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Posts for August, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, August 3

Jim Burroway

August 3rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Freemont, CO; Hamburg, Germany; Hanoi, Vietnam; Leeds, UK; Marietta, GA; Vancouver, BC.

Other Events This Weekend: Montana Two Spirit Gathering, Blacktail Ranch, Montana; Summer Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Divers/Cité, Montréal, QC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, a Jacksonville-based gay photography/lifestyle magazine, May 1973, page 48.

From David, a Jacksonville-based gay photography/lifestyle magazine, May 1973, page 48.

The Cove, located along the northern edge of Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, opened in 1971 and later expanded as a twenty-four hour club and disco that catered to the rough trade kind of crowd.  After the rest of the bars closed, the still-unlucky ones could head to the Cove and begin picking among the rest of the leftovers before the sun went up. The music and dancing was said to be top notching, but the bathrooms were known for being among the worst in the South. The Cove closed in 1994 after the city began closing down its remaining twenty-four hour clubs, and the building was later demolished.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: A Miami Murder Uncovers a “Colony of Homosexuals”: 1954. It’s funny what it took in 1954 for a major metropolitan area to discover that there were gay people in their midst. I say it’s funny, but it can only be funny today, sixty years later. It was certainly no laughing matter then. In the early morning hours of August 3, a young couple looking for a secluded spot along North Miami’s “lover’s lane” found the body of William T. Simpson, a 27-year-old Eastern Airlines flight attendant, lying in the middle of the roadway in a pool of blood. He had been shot on his right side, his head had severe lacerations and his right index finger had apparently been pierced by something. About 500 yards away, police found his 1950 cream-colored convertible, with the front seat spattered with blood and a .22 caliber shell on the floor. It appeared that after the assailant fled, Simpson managed to get out of the car and stagger to the road before collapsing and bleeding to death.

Miami News, August 9, 1954

Five days later, police formally charged two young men, Charles W. Lawrence, 19, and Lewis Richard Killen, 20, with first degree murder. The two didn’t just confess to the murder, they bragged about it. They had been rolling gay men in the area for several weeks. Lawrence would hitchhike and allow himself to be “picked up” by an unsuspecting mark, and Killen would follow in a green Chevy. After the mark pulled over to a secluded spot, they’d rob him. Ordinarily, they’d let the victim go, confident that he wouldn’t go to the police. But Lawrence carried a gun, and for some reason this time he pulled the trigger. One former high school buddy recalled that Lawrence “had an intense hatred of homosexuals.”

In the ensuing investigation, police appeared surprised and alarmed that there were so many gay men in the area. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Local papers had been reporting that Miami’s sheriff deputies and Miami Beach’s police department had conducted several bar and beach raids since the previous November, arresting gay men and charging them with “vagrancy.” When a young girl was murdered in July, police responded, illogically, with five nights of gay bar raids to “make things hot for sex perverts in Miami.” On July 18, the Miami Herald published a letter to the editor proposing a final solution to the problem: “Just execute them all.” But on the same day that Lawrence and Killen were charged, the Miami News‘s front page headline looked as though detectives had stumbled upon an entirely new discovery: “Pervert Colony Uncovered In Simpson Slaying Probe”. They obviously had a hard time understanding what local gays were telling them.

A colony of some 500 male homosexuals, congregated mostly in the near-downtown northeast section and ruled by a “queen,” was uncovered in the investigation of the murder of an Eastern Air Lines steward…. Peace Justice Edwin Lee Mason said today, “I certainly learned a lot during this investigation I never knew before.

“I not only was surprised at the number of homosexuals turned up in the murder investigation but I was amazed to find out that there were distinct classes, not only based on age groups, but also on the ages of the persons with whom they liked to consort and groups based on types of perversion.”

…”We learned — among other things — that Simpson was bisexual. We also learned that there was a nominal head of the colony — a queen.”

Investigators, following a line of thought that possibly the murder might have been for succession of the title, and that Simpson may have been the “ruler” of what the investigators then believed to be a quite small group of homosexuals in Miami asked one man, who made no secret of his leanings:

“Was Simpson the ‘queen?’

“No,” came the response. “The queen is –” Here the man named a person quite prominent in the community.

“How many of you are there,” an investigator said he asked. “Twenty –Forty?”

“Oh, more than that.”

“A hundred?”

“Make it closer to five hundred,” came the staggering reply.

Dade County’s population was around 700,000 in 1954. Yet for such a large city, tossing around a figure like five hundred, which was assuredly a significantly low-balled estimate, was nevertheless enough to throw Miami’s newspapers in a tizzy. On August 13, the News began a three-part series on homosexuality, with the first installment calling it “A Disease ‘Worse Than Alcohol’.” The following day, the News reported on “How L.A. Handles Its 150,000 Perverts”. “This thing is like cancer,” Los Angeles police chief Thad F. Brown told the News. “It keeps getting bigger and bigger each year. We process about 150 homosexuals a month who are caught in the act.” The paper suggested a solution: “The police in Los Angeles have a policy of harassment.” As Brown explained, “We keep a constant check on bars and restaurants where they hang out. We try to get the licenses of the places catering to them.”

In the third installment of the series, the News warned about “Great Civilizations Plagued by Deviates” — Greece, Rome, and, naturally, Miami:

Police of several communities have watched with growing concern the gathering spots frequented by perverts and two departments have started all-out war against homosexuals. Miami Beach Police Chief Romeo Shepard says he will continue to harass homosexuals in Miami Beach. “I simply want them to get out of town,” said Shepard.

Sheriff Tom Kelly, who staged a big raid on homosexual gathering spots last Saturday, made a similar statement. “I will keep on harassing the homosexuals until they understand they’re not wanted in Dade County,” said Kelly.

The Miami police department has shown a reluctance to bother perverts. “If I ran all of the homosexuals out of town, members of some of the best families would lead the parade,” Police Chief Walter Headley once said.

A local attorney, E.F.P. Brigham, proposed legislation to deal with the problem:

If a sexual deviate is accused of molesting a child or any person for that matter, and manages to beat the charge in court, the state will still have the right to order a mental examination for the offender.

If the person is found to be a sexual psychopath (and that does not necessarily mean insane) the state will then have the right to institute civil action to put that person in an asylum for the rest of his or her life or until such time as a cure can be effected.

Miami was now in a full-blown panic, which would soon reach the statehouse in Tallahassee where it would rage well into the next decade. House speaker Ted David called for stronger criminal penalties for “confirmed sexual deviants… to meet the needs of Florida’s big cities.” Miami’s mayor, Abe Aronovitz, would make anti-gay campaigns a centerpiece of his administration.

And what about Killen and Lawrence, the two men who were charged with first degree murder? After claiming that they killed Simpson because he made sexual advances toward Lawrence, they were convicted of manslaughter in November and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Castro

Residents of San Francisco’s Castro Neighborhood Bemoan New Arrivals: 1971. The neighborhood surrounding San Francisco’s Castro Theater located on its namesake street wasn’t always known as The Castro. For much of its history, local residents knew the area as Eureka Valley, a working class neighborhood which had been in decline for several years as families began packing up for the suburbs. Rents and real estate prices fell, opening the neighborhood to an influx of new residents, mostly gay people looking for something a little more appealing than the Tenderloin or the Haight. This led to open hostility between the working class descendants of Irish, German and Swedish immigrants and the very openly gay new arrivals.

This hostility figured in a number of conflicts, one of which occurred on August 3, 1971 when Bob Pettingill, a 39-year-old gay restaurateur (he had opened the Sausage Factory in 1968, and it is still in business today) and former SFPD motorcycle patrolman, was elected chairman of the Eureka Valley Police Community Relations Board. He won the position after housewife Benita St. Arnant, who called all the newly established gay bars in the neighborhood “a public outrage,” dropped out of the race. Pettingill promised to try to patch relations between “the community’s two life styles.” But California Highway Patrolman Frank Crotty was pessimistic: “They have their lives to live and we have ours,” adding that he and others in the neighborhood were” fed up with all the hand-holding in the streets. My wife and child can’t go outside without being scandalized.”

Michael Hardwick

Michael Hardwick

Michael Hardwick Arrested: 1982. It all started in July, when Michael Hardwick threw a beer bottle into a trash can outside of the Cove, an Atlanta gay bar where he worked. Atlanta police officer Keith Torick, who had been subject to numerous citizen complaints for his abusive and legally-questionable tactics, cited Hardwick for public drinking. That kicked off a long comedy of errors, beginning with Torick’s writing the wrong date on which Hardwick was to appear in court. When Hardwick failed to appear because of the error, Torick got a warrant for his arrest. Soon after, Hardwick went the courthouse, paid the $50 fine (which should have invalidated the warrant), and thought it was all taken care of. But for some reason, his payment wasn’t recorded correctly, and on August 3, that same Officer Torick showed up at Hardwick’s apartment at the highly unusual hour of 3:00 a.m. Torick entered the apartment (accounts differ on how he got in), and discovered Hardwick and another man engaged in oral sex, an act which Georgia’s sodomy law defined as a felony punishable with “imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years.” Torick announced that the two were under arrest. Hardwick shot back, “What are you doing in my bedroom?”

The arrest was humiliating for the two men. Hardwick recalled that when the police officer brought them to the police station, he loudly made sure everyone there knew that he had arrested them for “cocksucking,” and that they should be able to find plenty of what they were looking for in Atlanta’s city jails. Hardwick posted bail within the hour, but was detained for twelve more hours near other criminals who had been told why he was there. Hardwick had never fought for gay rights before, but that moment changed him. “I realized that if there was anything I could do, even if it was just laying the foundation to change this horrendous law, that I would feel pretty bad about myself if I just walked away from it.”

Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers

Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers

After the local district attorney decided not to press charges, Hardwick decided to sue Georgia’s Attorney General Michael J. Bowers in federal court to overturn the state’s sodomy law. The ACLU agreed to take the case on Hardwick’s behalf. The case ultimately made it to the Supreme Court which, in a surprising move, overturned an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision and held Georgia’s sodomy law (see Jun 30). Surprising because the Court had built a solid case history upholding the rights to privacy for heterosexuals to engage in private, non-procreative, non-marital sexual behavior in the privacy of their bedrooms — under exactly the same terms as Hardwick’s case. But for gay people, that same right to privacy simply vanished. It wouldn’t be until 2003, when the Supreme Court would finally admit that Bowers v. Hardwick “was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today,” that sodomy laws were overturned nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas.

In 1998, Bowers resigned as Attorney General and ran for Governor. His race tanked after it emerged that the defender of the state’s morals had engaged in a decade-long affair in violation of Georgia’s similarly archaic adultery law. That same year, the Georgia Supreme Court declared the state’s sodomy law unconstitutional, because it infringed on a heterosexual man’s rights to privacy (see Nov 23).

Bowers later acknowledged only one regret in the case that bears his name: that his name didn’t appear second “because then it wouldn’t look like I’m the homosexual.” Hardwick died in 1991 in Gainesville, Florida, reportedly from complications from AIDS.

[Additional sources: William Eskridge, Jr. Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (New York: Viking, 2008): 231-233.

Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price. Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court (New York: Basic Books, 2001). 277-309.]

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?

Ugandan TV Coverage of the Court Decision Striking Down Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2014

The first video is an excellent report from NTV Uganda.

The second video has one very minor error: the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009, not 2007. Otherwise, it’s a very good recap of the bill’s progress through Parliament and ends with an overview of the debate over Parliament’s lack of quorum. In between, you’ll see reactions from the bill’s supporters including the bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati.

The government-run UBC doesn’t run an active YouTube channel, but on its Facebook page, it gave this response from President Yoweri Museveni:

President Museveni’s response on the Anti-homosexuality Ruling yesterday. ” I belong to a political party called NRM. I don’t answer questions on a freelance way. I have not had time to meet the caucus. When i meet with the NRM caucus, i will have an answer, I am sent bills by the authorised people and I sign them if I agree with the contents.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, August 2

Jim Burroway

August 2nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Belfast, UK; Bismark, ND; Brighton, UK; Dover, DE; Edgewater, MD; Essen, Germany; Freemont, CO; Hamburg, Germany; Hanoi, Vietnam; Lafayette, IN; Leeds, UK; Liverpool, UK; Marietta, GA; Stockholm, Sweden; Vancouver, BC.

Other Events This Weekend: Montana Two Spirit Gathering, Blacktail Ranch, Montana; Summer Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Divers/Cité, Montréal, QC; Family Week, Provincetown, MA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, August 1974, page 24.

