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Posts for March, 2014

Snyder suspends legal marriages

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2014

Earlier today I speculated that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) would find that those legal marriages occurring between the time in which Judge Friedman found the anti-gay ban unconstitutional and the time in which the court issued a stay would be precisely that: legal marriage. It seems I guessed wrong. (Buzzfeed)

On Wednesday, Snyder stated that those marriages are legal but that, because the state’s amendment banning recognition of such marriages is back on the books while the stay is in place, “the rights tied to these marriages are suspended” for the time being.

There may be legal arguments supporting that view, but I suspect this may have political consequences that do not work in his favor.

The immediate consequence is that this opens the marriages up to federal recognition.

Michigan Gov. Snyder coy on marriage, waiting for legal counsel

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2014

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has been walking a narrow line since Federal Judge Bernard Friedman found that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution. Although Snyder is on tape stating in 2010 that he believed marriage to be “between a man and a woman”, he is now insisting that he has no public opinion on the matter and will go by whatever the courts decide.

Snyder is trying to differentiate himself from the state’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette (R), who has appealed the decision and on whose behest the court has issued a stay. He’s trying to play the role of spectator, an uninterested party who will do as directed.

And, as a practical matter, he is. Other than as cheerleader in either direction, his views are immaterial to the outcome.

But Snyder does have one significant role in the process. He will decide whether or not the State of Michigan will honor those marriages that occurred between the ruling and the stay.

Of course the courts can overrule Snyder’s decision, whatever it may be. But should he decide to honor the marriages, it will eliminate delay and ease the transition. And it is unlikely that a court would overturn such a decision or even that anyone has standing to appeal it.

And on that matter, Snyder is walking softly: (MLive)

“I appreciate that it’s a confusing circumstance, and I would like to provide some clarity, but I need to do that based on legal advice,” Snyder told reporters after an unrelated event in Lansing. “We’re going through that analysis at this time.”

The legal status of those marriage licenses is in question, and a three-judge 6th Circuit panel did not offer any clarification on Tuesday when they extended the stay pending the outcome of an appeal by Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Press Secretary Sara Wurfel said the Snyder administration is prepared to offer guidance to same-sex couples who obtained licenses as soon as a legal analysis is complete. That could be later Wednesday, or it could be later in the week.

Wurfel said the governor’s legal team is examining whether the state should recognize those marriage licenses for tax purposes, adoption and more. Michigan does not currently recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

“Legal advice” could go either way. But, to speculate, I think the likelier course is that Snyder’s legal team will find that legally married couples are legally married.

There’s very little political downside to recognizing marriages that have occurred. And Snyder, who seems to have no fire in his belly over social issue has mostly shied away from contentious issues, expressing a desire to focus on jobs and the economy.

And the risk of opposing recognition is high. Michigan is a purple state in which a majority supports marriage equality. Should he refuse to recognize marriage – only to be overruled by a court – it could make him appear to be an intransigent right-winger in a year in which he is seeking reelection.

UPDATE: Snyder opposes recognition.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 26

Jim Burroway

March 26th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Belgian LGBT Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; OutBoard, Steamboat Springs, CO; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, March 1968, page 8

 
Located in Los Angeles’s Silverlake gayborhood where Santa Monica Blvd veers to the southeast to become Sunset, Connie’s place was one of a handful of gay bars located within just a few blocks of each other. A few months after this ad appeared in the Los Angeles Advocate, Connie’s place apparently redecorated, and its ads invited readers to see their “all-new roaring twenties atmosphere.” Apparently that didn’t work out. A few years later, Connie’s Place chucked whatever elegance it could muster, changed its name to the Male Box, and became a gay leather/biker bar (see the ad for Mar 22). The building’s still there, and is home to the (straight) hipster 4100 Bar.

L-R: David McCord, David Zamora, and Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Boulder, CO Issues Same-Sex Marriage Licenses: 1975. It all began when Dave McCord and Dave Zamora, both 27, went to their local county clerk’s office for El Paso County (Colorado Springs) and sought a marriage license. According to McCord, the clerk told them, “We do not do that here in El Paso County, but if you want to, go to Boulder County, they might do it there.”

They then went to Boulder and asked County Clerk Clela Rorex for a license. Rorex turned to the county’s Assistant District Attorney, William C. Wise, who wrote a quick memorandum noting that Colorado’s marriage laws weren’t gender specific. “There is no statutory law prohibiting the issuance of a license, probably because the situation was simply not contemplated in the past by our legislature. The case law is strongly on the side of the public official that refuses to issue a marriage license in these situations, and a public official could not be prosecuted for violation of any criminal law by such marriage licensing,” Wise wrote.

