Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for October, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 19

Jim Burroway

October 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend:Nashville, TN (Black Pride); Winston-Salem, NC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Prescott, AZ; Watertown, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Ft. Worth, TX; Kansai Queer Film Festival, Osaka, Japan; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Rainbow Festival, Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE, May 1959, page 15.

The June 1966 edition of The Ladder with photo of DoB vice president Ernestine Eckstein. Photo by Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen, see Jan 5).

The June 1966 edition of The Ladder with photo of Dob vice president Ernestine Eckstein. Photo by Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen, see Jan 5).

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

A Daughters of Bilitis breakfast, 1959. L-R: Del Martin, Josie, Jan, Marge, Bev Hickok, Phyllis Lyon.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Daughters of Bilitis Founded: 1955. Phyllis Lyon remembered the phone call in September. Rose Bamberger was on the other end, asking, “would you like to be a part of the group of six of us that are putting together a secret society for Lesbians?” Lyon recalled later, “We said ‘Yes!!’ Because we would immediately know five more lesbians and we did, which was…. AMAZING.” The “we” were Lyon (see Nov 10) and her partner, Del Martin (see May 5). They had known each other since meeting in Seattle in 1950, and lived together in San Francisco since 1953. But they felt isolated because they hadn’t made any other friends who were lesbians. So when Rose, whom they met earlier that summer through a gay male couple they knew, suggested they start a secret club, Lyon and Martin jumped at the chance. “She wanted it to be in people’s homes and she wanted it to be so we’d be able to dance … so that we wouldn’t get caught up in police raids and we wouldn’t be stared at by tourists and so on. You couldn’t dance in the bars in those days. And she loved to dance. That was the whole idea behind it.”

Over the month of September, four couples, including Martin and Lyon, met to make plans for forming the club. Their first decision to make was the club’s name. Several were suggested: Que Vive, Habeas Corpus, Plus Two, Amazon — but all of them were rejected. Then someone suggested Daughters of Bilitis, named for the work of nineteenth century poet Pierre Louys, whose Songs of Bilitis spoke of lesbian love. Lyon had never heard of him. “Del and I went to the library to look up Bilitis, and of course found nothing. They had said it would be a great name because no one would know what it meant.” The second important decision was how to pronounce it. They rejected Bill-EYE-tis because they thought it sounded too much like a disease. So Bill-EE-tis it was.

The small group met several more times to begin putting some organization behind the idea: bylaws, membership rules (no one under 21, males welcome only as guests on specific occasions), and a tentative schedule. Business meetings would be held on the first Wednesdays of each month at 8:00 p.m. “Qui vive” became the club’s motto, sapphire blue and gold the colors, and an triangular insignia was chosen — that was serendipitous; they didn’t know that the pink triangle marked homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. And then they named interim officers: Del Martin was president, Noni Frey was vice president, Phyllis Lyon was secretary, Rosemary Sliepen was treasurer, and Marcia Foster was trustee.

The first official meeting took place on October 19, 1955. It was awkward. The women quickly realized that they would be welcoming other women into their homes with whom they had very little in common except their sexuality. But more meetings followed, and the members became more comfortable with each other, they also became more confident. Within a year, they began reaching out to the local Mattachine Society and the staff of ONE magazine in Los Angeles. When they joined the Mattachine Society to lobby for a change in California’s sex laws, they began to get involved in local advocacy and cooperation with other homophile groups.

But they remained focused for providing a social and intellectual outlet for women within the larger gay movement. In 1956, DoB began publishing The Ladder, first as a typewritten and mimeographed newsletter, then as a nationally distributed magazine which became a lifeline to lesbians across the country and around the world. Soon, there were DoB chapters in dozens of other cities, including one in Melbourne, Australia, which was the first openly gay political organization in that country. Beginning in 1960, the Daughters convened the first of their biennial conventions in San Francisco.

DoB remained active until 1970, when the national organization disbanded but allowed the remaining local chapters to continue under the name. The Ladder survived the national organization by two years, until it went under due to a lack of financial support in 1972. But as many as twenty local DoB chapters continued in several American cities, with New York, Boston and the original San Francisco chapters remaining particularly active. The original San Francisco chapter folded in 1978, and its files, which included both the local and national archives, were turned over to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. At last report, the Boston Chapter, since moved to Cambridge, was still in existence as of 2004, but it appears to have gone dormant sometime since then.

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

“Downtown” Markleeville, Alpine County’s unincorporated county seat.

Gay Group Plans Takover of Alpine County: 1970. The Gay Liberation Front in Los Angeles hit on a novel idea: What if enough gay people gathered in one location in numbers sufficiently large enough that they could then take over the area through free elections? On October 19, the group issued a two-page statement announcing their dream of encouraging gay people to move to sparsely-populated Alpine County, California. Located high up in the Sierra Nevadas just south of Reno and Carson City, Alpine County only had a little over 400 residents and 384 eligible voters.

The way GLF member Don Jackson figured it, if they could get a similar number of gay people to move, they could have the county all sewn up with little difficulty. And with homosexuality still a criminal act in California (it would remain so until 1975: see May 12), having power over law enforcement would be an important advantage. “A gay Superior Court Judge would have great discretionary powers. A gay district attorney could choose which laws and which criminals he wished to prosecute. … It would mean a … gay civil service and a county welfare department which made public assistance payments to refugees from prejudice,” Jackson told reporters. The numbers were in Jackson’s favor; he already had 479 gay people sign up to move into the county by January 1.

As you can imagine, not everyone was thrilled with the idea, especially the people who already called Alpine County their home. Hubert Bruns, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, joined four other officials in a closed-door meeting with Gov. Ronald Reagan’s assistant legal affairs secretary to try to figure out what options were available to them. When a reporter asked if they were encouraged by what they learned, Bruns simply replied “No,” then added, “If these people come up here and abide by the laws, there’s nothing in the world we can do to prevent them from coming and registering. Today, to the best of our knowledge, we don’t have gay people here. We do not need that kind of business.”

Bruns predicted a chilly reception. “We thought it was a joke,” Bruns said. “Today we don’t think it is a joke. They will receive a hostile reception when they come.” When asked how he would know which of the new residents were gay, Bruns replied, “We’re going to make every attempt to find out. I’m sure we’ll know some of them.” Other observers noticed that the cool reception wouldn’t just be from county residents. The planned January 1 start date would have coincided with the dead of winter when it’s not uncommon to have twenty-five feet of snow on the ground.

Not everyone in the gay community was on board either. The Gay Liberation Front of Berkeley voted against the proposal. They gave the same reason they gave for everything else they opposed: it was “sexist” and “racist.” And “impractical,” something that they had not been known to be worried about before. Berkeley’s vote didn’t bother L.A.’s Don Kilhefmer though. “All the Berkeley vote means is that they don’t dig the idea, while San Francisco and Los Angeles is going ahead.” But as the deadline approached, the plan fizzled. Good thing, too, because that January the worst snowstorm in nineteen years blanketed Alpine County with more than eight feet of snow.

Postscript: Whatever reservations Alpine County residents had for gay people in 1970, those attitudes changed remarkably by 2008, when Alpine County was one of just three interior counties in California to vote against Prop 8. County residents disapproved of the discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage by 379 to 293.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Robert Reed: 1932-1992. Poor Carol Brady. How could she know that her husband was gay? Actually, Florence Henderson, who played “the lovely lady” in The Brady Bunch, later said she figured it out the first time they shared a screen kiss in the first episode.

Reed was already a well-established character actor, appearing in episodes of more television series than anyone can count. He also worked on Broadway, in Neil Simon’s Barefoot In the Park. Reed never liked his role on The Brady Bunch, thinking that the schmaltzy show was beneath him. He often sparred with the show’s producer, Sherwood Schwartz over the silly scripts and nonsensical story lines. But Reed liked his co-stars and filled the role of father figure to the six younger cast members whenever he could. After the third season wrapped, he even brought the entire cast on vacation to New York and a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth II to London. Most of the cast members knew he was gay, but they were very protective of the fact. After all, in the 1970s it would have been a career-killer. When he died in 1992 of colon cancer and lymphoma, the media reported that he had died of AIDS (he had tested positive for HIV the year before but it had not progressed to AIDS). His Brady family was taken aback by the sensational reporting surrounding his death. As he was a father figure to the Brady cast in life, they returned the favor by being something of a family-figure to him. The cast attended his memorial, while many of his actual relatives stayed away.

Divine: 1945-1988. He was born as Harris Glenn Milstead, but everyone knew him as Divine, the Drag Queen of the Century who practically defined what a John Waters movie was all about. Divine described his character as “just good, dirty fun, and if you find it offensive, honey, don’t join in.” But he drew a clear distinction between his private life and his performance. “My favorite part of drag is getting out of it,” he said. “Drag is my work clothes. I only put it on when someone pays me to.” And yet whether he was in or out of drag, he was always Divine: he even had it put on his passport.

His most famous character, that of Edna Turnbald in the film Hairspray, was so popular that the character has been played by a male in drag in every adaptation since then, whether on the stage or the 2007 film remake. But not all of his characters were in drag; he also appeared as the racist TV station manager Arvin Hodgepile in Hairspray and as Earl Peterson, the fat man driving an Edsel station wagon who picks up Divine while hitchhiking. Divine was nominated for a Razzie Award for playing Rosie Velez in Lust In the Dust, which Tab Hunter both produced and starred in. I think he should have won an Oscar, with Lainie Kazan receiving special kudos for playing Divine’s step sister. He died, much too soon, of heart failure in 1988 at the age of 42.

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

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

No Gifts, No Welcoming: Catholic Synod In Full Retreat on Gays in the Church

Jim Burroway

October 18th, 2014

(Note: Because this is a breaking story, this post has been updated numerous times between 12:40 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. PDT.)

The hardliners have won. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, which has wrapped up its first session in Rome this weekend, has just approved its final Relatio Synodi in the original, official Italian. An official English translation is not yet available, but Buzzfeed provides this in-house translation:

The pastoral care of people with homosexual orientation

55. Some families live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation. In this regard, questions have been raised on pastoral care which is appropriate to deal with this situation by referring to what the Church teaches: “There is no basis whatsoever to assimilate or to draw even remote analogies between same-sex unions and the plan of God for marriage and the family. ” Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. “In their regard should be avoided every sign of unjust discrimination” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4).

56. It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer the pressures in this matter and that international bodies condition financial aid to poor countries, on the institution of laws that establish the “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

This represents a complete and utter victory for the Church’s more hardliner wing, particularly the American, African, and Oceanian bishops who angrily denounced the interim Relatio for asking whether the church was capable of providing a “welcoming… fraternal space” for gay people who possess “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” That statement also acknowledged “cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” while also recognizing the needs of the children of gay couples.

The new statement has none of that. It recognizes nothing about gay people or their children. In fact, it doesn’t recognize gays and lesbians at all, but rather restricts itself to addressing families who “live the experience of having members who are of homosexual orientation.” Which means it’s not even meant to address us. This is not just a full reversal from Monday’s statement, it’s not even as minimally positive as the mysteriously revised English mistranslation that was issued Thursday. This is more than just a backtrack. It’s a doubling down on the part of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s appointed English-speaking bishops, and stunning rebuke of Pope Francis’s attempts to inject a small dose of humanity into the operation of the Church.