From Northwest Gay Review, August 1974, page 24.

Shelly's LegIn 1970, Shelly Bauman went to a Bastille Day Parade in Seattle’s Pioneer Square when an antique cannon was fired into the crowed. She lost part of her pelvis, a kidney, some of her intestines, and her left leg, which put an end to her exotic dancing career. She was in a coma for nearly a year, and in the hospital for another year. She sued, and used the settlement money to open Seattle’s first disco on November 13, 1973. Shelly’s Leg was also the city’s first unabashedly gay bar, with a giant sign greeting patrons as soon as they walked in announcing “Shelly’s Leg is a GAY BAR proved for Seattle’s gay community and their guests.” Seattle’s gay clubs until then had been quiet, dark affairs, trying their best to stay under the radar. The brashness of Shelly’s Leg ushered in a whole new era for Seattle’s gay community.

In December 1975, an oil tanker on the Alaskan Way Viaduct above the bar collided with the guardrail and exploded, pouring flaming gasoline onto a passing freight train and thirty cars parked in front of Shelly’s Leg below. The club’s windows were blown out and the DJ’s booth destroyed. No one was hurt, but business fell off. Shelly’s Leg closed a little more than a year later. Bauman, whose entire life consisted of one tragedy after another, died in 2010 at the age of 63.

Doubted prostate massages would cure homosexuality.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
(How) Should Homosexuals Be Treated?: 1913. Columbia University’s Abraham A. Brill, as the English translator of Sigmund Freud’s writings, had singlehandedly introduced Americans to Freud’s teachings and became known as the father of American psychoanalysis. The August 2, 1913 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association published a talk that Brill gave at the AMA’s annual convention in Minneapolis in June, exploring the question of how homosexuals can be “treated” to ameliorate their condition. He began his talk by discussing how his encounters with homosexuals shaped his understanding of them:

Of the abnormal sexual manifestations that one encounters none, perhaps, is so enigmatical and to the average person so abhorrent as homosexuality. I have discussed this subject with many broad-minded, intelligent professional men and laymen and have been surprised to hear how utterly disgusted they become at the very mention of the name and how little they understand the whole problem. Yet I must confess that only a few years ago I entertained similar feelings and opinions regarding this subject. I can well recall my first scientific encounter with the problem. Ten years ago, when I met a homosexual who was a patient in the Central Islip State Hospital. Since then I have devoted a great deal of time to the study of this complicated phenomenon, and it is therefore no wonder that my ideas have undergone a marked change. Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner, I have met and studied a large number of homosexuals and have been convinced that a great injustice is done to a large class of human beings, most of whom are far from being the degenerates they are commonly believed to be.

After laying out what was then considered to be the most advanced medical and psychiatric knowledge about homosexuality, he then described physicians who were offering quack advice on how to treat homosexuality:

…I can never comprehend why physicians invariably resort to bladder washing and rectal massage when they are consulted by homosexuals, unless it be to kill the homosexual cells in the prostateso that their place may be taken by heterosexual cells, as one physician expressed himself when one of my patients asked him how massage of the prostate would cure his inversion. It is an unfortunate fact that such ridiculous ideas are often heard in the discussion of psychosexual disturbances. Only a few months ago a patient told me that he was told by two physicians that his hope for a cure lay in castration.

Castration may cure homosexuality — and all other sexuality with it — but quite a number of gay men will tell you that prostate massages would have little curative effect. Brill added, “Investigators agree that homosexuality is no sign of mental or physical degeneration.” And he agreed with those views, but he described three cases in which he claimed to have “cured” homosexuals anyway, after only six to ten months of psychoanalysis, which isn’t surprising given Brill’s admiration for Freud’s theories. But in the discussion that followed, Dr. D’Orsay Hecht of Chicago noted the incongruity:

Dr. D’Orsay Hecht: Why fix what’s not broken?

I was also impressed with the effort of Dr. Brill to correct homosexuality by decrying it. But if in the eye of the specialist homosexuality is but a contravention, socially speaking, and if it has just as much right to a hearing from the point of view of a sexual act as has heterosexuality, I really cannot see why the homosexual should care to be delivered from his homosexuality, except that he feels disgraced by it. Then again, a large number of homosexuals are in no way abhorrent of themselves in respect to their natures; they seem to be perfectly happy and perfectly well adjusted, probably in a restricted sense, and these patients probably are not worth while treating as Dr. Brill treats them. If we accept homosexuality as a condition which has as much right to exist as heterosexuality, why should we address ourselves to the duty of treating it?

Brill chose not to answer the question, electing instead to focus his rebuttal comments to other questions raised during the session.

[Source: A.A. Brill. "The conception of homosexuality." Journal of the American Medical Association 61, no. 5 (August 2, 1913): 335-340.]

Reagan

Reagan Bans AIDS Discrimination: 1988. Acting on a recommendation from a 13-member President’s Commission On the HIV Epidemic, President Ronald Reagan ordered a ban on discrimination against federal workers with AIDS. His actions, however drew sharp criticism from AIDS activists for not acting on many of the other recommendations from his commission, which also urged federal legislation to protect HIV-positive workers outside of the federal government. The President instead urged a voluntary approach and asked “businesses, unions and schools to examine and consider adopting” similar policies. Acting on a few other recommendations, Reagan also ordered the FDA to notify those who received blood transfusions to advise them to take an HIV test, promised to help accelerate the development of AIDS medications, and ordered another round of studies on the Commission’s 500 other recommendations. Meanwhile, Vice President George Bush, who was running for President, had already endorsed the commission’s recommendations which included a spending increase of $3.1 billion to combat the disease.

Dr. Frank Lilly, the commission’s only openly gay member, criticized Reagan’s limited action on just a tiny handful of the commission’s recommendations. “We’ve got a blueprint for a national policy on AIDS,” he said. “It’s a piece of whole cloth. You can’t pick and choose your own menu from it.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who had led the charge in Congress to increase the federal government’s response to the epidemic, accused Reagan of “stalling”: “This administration has done its best to avoid making even a single helpful AIDS decision in the eight years of the Reagan presidency,” he said. “They handpick a commission, and then don`t even have the courage to accept its recommendations… What we need is leadership, and while Dr. (Surgeon General C. Everett) Koop and (HIV Commission chairman) Adm. (James) Watkins have given that, once again the President is hiding.”

Saturated in Urningthum.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lord Ronald Gower: 1845-1916. Professionally, he was a sculptor and politician, creator of the statue of Shakespeare and four of his characters which stands in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Liberal member of Parliament from 1867-1874. Personally, well, he never married, for reasons that were obvious to everyone who knew him. His friend, Oscar Wilde, used Gower as the model for the hedonistic esthete, Lord Henry Wotton, in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Gower shared Wotton’s (and Wilde’s) enthusiasm for the Esthetic movement, whose rallying cry was “art for art’s sake,” reflecting the belief that beauty itself was the only worthwhile guiding principle. Everything about Gower reflected those beliefs: his friends, his decorative tastes, his sculptural projects and his clothing, although his reputation as a dandy did little to impress Henry James who deemed him “not so handsome as his name.” John Addington Symonds said Gower “saturates one’s spirit in Urningthum (homosexuality) of the rankest most diabolical kind.” Gower’s most significant lover was the handsome young journalist Frank Hird, whom Gower adopted as his son, leading Wilde to quip, “Gower may be seen, but not Hird.” The happy couple remained together until Gower died in 1916 at the age of 81 70.

More fully American in Paris.

James Baldwin: 1924-1987. He was born to poverty in Harlem, the son of a Pentecostal preacher and a mother with, as he put it, “the exasperating and mysterious habit of having babies.” As he grew older, his father groomed him for the family business of saving souls, but when Baldwin turned seventeen, he left the business and his home and journeyed to an entirely different world in the Village. He began writing book reviews for the New York Times, focusing on books about “the Negro problem, which the color of my skin made me automatically an expert.” Some of his essays led to a few fellowships which allowed him to leave New York for France, where he stayed for the next six years and would spend the better part of his life.

While in Europe, Baldwin learned two surprising things: 1) that he was never before more thoroughly an American as he was the moment he landed on French soil, and 2) “I was forced to admit something I had always hidden from myself, which the American Negro has had to hide from himself as the price of his public progress; that I hated and feared white people.” And from working through those two issues, he came to a profound realization: “I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.” He also worked through his ambivalence of what it was to be an American. “I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Baldwin’s first novel, 1953′s semi-autobiographical Go Tell It on the Mountain, written during his first sojourn to France, became an instant American classic. His first collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son came out two years later. Despite his success, his publisher turned down his third novel, Giovanni’s Room. The problem wasthat Baldwin, this time, had tried to break two barriers. The first was that Baldwin’s characters were all white, but  Baldwin was an established Negro writer, or so his publisher argued. This book, they feared, would alienate his audience and ruin his career. “They would not, in short, publish it, as a favor to me. I conveyed my gratitude, perhaps a shade too sharply, borrowed money from a friend, and myself and my lover took the boat to France.”

Of course, Giovanni’s Room broke a second barrier; the two main protagonists were gay lovers. And yet the themes were similar to those confronted in Baldwin’s two earlier works. Just as Baldwin had to escape New York so he could work out the alienation he felt for the land that he loved, the American “David” in Giovanni’s Room had also found himself in Paris, torn between the expectations of marriage to his fiancé and the love that he felt for his Italian lover. Other novels — 1962′s Another Country and 1968′s Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone — also dealt unflinchingly with gay and bisexual themes. In an essay that was included in the 1961 collection Nobody Knows My Name, he tackled the argument that homosexuality was somehow unnatural:

…To ask whether or not homosexuality is natural is really like asking whether or not it was natural for Socrates to swallow hemlock, whether or not it was natural for St. Paul to suffer for the Gospel, whether or not it was natural for the Germans to send upwards of six million people to an extremely twentieth-century death. It does not seem to me that nature helps us very much when we need illumination in human affairs. I am certainly convinced that it is one of the greatest impulses of mankind to arrive at something higher than a natural state. How to be natural does not seem to me to be a problem — quite the contrary. The greatest problem is how to be — in the best sense of that kaleidoscopic word — a man.

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?

Constitutional Court Strikes Down Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

At noon this morning Kampala time, Uganda’s Constitutional Court has declared the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act null and void. The Court said that the law was invalid because Parliament lacked the constitutionally-mandated quorum when it passed the legislation last December. Article 88 of Uganda’s constitution (PDF: 469KB/192pages) requires that at least one third of members be present any time Parliament votes “on any question.”

The court room was reportedly tense as people gathered this morning for the session to start at 9:30 local time (2:30 a.m. EDT). The court had heard testimony on Wednesday and Thursday over the quorum issue, and observers were expected the court to rule on that question today. As 9:30 came and went, the Court announced that they were putting off the morning’s session until noon. Pastor Martin Ssempa reportedly became agitated as the morning progressed, and police had to step in to settle the situation down.

When the Constitutional Court resumed at Noon, it read its judgment nullifying the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Meanwhile, Ssempa’s twitter feed went silent after the court’s verdict. As of this moment, this was his last tweet:

J. Lester Feder reports that LGBT activists are bracing for another round of violence following the court’s decision:

The law’s supporters, like Ssempa and the leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, had been whipping up their supporters during the two days of hearings before the ruling, and LGBT activists expected a backlash if they won.

“Many people are going to retaliate and attack community members,” said Kasha Jacqueline of the organization Freedom and Roam Uganda, another of the petitioners. “People are going to retaliate — not just the members of parliament and anti-gay groups and religious leaders, but in the community as well.”

The Anti-Homosexuality Act provided a lifetime sentence for those who convicted of homosexuality. It also imposed a lifetime sentence for those who convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” which include “serial offenders” of homosexuality “or related offences.” Related offenses include lifetime imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage, seven years for conducting one, five to seven years for advocacy by or on behalf of LGBT people, five years for providing housing to LGBT people, and seven years for providing services to LGBT people. The Act also provided for the extradition of any “person charged with an offence under this Act.”