With Wise’s decision in hand, Rorex decided, as a “strictly administration decision,” that she would issue the county’s first same-sex marriage license to McCord and Zamora. “I am not in violation of any law,” she reasoned, “and it is not for me to legislate morality and not give persons a license if I so desire.” She also said she would continue to issue licenses in similar case as long as it was legal.

A month later, a guy by the name of Roswell Howard tried to protest the decision by showing up with a horse and a plethora of reporters. “a boy can marry a boy and a girl can marry a girl, why can’t a lonesome old cowboy get hitched to his favorite saddle mare?”, he said to the cameras. But Rorex as quick to deny the license, and she had solid legal backing to do so: the horse was too young to marry without written parental consent.

Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan.

Six couples were married altogether before the State Attorney General stepped in to call a halt. Among them were California residents Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan, an Australian national who was trying to legally immigrate to the U.S. to be with Adams. They had already married on March 20 in a religious ceremony officiated by the Metropolitan Community Church’s founder, Rev. Troy Perry, in the hopes that they could secure a green card for Sullivan on First Amendment freedom-of-religion grounds. When they heard Johnny Carson joke about the marriage licenses being issued in Boulder, they flew to Colorado and got their license on April 21.

Three days later, the Colorado Attorney General declared the six marriages invalid and ordered a halt to the licenses. The INS made it clear that it would not recognize Sullivan’s marriage. The INS district director wrote, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” That crude ruling was quickly replaced with a more official declaration stating that the marriage was invalid because neither spouse “can perform the female functions in marriage.” The couple sued in Federal Court, but judge Irving Hill ruled against them, grounding his ruling partly on religious principles, which “could not possibly sanction any marriage between persons of the same because of the vehement condemnation in the Scriptures of both religions (Christianity and Judaism) of all homosexual relationships” — ignoring the couple’s MCC religious marriage in the process. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

After living abroad, Adams and Sullivan slipped back into the U.S., with Sullivan living as an undocumented immigrant. The couple remained together for four decades, until Adams’s death in 2012. None of the six couples married in Colorado saw their marriages formally annulled. Instead, their licenses were simply ignored, as though they didn’t exist. Two decades after Boulder’s historic step, Rorex reflected on that momentous decision to grant the licenses:

“Honestly, I was pretty young,” says Rorex, who went on to get her master’s in both public administration and legal administration and has been with the Native American Rights Fund’s Boulder office since 1992. “I had no real political background; I was not a political animal when I ran for that office. I didn’t even know any gays or lesbians. I didn’t know anything about the issue. I just operated from gut instinct.”

And her gut told her to give a license to two men who loved each other and wanted to get married. “It felt like the right thing to do,” she recalls, “but I couldn’t have articulated why in 1975.” She can today.

“Over all of these years, I’ve watched this issue, because of the place I was at that time — the accidental moment of history I was involved in — and I’ve grown to become a real staunch crusader for same-sex marriages,” Rorex says. “I’m continually surprised that it has taken so long for people to give equal rights to same-sex partnerships.

[Additional source: Joyce Murdoch & Deb Price. Courting Justice: Gay Men And Lesbians V. The Supreme Court (New York: Basic Books, 2001): 219-225.]

Gay Group Meets at White House: 1977. In a historic first, a group of gay advocates from the National Gay Task Force (later, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) met with presidential aide Midge Costanza for the first official discussion of gay rights at the White House. Gay rights leaders, including Bruce Voeller (see May 12), Jean O’Leary, Frank Kameny (see May 21), Elaine Noble (see Jan 22), Rev. Troy Perry (see Jul 27), William B. Kelley, and several others, told reporters that the three hour meeting was “a happy milestone on the road to full equality under the law.” The meeting took place while President Jimmy Carter was away at Camp David for the weekend, but participants were assured that Carter was aware of the meeting and promised to support anti-discrimination legislation for employment in the federal government. “We had a fantastic meeting,” said O’Leary, NGTF co-director, “What we got was a commitment on all the issues we brought up” for further discussion not only at the White House, but within individual executive agencies.

The next day, White House Press Secretary Jody Powell appeared in CBS’s Face the Nation and defended the meeting. “For an organized group who feel they have a grievance that they are not being treated fairly, for them to have a right to put that grievance before high officials and say ‘we want redress,’ that to me is what the essence of America is all about.”