Despite the full-on capitulation to conservative clerics, the conservative EWTN-affiliated National Catholic Register still says, “Critics, however, have said the message, published on the eve of the final day of the two-week ecclesial gathering, sends out ‘weak and ambiguous’ signals on the Church’s positions on sexual morality”:

Yet this approach has not been accepted by everyone. Speaking to the Register Saturday, Opus Dei Father Robert Gahl, professor of moral philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, said: “The Holy Father’s silence on vexing questions leaves the Church in suspense.” He added that this suspense “is intensified by the ambiguities” of the interim report on the synod which was issued Monday, “because we all expect our faith to be confirmed by the successor Peter.”

Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-family groups, criticized the final message for sending out “weak and ambiguous” signals about the Church’s stance on sexual morality. Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, said it should have contained “a clear statement rejecting any openings to homosexuality, cohabitation, so-called ‘second marriages’, or contraception,” especially after the interim report whose content “caused scandal both inside and outside the synod.”

It should be noted however that three paragraphs of the Relatio Synodi did not receive the required two-thirds approval. Two of those paragraphs were on divorce and remarriage, and Paragraph 55 in the section on gay people. Paragraph 55 fell short of the two-thirds majority in 118 to 62 vote. Pope Francis nevertheless agreed to release the full Relatio for the sake of transparency, along with the vote totals at the end for each paragraph. The failure of paragraph 55 to reach a two-thirds vote is seen as a protest by some of the more progressive bishops, who object to watering down the passage. 

It’s also important to note that the Relatio Synodi has no doctrinal authority, but is rather a set of discussion points to be considered between now and when the Synod meets again next year. The current Relatio however is being presented as interim guidelines to the Episcopal Conferences, which means that there would be no pressure to change how bishops respond to LGBT teachers and church members.

So what’s next? The Synod isn’t over, but will continue off and on for at least another year. An executive session will meet next month in Baltimore to draft a more detailed report which is expected to become a first draft for next year’s agenda. Meanwhile, the Pope reportedly told the Synod that they have a year to “mature” their ideas “with true spiritual discernment.” When the Synod meets again next October (and assuming the Synod doesn’t get extended further), it will issue a final Relatio, which, again, would not carry any authoritative doctrinal significance, but it would represent a consensus of the bishops. After that, it is customary for elements of a final Relatio to make their way into an Apostolic Exhortation, which, when promulgated by the Pope, becomes an official authoritative document of the Roman Catholic Church. There’s a lot that can happen between now and then:

When the synod reconvenes, it won’t be quite the same. Some who participated in this year’s meeting won’t be back (I’m thinking of papal critic Cardinal Raymond Burke). And Francis will likely select new cardinals come February. Why might a new-look synod matter? Because the sections that failed still had majority support. The paragraph on gay people, for example, failed by just six votes. But the synod fathers who want divorced and remarried Catholics to be able to receive the Eucharist have a longer row to hoe. Those sections failed by larger margins–and they did nothing more than state what had been discussed.

Meanwhile, just outside the walls of Vatican City, the mayor of Rome has registered sixteen same-sex marriages.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, October 18

Jim Burroway

October 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bakersfield, CA; Nashville, TN (Black Pride); Sarasota, FL; Tucson, AZ; Winston-Salem, NC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Prescott, AZ; Watertown, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Ft. Worth, TX; Kansai Queer Film Festival, Osaka, Japan; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Rainbow Festival, Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Bush Garden Gay Days, Williamsburg, VA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, July 1974, Seattle section page 13.

From Northwest Gay Review, July 1974, Seattle section page 13.

This is one of those places that I haven’t been able to find much information about. It’s quite a shame because I have been able to find a couple of interviews which mention Seattle’s Pike Street Tavern in the late 1950s, and any place that’s been around for perhaps as long as two decades is bound to have some stories attached to it. There’s no trace of the tavern today. The entire block was redeveloped into the Washington State Convention Center complex.

HM Prison, Brixton

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Two Suggestions for Curing Homosexuality: 1947. Dr. F.H. Taylor had published a paper in the October 4, 1947 edition of the British Medical Journal in which he described treatment outcomes for 96 people who had been sent to His Majesty’s Prison in Brixton. Of those committed, 66 were identified as “pseudo-homosexual,” with 34 showing some signs of mental illness (although his definitions were somewhat surprising: three “epileptics,” twelve with “personality defects”, and five as “dull and backward”). The “pseudo-homosexuals” were those who Taylor described as “hav(ing) heterosexual tendencies and in whom the homosexual offence was in the nature of a substitution for the normal heterosexual act.” He described twelve more as bisexuals (“not so much by way of a perversion in the psychiatrical sense, but rather an indication of sheer depravity”), five as prostitutes (which he considered situational, much like his “pseudo-homosexuals”) and thirteen cases as “true inverts.”

His paper focused on that last group. Of those thirteen, seven showed no improvement in treatment, and three refused it altogether. Of the remaining three, one was “too dull to be able to co-operate in any form,” and another ” had already been considered by a clinic and a consultant psychiatrist and turned away as unsuitable.” That left one last man, whose ” offence was directly attributable to heavy consumption of alcohol,” was considered a good prospect for treatment. “Thus out of 13 cases, in only one was there any indication that psychotherapy would be of any value whatsoever — and then only as a palliative, not as a cure.”

Taylor’s article prompted a a couple of letters to the editor two weeks later. Dr. Clifford Allen of London wrote that it was no wonder that Taylor’s views on treating gay people were so pessimistic “since in prison psychiatry the hopeless cases and failures are most likely to be met, while the successfully treated ones live normal lives.” Allen then offered:

My own solution to this problem is that there should be a definite clinic for psychosexual conditions to which the courts send these cases for psychotherapy. The psychiatrists working on this one type of case would be certain to become more skilled than otherwise, and the patients more likely to be cured.”

How Allen believed that his solution would be any difference from Taylor’s, he didn’t explain. The second letter, from L.M.M. Beadnell was equally non-sensical:

SIR,–Dr. F. H. Taylor’s article (Oct. 4, p. 525) on homosexual offences makes me wonder once again why one never sees any mention of gonadal treatment in these cases; surely it must have some effect on at least a proportion.

A few years ago on transferring to a new area I came across a health visitor, aged about 35, who had a very deep voice and a distinct moustache. She had had a major operation, presumably a hysterectomy, about a year previously for dysmenorrhoea. About a year after I met her she was forced to leave the district as there had been several complaints from the mothers of girl guides in a company which she ran. I do not know exactly what these complaints were, but it was common local gossip that the girl was a homosexual. I feel sure that if this girl; had been given appropriate hormone treatment at the time of and subsequently to her operation she would not have become a Lesbian.

I should be interested to know if others have any experience of these cases being prevented or alleviated by hormone therapy.–I am, etc.

L.M.M. Beadnell
Rushden, near Buntingford, Herts.

Justice Powell Regrets Bowers Ruling: 1990. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick to uphold Georgia’s sodomy law, and with it similar laws in twenty-five other states and the District of Columbia (See Jun 30). It had been reported that Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., had originally voted to strike down the law, but a few days later he changed his mind and became the deciding vote in the court’s 5-4 decision. His retirement the following year gave him plenty of time to think about what he had done. Four years after Bowers, Powell spoke before a group of law students at New York University where he was asked how he reconciled his vote in Bowers, which limited the right to privacy, with his vote in Roe v. Wade, which extended a woman’s right to privacy to include whether she wanted to have an abortion. “I think I probably made a mistake on that one,” Powell said of his Bowers decision.

Powell later explained to a law journal, “I do think I was inconsistent in a general way with Roe. When I had the opportunity to reread the opinions a few months later, I thought the dissent had the better of the arguments.” But Powell refused to consider his deciding vote all that important. “I thought it was a frivolous case. I still think it was a frivolous case.” He considered his decision as “one of little or no importance,” because, he said, no one had actually been prosecuted for homosexual conduct.

White Supremacists Found Guilty In Seattle Gay Nightclub Bombing Plot: 1990. Robert John Winslow, a twenty-nine year old former infantryman from Laclede, Idaho had it all figured out. He used a towel spread out on a table top to represent the area around Seattle’s Neighbours Disco, a popular nightclub in the Capital Hill gayborhood, as he explained to Rico Valentino how it would all go down. They’d plant four bombs in the alley adjacent to Neighbours’ rear entrance. They’d paint them black and hide them in the shadows, on opposite sides of the alley. They could even use propane to create a “fireball effect.” Then someone would phone the bar with a bomb threat and everyone would evacuate out into the alley. “Fag burgers!” Winslow laughed. Why? Winslow said that homosexuals in America were threatening “white Christianity.” They also talked about bombing the Anti-Defamation League, cars owned by Jews, and businesses owned by blacks and Chinese.

They began planning the operation on April 20, 1990, during an Aryan Nation’s celebration of Hitler’s birthday, and now they were ready to do it. Winslow, Stephen Nelson, 35, and Procter Baker, 58, who had served as master of ceremonies for the birthday observance, were members of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations) at Hayden Lake, Idaho. But Valentino, a former professional wrestler, was a paid informant who had been working undercover for three years for the FBI. He wore a wire as Winslow laid out the plans. He also collected evidence at the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho. On May 12, 1990, Winslow and Nelson were arrested after driving with Valentino to Seattle. FBI agents trailed the van and arrested them in a motel parking lot near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Agents found pipe-bomb components, a .38-caliber pistol, a 12-gage shotgun and white-supremacist literature. Baker was arrested at his home in Coeur d’Alene. A search of his cabin in Kendrick turned up a partially assembled pipe bomb.

On October 18, 1990, Nelson, Winslow, and Baker were convicted of conspiracy and manufacturing and possessing pipe bombs. Nelson and Winslow were also found guilty of using interstate commerce in a conspiracy and possessing firearms during a violent crime. Winslow was sentenced to nine years, Nelson eight, and Baker to two years. The sentence was considered light: they had faced 20 to 25 years. But U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan rejected prosecutors contention that their actions amounted to “domestic terrorism,” and he also declined the government’s request to add time to the sentenced based on the intended victims.

In a case of history nearly repeating, Neighbours was very nearly the target of a disastrous arson fire last New Years Eve when a few minutes after midnight, Musab Masmari poured gasoline onto a stairway leading to the balcony and lit it on fire. There were about 750 people in the club at the time. The fire was quickly put out with a fire extinguisher. A security camera caught the whole thing. Masmari was sentenced to ten years in prison,

Navy Apologizes for USS Iowa Blast Accusation: 1991. On April 19, 1989 in the Number Two 16-inch gun turret aboard the USS Iowa exploded, killing 47 crewmen who were inside the turret. Iowa crewmen were ordered to remov the bodies, throw damaged equipment overboard and repaint the damaged turret the next day — all without taking photos or gathering any evidence. Investigators immediately set out the theory that Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, was killed in the blast, had committed suicide by detonating the explosion after an alleged affair with another male soldier ended.  As far as the Navy was concerned, that explained everything and the case was closed.

But Congress and the general public weren’t satisfied. After mounting criticism, Navy Secretary J. Lawrence Garett III ordered the service to reopen the investigation and hand it over to independent investigators. During that investigation, a sample of gunpowder of the same type used on the USS Iowa exploded during a ram test, which simulated the process of raming bags of gunpowder into the gun during loading. With that, the original investigation, which was based on circumstantial evidence, also went up in smoke. The Navy was left with nothing to do but apologize. “For this, on behalf of the U.S. Navy, I extend my sincere regrets to the family,” said a statement from Adm. Frank Kekso, chief of naval operations. “The Navy will not imply that a deceased individual is to blame for his own death, or the death of others.” He also apologized to the other families of those who died because “such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts, no certain answers regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Tim Gill: 1953. In 1984, Apple came out with the life-changing Macintosh, the first mass-market computer with an operating system based on a graphical user interface and a mouse. It was also the first computer to make desktop publishing a breeze. PageMaker was the first Mac desktop publishing application. PageMaker was fine for printing birthday invitations, but it would be QuarkXPress, which debuted in 1987, which was adopted by professional page designers, typesetters and commercial printers. Tim Gill’s Quark, Inc., which he started in 1981 with a $2,000 loan from his parents, revolutionized the publishing industry and made him a millionaire many hundreds of times times over.

