some reason we do not understand, are practising homosexuals should live their lives under the shadow of the law and at the mercy of the blackmail. I believe that life is harsh enough for these people without society adding to their burdens. The fact that the law is largely unenforced, and indeed largely unenforceable, is certainly no reason for retaining it. I am fortified in my view by the fact that it is shared by many of the great religious leaders of the country. … I believe that ultimately this reform will come. I am saddened by the fact that it should only come after a still greater toll of human misery has been extracted by society.

Arguments for and against the Wolfenden recommendations cut across party lines. Labor MP Frederick Bellenger (Lab-Bassetlaw) opposed any change in the law. He described those in the “cult” as “a malignant canker in the comminuty. If this were allowed to grow, it would eventually kill what is known as normal life.” But Conservative MP High Linstead (C-Putney) argued that because homosexuality was “fixed in people at an early age,” the law would make “no difference to a man’s tendencies.” Labour MP Jean Mann (Lab-Coatbridge and Airdrie) opposed any changes to the law, but the feminist in her couldn’t let one point pass without comment. On observing that lesbian relationships had never been criminalized under British law, Mann wryly remarked that this time it was “the male (who) was now demanding equality with the female.”

The greater consensus on both sides of the House was against scrapping the laws criminalizing consensual homosexual relationships. The House approved, without dissent, a motion put forward by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government which said, simply, “That this House takes note of the report.”

[Source: “No Action on Homosexuals Yet: Mr. Butler Sets Out the Problems.” Daily Telegraph (November 27, 1958). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review 5, no. 1 (January 1959): 4-12.]

ABC Airs “A Question of Love”: 1978. Six years earlier, ABC broke ground in providing a positive portrayal of a gay relationship with the broadcast of “That Certain Summer” in 1972 (see Nov 1) depicting a divorced father’s relationship with another man. But portrayals of lesbians remained limited to criminals, prisoners and sexual abusers (see, for example, Nov 8). In response to pressure from LGBT activists, ABC opted to produce a docu-drama based on a true-life custody battle by a Texas lesbian mother for her two sons. Gena Rowlands played the mother, with Jane Alexander as her partner, as they contended with the mother’s abusive ex-husband who discovers their relationship and sues for custody. In the end, the jury sided with the father, despite his history of violence and infidelity. The made-for-TV movie aired on Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend following a warning that the program may not be suitable for young people. It was greeted with a few smarmy reviews, but surprisingly for being in the year of Anita Bryant, the telecast prompted very little protest or controversy.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
75 YEARS AGO: Wayland Flowers: 1939-1988. The thing about puppets is that they get to say and do things that ordinary people aren’t allowed to do. Maybe that’s why Georgia-native Wayland Flowers took up puppetry and created “Madame,” which Hofstra University’s Patricia Jukliana Smith aptly described as “a grotesquely ugly and flamboyantly ribald old crone festooned in outrageous evening gowns, tiaras, and rhinestones.” In other words, an outrageously campy drag queen in wood and wire, a hideous hag who thought herself glamorous and who spoke in double entendres and bitchy take-downs.

Flowers developed Madame in night clubs and gay bars throughout the 1960s before landing frequent appearances on Laugh-In. The act then appeared as a recurring comedy skit on Solid Gold before eventually replacing Paul Lynde as Center Square on Hollywood Squares. In 1982, Madame was star of her own sitcom, Madame’s Place, a half-hour syndicated program that ran five days a week for one season. Madame’s talk show within the series drew Debbie Reynolds, Foster Brooks and William Shatner as guests. Flowers died on October 11, 1988, five weeks after collapsng during a performance at Harra’s resort in Lake Tahoe. The family attributed his death to cancer, and asked that no other details about his AIDS-releated death be released to the public.

Simon Tseko Nkoli: 1957-1998. Born in Soweto, Nkoli became a youth activist against apartheid with the Congress of South African Students and with the United Democratic Front. He also became a gay rights activist when he joined the mainly white Gay Association of South African in 1983 and later formed the Saturday Group, the first black gay group in Africa. Nkoli’s anti-apartheid activism led to his arrest in 1984, when he faced the death penalty for treason with twenty-one others who became collectively known as the Delmas 22. While prisoner, he came out as gay. Fearing that the state would use his homosexuality against the entire group, the others of the Delmas 22 demanded a separate trial. But in the end he won them over and they stood trial together because, as they all realized, they were in the same struggle together. As Nkoli later wrote in the anthology, Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, “If you are black in South Africa, the inhuman laws of apartheid closet you. If you are gay in South Africa, the homophobic customs and laws of this society closet you. If you are black and gay in South Africa, well, then it really is all the same closet, the same wardrobe. Inside is darkness and oppression. Outside is freedom. It is as simple as that.”

By coming out as gay while a prisoner against apartheid, he is credited with helping to change the attitude of the African National Congress toward gay rights. Patrick “Terror” Lekota, who later became chairman of the ANC, remarked, “all of us acknowledged that [Nkoli’s coming out] was an important learning experience . . . His presence made it possible for more information to be discussed, and it broadened our vision, helping us to see that society is composed of so many people whose orientations are not the same, and that one must be able to live with it.” And so, when it came to writing the Constitution, “how could we say that men and women like Simon, who had put their shoulders to the wheel to end apartheid, how could we say that they should now be discriminated against?”

After his acquittal and release from prison in 1988, he founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), which organized South Africa’s first Gay Pride march in 1990. He also was among the first African gay men to come out publicly as HIV-positive and founded Positive African Men in Johannesburg. He was among the first gay activists to meet with President Nelson Mandela in 1994, and he campaigned successfully for anti-discrimination measures on the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution. Nkoli lived long enough to see South African repeal its sodomy law in 1998, shortly before he died on November 30.

John Amaechi: 1970. The Boston-born son of a Nigerian father and English mother grew up in England and didn’t take up basketball he was seventeen, when he moved to Toledo and played hoops at St. John’s Jesuit High School. His college career began at Vanderbilt, then he transferred to Penn state, where he was named to First Team Academic All-American twice. He also when he began his career as a motivational speaker and youth mentor. After college, he played one season with Cleveland (1995-6), then played a few years in Europe before returning to the Orlando Magic in 1999. He was so grateful to Orlando for hiring him when no other NBA team would that the next year he turned down a $17 million contract from the Lakers so he could remain in Orlando for $600,000 per year. “There are many people who are asked what their word is worth,” he later explained, “and when people ask me that I can say, ‘At least $17 million.'” After Orlando, Amaechi was traded to the Utah Jazz, where he played for two years. He then went to the Houston Rockets for a season before retiring from the New York Knicks.

Since then, Amaechi has launched his second career as NBA broadcaster for UK’s Channel Five and he provided broadcast commentary for the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympics. He also returned to school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. In 2007, Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player after coming out in his memoir, Man in the Middle. In 2011, Amaechi was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to sports and for his voluntary work after retiring.

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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Fed judge tosses Arkansas marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

November 25th, 2014

In May, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal judge has concurred.

Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker ruled that Arkansas’ ban violates the Constitution in two ways: by violating the fundamental right to marriage and by unconstitutionally discriminating on the basis of sex.

Baker ruled against the plaintiffs in the case on their claim that the ban unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, citing a 2006 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals — where federal appeals out of Arkansas are heard — as limiting her consideration of that claim.

The ruling is stayed pending appeal. Also stayed pending circuit court appeal are Texas and Florida.

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