But Anita Bryant, who was then campaigning against a Miami, Florida gay rights ordinance, thundered her disaproval in a written statement. “Behind the high sounding appeal against discrimination in job and housing — which is not a problem to the ‘closet’ homosexual — they are really asking to be blessed in their abnormal lifestyle by the office of the President if the United States. I protest the action of the White House staff in dignifying these activists for special privilege with a serious discussion of their alleged ‘human rights’.” Later that day her self-righteous indignation grew: “Before I surrender to this insidious attack on God and His laws and the parents and their rights to protect their children, I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before.”

US Supreme Court Overturns Oklahoma’s Ban on Teachers Who Support Gay Rights: 1985. In 1978, Oklahoma state Senator Mary Helm introduced a bill allowing public schools to fire or refuse to hire anyone who engaged in “public homosexual activity” or “public homosexual conduct” (see Feb 21). The first was violation, “public homosexual activity,” was defined as any act which violated the state’s anti-sodomy law (which also banned heterosexual sodomy, but Helms’s law only dealt with violations by gay people) and the second provision concerning “public homosexual conduct” was defined to include “advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting public or private homosexual activity in a manner that creates a substantial risk that such conduct will come to the attention of schoolchildren or school employees.” That latter provision endangered heterosexual teachers who might presume to defend gay neighbors or relatives. Shortly after the bill was introduced, more than 100 teenage boys joined KKK chapters in local high schools to “declare war on homosexuals” (see Jan 25) with the full support of Klan leader David Duke (who happened to be a friend of Family Research Council’s current president Tony Perkins.) One student Klansman declared, “We are not just against blacks like the old Klan. We are against gays … because this activity is morally and socially wrong.”

Anita Bryant lobbied the Senate for the bill’s passage, saying that it would curb “the flaunting of homosexuality.” The Helm’s Bill sailed through the House and Senate, passing the upper chamber unanimously. Stan Easter, a gay man licensed to teach in Oklahoma, sued the Oklahoma City Board of Education in Federal Court with the backing of the National Gay Task Force. But Easter backed out over the backlash. Fortunately, Federal Judge Luther Eubanks said NGTF had standing to sue based on sworn affidavits stating that the group’s gay members included Oklahoma teachers who feared that having their names made public would result in their immediate firing. But Eubanks then went on to uphold the law’s constitutionality. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals largely reversed his decision, saying that while a teacher could be fired for violating Oklahoma’s sodomy law, the rest of the law violated teachers’ free speech rights under the First Amendment. The State of Oklahoma appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which deadlocked 4-4 (Justice Lewis Powell, seriously ill with prostate cancer, was absent during oral arguments and didn’t vote). That meant that the lower court’s ruling stood and the gag rule against Oklahoma teachers was lifted, but the ban on teachers engaging in “public homosexual activity” remained.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Tennessee Williams: 1911-1983. If you were to ask who was the most celebrated gay playwright in history, most people, gay or straight, may point to Tennessee Williams. Which is ironic because if the gay themes in his work is any indication, he appears to have been rather conflicted by his homosexuality. Blanche’s first husband in the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire killed himself. So did Skipper in the Pulitzer Prize winning Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, and his death threatened to out his pro football buddy and severe alcoholic Brick. In Suddenly, Last Summer, Sebastian was torn apart and eaten by the boys whose sexual favors he sought. For the most part, gay characters are dead and don’t appear on the stage in Williams’s plays; Brick remained closeted, with just enough deniability for straight audience members who didn’t want to see it.

As for Williams himself, he was certainly not closeted, socializing in gay circles and taking a string of lovers. His most enduring relationship with Frank Merlo lasted sixteen years; they remained together until Merlo’s death in 1963. That plunged Williams into a severe depressions, for which he turned to Dr. Max Jacobson for help. Jacobson, nicknamed “Dr. Feelgood,” prescribed amphetamines for this depression and Seconal for his insomnia. Unsurprisingly, Williams appeared incoherent in several interviews, and his reputation suffered. He died in a Paris hotel room in 1983, having chocked to death on the cap from an eye drops bottle, surrounded by barbiturates and other prescription drugs.

T.R. Knight: 1973. Theodore Raymond began his acting career at the age of five at Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater. He won a scholarship the the Minneapolis-based Children’s Theatre Company while a freshman in high school. After high school, he landed several leading roles at the Guthrie before moving to New York to try his luck on Broadway, where he appeared in the 2001 revival of Noises Off and the 2003 revival of Tertuffe. But his big break came two years later when he landed the role as Dr. George O’Malley in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.