Gill became involved with political activism during the 1992 fight against Colorado’s Amendment 2, which prohibited all non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation. He created the Gill Foundation in 1994, which is one of the largest LGBT-rights funding sources in the U.S. He also founded the Gill Action Fund in 2005 to support both Republican and Democratic pro-LGBT political candidates in local, state and national offices and to lobby for gay rights laws across the nation. Gil lives in Denver with his husband, Scott Miller.

Martina Navratilova: 1956. Billie Jean King called her “the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived.” During her career, she became the all-time record-holder of 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, in addition to 18 Grand Slam singles titles and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She reached the Wimbledon singles final twelve time, including nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990. She also won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon a record 9 times, and with Kink won 20 Wimbledon titles, another all-time record.

In 1975, the Czechoslovakia native sought political asylum in the United States after Czech sports authorities decided that she had become “too Americanized.” She was stripped of her Czech citizenship when she defected. Naveratilova became a U.S. citizen in 1981. That same year, she came out publicly as a Lesbian, In 2008, her Czech citizenship was restored, although she has not renounced her American citizenship, nor does she plan to. Last month, she proposed to Julia Lemigova, her longtime girlfriend, at the U.S. Open.

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

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

Wyoming marriage ban overturned – UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

October 17th, 2014

marriage 2014

Judge Scott W. Skavdahl gave himself until Monday to rule on the unconstitutionality of Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. However, he must have found a few minutes in his schedule, so he released his ruling today. (Chris Geidner)

A federal judge has declared that Wyoming cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl put his ruling on hold until Oct. 23 to provide time for government officials to attempt an appeal if they wish. The ruling could go into effect sooner if government officials inform the court that they do not plan to appeal the decision.

And government defendants may well inform the court of their intention not to appeal. (Star Trubune)

Republican Gov. Matt Mead said the state shouldn’t appeal the same-sex marriage ruling due from U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl.

Mead spoke on the issue Thursday night during a Wyoming PBS debate in Riverton. Mead is seeking re-election Nov. 4.

“The answer is no, I don’t think we should appeal the ruling,” he said.

Should Mead and the other three office holders named in the suit notify the court, then Skavdahl will lift the stay and marriages will begin.

UPDATE - One of the four defendants, Debra K. Lathrop, in her official capacity as Laramie County Clerk, has informed the court that she has no intention of appealing. The three remaining defendants are:

Matthew H. Mead, in his official capacity as the Governor of Wyoming
Dean Fausset, in his official capacity as the Director of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information
Dave Urquidez, in his official capacity as the Administrator of the State of Wyoming Human Resources Administration

UPDATE – Mean has announced that the state will not appeal the decision and that the Attorney General will file notice with the court. This likely encompases the other members of his administration.

I suspect that the filing and lifting of stay will not come before Monday.

Supreme Court denies Alaska’s request for stay

Timothy Kincaid

October 17th, 2014

marriage 2014

Dark Purple – states with marriage equality
Light Purple – states in circuits in which marriage equality has been ruled.
Pink – states that recognize legal marriages from other places

The US Supreme Court has denied Alaska’s request for a stay. Marriage is now equal in 31 states plus the District of Columbia.

Marriage equality comes to Arizona

Timothy Kincaid

October 17th, 2014

U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick has issued his opinion as to whether or not Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage is in violation with the US Constitution. And, to no one’s surprise, he found it unconstitutional.

Sedwick did not issue a stay. Yesterday, Attorney General Tom Horne filed a brief which basically conceded the plaintiff’s position. So it seems unlikely that Horne will either appeal the decision or petition the Ninth Circuit for a stay.

UPDATE: Horne is not appealing nor asking for a stay.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 17

Jim Burroway

October 17th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bakersfield, CA; Nashville, TN (Black Pride); Sarasota, FL; Tucson, AZ; Winston-Salem, NC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Prescott, AZ; Watertown, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Ft. Worth, TX; Kansai Queer Film Festival, Osaka, Japan; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Rainbow Festival, Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Bush Garden Gay Days, Williamsburg, VA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 7, 1983, page 15.

From the Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 7, 1983, page 15.

Reps. Henry Hyde, Barney Frank

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Henry Hyde Slurs Barney Frank During House Debate: 1990. It was just another one of those ordinary debates taking place on the floor of the House of Representatives which would have otherwise passed into history unnoticed. One congressman accused another congressman from the other party of flip-flopping, this time a Democrat accusing a Republican of changing his stance on taxes. Barney Frank (D-MA) remarked that he wasn’t in the chamber earlier when the subject came up but read in the Congressional Record that ten days earlier “someone passing himself off as the Republican leader” urged a vote on new taxes, but then eight days later said that taxes should not be raised. Frank said, sarcastically, that there must be a security problem in the house that allowed an impostor to speak for Republican leader Robert Michel (R-IL). Henry Hyde (R-IL) leaped to the defense of his fellow Illinoisan and said that the reason Frank hadn’t heard Michel was because “he (Frank) was in the gymnasium doing whatever he does in the gymnasium and he wasn’t available.” The remark was made in reference to an unsubstantiated allegation by a male prostitute (and former roommate, who Franks kicked out three years earlier when he learned the roommate was still escorting) that he had sex with Frank in the House gym.

Rep. Craig Washington (D-TX) called out Hyde, saying he was appalled at Hyde’s remark. “Great minds think about ideas, average minds think about things, and small minds think about people,” he said. A few minutes later, Hyde apologized to Frank: “What I said was in anger. One should never speak in anger. It was out of line.” Frank accepted the apology.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Montgomery Clift: 1920-1966. His on-screen reputation was for playing what The New York Times described as “moody, sensitive young men.” You know what that means. Despite that, his riveting performance opposite Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In the Sun, which is regarded as one of his finest performances as a Method actor, fueled rumors that he and Elizabeth were dating. His next movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess, was less successful. Clift played a priest who was romantically involved with a woman, and that proved too controversial. But he rebounded in 1953 with From Here to Eternity. He lost the Academy Award for Best Actor to William Holden (for Stalag 17), which surprised everyone, including Holden.

The major turning point in his life was in a 1956 car accident, which severely injured his face, requiring plastic surgery. His looks were different because of the accident, but that’s not what led to his career’s down downward spiral. The accident exacerbated his alcoholism and left him addicted to pain killers, which affected his health and led to what some observers called “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.”

He did keep working though, making as many movies after the accident as he did before. He appeared in Lonelyhearts, The Young Lions, Suddenly Last Summer, and The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe who, referencing her own emotional problems, described Clift as “the only person I know who is in ever worse shape than I am.” Director Stanley Kramer recalled that in 1961, during filming for a twelve-minute part in Judgment at Nuremberg Clift kept forgetting his lines. Kramer finally told Clift to ad-lib them if he had to. It worked, and Clift was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor. He died in 1966 of a heart attack in New York City.

55 YEARS AGO: Rebecca Wight: 1959-1988. She would have turned fifty-five today, but she didn’t even live to see her twenty-ninth birthday. She was murdered on May 13, 1988, by Stephen Roy Carr while camping along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania with her partner, Claudia Brenner. Carr, described as a “mountain man” who often lived in a cave in Michaux State Forest, ran into Wight as she walked into a restroom near the couple’s campground. Thinking that no one was around, she was nude except for her shoes. After a brief conversation — he asked her for a cigarette although she clearly didn’t have one on her — she ran back to the tent to tell Brenner that someone else was there.

They got dressed, packed up, and decided to hike to a more secluded spot. During the hike, they stopped to look at a map. They kissed, and Carr appeared from behind them with a rifle slung over his shoulder and asked if they were lost. They said no and went on. By evening, they found a more secluded spot — after looking around to make sure they were alone — pitched their tent, had dinner, and then began to have sex. But they weren’t alone. Carr watched from about 80 feet away, and fired eight shots from his rifle. Brenner was shot five times but survived. Wight was shot twice, but was more seriously wounded. Carr, believing that both women were dead, left. Brenner hiked three miles to the nearest road where she was able to get a ride to the police station, where she gave a quick statement and was airlifted to Hershey Medical Center. But while she was gone, Wight died from her wounds. Police found her body that night.

Carr fled to a Mennonite community and hid. Because that particular community didn’t read the news or watch television, they didn’t know they had a murder suspect in their midst until one member happened to recognize Carr while surreptitiously watching a news broadcast and called police. In court, he claimed that he had been enraged at the sight of the two women having sex. Prosecutors sought the death sentence, but after the judge ruled that the nature of the two women’s relationship was irrelevant, the defense accepted a plea deal and Carr was sentenced to life without parole.

Brenner went on to write a book about the shooting in 1995. Titled, Eight Bullets: One Woman’s Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence, she describes the shooting, and her experiences with the medical system, the courts, and the media in the aftermath. She also became a public speaker against anti-gay violence.

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

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

Lost in La Traslazione

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2014

There are truly strange things going on at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. On Monday, the Synod released its Relatio Post Disceptationem (literally, Report after Discussions), a sort of a first draft for an upcoming Relatio Synodi, or Report of the Synod. The Relatio Post Disceptationem contained some rather remarkable language under the heading of “Welcoming Homosexual Persons,” which began, “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? ” It also recognized that “without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

On the negative side, the statement also “affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman,” and denounced international efforts to tie aid to “regulations inspired by gender ideology.” But overall, as I explained on Monday, the positive aspects of the statement represented a tremendous shift in how the Church was willing to look at gay Catholics, and gay people generally.

Almost immediately, there was considerable blowback from the more conservative elements within the Church. Given that almost all of the bishops at the Synod were appointed either by Pope John Paul II or his even more conservative successor Benedict XVI, that blowback is not a small thing. Wednesday, the Synod released its Unofficial Summary of the Free Discussions in the Assembly which took place on Tuesday. That summary of discussions, which is akin to meeting minutes, revealed that one of the concerns expressed within the Synod was that the final Relatio Synodi should not leave “the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency (homosexuality) on the part of the Church.” The pushback now was well underway.

Today, that pushback gathered seam as the Vatican’s press office circulated a new English translation of Monday’s Relatio. The new translation now reads, with the substantive changes highlighted in bold:

Providing for homosexual persons

50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

51. The question of homosexuality requires serious reflection on how to devise realistic approaches to affective growth, human development and maturation in the Gospel, while integrating the sexual aspect, all of which constitute an important educative challenge. Moreover, the Church affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.

52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to [...] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority. [Emphasis mine]

There are the four substantive changes:

1. In the phrasing above, “Providing for” highlighted in both instances used to read “welcoming.”

2. The phrase “A place of fellowship” used to read “a fraternal space.”

3. The question, “Are our communities capable of this…” used to read, “Are our communities capable of providing that…” in referring to “offer(ing) them a welcoming home.”

4. And the phrase which speaks of couples making sacrifices which are “a valuable support in the life of these persons” used to read “”a precious support in the life of the partners.”