Before its passage, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been safely bottled up in Parliament, but observers believe domestic politics eventually took over and ensured the bill’s passage. Originally introduced in 2009, the bill remained bottled up in the House, which failed in its last minute efforts to pass the bill before the Eight Parliament expired in 2011. House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had spent much of 2012 and 2013 raising her profile in a possible bid to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the run-up to the 2016 general elections, engineered the bill’s reintroduction in Parliament in February 2012. It’s passage appeared imminent at the end of that year when it became a political football in a larger fight over control of the country’s newly-developing oil reserves. As Parliament tore itself apart over a contentious oil bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill rose to the top of Parliament’s published Order Papers, which sets the agenda for the day, under the heading of “Business to follow,” of actions to take place after the oil bill’s passage. It was believed that the hugely popular Anti-Homosexuality Bill was being held close at hand as a potential unifying measure. But after Parliament passed the contentious petroleum legislation, it broke for Christmas and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was quietly removed from the Order Papers when Parliament resumed in the Spring of 2013.

But behind-the-scene plans to swiftly pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without debate emerged in April 2013, when the opposition magazine Observer reported that a MP’s were lobbying Kadaga to hold the debate in a closed-door session so that individual members could speak freely without having foreign donations to their pet projects or travel visas jeopardized. On December 20, Kadaga made a snap call to bring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the house for a final vote, despite the bill not appearing on the order papers for the day. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi objected to the vote citing the lack of quorum, but Kadaga overruled Mbabazi and the bill passed on December 20.

Museveni’s initial reaction was to wrote a letter to Kadaga criticizing Parliament’s rushed approval about the bill. Among his many complaints were that the bill was passed without the proper quorum. He told representatives of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in January that he would reject what he called the “fascist” Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But again, politics intervened. Mbabazi was also maneuvering to challenge Museveni’s position at the same time as Kadaga, and he was already on record as objecting to Parliament’s passage of the legislation. Museveni’s about-face in February was seen by many as part of a larger effort to counter Mbabazi’s efforts to build a rival power base within the ruling National Resistance Movement. Museveni signed the bill on February 24.

The bill’s signing initiated a wave of anti-gay vigilantism in the press while the government raided several NGO’s for allegedly “promoting” homosexuality. In March, a coalition of human rights groups petitioned the Constitutional Court, charging that the Anti-Homosexuality Act violated several constitutionally-guaranteed rights, including the rights to privacy, free expression, thought, assembly, association, civil participation, and the rights to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It also charged that Parliament acted improperly in passing the bill without a quorum.

In Uganda, it’s typical for court cases to proceed at a snails pace, with months passing between small bursts of activity. Cases often languish for years. So it was a significant surprise when the Court’s first act came late last week with a snap call for both sides to present their cases on Wednesday and Thursday, which caught a lot of people off guard. State Attorney Patricia Mutesi complained that she wasn’t prepared to proceed with her arguments and asked for a delay, but the court rejected that request. It heard testimony Wednesday and Thursday, and delivered its decision today. That lightning-quick movement is practically unprecedented, leading many to speculate on the politics behind the court’s dramatic move. Museveni is planning to travel to Washington, D.C. next week to attend a summit of African leaders.

LGBT and human rights activists say they expect the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be reintroduced in Parliament again, but it would mean starting the entire process over again, including motions to seek permission to introduce the bill, a certificate of financial implication from the government, and committee hearings. That certificate of financial implication is likely the most logical step for Museveni to step in to quash the bill. When the bill was first introduced, the certificate certified that there were no financial implications, but with several countries suspending or canceling foreign aid to Uganda over the AHB, the financial toll of reintroducing the bill is now known to be enormous. It is believed that foreign aid makes up from twenty to thirty percent of Uganda’s GDP, and about twenty percent of the government’s budget.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, August 1

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Uganda’s Constitutional Court May Issue Ruling on Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Kampala, Uganda. On Wednesday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court heard arguments presented by several human rights activists petitioning the court to invalidate the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which president Yoweri Museveni signed into law in February. Petitioners, who filed their petition in March, contend that the Anti-Homosexuality Act violantes several rights guaranteed to them in Uganda’s constitution, including the rights “to privacy, to be free from discrimination, dignity, to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to the freedoms of expression, thought, assembly and association; to the presumption of innocence, and to the right to civic participation.” It also alleges that Parlaiment’s rushed passage of the bill violated the constitution because Parliament acted without the constitutionally-mandated minimum quorum. That was the main question before the Court Wednesday. Observers were optimistic that the Court may strike down the law on the quorum issue when it reconvenes today at 9:30 a.m. local time (2:30 a.m. EDT). See update below

UPDATE:

The session was delayed until 12 noon local time (5:00 a.m. EDT)

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Belfast, UK; Bismark, ND; Brighton, UK; Dover, DE; Edgewater, MD; Essen, Germany; Freemont, CO; Hamburg, Germany; Hanoi, Vietnam; Lafayette, IN; Leeds, UK; Liverpool, UK; Marietta, GA; Stockholm, Sweden; Vancouver, BC.

Other Events This Weekend: Montana Two Spirit Gathering, Blacktail Ranch, Montana; Summer Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Divers/Cité, Montréal, QC; Family Week, Provincetown, MA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), May 1971, page 7.

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), May 1971, page 7.

This brief review accompanied the ad:

The big noise in town concern the opening of THE CANDY SHOP [sic]. You may have a bit of trouble locating it — just off Cedar Springs on Throckmorton (behind the cleaners I believe), but your efforts will be well rewarded for looking, as this private club has Dallas’ only Gay Light Show. You just gotta see this. Truly fantastic! You’ll also enjoy the small intimate atmosphere of this friendly club.

The area around Throckmorton and Cedar Springs Rd. is still the heart of Dallas’s gayborhood. The cleaners mentioned above has been, since 1980, home to the original J.R.’s, a popular gay club on Cedar Springs which spawned similarly-named bars in Houston, Denver, and Washington, D.C. Go around to the back to 3014 Throckmorton where the single-story wooden building that had been home to the Candy Store used to be. It’s not there anymore, but you will find a much larger one housing J.R.’s companion two-story lesbian bar, Sue Ellen’s.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Washington Post Reveals Civil Service Offering Disability Retirement for “Alcoholics and Homosexuals”: 1965. Jerry Kluttz, writing for the Washington Post’s “Federal Diary” column, revealed that more than fifty alcoholic Federal employees, who would have normally been fired, were instead placed on retirement “for physical disability” over the past year, in which Kluttz described as “a more liberal approach to their problems.” He also noted that the program was also available for gay employees because of their “disability”:

It is also possible for homosexuals to be given disability retirements; not because they are sex deviates but in spite of it. Their disabilities must qualify them for retirement and the disabilities may or may not have had some connection with or contributed to their sex behavior.

The longtime Government policy to fire overt homosexuals remains unchanged under the policy that their conduct tends to discredit the Federal service. Known homosexuals would probably be ousted before the could be retired on either physical or mental disabilities.

Fired employees, however, have the year following their dismissal to file for disability retirement, and several sex deviates have taken advantage of this provision.

Kluttz didn’t have a breakdown on the number of gay people who filed for disability retirement, but overall more than 17,000 employees out of 50,000 who were retired in the previous year were ruled disabled. The civil service had previously ruled “unconventional sex behavior” as willful misconduct, and were thus ineligible for disability retirements under federal law. But with the commission’s new openness to extend disability retirement benefits for those suffering from mental illnesses, gay employees were increasingly falling under that category in accordance with the APA’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness.

[Source: Jerry Kluttz. "The Federal Diary: Disability Retiring Given Alcoholics and Homosexuals." The Washington Post (August 1, 1965): B1.]

Rep. Jim Kolbe Comes Out: 1996. On July 12, 342 Congressional representatives rushed to pass the so-called Defense of Marriage Act into law. The three openly gay representatives, Steve Gunderson (R-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Gerry Studds (D-MA) spoke passionately against the bill, making their status as gay men relevant to the debate. Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Mark Foley (R-FL), who were closeted, quietly voted for the bill. Almost immediately after the vote, San Fransisco activist Michael Petrelis began an email campaign to urge other activists, journalists and publications to reveal the two congressmen’s secrets. The Advocate had a policy against outing public officials, but since they were following up prior reports and rumors from other media, they felt that if those reports could be independently verified through three different sources, the next step would be to approach the lawmakers and ask if they were gay. They were verified, and The Advocate asked Kolbe and Foley to ask them to explain their votes and their sexual orientation. The Advocate continued:

Both men objected to the latter line of questioning. “Even members of Congress should be allowed to have personal lives,” Kolbe, 54, said in a telephone interview. “The issue of my sexuality has nothing to do with the votes I cast in Congress or my work for the constituents of Arizona’s fifth congressional district.” Upon reflection, however, Kolbe decided to come out soon after talking to The Advocate, saying the magazine’s questioning of him was a chief factor. Foley, in written answers to The Advocate‘s questions, stated his belief that “a lawmaker’s sexual orientation is…irrelevant.”

Kolbe decided to beat The Advocate to the punch (Foley wouldn’t come out until 2006, when he resigned after sexually suggestive Instant Messages between him and a 16-year-old page). On August 1, Kolbe revealed that he was indeed gay. ”That I am a gay person has never affected the way that I legislate,” he said in a statement. ”The fact that I am gay has never, nor will it ever, change my commitment to represent all the people of Arizona’s Fifth District,” which included most of Tucson and the southeastern corner of the state. Rep. Frank came to Kolbe’s defense. ”In general, Kolbe has voted against bigotry and discrimination,” he said, ”so his overall record is intellectually honest on this issue.” Petrellis reacted positively to the outing as well. “I think it’s a terrific development that we now have an equal number of openly gay G.O.P. members of Congress.”

Kolbe was reelected to his seat in 1998, and in 2000, he became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention. His speech was about free trade and he didn’t come within ten miles of addressing gay rights, but the Texas delegation protested by bowing their heads, purportedly in prayer. (Ohio anti-gay activist Phil Burress called for Kolbe’s arrest on sodomy charges.) Meanwhile, Kolbe continued to defend his vote for DOMA on states rights grounds. “My vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was cast because of my view that states should be allowed to make that decision, about whether or not they would recognize gay marriages,” he said. “Certainly, I believe that states should have the right, as Vermont did, to provide for protections for such unions.” He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006. By the time he was wrapping up his congressional service in 2006, Kolbe telling local audiences in Tucson that “in a few years,” same-sex marriage would be normal and uncontroversial. He retired in 2007.

Not gay: Michael Johnston and his mother in a 1998 television commercial.

Ex-Gay Leader Experiences “Moral Fall”: 2003. Michael Johnston was literally the poster boy of the ex-gay movement. Five years earlier, he was one of the stars of a high profile national print and television ad campaign claiming that gays could change their sexual orientation (see Jul 13). Johnston, who is HIV-positive, appeared with his mother in a controversial print ad under the headline “From innocence to AIDS.” He and his mother also appeared in a television commercial, in which she said, “My son Michael found out the truth — he could walk away from homosexuality. But he found out too late — he has AIDS.” Johnston founded Kerusso Ministries in Newport News, Virginia, started a program called the National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, and he was featured in the widely-distributed ex-gay propaganda video, It’s Not Gay.

But all that ended when it was revealed that while Johnston was the public face of the ex-gay movement, privately he was engaging in anonymous sex with men without disclosing his HIV status. One man said that he had met Johnston, who called himself Sean, in a gay chat room in 2001 and had a six month relationship with him. “What we did was unsafe,” the man said, “I brought it up all the time, but [Johnston] didn’t seem to think it mattered. He would have these parties, get a hotel room, get online and invite tons of people — he just wouldn’t care.” When the story came to light, Johnston quickly shuttered his ministry and fled to Pure Life Ministries, an ex-gay residential program in rural Kentucky. He is now Director of Donor and Media Relations at that very same ministry, where he is also a member of the “speaking team.” And his propaganda video is still for sale at the American Family Association web site.

Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke were tje first to marry in Minneapolis.

Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke were tje first to marry in Minneapolis.

 1 YEAR AGO: Marriage Equality Begins in Minnesota and Rhode Island: 2013. After successful legislative campaigns, Minnesota and Rhode Island became the twelth and thirteen states, (in addition to the the District of Columbia), to provide marriage equality for its residents. Marriage equality went into effect in both states effective midnight on the morning of August 1. In Minnesota, couples lined up to marry in Minneapolis, St. Paul and elsewhere across the state at the stroke of midnight. Three of those lucky couples received free Betty Crocker wedding cakes from General Mills, which is based in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley.

Rep. Frank Ferri, lead sponsor of the marriage equalit bill in the Rhode Island House, marries his partner Tony Caparco.