Knight’s work on Grey’s Anatomy was well received and things seemed to be going fairly well until late 2006, when rumors began circulating that his Grey’s Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington insulted Knight with a homophobic slur. A short time later, Knight came out and Washington issued a statement apologizing for his “unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set.” But the controversy resurfaced again during the Golden Globe Awards in January when Washington responded to a question from the press that “I never called T.R. a faggot.” But Knight countered that defense during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, saying “everybody heard him.” Washington apologized again, but his fate was sealed. Later that summer, ABC announced that it wasn’t renewing Washington’s Contract. Knight, for his part, remained with Grey’s Anatomy for two more seasons before leaving in 2009 due to what he called a “breakdown in communication” with the executive producer over his lack of screen time and his decision to be open about his sexuality.

Since Grey’s Anatomy, Knight returned to the theater, appearing in several off-Broadway productions as well as the Broadway’s A Life in the Theatre in 2010. On October 5, 2013, Knight married Patrick Leahy, his partner of three years, in Hudson, New York.

Jonathan Groff: 1985. The bulk of his career has been in the theater, beginning with his role as Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening, for which he was nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk Award, and won a Grammy for best Musical Show Album featured soloist. He has appeared in an off-Broadway revival of Hair, and he made his West End debut in 2010 in Deathtrap at the Noël Coward Theatre. He’s also worked in some television time, with a recurring role in One Life to Live and Glee. My four-year-old niece will recognize his voice in the Disney animated feature Frozen, for which he lent his voice to the mountain man, Kristoff.

His last two projects have both been with HBO. This year, he starred as Patrick, a gay video game developer in the HBO series Looking, which completed its eight-episode first season earlier this month. The series started slowly, but found its footing as the season went on, with Groff’s character ending the season in an awkward unresolved triangle with Richie, a barber and Patrick’s main love interest, and a drunken session with Kevin, his boss. HBO has announced that they are ordering a second season. Groff has also signed on to play Craig Donner in HBO’s adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart.

Scotty Joe Weaver: 1986-2004. He should have turned twenty-eight today, but he only managed to see his eighteenth birthday. On July 22, 2004, his badly burned body was found at the side of a rural Alabama road. He had been beaten, strangled, cut, burned and robbed of between $65 and $80. While robbery was first thought to be the main motivation, Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone quickly determined that Weaver’s sexuality was the reason he was killed. “We have very specific evidence that indicates part of the motive involved his sexual orientation,” he said, noting that the wounds on Scotty Joe’s body indicated “overkill,” a common feature of anti-gay hate crimes.

Robert Porter, 18, Nichole Bryars Kelsay, 18, and Christopher Gaines, 20 were arrested and charged with capital murder. Gaines and Kelsay had been Scotty Joe’s roommates, and Gaines’ lawyer at that time said that Gaines told him that Porter “spoke openly of wanting to kill the guy because he was gay.” Gaines pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life without parole. Porter pleaded guilty and received two consecutive life sentences. Kelsay pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 20 years. Alabama doesn’t have a hate crime law covering sexual orientation. And despite the District Attorney’s findings, Scotty Joe Weaver’s murder was not included in the FBI’s hate crime statistics for 2004, representing another example of the gaps in the FBI’s hate crime reporting program. The crime was featured in the 2006 documentary, Small Town Gay Bar.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Oh the apostasy, the apostasy!!

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2014

Long time Box Turtle Bulletin readers will recognize Michael Brown.

Brown is the pastor in Charlotte, NC, who for years led a red-shirted mob to protest and harass witness to attendees at the local gay pride. He used the opportunity of the massacre at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv to complain the Proposition 8 supporters had received “death threats”. He railed against programs designed to reduce anti-gay bullying. And then I stopped paying attention.

Brown is pretty much the educated man’s Linda Harvey. Every bit as mean, but with a better vocabulary.

So Brown is a perfect candidate for the Christian Post to have respond to the article in Christianity Today about the change in policy at World Vision. A fixture in the brand of Christianity that believes that Jesus came primarily so that the Old Testament’s purity codes could be expanded to Gentiles (he’d never put it this way, of course), it was a sure thing that Brown would denounce World Vision in certain and absolute (if somewhat comical) terms.

He didn’t disappoint.

The Apostasy of World Vision Embracing Gay Marriage

World Vision has decided to embrace homosexual “marriage” among its employees and to recognize practicing homosexual employees who profess faith in Jesus as true Christians.