If you scroll to the bottom of the document, you’ll see that the original diffinatve text is in Italian. When you go to the Italian version of the Relatio, you find this (I’ve highlighted the points of contention):

Accogliere le persone omosessuali

50. Le persone omosessuali hanno doti e qualità da offrire alla comunità cristiana: siamo in grado di accogliere queste persone, garantendo loro uno spazio di fraternità nelle nostre comunità? Spesso esse desiderano incontrare una Chiesa che sia casa accogliente per loro. Le nostre comunità sono in grado di esserlo accettando e valutando il loro orientamento sessuale, senza compromettere la dottrina cattolica su famiglia e matrimonio?

51. La questione omosessuale ci interpella in una seria riflessione su come elaborare cammini realistici di crescita affettiva e di maturità umana ed evangelica integrando la dimensione sessuale: si presenta quindi come un’importante sfida educativa. La Chiesa peraltro afferma che le unioni fra persone dello stesso sesso non possono essere equiparate al matrimonio fra uomo e donna. Non è nemmeno accettabile che si vogliano esercitare pressioni sull’atteggiamento dei pastori o che organismi internazionali condizionino aiuti finanziari all’introduzione di normative ispirate all’ideologia del gender.

52. Senza negare le problematiche morali connesse alle unioni omosessuali si prende atto che vi sono casi in cui il mutuo sostegno fino al sacrificio costituisce un appoggio prezioso per la vita dei partners. Inoltre, la Chiesa ha attenzione speciale verso i bambini che vivono con coppie dello stesso sesso, ribadendo che al primo posto vanno messi sempre le esigenze e i diritti dei piccoli.

The Italian version has not changed one iota since its original release on Monday. But when comparing the authoritative Italian version to the revised English, Italian speakers would quickly observe the following:

1. Accogliere means welcoming, no ifs, ands or buts.

2. The phrase “A place of fellowship,” which used to read “a fraternal space,” is renedered in Italian as “spazio di fraternità.” It seems to me the original translation, “a fraternal space,” is far closer to the Italian. I’m not sure what that change in English might signify, but whoever inserted that change certainly had something in mind.

3. The question, “Are our communities capable of this…”, is interesting. It used to read, “Are our communities capable of providing that…” with both pronouns referring to “offer(ing) them a welcoming home.” In this case, “welcoming home” (“casa accogliente”) wasn’t changed, although the meaning of accogliente was changed elsewhere. But even more interesting is that the Italian asks whether “our coommunities are capable di esserlo accettando” — “of being accepting…” a phrase that never appeared in either English translation.

4. And the phrase that used to describe couples providing “a precious support in the life of the partners” is clearly rendered in the original Italian as providing a prezioso support in the life of dei partners.” It doesn’t take much of a translator to see that the original was far more correct.

And by the way, the French and Spanish versions continue to use the same “welcoming/fraternal/accepting/partner” terminology as the original Italian. Only the English version is different.

So what’s going on?

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said English-speaking bishops had requested the changes, arguing that the first translation was hasty and error-ridden.

When Lombardi was shown how significantly the meaning had changed, he pledged to investigate and didn’t rule out a third version.

Lombardi stressed that the original Italian remains the official text, and noted that the draft is being revised top-to-bottom for a final report which will go to a vote among bishops on Saturday.

Michelle Boorstein, the Washington Post’s religion reporter, goes a bit further:

Asked at the news conference Thursday why the document was changed — and only in English — the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he was simply given the translation from the group of clergy who are working in English and was sharing it.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a priest-journalist covering the synod, said the clergy are “in a panic. They are afraid this welcoming language will confuse people. They’ll think the church is going to change its teaching.” None of the 190 clergy are pushing for that, he said.

“You get the impression they are very concerned, they want more theology in the document. They want more church teaching in the document. They want more encouragement to Catholics who are struggling to follow church teaching. They are very much afraid if they talk too much about what’s good in these incomplete and impartial relationships that people will say: ‘Then why should I bother doing what the church teaches?’”

What seems clear to me is that the final text will be rather different from the interim report. Gerard O’Connel, writing for the Jesuit news magazine America, spoke with American Archbishop Joseph Kurtz (President of the U.S. bishops’ conference) Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, and Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization to get a sense of what the final document might look like:

From the comments of these three prelates, and others that I have spoken to, it would seem that the section of the interim report which speaks about “welcoming homosexual persons” (Numbers: 50, 51, 52) will be considerably revised, perhaps even re-written. Sources say some statements could be eliminated as they lack nuance and give a wrong understanding of the church’s teaching and pastoral approach.

Archbishop Kurtz said that his group here made an effort “to improve and clarify the notion of welcome,” so that it is close to church teaching and pastoral practice.

Kurtz got his way with the English translation of the interrim Relato. We’ll see what happens with the final Relatio Synodi, which will be brought to a vote on Saturday. A two-thirds approval of the Synod is required for its passage.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 16

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bakersfield, CA; Nashville, TN (Black Pride); Sarasota, FL; Tucson, AZ; Winston-Salem, NC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Prescott, AZ; Watertown, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Ft. Worth, TX; Kansai Queer Film Festival, Osaka, Japan; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Rainbow Festival, Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Bush Garden Gay Days, Williamsburg, VA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December 1979, page 6.

From the GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December 1979, page 6.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Excessive Masturbation May Cause Your Sex To Change: 1725. The West’s preoccupation with the dangers of masturbation is historically tied with the broader preoccupation with non-procreative sex generally. But masturbation was seen as particularly dangerous because it was believed to be responsible for an individual’s moral, mental and physical collapse. (See Sep 16 for some of the reasons masturbation was believed to be so dangerous.)

In the early 1700s, an unknown London doctor and clergyman wrote an important book which brought all of those beliefs together in one place, and it became, for several future generations, the primary source for information about all of the moral, physical and mental dangers that masturbation posed. Titled, Onania; or, the Heinous SIN of Self-Pollution, and All its Frightful Consequences, in both SEXES, Consider’d. With Spiritual and Physical Advice to Those, who have already injur’d themselves by this abominable Practice. And seasonable Admonition to the Youth of the Nation, (of both SEXES) and those whose Tuition they are under, whether Parents, Guardians, Masters, or Mistresses, the book went through several editions. Each successive printing expanded from the previous with the inclusion of letters from readers and responses from the quack doctor. The added supplemental material had the effect of firehosing any objections which may have arisen in the meantime. The ninth edition, published in 1722, closed with the author’s statement that there would be no further additions made to future printings, but in 1725, he added a letter from a young lady, dated October 16, 1726, in which she describes herself practicing masturbation with herself and another lady friend:

Just as this supplement, was as ’twere printed off, the following letter from a young Lady, was left for me at the booksellers, which, for the particularity of the case, and ingenuity of the writer, I thought I could do no less than make room for.

To the commendable Author of the ONANIA, Oct. 16, 1725,

SIR,

This Letter comes from a young female creature, but an old transgressor of the practice of that filthy pleasure which you have so justly exploded and condemned, in your ingenious book Onania, which I happily met with about 10 days ago: but in all the cases therein enumerated, there is not one that is parallel to mine, which as my welfare requires it, I must be obliged to relate, and is what I question, Sir, whether you have ever once met with: nor could I tell it, though at the same time I bless the opportunity, but that I am sure you no more know the writer of it, nor ever will, than I know the author of Onania, or desire it.

I began, sir, the folly at 11 years of age, was taught it by my mother’s chambermaid, who lay with me from that time all along until now, which is full seven years, and so intimate were we in the sin, that we took the opportunities of committing it, and invented all the ways we were capable of to heighten the titillation, and gratify our sinful lusts the more. We, in short, pleasured one another, as well as ourselves, but whether by the hard usage of my parts by her, or myself, or both, or whether from any thing in nature more in my make, than is customary to the sex, I don’t know, but for above half a year past I have had a swelling that thrusts out from my body [here, she describes her clitoris -- JB], as big, and almost as hard, and as long or longer than my thumb, which inclines me to excessive lustful desires, and from it there issues a moisture or slipperiness to that degree that I am almost continually wet, and sometimes have such a forcing, as if something of a large substance was coming from me, which greatly frightens both me and my maid. She went to a midwife about it, but did not, she says, tell her of our practice; the midwife said it was a bearing down of the womb, by weakness, and told her what I should do, which I did, but to no purpose. Ever since I have been so, I have not had the course of nature [menstruation], have great pain in my back, and my belly is swelled, am not near so strong as I was, my countenance much paler, and appetite less. It has almost distracted me, and unfits me for my learning, and am afraid I am so hurt, as that it cannot be remedied.

O! that I should be so wicked, I, who have had a much nobler education (and should know better) than is common to most of my sex; that am versed in the classics, and designed by my friends, who are very rich, for something above the common station of my sex; I say, that I should so filthily debase myself, wrong my body, and, which is worse, my soul, is surprising even to myself. Had I read more the Bible, and less in Martial, Juvenal, Ovid, &c it had been better form, but those books Rochester [a famous sexual libertine], and Plays, at first debauched my silly fancy. But I hope, as now, both myself and maid have, on consulting your curious discourse of Self-Pollution, abandon’d the practice, and resolved, through God’s Grace, to commit it no more, we shall find pardon, and my infirm body, from your hands, good sir, relief. She ails nothing, is a strong wench of twenty-seven, myself of a tender make, and naturally inclined to be weakly, and but just turned of eighteen. I have with this, sent you a guinea fee, and desire your cordial advice, what I had best to do, and your opinion of my case, sealed up safe, directed to Mrs E.N. and I will send for it tomorrow morning, at the bookseller’s where this is left; and, sir, I must needs desire you to send me this letter back, that I may have the satisfaction of committing it to the flames myself. According to your answer, you shall hear further from,

SIR,

Your ever obliged, and

Most obedient humble Servant,

E.N.

NOT, sir, but you may copy my letter first, and if you think worthwhile, to print it also in your next edition, as a caution to others; but would not that my hand be seen by any besides your self, the circumstances of the relation, so as not to be know ’tis me, I have taken care of and guarded against.

The un-named author and “doctor” responded with the warning that the if she persisted in these “unnatural practices,” she may experience an unwanted change of sex.

THIS young lady’s case, though the height of her lust, and force and frequency of abusing herself, and probably the unnatural proponderance of the part, is no more, according to the account she gives, than a relaxation of the Clitoris, a thing common to many of the sex, both in the single and married, who are vigorous and lustful, and have given up themselves to the practice of Self-Pollution for any time. In some women it extends itself, and is enlarged when inflated to the exact likeness and size of a human Penis erect, except that it has no perforation (though it really looks, by the natural impression at the end, as if there was a passage) nor is altogether so long, but yet it erects and falls as that does, in proportion to the venereal desire or inclination of the woman. I have had in my time one or two under this circumstance, by the same practice, for cure, who upon their living afterwards chaste, and using some astringent foments, and a few internals, to regulate the inordinate and enraged venereal desires, have been brought to rights, and the parts restored to their pristine, natural state and condition. It was the like case of this lady’s, that gave rise to the report of two Nuns at Rome, having changed their sex, and which had made such a noise in that city, that the Pope, upon hearing of it, gave orders for their being inspected by some cardinals. Dr Carr, in his medicinal epistles, translated by Dr Quincy, has in his answer to a letter sent him by a divine, upon the subject of it, wrote his opinion at large, which as it may confirm mine, in relation to the aforesaid lady’s case, and be of some use both to practitioners and patients, I shall not think much to transcribe it, and give it to the reader, verbatim. It is his 6th Epistle, entitled, Concerning two nuns reported to have changed their sex.

A gay couple in Berlin, ca 1930. (via the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

85 YEARS AGO: German Reichstag Committee Approves Repeal of Paragraph 175: 1929. In 1897, Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14) co-founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), the first gay rights organizaiotn in history. The WhK’s first project was to lobby for the repeal of Germanys infamous Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality between men (women were unmentioned in the anti-gay code). After three decades of lobbying, the WhK came tantalizingly close to achieving its goal when the Reichstag’s Commission for Law Reform voted 15 to 13 in favor of a resolution to repeal §175.