Rep. Frank Ferri, lead sponsor of the marriage equalit bill in the Rhode Island House, marries his partner Tony Caparco.

Rhode Island didn’t see quite the huge rush of couples seeking to get married right away as Minnesota did. With the rest of the northeastern United States and Canada having offered same-sex marriages for a number of years, there were already thousands of legally married same-sex couples residing in the Ocean State. So when their local clerks offices started opening between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m., couples arrived at a much more liesurely pace. Some got marriage licenses so they could marry at a later date, some held wedding ceremonies later that day, and others filled out the paperwork to convert their civil unions into marriages.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Lionel Bart: 1930-1999. His professional songwriting career began in the 1950s when he began churning out pop hits for several British singers. But he is best known as the author for the book, music and lyrics for the smash 1960 London musical Oliver!, based on the Charles Dickens novel. When the show opened on Broadway two years later, it earned him a Tony for Best Original Score. In 1963, he wrote the theme song for the the James Bond film From Russia With Love. Bart’s style — and lifestyle — came to epitomize early 1960s Britain, palling around with Noel Coward, Brian Epstein, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, and even Princess Margaret, who called him a “silly bugger” for squandering his money.

Bart continued writing for the West End, scoring respectable successes with Blitz! (1962) and Maggie May (1964), but Twang! (1965) was a horrible flop, and La Strada (1960) closed on Broadway after only one performance. By then, he has broke and in serious decline due to alcoholism and LSD. By 1972, he was bankrupt and slid further into drinking and depression. He sobered up in the early 1990s, but between his diabetes and nearly-destroyed liver, his health was permanently damaged. He died in 1999 after a long battle with cancer.

Yves Saint Laurent: 1936-2008. One of the greatest names in fashion got his start at another storied fashion house, Christian Dior. In 1957, Dior was so impressed with Saint Laurent’s designs that Dior named Saint Laurent to succeed him as designer. When Dior died suddenly later that year, Saint Laurent became the head designer at the House of Dior at the age of 21. Saint Laurent’s 1958 collection is credited for saving the firm. In 1958 and 1959, the forms owner, Marcel Boussac, reportedly pressured the French government not to draft Saint Laurent into the army to fight in the Algerian War of Independence, but after the critically panned 1960 season, Saint Laurent suddenly found himself without a job, conscripted and undergoing combat training.

This would be Saint Laurent’s low point. Hazed by fellow soldiers, he lasted only 20 days in the military before he was sent to a military hospital due to stress. While there, he was placed under sedation and given psychoactive drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. Years later, he would point to this period as the genesis for his later problems with drinking and drug addictions.

After he was released later that year, Saint Laurnet and his partner, Pierre Bergé, founded their own fashion house under Saint Laurent’s name. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Saint Laurent would set several fashion trends: safari jackets, tall thigh-high boots, and the Le Smoking tuxedo suit for women. He was also the first major French designer to come out with a full ready-to-wear line, and he was the first designer to feature non-Caucasian models on his runway. His personal life also indulged in several 1960s and 1970s trends: partying at Regine’s and Studio 54, drinking and snorting cocaine. He nevertheless maintained a hectic schedule of designing two full haute couture and ready-to-wear lines each year even though, because of his drug use, he could barely walk down the runway at the end of some of his shows. After 1987, he began turning his design work over to his assistants. He retired completely in 2002 and died in 2008 of brain cancer in Paris.

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?6

Ryan Anderson on Anti-Gay Discrimination: The Contradictions Continue

Rob Tisinai

July 31st, 2014

I had a long, intense twitter exchange with Ryan Anderson! I have to thank Michelangelo Signorile — he started the conversation and I jumped in. I used it as a chance to ask Ryan about his views on religious freedom, racial discrimination, and anti-gay discrimination — a contradictory mess that he and his colleagues have failed to sort into a coherent argument.

Let me recap their dilemma and the resulting incoherence. They oppose discrimination laws protecting gays, but they can’t appear anti-gay, because policy motivated by animus is vulnerable to a court challenge. Instead they speak of “religious freedom” and the principle that no one should have to serve a customer in violation of their beliefs. However, they don’t apply this principle when it comes to race; that would make them pariahs to the mainstream public. They explain this away by saying racism is wrong, but this leaves them open to the charge that they only want to protect the religious freedom of those they agree with, a position they fiercely reject.

It’s a logical swamp.

In our twitter exchange Ryan tried a different justification: that religious liberty is not an absolute right, but must be weighed against other measures of the common good. He directed me to his statement:

Legislators should enact commonsense religious liberty protections that would prevent the imposition of substantial burdens on sincere religious beliefs unless the government proves that imposing such a burden is necessary to advance a compelling government interest (and does so by the least intrusive or restrictive means).

Such religious liberty protections would not justify blanket discrimination, as some wrongly claim. For example, one does not hear of any sincere religious beliefs that would lead a pharmacist to refuse to dispense antibiotics to any patients. Furthermore, it has long been recognized that the government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public health by combating communicable diseases.

That’s reasonable. But it presents Ryan with a couple problems. First, it contradicts what he wrote elsewhere:

Indeed, a regime of free association, free contracts, free speech, and free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage…

Private actors should be free to make reasonable judgments and distinctions — including reasonable moral judgments and distinctions — in their economic activities. Not every florist need provide wedding arrangements for every ceremony. Not every photographer need capture every first kiss.

There’s nothing in that piece about balancing religious freedom against the common good. I do understand that free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage is more bumper-sticker-catchy than: free exercise of religion should protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage, except for when it shouldn’t, and sometimes it shouldn’t, though sometimes it should, and it, well, it — it depends on a bunch of factors that I won’t go into now.<

Except that Ryan isn't writing for bumper stickers. He's making a lengthy argument, one that doesn't align with his other writings.

A second problem is that he merely begs the question, Why does the “common good” override religious liberty when it comes to discrimination based on race but not when based on sexual orientation?

That’s a tricky question. You can’t answer, Because gays are bad! — that lands you in the animus trap, with your law overturned in the court. Instead, Ryan sent me to this:

Today’s debates about religious liberty and marriage are profoundly different [from debates about interracial marriage]. First, as argued above, marriage as the union of man and woman is a reasonable position; bans on interracial marriage were not. Second, as also argued above, marriage as the union of man and woman is witnessed to repeatedly in the Bible; prohibitions on interracial marriage were not.

But these two points are irrelevant, of course, even according to Ryan’s own standards. As he wrote in this piece:

The right to religious freedom is for everyone, not just for those with the “right” beliefs.

So it doesn’t matter whether your racist religious views are reasonable or Biblically sound, because religious freedom is also for the wrong. It’s for everyone.

But things really go awry with his next point:

Third, to be argued below, while interracial marriage bans were clearly part of a wider system of oppression, beliefs about marriage as the union of male and female are not.

But it’s not “argued below.” Or rather, he does argue the point about interracial marriage bans, but never establishes the part about same-sex marriage. Probably because he can’t — probably because it isn’t true.

Our history of blacklisting, imprisonment, official exclusion from federal employment, and lobotomization obviously indicate a history of oppression. Granted, excluding same-sex couples from marriage was not originally a tool of that system; it was the result. Gays were seen as such sick and twisted perverts that few thought about giving us marriage rights. Still, it was part of that system, and it did indeed become a tool of oppression with DOMA and the various state constitutional amendments designed to “protect” marriage from those who don’t deserve it and to express moral disapproval of us deviants.

Frankly, it’s astonishing that Ryan attempts this argument — and that he doesn’t even make a token effort to justify it.

So now we’re back where we started. Ryan still hasn’t explained why religious liberty requires that bakers be free to turn away same-sex couples but not interracial couples, even if their religion condemns them. His reasoning is still an incoherent mess. All he’s done is add yet another layer of contradiction.

Will Uganda’s Constitutional Court Strike Down the Anti-Homosexuality Act Tomorrow?

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

The highly unusual speed with which Uganda’s Constitutional Court is responding to the petition filed by several human rights activists is being seen by many as a good omen for a possible declaration striking down the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act which was signed into law last February. Human rights activists filed their challenge in March,  but seeing cases dragging on with almost no action for more than a year is the norm in Uganda’s judicial system. Ugandan’s often talk of things happening in “African Time.” So the Constitutional Court’ts snap call for parties to be ready to present their cases on Wednesday caught a lot of people off guard, including State Attorney Patricia Mutesi who complained that she wasn’t prepared to proceed with her arguments and asked for a delay. That request was rejected. That leaves a lot of folks wondering why the Court is in such an uncharacteristic rush:

Rumors are flying around Kampala in an effort to make sense of the court’s sudden haste in this case. There is speculation that it was ordered to strike down the law by President Yoweri Museveni in order to please the World Bank — which is holding up a $90 million loan over the bill — or to satisfy the United States in advance of next week’s Summit of African Leaders in Washington. Others suggest the court is trying to bolster Prime Minister Mbabazi by validating his call for a quorum; Museveni moved aggressively shortly after the vote to isolate Mbabazi to prevent him from mounting a leadership challenge.

LGBT acticist Frank Mugisha is optimistic, while Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa is glum:

“I think that we could have a very good judgment tomorrow, and if we get that judgment then it’s over – and we just have to celebrate,” said Mugisha, who heads the Sexual Minorities Uganda group.

Anti-gay preacher Martin Ssempa, who was also in court, said he feared the “judicial abortion of our bill” due to international pressure.

“This case is moving at lightning speed,” he said, claiming the petition was being pushed to polish Uganda’s international reputation before Museveni travels to Washington next week to meet President Barack Obama at a landmark US-Africa summit.

The Constitutional Court focused its attention this week on the question of whether Parliament acted with the constitutionally-required quorum when it passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in December. The expected ruling tomorrow will be on that question. If the court rules agaisnt the petitioners on the quorum issue, then proceedings will continue on whether the AHA’s provisions violate Uganda’s constitutional guarantees to a number of rights, including the right to privacy, freedom from discrimination, and freedoms of assembly and speech.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court Hears Challenge to Anti-Homosexuality Act

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

NTVUganda reported on Wednesday’s proceedings before Uganda’s Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Petitioners challenging the AHB contend that the law not only violates the constitution, but was passed in Parliament without a quorum. If this report is representative, it appears that the central question in today’s proceedings was the lack of quorum. Uganda’s Daily Monitor this morning provided further details of that exchange:

“You should be very careful if you are to pass this Bill, you must have quorum. These are not joking matters,” (attorney for petitioners) Mr. (Nicholas) Opiyo quoted the Prime Minister as saying to the Speaker of Parliament.

Mr Opiyo further quoted the Prime Minister: “I would like to see quorum in the House before passing this Bill.”

He argued that Ms Kadaga violated the Rules of Procedure of Parliament and the Constitution. Another lawyer representing pro-gay activists, Mr Caleb Alaka, accused Ms Kadaga of not minding to check whether there was the right quorum to pass the Bill into law despite being alerted about the lack of the same.

Mr Alaka added that another MP during the voting process, whose name he did not mention, shouted that they should go ahead and pass the Bill into law, saying after all they had passed other Bills into law without the recommended quorum.

Mr Alaka submitted that the AG, through the affidavit of Mr Denis Bireije, the commissioner of Civil Litigation has not challenged the issue of quorum, literally meaning that they have conceded.

In the circumstances, Mr Alaka asked the court to allow their petition and among others, declare that the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed without the right quorum, hence its null and void.

The matter of a quorum is very important here. Article 88 of the Uganda Constitution (PDF: 469KB/192 pages) is very specific about it:

88. Quorum of Parliament.

(1) The quorum of Parliament shall be one-third of all members of Parliament entitled to vote.

(2) The quorum prescribed by clause (1) of this article shall only be required at a time when Parliament is voting on any question.

(3) Rules of procedure of Parliament shall prescribe the quorum of Parliament for the conduct of business of Parliament other than for voting.

There are 375 members of Parliament, 263 of which are held by the ruling National Resistance Movement. A quorum would consist of 125 members.

There was one interesting bit of pertinent information that came out of this report. In order for a law to go officially in effect, it must be printed in the Uganda Gazette. “Gazetting” a law is a common procedure in Commonwealth countries. It’s typically a mere formality but an important one, as it marks the law’s first official day in force. According to Daily Monitor:

The pro-gay activists, among others, want court to issue permanent orders staying the operationality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. They also want court to permanently stay the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 which has not yet been gazetted.