But the crash of world stock markets two weeks later and the resulting Great Depression and political instability quickly overwhelmed the Reichstag, which suddenly found itself with more pressing matters to contend with. By 1930, Germany was besieged by massive unemployment and the Nazi party became the second-largest party in the Reichstag following the September elections. The rest, as they say, is history. The Nazi’s expanded §175′s reach in 1935, resulting in a tenfold increase in convictions with authorizaiton to incarcerate gay men in concentration camps. In 1950, Communist East Germany abolished the Nazi amendments, but West Germany kept them until 1969 when it effectively decriminalized consenstual relationships for those above the age of 21. East Germany finally decriminaized consenstual relationships between gay men in 1988, and a reunited Germany followed suit in 1994.

55 YEARS AGO: FBI Warns of Extortion Ring: 1959. With consensual same-sex relationships criminalized in all fifty states, and when the discovery of one’s homosexuality typically resulted in being fired from one’s job and evicted by one’s landlord, there was a great deal of money to be made in blackmailing gay people — a fact which was, itself, often used to further justify the wholesale ban on federal employment and security clearances for gay people. But regardless of the victims, blackmail was still against the law, as demonstrated by this FBI warning that appeared in The Washington Post:

The FBI warned last night that a man believed the co-leader of a Nationwide extortion ring is reported heading for Washington. He is George Brooks, 55, charged with extorting $25,000 from a man in Tucson, Ariz. Brooks is named on a warrant also charging William Tavenner, 26, a former Washington resident, whose present location is unknown.

The FBI said the men are believed to head an extortion ring of 25 people who prey on homosexuals by posing as policemen. They have been operating in Phoenix. Portland. Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.

Tavenner. whose last known address here was listed at 1400 Fairmont St. NW, is reported by the FBI to have a record including charges of impersonating a police officer, narcotics violation, assault and disorderly conduct.

[Source: "Extortionist ring believed coming here." The Washington Post (October 17, 1959): D4.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
160 YEARS AGO: Oscar Wilde: 1854-1900. His wit and flamboyance, tinged  twith an undercurrent of rebellion, made him one of the most popular celebrities of his day. His three comedies of society, written between 1892 and 1895, lampooned Victorian values and enjoyed tremendous success in the London theater. But that just prepared the ground for his masterpiece, 1894′s The Importance of Being Earnest, and that made Wilde a superstar. That acclaim, combined with his embrace of aestheticism, belief that the pursuit of beauty was a virtue in itself, placed him at the forefront of London’s high fashion, a rare position for a man to take. He was a flashy dresser and he entertained lavishly. “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china,” he once quipped. The life he lived, however, was not seen as manly, and his high profile meant that he quickly became an easy target for those who saw him as a dangerous threat to Britain’s moral bearing. Just a few days after Earnest’s premiere, a series of events began which would ultimately see Wilde tried for sodomy and gross indecency. His first criminal trial, which quickly became regarded as the trial of the century, is famous for the question that was put to him, a question that was on everyone’s mind:

Prosecutor: What is “the love that dare not speak its name?”

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

That case ended in a mistrial, but a second trial a month later saw him convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labor. Wilde’s health declined sharply during the term. He collapsed from illness and hunger at one point, and suffered a rupture in his right ear drum during another mishap that would later contribute to his early death. When he was released in 1897, he was broken, both financially and physically. He moved to the continent, where he wandered during the last three years of his life. He spent the last months of his life in a run-down hotel in Paris. “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death,” he told an acquaintance. “One of us has got to go.” Not long after, he developed cerebral meningitis and died in November 30, 1900. He was only 46 years old.

Paul Monette: 1945-1995. The author, poet, and memoirist spent more than half of his life in the closet, the doors of which flug open when he met his future partner Roger Horwitz in 1974. That was the basis of his appropriately-named 1992 memoir, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. More gut-wrenching was is 1988 memoir Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, the first personal account of living with AIDS in the pre-cocktail era, chronicling Horwitz’s diagnosis and death, and Monettet’s own diagnosis. The New York Times said that the two books together “humanized the tragedy of the disease and the torment of denying one’s homosexuality, but it also brought to life the rich relationships that some gay men enjoy.” In 1989, Monette followed with another tribute to his late lover in an eighteen-poem cycle Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog.

Monette’s writings weren’t all so mordant. In addition to other volumes of poetry and “silly novels,” as he called them, he also wrote the novelizations for the films Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Scareface (1983), Predator (1987), and Midnight Run (1988). But he still had his own story to tell, with 1995′s Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise, covering some the last chapters of his life. He wrote it while hooked to three intravenous tubes and taking fistfuls of medication daily. He died in 1995 in Los Angeles, where he lived with his partner of five years, Winston Wilde.

Bob Mould: 1960. He was the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the 1980s band Hüsker Dü, and for Sugar in the 1990s. Beginning in the late 1990s, Mould detoured from heavy sounds of his earlier work to dance music and electronica. Lately he had been performing as a live DJ with Rich Morel in Washington, D.C., and other events around the country under the collective name, Blowoff, but this year the duo announced that their hectic schedules could no longer accomodate future Blowoffs. His homosexuality was always something of an open secret, but the secrecy was dropped in 1994 when he outed himself in Spin after the magazine’s reporter threatened to out him. His memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, was released in 2011.

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

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

Was it a Backtrack or a Pushback?

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2014

CNN says it was a “backtrack“:

Under furious assault from conservative Catholics, the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.

…In response to such reactions (from Conservative clerics), the Vatican backtracked a bit Tuesday. In a statement, it said the report on gays and lesbians was a “working document,” not the final word from Rome.

The Vatican also said that it wanted to welcome gays and lesbians in the church, but not create “the impression of a positive evaluation” of same-sex relationships, or, for that matter, of unmarried couples who live together.

Calling it a backtrack is an over-reach in my opinion. To understand what happened, it’s very important to understand what the two documents were and what they mean. The first document released Monday was a Relatio, which is nothing but an interrim report released by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Its weight in Catholic doctrine is nil, and its authority in Catholic practices is comparably low. Like all interim reports, it includes (very) preliminary findings, asks a bunch of questions, and proposes points to consider between now and when the Bishops gather again a year from now. But also like all interim reports, it does point to some kind of a direction in terms of how Pope Francis hopes the discussions will follow. I think this is especially true given how unceremoniously he dumped Cardinal Raymond Burke as head of the Apostolic Signatura (a sort of a Vatican Supreme Court) just before the Synod’s start. You may remember Burke. He’s the one who said this during the Synod:

Burke was also among the loudest complainers on Tuesday:

He strongly criticized yesterday’s Relatio … which the Catholic lay group Voice of the Family had called a “betrayal,” saying it proposes views that “faithful shepherds … cannot accept,” and betrays an approach that is “not of the Church.” … The relatio, he said, proposes views that many Synod fathers “cannot accept,” and that they “as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept.” … “Clearly, the response to the document in the discussion which immediately followed its presentation manifested that a great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” Burke told Olsen.

And Maggie Gallagher was in tears:

I hope to respond intellectually to the synod report. Tears right now are streaming from my face, and it is not about objections to welcoming gay people. There is something more profoundly at stake for me.

Is this me? In the corner?

Conservatives are furious, with some yearning for the good old days of Pope Benedict XVI’s Bavarian rigidity. And in reaction to that fury, CNN saw what they thought was a “backtrack,” which brings us to the second document released Tuesday in Italian. Here’s the rushed English translation (it’s so rushed that I had to correct part of it):

In relation to homosexuals, moreover, the need for welcome was highlighted, but with just prudence [my correction], so that the impression of a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the Church is not created. The same care was advised with regard to cohabitation.

As for the “just prudence,” that likely refers to the second paragraph of the Relatio’s section on “welcoming homosexual persons“:

…The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions…

Quite a bit of negativity there. I don’t think “a positive evaluation of such a tendency on the part of the Church” is possible when we’re not considered on the same footing as heterosexual couples. But again, it’s important to understand the nature of this second document. It’s title tells you the whole story: Eleventh General Congregation: Unofficial Summary of the Free Discussions in the Assembly. If the Relatio was an interim report, then the Unofficial Summary is akin to minutes of Tuesday’s meeting and nothing more. And those minutes don’t suggest a backtrack, but rather a pushback from some of the more Conservative voices. That pushback may yet force a backtrack, but it hasn’t yet. This week, the Synod is preparing the more final Relatio Synodi, which means that this Relatio is something of a first draft of a final interrim report. It will be discussed on Thursday (another summary of speeches will be published then) and voted on next Saturday. What can we expect in the next several days? It’s very hard to know. Vatican Insider’s coverage of a press briefing after the Unofficial Summary‘s release hints at all kinds of intrigue and suspicions:

Two of the men moderating the discussions spoke at today’s briefing: the South African Wilfrid Fox Napier and the Italian Fernando Filoni. The briefing illustrated further the frank and collegial nature of the Synod debates. “Some within the circle were surprised at the media’s reactions; some seemed perplexed, as if the Pope had said, as if the Synod had decided, as if…,” the prefect of Propaganda Fide said, underlining the “extraordinary richness of the debate”. Cardinal Napier was more critical. He spoke of “dissatisfaction” among Synod participants and said the text had been “misinterpreted” partly because of the media but also because many people’s expectations are perhaps a little unrealistic. Much of the content of the relatio post disceptationem is not very helpful in getting the Church’s teaching across, Napier pointed out. He said he suspected that those leading the Synod are not committed to expressing the opinions of the entire Synod but only those of a specific group. The final document should include a “clarification”. Filoni, on the other hand, said he could not give the exact percentage of Synod Fathers who expressed concern about the text yesterday and today. He underlined that the text was generally appreciated and that the reaction to the text’s approach was essentially positive. But it needs to be improved in terms of contextualization. Regarding homosexuality, Napier said his concern is that the final document will not match the media’s take on the draft, and anything said in the future will simply look like “damage control”.

…The South African cardinal expressed surprise at the decision to publish the relatio post disceptationem, while Filoni said some in the circuli minores wondered whether it had been published by mistake. But Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained that the relatio post disceptationem “is always presented the minute it is ready” and this has been the case at every Synod. What probably caused the excitement was the “nature of the issue, which attracted a great deal of attention and raised many expectations.” Fr. Lombardi announced that Mgr. Rino Fisichella and the President of the US Bishops’ Conference, Joseph Kurtz will be attending tomorrow’s briefing. The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx will speak in Thursday and Friday’s briefings, respectively.

The two Cardinals given speaking allotments are interesting choices. In 2012, Cardinal Schönborn reinstated a gay man in a registered partnership to a pastoral council after his election was vetoed by the parish priest.  Last year, he earned Lifesite News’s wrath when he urged respect for same-sex relationships. Cardinal Marx has also been critical of the Church’s approach to LGBT people, even going so far as to say that he would pray for their relationships.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 15

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bakersfield, CA; Nashville, TN (Black Pride); Sarasota, FL; Tucson, AZ; Winston-Salem, NC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Prescott, AZ; Watertown, NY.

Other Events This Weekend: Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Ft. Worth, TX; Kansai Queer Film Festival, Osaka, Japan; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Rainbow Festival, Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Bush Garden Gay Days, Williamsburg, VA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca, NY, October 14, 2014.

From the Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca, NY, March 19, 1970, page 7.

Morris Angell had no intention of opening a gay bar a block or so from the campus of Cornell University in Ithcaca, New York. But it became one anyway when members of Cornell’s Gay Liberation Front discovered Morrie’s and adopted it as their own. It quickly became one of their favorite watering holes, mainly because, unlike other bars in town, Angell more or less left them alone. Angell didn’t want his bar to gain a reputation as a gay bar, so as long as they didn’t show affection or dance together, everything was fine. Then one day in October of 1970, a rather nasty letter to the editor of the campus newspaper said that Morrie’s was the place to go for those who appreciate “fag aesthetics.” That very night, Angell refused to serve drinks to his gay patrons and ordered them to leave. That act became a galvanizing moment for Cornell’s GLF (see below).

The address is now home to Dunbar’s, a straight bar with free popcorn and scary bathrooms.

The first issue of ONE, January 1953.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
ONE Magazine Founded: 1952. The idea of publishing America’s first nationally-distributed magazine dedicated to issues confronting gay people took root when bored Mattachine members in Los Angeles were questioning whether the Society would ever amount to much. Martin Block (see Jul 27), who was one of the earliest society members, recalled “We had these meetings and we’d kick some ideas around and sometimes they would be very stimulating but very often they wouldn’t be.”

Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) was similarly bored and “didn’t have the patience to sit there night after night and hear everybody whine over and over again how tough it was to be homosexual.” Not that it wasn’t tough: Jennings had just come off of a rare victory when he was acquitted by a jury after being falsely entrapped by police on a morals charge (see Jun 23). Another member, Dorr Legg (a.k.a Bill Lambert, whose  home they were meeting in / see Dec 15) agreed. “We were just in a fury and everybody began sputtering: ‘We’ve got to tell them!’ Up speaks this little pipsqueak: ‘Well, you need a magazine.’ It was just like a match to gasoline.”

Here is how ONE later picked up the story:

The following Wednesday an ardent handful of vaguely enthusiastic people assembled just a stone’s throw from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. They decided that a mimeographed newsletter with exposes of local police methods, general articles and some news Items might be tried. There was much desultory talk about Art, Oppression and The Partisan Review.

The following day the host for the evening, whose chance remark it was that had set off the whole chain reaction, resigned. He found, on reflection, that the whole Idea was unintelligent, philosophically untenable and useless! This is just a little sidelight on the history of ONE, illustrating a type of the problems encountered.

Quite undaunted, the remaining few met with an attorney a few nights later. They asked some floundering questions that now look rather absurd but then seemed Important. And during the rest of 1952 they continued meeting every few days, right on through the holidays as well. Supporters resigned, or just plain “fell by the wayside”. New faces appeared, and then were seen no more. Time was wasted on trivia, even frivolity. Yet, through it all their leitmotif, “There MUST be a magazine,” somehow persisted.

What would be its name? This was a tedious, wearying hassle, over endless cups of coffee. The “dignified and ambiguous” school argued against the “Iet’s-be-frank” group, The thesaurus and the Oxord Dictionary became the constant companions of everyone in the group.

You will laugh at some of the proposals. We did. Such as “Raport” — (too much like a Bronx family name, someone quipped). “The Bridge” — (is it an engineering journal?) There were many others, and even more preposterous. It was finally voted, in sheer desperation – for it had to be admitted that it hardly seemed sensible to debate endlessly over the name for a publication that did not yet exist — that the unborn infant would be christened, “The Wedge.” But try as best we might there was little enthusiasm about the decision.

The next assignment had been to discover a masthead-slogan. So the researches began again. Guy Rousseau, a hard-working young negro member of the group came up with one from Thomas Carlyle. It ran, “A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.”

The masthead for ONE’s inaugural issue, January 1953. The Thomas Carlyle quote would be featured in every issue throughout ONE’s existence. (Click to enlarge.)

As a flash of inspiration it hit everyone at once. That was it! For there was the rapport. There was the wedge. And the bridge. “Makes all men one.” The name would be … ONE, for that is what everyone had wanted all along, a means for bringing about oneness, a coming together with understanding. The bitterness and hatreds, the persecution and injustices and discrimination would be stopped by dispelling ignorance , by showing THE OTHERS that all of us are humans alike, all of us living together on the same earth, under the same skies.

Surely there was “a mystic bond of brotherhood,” and ONE would tell them about it, at last all should see that men are brothers indeed, slde-by-side, all of them reaching toward the very same stars in the heavens. ONE would do this!

It was a rather dramatic moment. The little handful sat looking at each other in startled discovery. Something tremendous loomed up and around and among them, a challenge, electric with power and momentum. They well realized that there were obstacles before them, obstacles of almost terrifying proportions. There was no one who felt very confident. But a new concept had been born, a concept that thenceforth took possession of their loyalties and irresistibly carried them along.

Don Slater, W. Dorr Legg, and Jim Kepner. Circa 1957-1958. (via ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives)

Legg became ONE’s business manager. Three others present were Martin Block (he became ONE’s president), Dale Jennings (vice president) and Don Slater (secretary, see Aug 21)), who together made up ONE’s Editorial Board. Guy Rousseau (real name: Bailey Whitaker) became circulation manager. Jean Corbin (as “Eve Ellore”) joined the group as the magazine’s primary artist. Other important contributors included Jim Kepner (see Feb 14), Fred Frisbie (as “George Mortenson”), Irma “Corky” Wolf (as “Ann Carll Reid”), and Stella Rush (as “Sten Russell”). As you can tell, pseudonyms were common, though not always for reasons you might think. While some authors consistently wrote under one pseudonym, Jennings, Block, Legg, Kempner and others often wrote under multiple personas, and sometimes in addition to their real names, in order to give readers the impression that ONE’s staff was larger than it actually was.

ONE debuted in January of 1953 with an article by Dale Jennings describing his 1952 arrest by Los Angeles police. In 1958, ONE made history when it won an important Supreme Court victory when the Court decided that the U.S. Post Office could not refuse to distribute ONE because homosexual content, per se, was not pornographic (see Jan 13). ONE, Inc. also established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies, which sponsored a series of seminars and graduate studies programs. ONE ceased publication in 1968.

[Sources: James T. Sears: Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006): 166-167.

"How ONE began." ONE 3, no. 2 (February 1955): 8-15.]

(Leilani Hu, Cornell Daily Sun.)

(Leilani Hu, Cornell Daily Sun.)

Cornell University’s Gay Liberation Front Launches a Boycott and Sit-In at Morrie’s Bar: 1970. Morris Angell most certainly didn’t set out to run a gay bar when he opened Morrie’s just across the street from Cornell University in the spring of 1969. In fact, that was probably the last thing on his mind. But members of Cornell’s Gay Liberation Front had other ideas. Noticing the lack of social options, the decided to pick a public place and make it gay by just showing up. Janis Kelly later remembered how the GLF went about picking Morrie’s:

We were sitting around moaning about why we didn’t have a gay bar, and there was this notice that what had been the Eddygate restaurant was going to be reopening as Morrie’s bar. So Bob [Roth] said, “That would be the perfect place for a gay bar; it’s too bad it’s not a gay bar.” … And somehow Bob just had this inspiration, “Well, shouldn’t it be a gay bar? What does it take to make a gay bar? A bar full of gay people. This is not difficult. So then why can’t gay people just go to this bar? Why can’t we make it a gay bar? Well, because nobody ever did it before. And people will go in and it will be full of straight people.” So then he said, “Well, we’ll just call everybody we know of and tell ’em a gay bar is opening.” … So we all went home and spent the whole afternoon on the phone calling everybody we knew with a perfectly straight face and saying “Hey, I hear there is a gay bar opening. You want to go to the bar? We’re all going to go at 11:00 on Saturday.” And sure enough, when the bar opened, it was packed to the gills with queers. It was great.

So that’s how Morrie’s became a gay bar. Angell was willing to tolerate his customers, but that tolerance only went so far since he didn’t want his business to become publicly identified as a gay bar. He prohibited same-sex dancing, kissing, or other obviously-gay carrying-on, rules which the gay students more or less were willing to accept.  They were even careful to keep Morrie’s out of their newsletters and other written material, lest the bar gain a reputation that would be uncomfortable for their host.

That quiet arrangement held for more than a year until October 14, 1970, when the campus paper, the Cornell Daily Sun, published a wildly homophobic letter to the editor by Doron Schwartz, a student member of the Sun’s student board. Addressed to a Sun’s journalist who accused him of being anti-gay, he then proceeded to prove her point. “I have nothing against fags or dykes,” he wrote. “Some of my best friends know some. One such friend, Luigi, even takes his wife to Morrie’s to watch your type. They both appreciate fag aesthetics.” That very night, Angell ordered Robert Roth, the GLF’s unofficial leader (although the press often identified him as the group’s president), and several friends to “get out and don’t come back,” saying he didn’t want “their kind” in his bar.

Angell,Police

Morris Angel (left) watches as Capt. Raymond Price talks to protesters. (David Krathwohl, Cornell Daily Sun.)

They left, but the GLF did what it always does: they held a meeting and decided to return the following night for a sit-in. About fifty supporters crowded into the bar that night and refused to order drinks, while several hundred supporters outside chanting their support. Angell ordered  everyone out and the doors locked, orders that everyone ignored. Angell then called the police. Captain Raymond Price arrived, talked with GLF members, and then informed Angell, “You can’t insult these people. You can’t just refuse to serve them.” Angell agreed to back down, reluctantly. “I don’t say you’re welcome,” he told the crowd, “but I’ll have to serve you.”  Janis Kelly responded, “We’re going to be back her tomorrow. If he refuses to serve us, he’s going to have to close the bar.” But for the time being, the crisis was over with Cornell’s GLF scoring a major victory.

[Sources: Brett Beemyn. "The Silence Is Broken: A History of the First Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Student Groups." Journal of the History of Sexuality, 12, no. 2 (April 2003): 205-223.

Doron Schwartz. Letter to the Editor. Cornell Daily Sun (October 14,1970): 4. (All issues of the Cornell Daily Sun are available online here.)

Philip Dixon. "GLF Holds Sit-In at Eddy St. Bar." Cornell Daily Sun (October 16, 1970): 1, 10.]

Press conference announcing the formation of the National Gay Task Force. Front row L-R: Ron Gold, Howard Brown, Bruce Voeller, Nathalie Rockhill. Seated behind L-R: Martin Duberman, Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny. (Click to enlarge.)

Press Conference Announcing Formation of National Gay Task Force: 1973. Dr. Howard Brown made the front page of The New York Times two weeks earlier when the former Health Administrator for New York Mayor John Lindsay’s administration came out of the closet. Brown had resigned in 1967 when he learned than an investigative reporter planned to expose homosexuals in City Hall.  His secret was not revealed, which meant the reasons for his resignation remained a mystery until he came out 1973. The response, he said, was overwhelmingly favorable, so much so that he decided to establish a new gay advocacy group. This new group, the National Gay Task Force (later to become the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, or NGLTF) would be the first such organization with a truly national scope. According to an article in The Village Voice:

The Gay Task Force will work nationally on gay civil rights legislation and discrimination against gay parents in custody and visitation cases, and will coordinate information from all parts of the country about the progress toward gay civil rights. According to a spokesman for the group, a major coming out of the closet of other well-known people is expected in the near future.

Dr. Bruce Voeller served as its first Executive Director. Other leaders of the new organization included historian Martin Duberman, pioneering activist Barbara Gittings, and Ronald Gold who had already played a pivotal role in the APA’s pending delisting of homosexuality as a mental illness later that year.

“No I don’t have it. Do you?” White House Spokesman Larry Speakes plays the comedian over AIDS.