This should be surprising, as the government has been raiding NGO’s and shutting them down over allegations that they were violating specific clauses of the AHB, namely those prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality.

The WBS report was considerably less balanced, reporting unfounded allegations that the former Opposition leader Prof. Moris Ogenga Latigo was petitioning against the AHB “to get quick money from individuals promoting inhuman acts.” Pentecostal Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the AHB’s staunchest supporters, was given free access to WBS’s cameras for his speech.

The law that was passed, was passed out of great difficulty. And we see over here many men and women who have been given money by the whites, the Europeans, the Americans, to come and to try to stop the good law that was made. And they are using every trick necessary. They have also threatened our judges and our officers that if they do not make rules or they are seen as against homosexuality, that they will not have visas, they will not travel.

In a separate article, Daily Monitor reported that after the State Attorney tried to put off proceedings to a later date, she submitted the government’s response Thursday morning. This means that Constitutional Court could deliver a ruling as early as tomorrow.

Petitioners against the AHB include Makarere University School of Law’s Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda, former opposition leader Prof. Morris Latigo, Dr. Paul Nsubuga Ssemugoma (who longtime BTB readers may remember as the formerly-anonymous blogger GayUganda), and LGBT activists  Frank Mugisha, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, and Pepe Julian Onziema.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 31

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Belfast, UK; Bismark, ND; Brighton, UK; Dover, DE; Edgewater, MD; Essen, Germany; Freemont, CO; Hamburg, Germany; Hanoi, Vietnam; Lafayette, IN; Leeds, UK; Liverpool, UK; Marietta, GA; Stockholm, Sweden; Vancouver, BC.

Other Events This Weekend: Montana Two Spirit Gathering, Blacktail Ranch, Montana; Summer Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Divers/Cité, Montréal, QC; Family Week, Provincetown, MA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Arizona Gay News, July 28, 1978, page 3.

From Arizona Gay News, July 28, 1978, page 3.

Miss Matty’s Attic was a multi-level bar/restaurant/cabaret/dance club in the Paradise Valley area of far northeast Phoenix, in an area which is massively suburbanized today but which I’m guessing was way out in the middle of nowhere in 1978. The old place stood more or less where the Piestewa Freeway runs today.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 First Gay Rights Protest at the Pentagon: 1965. That year marked several important milestones in the history of organized gay protest. The year of gay protests actually got a head start in 1964 when Randophe Wicker (see Feb 3) led a small band of activists protesting in front of a New York City army induction center (see Sep 19).  In April of 1965, gay rights advocates held the first White House protests demanding equal treatment in federal employment and other areas of discrimination (see Apr 17),  A string of other protests followed, at the United Nations (see Apr 18), another one at the White House (see May 29), the Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and, on this date in history, the Pentagon.

Participants at the Pentagon picket included gay rights pioneers Frank Kameny (see May 21), Barbara Gittings (whose birthday is also today; see below), Jack Nichols (see Mar 16) and eight others. CBS cameras were on the scene to capture it, and a report on the protest was featured on the local affiliate’s evening news. But another 46 years would pass before the military ban on gays serving openly would finally be out the door. The New York Public Library has a small online digital gallery of that first Pentagon protest.

Henry Willson (left) with Rock Hudson.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
 Henry Willson: 1911-1978. The future Hollywood agent was born for show business; his father was vice president of the Columbia Phonograph Company and president of Columbia Gramophone Manufacturing Co. Alarmed at his son’s interest in tap dance, he sent Henry to a boarding school in Asheville, North Carolina where he thought rough sports, rock climbing and backpacking would straighten his son out. Needless to day, it didn’t. In 1933, Henry moved to Hollywood and became a talent scout for Hollywood mogul David O. Selznick, discovering Lana Turner (although not at a drug store counter, as legend had it), Joan Fontaine and Natalie Wood.

But his real claim to fame was his uncanny knack for finding (and often, allegedly, bedding) the hottest beefcake stars of the 1950s. His “Adonis factory” transformed Robert Moseley into Guy Madison, Francis Cuthbert into Rory Calhoun, Merle Johnson into Troy Donahue, Arthur Kelm into Tab Hunter, Robert Wagner into, well, Robert Wagner, and most famously, Roy Fitzgerald into Rock Hudson. That minor detail about some of them lacking discernable talent proved to be of little hinderance to breaking into show business. Willson pesonally coached his charges in how to act, how to behave, and how to butch it up if they were lacking in that particular area. He staged “dates” for his gay stars when needed, and he even talked Hudson into a three year marriage to his secretary when rumors began to become a little too active.

While most of his male clients were heterosexual, the disproportionate number of gay male leads in his stable led many to assume that all of his clients were gay. And as Willson’s own homosexualit was public knowledge, many of his clients, gay and straight, began distancing themselves from him as he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and also as he became increasingly paranoid and fat. His influenced waned through the 1960s, and by 1974 he became a ward of the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital, where he died of cirrhosis of the liver. With nothing left of his estate, he was buried in an unmarked grave in North Hollywood. In 2005, Willson became the subject of Robert Hofler’s endlessly entertaining biography, The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson.

Barbara Gittings

 Barbara Gittings: 1932-2007. Her friend and fellow gay rights activist Jack Nichols (see Mar 16) called her “the Grand Mother of Lesbian and Gay Liberation.” That’s not much of exaggeration considering all she had accomplished for the LGBT community. Her quest for equality and dignity began when she flunked out of her freshman year at Northwestern University because she spent too much time in the library trying to understand what it meant to be a lesbian. Her mission since then was to tear down what she called “the shroud of invisibility” that facilitated the ongoing criminal persecution of homosexuality as well as its being regarded as a mental illness. She organized the New York chapter of the Daughters of Billitis in 1958, and she gained a national platform within the gay and lesbian community as the editor of the pioneering lesbian journal The Ladder in the mid-1960s.

No Limits: Barbara Gittings picketing the White House, 1965.

In 1963, she met Frank Kameny, the pioneering gay rights activist based in Washington, D.C. (see May 21). He was, as she described him, “the first gay person I met who took firm, uncompromising positions about homosexuality and homosexuals’ right to be considered fully on a par with heterosexuals.” Together, they formed a collaboration that would transform the gay rights movement from one of timidity and defensiveness to bold action and determined demands for equality. Those actions included the first ever gay rights protests in front of the White House, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, and the Pentagon, all beginning in 1965. The move was audacious — the Daughters of Bilitis officially opposed picketing at the time, and they would force her removal as editor of The Ladder in 1966 over the issue — but Gittings pressed forward, convinced that invisibility would fall only when gays and lesbians themselves took the steps to boldly step out of the shadows.

Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John E. Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous” at the 1972 APA panel on homosexuality.

The pair’s greatest accomplishment came in the campaign to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. In 1971 Kameny and Gittings organized an exhibit at the APA convention in Washington, D.C.. While there, they attended a panel discussion on homosexuality, and were outraged to discover that there were no gay psychiatrists on the panel. Kameny grabbed the microphone and demanded that the APA hear from gays themselves. The following year they were invited to participate in a panel discussion entitled “Psychiatry, Friend or Foe to Homosexuals? A Dialogue.” Gittings convinced Dr. John E. Fryer, a gay psychiatrist to take part. But he would do so only on the condition that his participation remain anonymous, and that he could wear a disguise and use microphone to alter his voice. “Dr. H. Anonymous’s” participation created a sensation at the convention as he described how he was forced to be closeted while practicing psychiatry (see May 2). Gittings, in turn, read aloud letters from other gay psychiatrists who refused to participate out of fear of professional ostracism. The following year, homosexuality was removed from the APA’s list of mental disorders, and Gittings celebrated by being photographed with newspaper headlines, “Twenty Million Homosexuals Gain Instant Cure.”

In the 1970s, Gittings’ passion returned to where she first tried to find information about what it means to be a lesbian, the library. She helped to found the American Library Association’s Gay Task Force. That’s where she got the idea for a gay kissing booth at the ALA’s 1971 convention in Dallas. “We needed to get an audience,” she remembered. “So we decided… let’s show gay love live. We were offering free—mind you, free—same-sex kisses and hugs. Let me tell you, the aisles were mobbed, but no one came into the booth to get a free hug. So we hugged and kissed each other. It was shown twice on the evening news, once again in the morning. It put us on the map.” She continued, “You know that kissing booth wasn’t only a public stunt. It gave the message that gay people should not be held to double standards of privacy. We should be able to show our affections.”

She died in 2007 after a long battle with breast cancer. She is survived by Kay Tobin Lahusen (see Jan 5), a fellow gay rights advocate and her partner of 46 years. You can see a personal remembrance of Barbara Gittings by Jack Nichols here.

Ian Roberts

Ian Roberts: 1965. The hunky Australian made headlines in 1995 when, as a playor for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles rugby club, he came out as gay. He came out in a big way: by posing nude for the first issue of Blue magazine. Public reaction was mostly positive, and his teammates were supportive. He sat out the 1996 season due to injuries, and signed with the North Queensland Cowboys in 1997. He retired from regular play in 1998 after his injuries kept piling up. That same year, he began studying acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. He had a brief cameo in the 2005 Australian film Little Fish, and he took the role of Riley, a Henchman of Lex Luthor in 2006′s Superman Returns. He’s also appeared in the 2009 Australian mini-series Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, and in the ABC1 drama The Cut. In 2012, he appeared in his first starring role, as a gay characer, in the indy film Saltwater.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 30

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Belfast, UK; Bismark, ND; Brighton, UK; Dover, DE; Edgewater, MD; Essen, Germany; Freemont, CO; Hamburg, Germany; Hanoi, Vietnam; Lafayette, IN; Leeds, UK; Liverpool, UK; Marietta, GA; Stockholm, Sweden; Vancouver, BC.

Other Events This Weekend: Montana Two Spirit Gathering, Blacktail Ranch, Montana; Summer Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Divers/Cité, Montréal, QC; Family Week, Provincetown, MA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Where It's At, a New York CIty gay bar guide, August 24, 1978, page 67.

From Where It’s At, a New York City gay bar guide, August 24, 1978, page 67.

icepalace57-ny-interior-02The original Ice Palace was on Fire Island, which had opened in 1971. The owner, Jimmy Merry, also owned a half-dozen other gay bars and clubs throughout Manhattan. In 1977, Merry opened his flashy new disco at 57 West 57th Street, and named it Ice Palace 57. It boasted one of the best, most elaborate light shows in New York City. It’s large dance floor was surrounded by kiosk-style seating and mirrored walls which reflected the hypnotic light displays. Off to one side was a quieter lounge where people could take a break from the music. Ice Palace 57 was packed every night of the week, and its Sunday afternoon tea dances were legendary.  It attracted such celebrities as Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Bianca Jagger and Halston. But not everyone was invited to the party:

N.Y.C. Disco Owners No-Shows at Hearing

Members of Black and White Men Together/NY, who had documented and demonstrated against the racially discriminatory admission practices of the Ice Palace Disco, were granted a pre-hearing conference with the New York State Human Rights Commission Feb. 4. The owners of the Ice Palace did not appear.

A conference is the legal prelude to a full-scale hearing. Plaintiffs present witnesses and evidence to the conference so that the HRC can determine whether or not “probable cause” exists for a legal suit. The absence of the Ice Palace owners leads BWMT members to believe that the commission will hand down a “probable cause” decision. Such a decision would enable the group to take the owners to court. Until then, BWMT members have resumed their late-night picketing in front of the midtown disco. Ice Palace representatives continue to refuse comment. [From The Advocate, March 18, 1982, page 16.]

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
95 YEARS AGO: A Plea From An Invert: 1919. Through the early part of the twentieth century, American medical and psychological writers began taking an increasing interest in homosexuality (or “sexual inversion,” “contrary sexual feeling,” “perverted sexual instinct,” or any number of other terms which they had yet to settle on). It was rare, however, to hear from “inverts” themselves. The July 1919 issue of the Journal of Urology and Sexology carried one interesting letter to the editor that gives some indication of the frustration that many felt due to the severe societal disapproval that was prevalent a the time:

A PLEA FROM AN INVERT

To the Editor:

A plea to be heard before it is too late — will you not listen and perhaps advise me? If you only knew how I need help!

I am a misfit. I am a young man who has never cared for any women. Am I to blame because God has given me a feminine nature? Why should I be shunned by all people, loathed by them!