AIDS a Laughing Matter at the White House: 1982. The very first public mention of AIDS at the White House was not an auspicious one. It was the subject of jokes and laughter between the press and White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speaks:

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement ­ the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?

SPEAKES: What’s AIDS?

Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don’t.

SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President ­

SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any ­

Q: Nobody knows?

SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping ­

SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no (laughter) ­no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?

SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.

Q: Didn’t say that?

SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you Larry, that’s why (Laughter.)

SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It’s too late.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, October 14

Jim Burroway

October 14th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1979, page 40.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1979, page 40.

They came by planes, trains, automobiles and busses from across the country to attend the first ever March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights. According to Milwaukee’s GPU News:

Rev. Troy Perry, founder of MCC, and feminist-comedienne Robin Tyler will headline a whistlestop tout aboard Amtrak’s Gay Freedom Train to the march. Joining them for station rallies in Oakland, San Fransisco, Ogden (UT). Reno, Cheyenne, Denver, Lincoln, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Wilmington will be representatives from many local and national gay organizations. Greg Carmack of the National March Transportation Office in Houston commented: “Planes, trains, and buses from all parts of the country are filling up, so people should call the Information Center soon to learn what travel options are available from their home area and buy tickets early.”

Dr. Norman Reider

TODAY IN HISTORY:
When Gay Men Fake Their Cures: 1956. Dr. Norman Reider, who headed the Department of Psychiatry at San Francisco’s Mt. Zion Hospital, gave a very perceptive (for 1956) talk at a meeting of the California Academy of General Practices in Los Angeles. He began his talk, titled “Problems of Homosexuality,” by reminding his audience that the problems were as much society’s problems as they were the homosexuals’ problems:

Hardly any medical subject is more ambiguous and confused than that of homosexuality, and it is a most difficult subject for the clinician to delineate in a scientific or even empirical way. For centuries homosexuality has been more a moral and legal than a medical concern. Throughout the ages people have tried to make criminal law enforce their ambitions regarding moral law, especially in their attempts to control sexual behavior. Among sex laws, none are so punitive or inequitable as those concerning homosexual acts, particularly male homosexual activities. Religious traditions and attitudes against homosexuality have thus been extended into substantive law out of all proportion to the social damage involved in most homosexual acts. Sin is confused with crime, and vague laws about sexual behavior give law enforcement officers a dangerous discretionary power. …

The great majority of homosexual acts do not endanger the social structure or disrupt the family. No doubt many early societies considered homosexual activity a threat to family and societal solidarity, and taboos arose; but when these are examined they can be seen as part and parcel of man’s fears of his own impulses-drives for which he sought controls. Modern studies like those of the late Dr. Kinsey and his associates serve to show that society has little to fear from homosexual activity. Yet the fear remains, in that a homosexual person continues to be the object of extraordinary punishment or the butt of derisive jokes and contempt. We should remember, when we participate in such attacks, that we follow the age-old formula of trying to fight off or laugh off something that we either do not understand or fear.

Later in his talk, Reider explained how the overwhelmingly hostile attitudes toward gay men in particular have preventing the medical community from understanding exactly how ineffective they have been in trying to “cure” them. One such avenue that was tried in the 1940s and 1950s was hormonal treatment, particularly with the administration of androgens such as testosterone, on the theory that gay men were gay because they weren’t “masculine” enough:

A story of my clinical experience in southern California some years ago will illustrate the complications involved in the evaluation of hormonal treatment. The medical literature at that time contained favorable reports of treatment of homosexuality by androgens, and it acquired a certain vogue. Several California jurists who knew the futility of sentencing homosexuals to jail began sentencing the convicted person to undergo treatment. Some persons were sentenced to have hormonal treatment, others to have psychiatric treatment. As a result of these efforts further articles reported successful treatment with androgens — successes that I as a psychiatrist envied.

One day a young man came to my office to consult me about a problem that only skirted on his homosexuality. A confirmed homosexual, he had little anxiety about his activities because he considered himself a constitutional homosexual and felt relatively blameless. In the exploratory course of our discussion he said that he had once been treated by androgens, not entirely of his own will, as the result of a court sentence. He then described how he and several of his associates had contrived to “respond” to the treatment, varying their stories so as to give them the hue of veracity. He said that he arrived late for his first appointment and grumbled at the injection. The nurse reminded him to return for his next one “or else.” Next time he complained of noticing no improvement at all. On the third visit he told the nurse he was depressed and said that he and his boy friend had fallen out and might separate. Next time he was more depressed and was moving out, he said, because he could not tolerate his boy friend. The fifth time he carefully implied he was less depressed, and reported no difference except that he had no desire for anything or anybody. On the sixth visit he told the nurse: “A simply fantastic thing happened. I’ve been going to a local bookstore for years and never noticed before a very pretty girl who works as a clerk there.” By the seventh visit he reported making a date with the girl and at the end of treatment he claimed satisfactory sexual relations with her. This case figured in a published report of successful treatment. Meantime this patient and his companions who had also been treated went on with their homosexual activities, except that some of them suffered from an increased drive — the result of the injections of androgens.

Unfortunately, Reider doesn’t provide a reference for the published report which featured this patient.

[Sources: Norman Reider. "Problems of homosexuality." California Medicine, 86, no. 6 (June 1957): 381-384. Available online here.]

Anita Bryant Gets a Pie in the Face: 1977. After leading a successful campaign to revoke Miami’s anti-discrimination ordinance earlier that summer (see Jun 7), anti-gay activist Anita Bryant and her husband, Bob Green, took their campaign on the road to repeal other local anti-discrimination ordinances in St. Paul, MN (see Apr 25), Wichita, KS (see May 9), and Eugene, OR (see May 23). The Miami campaign had been particularly nasty, even by the standards of the day with Bryant claiming that because “homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children, therefore they must recruit our children.” That campaign forever linked Bryant’s name with vicious homophobia, and made her public enemy number one in the gay community.

But during an appearance in Des Moines, Iowa, Bryant’s was trying to soft-pedal her message: “If we were going to go on a crusade across America to try to do away with the homosexuals, then we certainly would have done it on June the eighth after one of the most overwhelming victories in the country. But we didn’t. We tried to avoid it…” Thank you, Anita, for small favors, I guess.

Thom Higgins of Minneapolis wasn’t so thankful. It was about at that point, with television cameras rolling, when he threw a pie directly into her face. Stunned at first, Bryant tried to make light of it by saying, “At least it was a fruit pie.” At Green’s suggestion, Bryant began praying for God to forgive the activist’s “deviant lifestyle” before bursting into tears. Green urged that no one retaliate against Higgins, but later in the parking lot Green caught up with the protesters, grabbed a reserve banana cream pie from one of the protesters and threw it back at them.

35 YEARS AGO: First Gay Rights March on Washington: 1979. Somewhere between 75,000 and 100,000 people from across the country and around the world marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for a rally at the Washington Monument for the first national gay rights march in U.S. history. The parade itself featured a 100-piece Great American Yankee (GAY) Freedom Band from Los Angeles, which was accompanied by a 20-member drill team and two male baton twirlers. The Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus also provided entertainment from the stage on the mall, where dozens of speakers called for an end to homophobia and discrimination. Demands included the repeal of sodomy laws, approval of a proposed expansion of the Civil Rights Act to cover sexual orientation, and an end to discrimination in child custody cases. They also called on President Jimmy Carter to issue an Executive order ending the ban on gays in the military and ending discrimination in the civil service and among government contractors.

Steve Ault, the march’s organizer, declared, “This rally marks the first time that the gay constituency has pulled together on a national level and that is a very important political step for us.”

Anti-gay religious leaders also saw the importance of the march, and called a news conference and prayer session in a nearby congressional office building. Rev. Jerry Falwell told reporters that Christians nationwide prayed for the marchers, “asking the Lord to deliver them from their lives of perversion.” He likened gay people to bank robbers, thieves and other “sinners,” and said that they represented “an outright assault on the family.” His biggest sound bite though was not particularly creative: “God did not create Adam and Steve, but Adam and Eve,” he said. It made about as little sense then as it does today.

The entire demonstration went off peacefully, with a few minor exceptions. Just as the last few hundred were leaving the Mall, someone fired off a tear gas canister. Amy Clark, 21, from Brattleboro, Vermont, said, “Everybody thought it was just a smoke bomb, but then the people around me started choking. The wind soon blew the fumes away.”

Congress Bans Federal Funds for AIDS Programs that “Promote Homosexuality”: 1987. In a 94-2 vote, the U.S. Senate approved an amendment to the  Health and Human Services appropriations bill proposed by Sen. Jesse Helms to restrict federal funds for AIDS education to materials stressing sexual abstinence and which did not “promote homosexuality.” The bill contained $946 million for AIDS education efforts, prevention and research, and it marked a major expansion in the federal government’s response to the emerging pandemic. But Helms cited AIDs educational comic books produced by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York — material that had not been paid for with federal funds — and said, “If the American people saw these books, they would be on the verge of revolt.” He claimed the books showed “graphic detail of a sexual encounter between two homosexual men. The comic books do not encourage a change in that perverted behavior. In fact, the comic books promote sodomy.”

The only Senators voting against the measure were Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-CT), who said, “If you’re going to censor that education, you’ve got no solution” to the AIDs crisis. The amendment would later be approved by the House in a 358-47 vote. It would remain the law of the land until 1992, when a federal court ruled that the restrictions were so vague they violated AIDS service organizations’ First and Fifth Amendment rights.

15 YEARS AGO: Gay Son Denounces California Marriage Ban Sponsor: 1999. When California State Sen. Pete Knight was first elected in 1996, he twice tried but failed to pass an amendment to the California Family Law statute to restrict marriage to a man and a woman. Those failures convinced Knight that the only way to pass his cherished legislation was to go around the legislature entirely and put the proposed law on the ballot as a state initiative. He then formed a campaign committee which spent eleven months collecting thousands of signatures. In November of 1998, the popularly-called Knight Initiative qualified for the March 2000 ballot as Proposition 22. That marked the start of a bruising campaign aimed squarely, once again, at California’s gay community.

There was one person in the gay community who took Knight’s efforts more personally than anyone else. That was Knight’s son, David Knight, a Gulf War veteran who published an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times. The younger Knight blasted his father for pushing Prop 22 to further his conservative political ends despite having a gay son, as well as a gay brother who died of AIDS. “I believe, based on my experience, that this is a blind, uncaring, uninformed knee-jerk reaction to a subject about which he knows nothing and wants to know nothing about but which serves his political career,” he wrote. He also said that three years earlier — you can do the math: that would be at about the time Knight first tried to ban same-sex marriage in the state legislature — David told his father that he was gay and had a life partner. From that point on, “my relationship with my father was over. I can’t begin to explain the hurt that has come from this rejection.”

The elder Knight’s response to his son’s op-ed could barely conceal his embarrassment. “I regret that my son felt he needed to force a private, family matter into the public forum through an editorial. Although I don’t believe he was fair in describing the true nature of our relationship, that is a subject which should remain between the two of us. I care deeply about my son.”

Prop 22 would go on to pass in March of 2000, 61% to 39%. But because it was an initiative rather than a constitutional amendment, it could be struck down if the California Supreme Court were to decide that it ran contrary to the state constitution. The Court did precisely that on May 15, 2008, which then opened the fight for Prop 8 later that year.

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

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

FL’s AG Bondi asks state supremes to rule

Timothy Kincaid

October 13th, 2014

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) has been defending her state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a way that has infuriated anti-gay activists. She simply refuses to make wild claims about how evil gays are going to destroy society or how states have really really good reasons – totally not bigoted reasons – for keeping Teh Ghays away from marriage.

Instead, she argues that the state has the right to set marriage laws for themselves.

In July, Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia found that argument lacking. He further found that the wacky amicus briefs arguing that gay marriage would just ruin everything for everyone were evidence that anti-gay laws are based in animus. In July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found the same.

This was followed by Federal Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle who found the ban unconstitutional in Federal Court.

Here’s where things get a bit interesting.

Bondi appealed the federal decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. She also appealed the state decisions at the Florida Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were urging the Florida State Supreme Court to hear the case expeditiously, but Bondi requested that they hold off on ruling until the US Supreme Court took up one of the appeals that were before it, either the Fourth, the Seventh or the Tenth.

But SCOTUS chose not to hear any of those appeals. And today Bondi took a surprising step. (Miami Herald)

In a startling move Monday night, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide once-and-for-all whether same-sex couples can marry in the Sunshine State.

“That is unquestionably an important issue, and the Plaintiffs, the State, and all citizens deserve a definitive answer,” Bondi’s office wrote in a 6 p.m. filing to the Florida Supreme Court. “Until recently, the issue was squarely before the United States Supreme Court, and it appeared that a definitive answer was coming. … Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court decided not to answer the question.”

Bondi’s “once and for all” language suggests that she expects an outcome that would withhold further review. In other words, it appears that Bondi thinks that the decisions will be upheld and the ban will be found unconstitutional. And it also appears that the state court is the quickest way for this to be accomplished.

The decision requires approval by the US Circuit Court. But it now seems ever more likely that marriage equality will come for Florida sooner rather than later.

Nevada anti-gay group accuses Ninth Circuit of rigging the system

Timothy Kincaid

October 13th, 2014

In my professional life I work in a legal environment. And over time I have observed that one sure-fire way to guarantee that you will be treated harshly is to accuse a judge of impropriety. Even if a judge has made a clerical error, attorneys will go out of their way to not appear to be critical, following the first rule of litigation: ‘don’t piss off the judge’.

Which makes an appeal by Nevada’s Coalition for the Protection of Marriage particularly interesting. In asking that the Ninth Circuit reconsider it’s marriage ruling by an en mass hearing, they adopted a fascinating strategy: accuse the Ninth Circuit of rigging the results.

Further — en banc review is regrettably necessary to cure the appearance that the assignment of this case to this particular three-judge panel was not the result of a random or otherwise neutral selection process. Troubling questions arise because a careful statistical analysis reveals the high improbability of Judge Berzon and Judge Reinhardt being assigned to this case by a neutral selection process. The attached statistical analysis, Exhibit 3, explains that since January 1, 2010, Judge Berzon has been on the merits panel in five and Judge Reinhardt has been on the merits panel in four of the eleven Ninth Circuit cases involving the federal constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians (“Relevant Cases”), far more than any other judge and far more than can reasonably be accounted for by a neutral assignment process. Indeed, statistical analysis demonstrates that the improbability of such occurring randomly is not just significant but overwhelming. Thus, the odds are 441-to-1 against what we observe with the Relevant Case — the two most assigned judges receiving under a neutral assignment process five and four assignments respectively (and anything more extreme).

We bring the issue of bias in the selection process to the Circuit’s attention with respect and with a keen awareness that questioning the neutrality of the panel’s selection could hardly be more serious. But the sensitivity of raising uncomfortable questions for this Circuit must be balanced against the interests of ordinary Nevadans, who deserve a fair hearing before a novel interpretation of constitutional law deprives them of the right to control the meaning of marriage within their State. A hearing before an impartial tribunal is, after all, a central pillar of what our legal tradition means by due process of law, and the means of selecting the tribunal certainly implicates notions of impartiality. Measures have been put in place by this Court to assign judges through a neutral process. But in this case the appearance is unavoidable that those measures failed. En banc review is necessary to ensure that the appearance of bias is cured by a fresh hearing before a panel, the selection of which is unquestionably neutral.

Yeah… that’s not going to end well for them.

A Quiet Revolution At St. Peters?

Jim Burroway

October 13th, 2014

That’s the reaction from Fr. James Martin, S.J. of the Jesuit magazine America to the mid-term report from the Roman Catholic Church’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family which was convene by Pope Francis last week. Stunning sums it up nicely. Others are calling it a “revolution,” but that word will always mean something rather less radical in the very slow-moving Roman Catholic Church, where speed is measured in centuries rather than minutes, than it does in the real world. So keeping that perspective is always advised.

The Synod was called to examine the many changes taking place in the world and the Church’s response to them — or lack of response or inappropriate response, as the case may be. Items for discussion include waht is termed “irregular marraiges,” which include civil marriages that haven’t been sanctioned by the Church (civil marriages of divorced Catholics, for example), cohabitation, and same-sex marriages. These two paragraphs indicate that the Church, under Pope Francis, appears willing to consider lessons learned from “beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries”:

In this light, the value and consistency of natural marriage must first be emphasized. Some ask whether the sacramental fullness of marriage does not exclude the possibility of recognizing positive elements even the imperfect forms that may be found outside this nuptial situation, which are in any case ordered in relation to it. The doctrine of levels of communion, formulated by Vatican Council II, confirms the vision of a structured way of participating in the Mysterium Ecclesiae by baptized persons.

In the same, perspective, that we may consider inclusive, the Council opens up the horizon for appreciating the positive elements present in other religions (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2) and cultures, despite their limits and their insufficiencies (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 55). Indeed, looking at the human wisdom present in these, the Church learns how the family is universally considered as the necessary and fruitful form of human cohabitation. In this sense, the order of creation, in which the Christian vision of the family is rooted, unfolds historically, in different cultural and geographical expressions.

Realizing the need, therefore, for spiritual discernment with regard to cohabitation, civil marriages and divorced and remarried persons, it is the task of the Church to recognize those seeds of the Word that have spread beyond its visible and sacramental boundaries. Following the expansive gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every man (cf. Jn 1,9; cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22), the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings.

[Note: Lumen Gentium, Nostra Aetate and Gaudium et Spes refer to three Vatican II Council documents.]

The document doesn’t offer much in the way of conclusions. Those won’t come until the Synod meets again in October of 2015. Instead, the report consists mainly of points for consideration, terms which are clearly influenced by Pope Francis’s push for what might be termed a “kinder, gentler church.” I don’t think the Church is about to undergo any significant doctrinal changes, but it does appear open to reconsider how it deals with situations that fall outside of its doctrines. That alone is surprising. But more surprising is what you’ll find under the heading of “welcoming homosexual persons”:

Welcoming homosexual persons

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

It’s interesting to me that the bishops chose to go with the more generic phrasing of “moral problems” rather than the more commonly used “intrinsically disordered” language of natural law. And it’s true that our relationships do pose “moral problems” — for the Church at least, if not necessarily for us. The Church’s moral problem is that it continues to treat gay people as outcasts and lepers. I know, that’s not what they meant when they included the phrase here, and you can also see the Bishops drawing some hard and fast limits on how far they’re willing to go. They are closed to the idea of sanctioning same-sex marriages, and they are sore about tax dollars being tied to nondiscrimination requirements.

But the glass is at least beginning to fill part of the way. This is the first time in the Church’s history that its leadership appears willing to look at our relationships in anything approaching a positive light. The document acknowledges that we have “gifts and talents” without having to, err, “balance” that that recognition with our living in sin. And it recognizes that there are same-sex relationships which rise “to the point of sacrifice” and “constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the word “sacrifice” in Catholic doctrine. It signifies an essential opening to all that is good and holy, whether it’s Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross or the daily sacrifices that we make as we go about our lives. Sacrifice is central to the Catholic understanding. Non-Catholics see it most visibly in the Lenten sacrifices and fasting, but Catholics see sacrifices, big and small, as a daily expression of their faith. Gay people living in same-sex relationships have been hitherto looked upon as selfish and narcissistic, unwilling to sacrifice their sexuality for their faith. And so for the Bishops to acknowledge that gays and lesbians are also living sacrificial lives is to suggest that something good and valuable is happening. That word’s appearance alone in this context is, I think, the most earth-shattering aspect of this statement.

The idea of gay couples offer anything “precious” in their relationships has never appeared in an official church document before. And the phrase “intrinsically disordered,” so reflexively deployed in the past, is nowhere to be found. At a news conference following the report’s release, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Bruno Forte was asked about that section:

Asked if that stance represented a change in understanding of sexual orientation at the highest levels of the church, Forte said Monday: “What I want to express is that we must respect the dignity of every person.”

“The fact to be homosexual does not mean that this dignity does not have to be recognized and promoted,” he continued.

“The fundamental idea is the centrality of the person independent of different sexual orientations,” Forte said. “And I think it is the most important point. And also the attitude of the church to welcome persons who have homosexual orientation is based on the dignity of the person they are.”

Asked how the church would respond to same-sex unions, Forte said such unions have “rights that should be protected,” and this is an “issue of civilization and respect of those people.”

Fr. Martin says those two statements represent “a revolutionary change“:

. Nowhere in the document are such terms as “intrinsically disordered,” “objectively disordered,” or even the idea of “disinterested friendships” among gays and lesbians, which was used just recently. The veteran Vaticanologist John Thavis rightly called the document an “earthquake.”

…The document is just the mid-point summary of the bishops’ meetings over the last week, and is not a final declaration. (Besides, the Synod has another session next year, after which Pope Francis will issue his final apostolic exhortation, which will be his own teaching on the Synod’s deliberations.) But it is still revolutionary, as were some of the comments of the participants during the press conference today. Clearly Pope Francis’s call for openness at the beginning of the Synod has allowed the bishops to listen carefully, to speak their minds and to be open to new ways of thinking. As was the case at the Second Vatican Council, the participants may have gone into this Synod not expecting much openness or change, but the Holy Spirit is afoot.

Joshua McElwee, Vatican correspondent for the independent and often critical National Catholic Reporter, live-tweeted the document’s release and the press conference. He was also encouraged by the Synod’s interim report:

Conservative Catholics, on the other hand, are in quite a lather. The anti-gay Lifesite News calls it an “Earthquake” and rounds up the usual dose of conservative outrage:

However, it has also met a sharp rebuke from Catholic activists. John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, a coalition of 15 international pro-famiy groups, said it is “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history.”

“Thankfully the report is a preliminary report for discussion, rather than a definitive proposal,” he said in a press release. “It is essential that the voices of those lay faithful who sincerely live out Catholic teaching are also taken into account. Catholic families are clinging to Christ’s teaching on marriage and chastity by their finger-tips.”

…Patrick Buckley of European Life Network said the report is “an attack on marriage and family” that “in effect gives a tacit approval of adulterous relationships, thereby contradicting the Sixth Commandment and the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the indissolubility of marriage.”

Maria Madise, coordinator for Voice of the Family, asked whether parents must now “tell their children that the Vatican teaches that there are positive and constructive aspects to … mortal sins” such as cohabitation and homosexuality.

“It would be a false mercy to give Holy Communion to people who do not repent of their mortal sins against Christ’s teachings on sexual purity. Real mercy consists of offering people a clean conscience via the Sacrament of Confession and thus union with God,” she said.

“Many of those who claim to speak in the name of the universal Church have failed to teach the faithful. This failure has created unprecedented difficulties for families. No responsibility is taken for this failure in this disastrous mid-way report,” she added. “The Synod’s mid-way report will increase the incidence of faithful Catholics being labelled as ‘pharisees’, simply for upholding Catholic teaching on sexual purity.”

Of course, if the shoe fits, then Pharisees it is.

Newer Posts | Older Posts