I am clean and refined, am well educated in the fine arts and have high ideals concerning all things. And yet men who are covered with filthy sores from evil living, who have never had a decent thought or ideal in their lives, sneer at me. I am an outcast; I am lower than the lowest!

What few who are kind to me are women who have praised me for my high ideal concerning life.

Because the custom is not that two men shall marry, is it so wrong? If I love and respect a friend and he loves me, is it not as pure a marriage as between a man and woman; and far more equal?

I wish I had a friend to go and live with, to work out our ideals, and to grow in every way. Yet this has made me accursed among men; I am damned to a living hell!

Must I — who have denied myself almost too much, to become worthy of the highest friendship — must I forever walk alone?

Is there aught but beauty in the love of Marius and Cornelius in “Marius the Epicurian” by Walter Pater? Is Marius to be considered vile, because he had that “feminine refinement” that made him idealize life, that led him finally to the Christian faith and martyrdom?

I am alone and tired. Is it not a sad thing that I and many other young men who are worthy of much, should have but one hope — that Death shall come soon!

I need advice. If some young man among your readers might write to me! Do you not think we would save each other?

You must not believe me physically or mentally deficient — though I am near to suicide I

–Homo.

[Source: Anonymous. Letter to the editor: "A plea from an invert." American Journal of Urology and Sexology 15, no. 7 (July 1919): 336. Available online via Google Books here.]

Sean Patrick Maloney

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Sean Patrick Maloney: 1966. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in 1988, Maloney spent a year volunteering with the Jesuits in the slums of Chimbote, Peru. He then returned to get his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia’s School of Law in 1992. He entered politics in 1991, working for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, and he returned to work on his re-election campaign in 1996. After that campaign, he was offered a position in the White House staff, where he was senior advisor and White House Staff Secretary from 1999 to 2000. When Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Wyoming, Maloney was one of two officials sent by President Clinton to represent him at the funeral. One newspaper noted that Maloney was “the highest ranking openly homosexual man on the White House staff.”

After 2000, he became a senior attorney at the law firm which represented the Shepard family. He returned to politics in 2006, first as a member of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s administration, then in Gov. David Paterson’s administration after Spitzer’s resignation as the result of a prostitution scandal. In 2012, Maloney ran for New York’s 18th Congressional district and won, defeating Rep. Nan Hayworth, making Maloney one of six openly gay and bisexual members of Congress. Maloney and his partner, Randy Florke, together since 1992, are raising three adoptive children. Despite New York becoming a marriage equality state in 2011, the two had chosen not to marry because their marriage would not have been recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 of DOMA was declared unconstitutional in 2013, and Maloney and Florke married last June in Cold Spring, New York, making Maloney only the second member of Congress to legally marry his same-sex partner.

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Yvette Cantu Schneider abandons the ex-gay movement (UPDATED)

Timothy Kincaid

July 29th, 2014

GLAAD has posted Part Oneyvette schneider and Part Two of a two day report on Yvette Cantu Schneider, at one time one of the most prominent female voices in the ex-gay movement.

Five months after Proposition 8 passed in California, my five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. During the month she spent as an inpatient at Oakland Children’s Hospital, I suffered from tremendous anxiety, punctuated by debilitating panic attacks. When my daughter was released from the hospital, I sought help from Dr. Diana Wright, a respected psychologist. She said to me, “Anxiety is the result of a threat you fear will overtake you. It’s a limbic response to a predator–in this case, your daughter’s cancer–which will cause you to fight, flee, or freeze. But that’s not the only cause of anxiety; it can also arise when you are living incongruously from your true self, when you’re living according to someone else’s expectations of you and not according to who you really are. I have a feeling this isn’t your first experience with anxiety; you’ve likely experienced it your whole life.”

Dr. Wright taught me to manage my limbic responses through mindfulness meditation, and a form of guided imagery meditation used by combat troops who suffer from PTSD. As I became more adept at meditating, goddesses and other female images appeared. It was clear I had neglected the feminine and the feminine divine when I embraced patriarchal dogma that regarded women as secondary to men. I spent the next few years digging deep within my soul to unearth my true self–the authentic me who celebrates the worthiness and equality of all people. The me who knows we all deserve to be who we are, not who others want and expect us to be. It was only when I embraced this true self that I regained my life. It meant shedding many of the beliefs I had espoused for decades—beliefs about what it means to be gay, and what it means to treat people with dignity and respect.

Part Two is an elucidating view into the inner circle of many anti-gay advocacy groups. It’s well worth a read.

Schneider has not been much active in the ex-gay movement since 2010, but she has written a book describing her transformation. And she is working with GLAAD to spread the word.

This revelation is not exactly earth-shaking. But with Cantu Schneider’s apparent abandonment of the ex-gay movement and the dogma on which it stands, it becomes yet a bit more clear that the movement is on its final gasps.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, July 29

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Positively Gay (Minneapolis, MN), June 1979, page 9.

From Positively Gay (Minneapolis, MN), June 1979, page 9.

From OutHistory.org:

Foxy’s opened in 1968, and by all accounts, it did not discriminate against men. The lesbian nightclub accepted women and men from all backgrounds. However, and perhaps as a result of nearby industrial work sites that employed butch women, some prospective patrons were turned away by their own beliefs in negative rumors. These rumors identified Foxy’s as a place for “Bad Dykes,” or aggressive butch women.

Foxy’s closed at its Seventh Street location in 1984, and the Over the Rainbow Bar replaced it. The bar’s owners next opened the Castle Royal on The West Side Flats before Honey Harold reopened Foxy’s in the former site of The Grand Finale in downtown St. Paul.

The site of the original Foxy’s is now a Jimmy John’s parking lot.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
“My Daughter Is a Lesbian!”: 1958. Stonewall was still eleven years away. The first Christopher Street Liberation Day march occurred a year after that. And it was two years after that when Jeanne Manford marched with her son during that year’s CSLD parade with a sign reading “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children.” In 1958, visibility remained perhaps the single greatest hurdle for gay people. due to the dangers of being out — police raids (see Aug 14), arrest (see Jun 23), loss of job (see Mar 22, Dec 20), commitment to a psychiatric hospital (see Apr 14, Jul 26), murder (see Aug 3) — being visible was simply not an option for most people. There were few visible examples of gay people, and almost no visible examples of family members who accepted and supported their gay relatives.

Actually, there were few visible examples of gay people accepting themselves. More often than not, they saw themselves as freaks, perverts, deviants, delinquents, degenerates, sick — not just because society said so, but also because the “experts” said so, from all the respected professional organizations, prestigious universities and the most trusted hospitals.  When Frank Kameny dared to challenge psychatry’s verdict that gay people were mentally ill in 1965 (see May 11), the push-back was enourmous, much of it coming from within the gay community. The reaction could be summed up this way: who died and made you an expert on homosexuality? What credentials do you have to challenge those who have spent an entire lifetime studying the “problem.” Kameny’s answer was simple: “We are the true authorities on homosexuality, whether we are accepted as such or not.”

But in the 1950s, getting gays and lesbians to accept themselves was still the biggest challenge facing the homophile organizations, and an essay that appeared in the July 1958 issue of The Ladder, the official newsletter of the Daughers of Bilitis, shows just what a challenge that was. It was by a mother of a lesbian — and what a mother she was. I wonder, were accepting mothers more common than self-accepting lesbian daughters? I don’t know, but this one certainly gave all lesbians, their mothers, and anyone else who cared to butt in a good piece of her mind.

And yet, she also had to counter a lot of misinformation that a lot of people shared, including a lot of gay people. To counter the assumption that her daughter would live a life of lonely spinsterhood, she described her daugheter’s “congenial, intelligent, loving and kind ‘mate’.” Against the prevailing view that mothers were responsible for their child’s sexuality, she defended herself by pointing to her daughter’s morality (“she could not be cheap and promiscuous”) and her good citizenship. And to counter society’s assumptions that a faithful heterosexual marriage was every woman’s birthright, she offered the example of her own sad marriage. In all, this isn’t so much a portrait of a mother and her lesbian daughter, but a counter-narrative to the prevailing opinions of gay people at that time. The essay’s defensiveness isn’t what we would recognize as a proclamation of pride, but when you consider how oppresive the dominant assumptions were at that time, Mrs. Doris Lyles had to start somewhere.

My daughter is a Lesbian. By all measures of accepted society, that is a pretty blunt statement. If I were an average mother, I wouldn’t even bring this assertion out and view it furtively, even when alone. Nevertheless, I do not think I would come under what one would call average, and I say this in a far from self-satisfied manner. However, I do not believe in hiding truth under our stilted, self-imposed laws of society. Many people today are frustrated and under mental treatment because of these frustrations, simply because they refuse to face the truth and prefer to delude themselves in so many ways.

My daughter from small girlhood seemed to be a little different from the average child. For one thing, she was above average mentally and had very strong will power and determination that even in childhood seemed to brook no interference. Frankly, I believe that if I had been a dictatorial, demanding mother whose child had to bend to her ego and demands, I might have had a pretty serious case of delinquency to contend with today, instead of an intelligent, serious-minded daughter who holds a fine position in a respected professional field, lives what is for her a full, rounded-out life of contentment and security, with no frustrations or problems, at least none that amount to much.

I will be very frank in saying that I am lucky in that she found a congenial, intelligent, loving and kind “mate” in this association of which I am aware but do not understand completely as a normal mother and wife. I do not like that word “normal” applied here, for there are no two more normal persons alive than my daughter and her charming associate.

In finding out about my daughter’s preferences, I had one very firm belief. I knew she would find someone of kindred tastes and lead a very circumspect life no matter what path she chose, for I knew my child and understood she could not be cheap and promiscuous, whether Lesbian or heterosexual. This thought was a great comfort and from the beginning I knew she would need love, appreciation and understanding from me; not censure, shame or withdrawal. One thing I have done to an extent most people would feel was too much to the extreme: I have left her to her own devices and now, in her middle twenties, she leads her own life completely and when she wishes to come to me, for whatever period of time she chooses, she knows she is welcome and won’t be importuned to “come oftener” and “stay longer”. As a child, I led a sheltered life in which my mother dominated all my moves and actions. When she passed away, I was at completely loose ends and made a very foolish marriage which would not have happened had I been free to follow my owm course in life. This had made me wary of being possessive and trying to shape and run the lives of others. As a consequence, I think I have my daughter’s love and loyalty — even to a greater degree than most mothers who make demands and expect them to be carried out.

With the background of theatrical people during my childhood, I learned rather early that all of us, men or women, did not come within the realm of “norms.” Maybe this is why my daughter’s fate didn’t seem so terrible to me. I could think of a great many worse things, such as the unhappy twenty years of marriage I had shed at the time I learned of my daughter’s “difference”. I spent those years with a man who was a congenital liar, who preferred a lie when the truth would have served him better, and who couldn’t leave town for a week’s trip as a Salesman who travelled without having his quota of affairs with anyone — waitresses, nurses, — he seemed to prefer uniforms. It was a question of keeping my marriage together by not digging too deeply in the barrel, and keeping my temper, but definitely losing my self-respect. This I believe is a fate far worse for a girl. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I should use every means within my power to help my daughter in her situation, but frankly I do not believe she needs help from me or anyone else. If ever the time should come when she feels the need for advice or counsel, I only hope I will be able to advise her wisely, but certainly not against what she believes with all her being to be her path in life.

We preach freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even though reams and reams have been written on the subject, there are very few who will admit belief in freedom of love.

[Source: Mrs. Doris Lyles. "My Daughter Is a Lesbian." The Ladder 2, no. 10 (July 1958):4-5.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Tim Gunn: 1953. His role on Project Runway is that of a fashion professor and mentor, in line with his previous life as a member of the faculty at Parson The New School for Design, where he served as the fashion design chair before moving to Liz Claiborne in 2007 to work as their chief creative officer. Meanwhile, he’s been “making it work” at the Lifetime reality series which just started its thirtheenth season last week. He is an animal rights advocate and speaks out against the use of fur in fashion. He also made an “It Gets Better” video, motivated by his own suicide attempt when he was seventeen. He has generally been a private person, not given to opening his life to public scrutiny, but that began to change in 2006 when, in an interview with Instinct, Gunn said that he hadn’t been in a relationship since the early 1980s, after the end of a six-year relationship with the love of his life, whom he still loves today. He’s been celibate ever since then. In 2012, he wrote a short essay, Shaken, Not Stirred (available only as a Kindle Single) in which he described growing up with a rigid, controlling FBI-agent father who was J. Edgar Hoover’s ghostwriter.

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Fourth Circuit Strikes Down Virginia’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

July 28th, 2014

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling which declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In a 2-1 decision, Judges Henry Floyd (a George W. Bush appointee) and Roger Gregory (A Bill Clinton appointee) ruled that Virginia’s marriage ban violated Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority also held that strict scrutiny applied in its review. Judge Paul Niemeyer, a George H.W. Bush appointee, dissented. The court’s decision now creates a precedent for Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. Maryland, which is also in the Fourth District, already provides marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The court’s analysis was in three steps: whether the all of the plaintiffs possessed standing (they did, the circuit ruled), whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s summary dismissal of Baker v. Nelson in 1972 remains binding, and the appropriate level of constitutional scrutiny to test the Virginia ban against.

The Baker case was brought by Minnesota couple Jack Baker and Michael McConnell after the Minneapolis clerk refused to issue them a marriage license. Baker and McConnell sued in state court, and that case made it all the way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court which ruled that the couple’s Equal Protection rights weren’t violated. They then appealed to to U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed the case “for want of a substantial federal question.” Marriage equality opponents have argued that Baker was binding. But the Fourth Circuit countered, “Summary dismissals lose their binding force when ‘doctrinal developments’ illustrate that the Supreme Court no longer views a question as unsubstantial, regardless of whether the Court explicitly overrules the case,” and pointed to last summer’s Windsor decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as evidence of just such a “doctrinal development.”

The Supreme Court’s willingness to decide Windsor without mentioning Baker speaks volumes regarding whether Baker remains good law. The Court’s development of its due process and equal protection jurisprudence in the four decades following Baker is even more instructive. On the Due Process front, Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), and Windsor are particularly relevant. In Lawrence, the Court recognized that the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments “afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. . . . Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.” Id. at 574. These considerations led the Court to strike down a Texas statute that criminalized same-sex sodomy. Id. at 563, 578-79. The Windsor Court based its decision to invalidate section 3 of DOMA on the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Court concluded that section 3 could not withstand constitutional scrutiny because “the principal purpose and the necessary effect of [section 3] are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage,” who — like the unmarried same-sex couple in Lawrence — have a constitutional right to make “moral and sexual choices.” 133 S. Ct. at 2694-95. These cases firmly position same-sex relationships within the ambit of the Due Process Clauses’ protection.

The Court has also issued several major equal protection decisions since it decided Baker… These cases demonstrate that, since Baker, the Court has meaningfully altered the way it views both sex and sexual orientation through the equal protection lens.

In light of the Supreme Court’s apparent abandonment of Baker and the significant doctrinal developments that occurred after the Court issued its summary dismissal in that case, we decline to view Baker as binding precedent and proceed to the meat of the Opponents’ Fourteenth Amendment arguments.

The court then turned to the question of the appropriate level of scrutiny to apply to Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The court said that the question turned on whether marriage is a fundamental right. Both sides argued that it was, but marriage equality opponents held that same-sex marriage wasn’t. The court disagreed:

Over the decades, the Supreme Court has demonstrated that the right to marry is an expansive liberty interest that may stretch to accommodate changing societal norms. Perhaps most notably, in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court invalidated a Virginia law that prohibited white individuals from marrying individuals of other races. 388 U.S. at 4. The Court explained that “[t]he freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men” and that no valid basis justified the Virginia law’s infringement of that right. Id. at 12.

…These cases do not define the rights in question as “the right to interracial marriage,” “the right of people owing child support to marry,” and “the right of prison inmates to marry.” Instead, they speak of a broad right to marry that is not circumscribed based on the characteristics of the individuals seeking to exercise that right. The Supreme Court’s unwillingness to constrain the right to marry to certain subspecies of marriage meshes with its conclusion that the right to marry is a matter of “freedom of choice,” Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387, that “resides with the individual,” Loving, 388 U.S. at 12. If courts limited the right to marry to certain couplings, they would effectively create a list of legally preferred spouses, rendering the choice of whom to marry a hollow choice indeed.

Because Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban involves a “‘significant interference’ with a fundamental right,” the court held that strict scrutiny applies. This places the state in the position of proving that the law “may be justified only by compelling state interests, and must be narrowly drawn to express only those interests.” Among those interests, the state argued, was upholding the vote that placed Virginia’s marriage ban in the state’s constitution. The Court disagreed, saying “the people’s will is not an independent compelling interest that warrants depriving same-sex couples of their fundamental right to marry.” Supporters of Virginia’s marriage ban also argued that upholding “history and tradition” was another compelling interest, but the Fourth Circuit held that this interest doesn’t even withstand a rational basis review. Supporters also argued that upholding Virginia’s marriage ban would safeguard the institution of marriage. Again, the court disagreed:

However, even if we view the Proponents’ theories through rose-colored glasses, we conclude that they are unfounded for two key reasons. First, the Supreme Court rejected the view that marriage is about only procreation in Griswold v. Connecticut, in which it upheld married couples’ right not to procreate and articulated a view of marriage that has nothing to do with children. …

Second, the primary support that the Proponents offer for their theory is the legacy of a wholly unrelated legal change to marriage: no-fault divorce. Although no-fault divorce certainly altered the realities of married life by making it easier for couples to end their relationships, we have no reason to think that legalizing same-sex marriage will have a similar destabilizing effect. In fact, it is more logical to think that same-sex couples want access to marriage so that they can take advantage of its hallmarks, including faithfulness and permanence, and that allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry and recognizing their out-of-state marriages will strengthen the institution of marriage. We therefore reject the Proponents’ concerns.

Proponents of Virginia’s marriage ban also argued that the state’s marriage laws were essential in ensuring “responsible procreation.” Again, the court disagreed:

If Virginia sought to ensure responsible procreation via the Virginia Marriage Laws, the laws are woefully underinclusive. Same-sex couples are not the only category of couples who cannot reproduce accidentally. For example, opposite-sex couples cannot procreate unintentionally if they include a post-menopausal woman or an individual with a medical condition that prevents unassisted conception.

The Proponents attempt to downplay the similarity between same-sex couples and infertile opposite-sex couples in three ways. First, they point out that sterile individuals could remedy their fertility through future medical advances. This potentiality, however, does not explain why Virginia should treat same-sex and infertile opposite-sex couples differently during the course of the latter group’s infertility. Second, the Proponents posit that, even if one member of a man-woman couple is sterile, the other member may not be. They suggest that, without marriage’s monogamy mandate, this fertile individual is more likely to have an unintended child with a third party. They contend that, due to this possibility, even opposite-sex couples who cannot procreate need marriage to channel their procreative activity in a way that same-sex couples do not. The Proponents’ argument assumes that individuals in same-sex relationships never have opposite-sex sexual partners, which is simply not the case. Third, the Proponents imply that, by marrying, infertile opposite-sex couples set a positive example for couples who can have unintended children, thereby encouraging them to marry. We see no reason why committed same-sex couples cannot serve as similar role models. We therefore reject the Proponents’ attempts to differentiate same-sex couples from other couples who cannot procreate accidentally.

…The Proponents’ responsible procreation argument falters for another reason as well. Strict scrutiny requires that a state’s means further its compelling interest. See Shaw, 517 U.S. at 915 (“Although we have not always provided precise guidance on how closely the means . . . must serve the end (the justification or compelling interest), we have always expected that the legislative action would substantially address, if not achieve, the avowed purpose.”). Prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and ignoring their out-of-state marriages does not serve Virginia’s goal of preventing out-of-wedlock births. Although same-sex couples cannot procreate accidentally, they can and do have children via other methods. According to an amicus brief filed by Dr. Gary J. Gates, as of the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 2500 same-sex couples were raising more than 4000 children under the age of eighteen in Virginia. The Virginia Marriage Laws therefore increase the number of children raised by unmarried parents.

Finally, the court turned to the Proponents’ argument that opposite-sex married couples represent an environment for “optimal childrearing.” The Court however cited evidence supplied by all of the major medical and mental health organizations which said otherwise:

In fact, the APA explains that, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying, the Virginia Marriage Laws actually harm the children of same-sex couples by stigmatizing their families and robbing them of the stability, economic security, and togetherness that marriage fosters. The Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in Windsor, in which it observed that failing to recognize same-sex marriages “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” and “makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” 133 S. Ct. at 2694.

We find the arguments that the Opponents and their amici make on this issue extremely persuasive. However, we need not resolve this dispute because the Proponents’ optimal childrearing argument falters for at least two other reasons. First, under heightened scrutiny, states cannot support a law using “overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of” the groups in question. … The Proponents’ statements regarding same-sex couples’ parenting ability certainly qualify as overbroad generalizations. Second, as we explain above, strict scrutiny requires congruity between a law’s means and its end. This congruity is absent here. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize their out-of-state marriages will cause same-sex couples to raise fewer children or impel married opposite-sex couples to raise more children. The Virginia Marriage Laws therefore do not further Virginia’s interest in channeling children into optimal families, even if we were to accept the dubious proposition that same-sex couples are less capable parents.

The court then affirmed that Virginia’s marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and concluded:

We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance

This is the third federal appeals court to strike down marriage bans. The Tenth Circuit has recently upheld lower court decisions declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional in Utah and Oklahoma.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 28

Jim Burroway

July 28th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), January 1989, page 44.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), January 1989, page 44.

On Sept 12, 1985, about fifteen agents from a drug-enforcement task force along with a contingent from the Chicago Police Department raided Carol’s Speakeasy with arrest warrants for two employees. Only one of them was there at the time, but police ordered all 45 patrons to lie on the floor for up to two hours while they questioned them, hurled insults and photographed them. No drugs or weapons were found, and only one customer was arrested, for resisting arrest, and that charge was later dropped. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action suit on behalf of the patrons, and in 1989 the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois agreed to settle. The state and city admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to pay $227,000 to the bar patrons, return all documents and photographs taken during the raid, and to erase any records of those who were detained during the raid. That raid would be the last major raid against a gay bar in Chicago.

The “Mother of All Drag Queens,” Mother Carol (a.k.a. Richard Farnham) opened Carol’s Speakeasy, on October 13, 1978. He died almost a year later, but the bar kept going under new ownership. For more than a decade, Carol’s Speakeasy was one of Chicago’s most popular gay bars, which its reputation extending through much of the upper Midwest. On Friday night, July 5, 1991, 23-year-old Jeremiah Weinberger went to Carol’s Speakeasy for a few drinks, where he met a tall, blonde and friendly out-of-towner. The two talked, kissed, danced, laughed, and generally had a good time. Later that night, Weinberger accepted 31-year-old Jeffrey Dahmer’s invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with him in Milwaukee. Weinberger became Dahmer’s fifteenth victim. After killing two more over the next two weeks, Dahmer was arrested on July 22. Carol’s Speakeasy closed the following year and the building has been vacant ever since.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Illinois Becomes First State to Rescind Sodomy Law: 1961. In 1955, the Illinois General Assembly inaugurated the gargantuan task of overhauling its criminal code. Since its last major revision in 1874, the code had accumulated a patchwork of conflicting and confusing statues, some of which made no sense in the 20th century. Horse thieves, for example, were punished with a minimum penalty of three years in prison, but the maximum penalty for auto theft was only one year.

Over the ensuing six years, an eighteen-member joint committee of the Chicago and Illinois Bar Associations combed through the 148 chapters and 832 sections of the old statute books, using the American Law Institute’s 1956 Model Penal Code as a guide. The ALI had put together its Model Penal Code because a number of states were planning to revise their criminal codes over the next decade, and the 1956 Model Code recommended the elimination of all prohibitions against consensual sexual activity between consenting adults, including those which criminalized homosexual activity and relationships. Because the Model Penal Code also touched on a plethora of other criminal statues, it’s likely that most Illinois lawmakers didn’t realize that they were repealing their anti-sodomy law by adopting the omnibus legislation. Nevertheless, the code was adopted and signed into law by Gov. Otto Kerner, and the anti-sodomy law’s repeal became effective on January 1, 1962.

That didn’t mean however that eliminating the state’s anti-sodomy law was entirely by mistake. A booklet describing the new code prepared for Chicago Police by Claude R. Sowele, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s law school, commented, “The Law should not be cluttered with matters of morality so long as they do not endanger the community. Morality should be left to the church, community and the individual’s own conscience.” While Illinois became the first state to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships, the change in the state’s criminal code had few practical benefits for the state’s LGBT population, as police raids and harassment on other pretexts (or no pretext even, other than the opportunity to milk the gay community of more bribes) would continue without letup for another two decades.

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For the next ten years, Illinois would remain the only state in the union to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships. In 1971, Connecticut finally rescinded its sodomy law, followed by Colorado and Oregon (1972), Hawaii and North Dakota (1973), Ohio (1974), New Hampshire and New Mexico (1975). The big year was 1976, when California, Indiana, Maine, Washington and West Virginia stopped criminalizing homosexuality. By the time Lawrence v. Texas struck down all sodomy laws nationwide in 2003, thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had eliminated their anti-gay statutes, either by legislative action or by state court decisions. Today, the focus is on marriage. Nearly 44% of U.S. citizens now live in states which provide marriage equality, with another 4.5% living in parts of the country which provide lesser forms of relationship recognition. But progress on that front is accelerating, and it all began with that first step in the Land of Lincoln.

England, Wales Rescinds Gross Indecency Law: 1967. On July 28, 1967, Queen Elizabeth II gave her Royal Assent to the Sexual Offenses Bill, which marked a significant overhaul of Britain’s laws regulating sexual practices between consenting adults. The Royal Assent was the last act in a long, tortuous path toward finally getting rid of the Gross Indecency statute that had ensnared so many victims like the famous playwright Oscar Wilde and WWII code-breaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing. The law penalized male homosexuality with up to two years in prison; consensual sexual acts between lesbians was not illegal, largely because the phenomenon was unknown when the Gross Indecency statute was last amended in the nineteenth century.

On July 4, Parliament voted 99-14 to approve the Sexual Offenses Bill in a free non-party vote by a tiny percentage of the more than 600-member chamber. The vote took place after an acrimonious eight-hour all-night debate. Home Secretary Roy Jenkins took pains to reassure members that “this is not a vote of confidence in, or congratulations for, homosexuality.” Supporters said that the bill would eliminate one of the most frequent causes of espionage: blackmail of gay diplomats and other officials.

But Labor member Peter Mahon summed up the feelings of those who opposed repeal. “It is by no means unnatural to have a feeling of absolute revulsion against a bill of this kind. Without any lack of charity I say without equivocation it was a bad bill to begin with, it is a bad bill now and will be a bad bill until the end of time. It will be a bad bill throughout eternity because homosexual acts are a perversion of natural function.” Conservative member Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles warned darkly that “decent and reasonable” people of Britain would react violently when they realized what Parliament had done. “It will only encourage our enemies and those who disparage us, and it can only dismay our friends,” he declared. Another Tory MP, Sir Cyril Osborne, said that many people were tired of democracy being made safe for “pimps, prostitutes, spivs and pansies — and now for queers.”

The law then went to the House of Lords, which gave its approval to the measure on July 21. Lord Arran, the Conservative Whip and longtime supporter of repeal, quoted Oscar Wilde in closing the debate. “We shall win in the end, but the road will be long and red with monstrous martyrdoms.” Lord Arran’s subsequent statement then reflected the ambiguity most politicians felt who supported the bill: “I ask one thing. I ask those who have, as it were, been in bondage for whom the prison doors are now opened to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity. This is no occasion for jubilation and certainly not for celebrations. Homosexuals must continue to remember that while there may be nothing bad in being homosexual, there is certainly nothing good.”

(In a related note, Wikipedia has this anecdote about Lord Arran: “Arran was the sponsor in the House of Lords of Leo Abse’s 1967 private member’s bill which decriminalised homosexuality between two consenting adult males. He also sponsored a bill for the protection of badgers. He was once asked why the badger bill had not received enough support to pass whereas decriminalising homosexuality had. ‘Not many badgers in the House of Lords,’ he replied.”)

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

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 27

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Halifax, NS; London, ONPittsburgh, PA (Black Pride); Raleigh-Durham, NC (Black Pride); Stuttgart, Germany; Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.

Other Events This Weekend: Newfest Film Festival, New York, NY; Family Week, Provincetown, MA; Up Your Alley, San Francisco, CA; Zia Regional Rodeo, Santa Fe, NM.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 13.

From The Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 13.

I don’t know much about either of these two bars. The Corner Longhorn Saloon, which got top billing in this paring, is now a parking lot. But the building that housed the Cow Palace had been a long succession of gay bars going back to the 1960s. Before the Cow Palace, it was the In Between. After the Cow Palace, it became the Bolt, the Brig, and finally, the Power House.

TODAY IN HISTORY”
“The Well of Loneliness” Published: 1927. The lesbian love story was so controversial that three publishers turned it down. When it was finally published in England, it appeared in a plain, discreet black cover. It wasn’t particularly racy; the only sexual description consisted of the phrases, “she kissed her full on the lips,” and “that night, they were not divided.” By today’s standards, the book may seem tame, but in 1927 Radclyffe Hall’s novel caused a sensation in Britain. The publisher sent review copies to only a few select newspapers and magazines who he thought could handle the lesbian-themed content. Most reviewers praised the book for its courage or panned it for its dreariness. But only one found it objectionable. James Douglas at the Sunday Express responded by mounting a massive campaign against the novel. “I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel,” he wrote.

Despite most of the British press’s defending the book, the publisher soon landed in court on obscenity charges. Several authors came to his defense — E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and James Melville among them — but the judge declared the novel obscene. It wasn’t the story line he found objectionable; it was the novel’s plea for tolerance and acceptance that made it “more subtle, demoralizing, corrosive and corruptive than anything ever written.” He ruled that it would “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences,” and ordered copies rounded up and burned.

A 1951 paperback edition.

The ban and the massive newspaper campaign against the book only served to increase the public’s curiosity and demand for the book, as these things do. And wherever there’s a demand, there’s a supply. And The Well’s supply was met by a publisher in France who shipped copies surreptitiously to newsstands throughout Britain. That had the effect of lowering British officials’ enthusiasm for banning other lesbian-themed novels that followed. A Home Office memo observed, “It is notorious that the prosecution of the Well Of Loneliness resulted in infinitely greater publicity about lesbianism than if there had been no prosecution.” But it wouldn’t be until 1949 when The Well could be published in Britain again — not because any laws had changed, but because the Home Office simply decided to look the other way. It has remained in continuous publication since then.

Surprisingly, the book’s appearance in the U.S. generated a different reaction. Sure, there were attempts to ban it in the U.S. Customs Court and in New York City, where police seized 865 copies from its American publisher’s offices, but both attempts came to naught. When the court cleared the novel of obscenity, the publisher responded by putting out a “victory” edition, and the ensuing publicity raised demand for the book here as it did in England. And despite it’s high price of $5 (about twice the cost of an average hardback novel), The Well would go through six printings and sell over 100,00 copies by the time it was cleared by the courts. The Well of Loneliness has been in continuous American publication since its 1928 debut, and it has served as an inspiration and comfort for countless women in the ensuing decades.

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45 YEARS AGO: Gay Liberation Front Organizes First Post-Stonewall March Against Police Harassment: 1969. In the days following the Stonewall rebellion on June 28, the Mattachine Society of New York sponsored several discussion groups to try to tap into the newly-energized gay community and figure out what their next steps should be. One problem that quickly emerged was that in the rebellious atmosphere of the late 1960s, most of the younger crowd was in no mood to sit around and hold endless planning meetings. They were looking for something to do now, and that something, in that place in time, meant taking things to the streets.

An early GLF meeting.

An early GLF meeting.

Meanwhile, a new force had emerged on the scene, the Gay Liberation Front, which was an ad-hoc movement that had emerged just three days after the riot. The GLF’s approach to things was truly radical. It eschewed leadership structures and defined all attempts of control. All decisions were made by consensus — often after paralyzing discussions, arguments and endless political analysis. But the GLF was anything but passive, and many credit it with preventing the momentum of Stonewall from dying out, as had happened so many times before when LGBT people had risen up against anti-gay oppression.

One of the GLF’s first public actions took place a month after Stonewall with a march to demand an end to discrimination and police harassment. A crowd of five hundred gathered for a rally at Washington Square. Martha Shelly, president of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis and a GLF founding member, kicked things off: “Brothers and sisters, welcome to the city’s first gay power vigil. We’re tired of being harassed and persecuted. If a straight couple can hold hands in Washington Square, why can’t we? … We’re tired of straight people who are hung up on sex. Tired of flashlights and peeping-tom vigilantes. Tired of marriage laws that punish you for lifting your head off the pillow.”

After more speeches by Marty Robinson and a straight ally who called herself Sister Marlene, the crowd began marching, four abreast, to Sheridan Square, clapping and shouting “Gay Power!” and other slogans, bringing traffic on Sixth Avenue to a halt. When they arrived at Sheridan Square, there were more speeches, appeals for money, and a round of “We Shall Overcome.” Jonathan Black at The Village Voice observed that “gay power had surfaced … A mild protest, to be sure, but apparently only the beginning.”

[Sources: Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 90-91.

Jonathan Black. "Gay Power Hits Back." The Village Voice (July 31, 1969): 1, 3, 28. Available online here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
95 YEARS AGO: Martin Block: 1919-1995. His life was in books, from the early years in which he made deliveries for a book store in New York City, to working at a book store in Grand Central Terminal after a stint in the military, to becoming one of the owners of Studio Book Store after moving to Hollywood. It was there, in 1950, that his friend, Rudi Gernreich, invited him to join an organization that Rudi, his lover Harry Hay (see Apr 7), and others were forming. Block remembered going to his first meeting of what would become the Mattachine Society:

Everybody was scared. I guess people were rather psychotic about it. But because of my background, this business of being afraid of the FBI or the police was a lot of shit to me at the time, as it is now. You see, my father was a socialist, and my mother was an anarchist. When the time came for the meeting, I think Rudi drive, and we took some sort of circuitous route to avoid being followed. Everybody was very worried about Mr. Hoover’s crazy FBI men. I don’t think anybody was interested in following us, but Rudi was fearful. The whole group was fearful…

Block listened to the discussions at that meeting, the talk about forming a new movement to advocate for gay people — and found that he disagreed with every word that was said. But he enjoyed the company, and decided to become a member. But after a few years, Block and several others became bored with the endless theorizing and helpless complaining. After one particularly dull meeting, Block, Dorr Legg (see Dec 15), Don Slater (see Aug 21), and Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) stayed late and talked about doing something besides talking, something that would be useful for gay people across the country. That something, they decided, would be a magazine they called ONE, from a quote by Thomas Carlyle, “A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.” Block recalled that ONE’s mission would be a simple one:

We would not attempt to turn anyone in our direction. We weren’t going to go out and say you should be gay, but we said, “You can be proud of being gay.” You can be proud of being yourself. You could look yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m me, and isn’t that nice?” That in itself was radical. Nobody put it in words, but that was the underlying thought and underlying feeling behind the magazine.

Block became ONE’s president and its first editor when the magazine debuted in January 1953. But because of demands at his bookstore and other family concerns, gave up his editorship in June and was removed as the organization’s president. He remained involved with ONE in various capacities through the 1950s. Later, he became a regular book reviewer for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Saturday Review, and the New York Times Book Review. After he closed his own bookstore in the late 1950s, Block became the manager for the book department at Robinson’s Department Store in Pasadena. He died in West Hollywood, California in 1995.

[Sources: Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1940-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 37-42.

C. Todd White. Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009): 29-47.]

Troy Perry: 1940. At fifteen, he was already a Baptist preacher and a self-described “religious fanatic.” He married in 1959 and fathered two sons, but he was not faithful to his wife. He had a few gay dalliances on the side. When the elders at the church he was pastoring found out, they forced him to resign and he moved his family to Southern California and began preaching for the Church of God of Prophecy. While there, his wife found hidden in a mattress a copy of Donald Webster Cory’s groundbreaking The Homosexual In America (see Sep 18). That led to an immediate divorce and an apparent end to his preaching career.

After a stint in the army beginning in 1965, Perry felt called to offer a place for gay people to worship freely. In 1968, he placed an ad in The Advocate announcing a worship service designed for gays in Los Angeles, and twelve people turned up on that first Sunday (see Oct 6). That would be the genesis for the Metropolitan Community Church, the only Christian denomination founded specifically to address the spiritual needs of LGBT people. MCC now has 250 congregations in 23 countries around the world.

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?

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