This is a betrayal of the gospel, a betrayal of the Lord, a betrayal of the family, and a betrayal of the countless thousands of Christians who have put their trust in World Vision as a legitimate Christian organization.

Because surely professing faith in Jesus is not a measure of “true Christianity”. True Heaven forbid!!

It reminds me of the time that I read the definition of True Christians that True Jesus established:

John 13: 34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love reject one another, even as I have loved ranted at you, that you also love condemn one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love restrictions, litmus tests, and accusations of apostacy for one another.” [True Christian Version]

About that radical militant activist Judge Friedman

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2014

The National Organization for Marriage (theirs, not yours) has had a rough time of it lately. With loss after loss in courts across the country, financial woes, and staggering shifts in public opinion, they’ve pretty much given up the fight in the US.

Oh, they are still flogging their plans for a Marriage March (as the last one was so effective, snark) but when I went to their website following the Michigan ruling for the predictable rant about liberals and one man in robes overruling the voters, Brian Brown and Co. hadn’t even made a comment. They finally, yesterday, got around to posting the opinion of the local Catholic bishop, but it was just too tame to quote.

So we’ll have to settle for the knowledge that if Brian Brown hadn’t been sobbing under his desk, he’d have served us the usual portion of “radical militant activist judges legislating from the bench”.

So let’s take a look at radical militant activist Judge Friedman. And you already know where this is going, don’t you.

The great gods of irony have long since writ the script on marriage equality decisions. And they’ve decided that despite decades of Republicans campaigning on the idea that they must be elected to appoint true defenders of the constitution, a good many of those jurists who have found that gay people are equally protected by the US Constitution hail from the R side of the judicial pool.

So, of course, for this ruling – the one that tolled the death knell of their last claim to anti-gay “research” – the irony gods pulled out all the stops. Not only is Friedman a life-long conservative Republican with long record of right-side-of-the-aisle perspective on law, he was appointed by the glowing idol of the GOP. (Slate)

Judge Bernard Friedman is from eastern Michigan, where he was an honors student at Michigan State University and did JAG service during Vietnam. He became a reliable conservative jurist and was appointed by President Reagan in 1988.

Someone hand Brian Brown another hanky.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 25

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), September 1977, page 10.

 
That burst of gay-rights activism right after the 1969 Stonewall rebellion had petered out considerably as the first half of the 1970s ground on. After weathering Vietnam, Watergate, the oil embargo, runaway inflation and “Feelings”, all anybody wanted to do, gay or straight, was do a little dance, make a little love, and get down tonight. But Anita Bryant’s vicious anti-gay campaign to repeal Miami’s gay rights ordinance (see Jun 7) re-galvanized a complacent gay community into action, and not just in South Florida. Bryant promised to take her anti-gay crusade nationwide, and rumors abounded about further anti-gay ordinances and ballot initiatives in cities across America. Activists in Washington, D.C., fearing that the nation’s capital would be a likely target, organized a coalition called the Dialog for Human Rights. Member groups included the National Organization for Women, the Gay Activists Alliance, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and they immediately set about a fundraising drive to counter whatever might be headed their way. As it happened, D.C. was spared, but St. Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25); Wichita, Kansas (see May 9);  and Eugene, Oregon fell victim to the Bryant steamroller before it was finally turned back in Seattle and California (see Nov 7).

TODAY IN HISTORY:
385 YEARS AGO: Thomas/Thomasine Hall: 1629. The Virginia Colony Court’s records describe the case of a servant, Thomas or Thomasine Hall, who claimed to be “both a man and a woman.” In testimony before the court, Hall told of being born at or near Newcastle Upon Tyne and recalled being christened “by the name of Thomasine.” Hall was dressed in woman’s apparel until the age of twelve. At the age of 22 while living in London, Hall’s brother joined the army and Hall “cut off his hair and changed his apparel into the fashion of a man” and joined the army. After leaving the army, Hall again “changed himself into woman’s apparel and made bone lace and did other work with his needle.” Shortly after, Hall again changed “his apparel into the habit of a man and so came over into this country.”

After arriving in Virginia as a male, he changed his expression back to that of a woman, but rumors spread that “Hall did lie with a maid … called Great Bess.” In one encounter, two men assaulted Hall, threw him on his back and “pulled out his members,” revealing that Hall anatomically “was a perfect man.” Three other women testified to having searched Hall and reported that “he was a man.” But a Captain Basse performed an inspection and determined that there was “a piece of flesh growing at the [section of the document is missing] belly as big as the top of his littler finger (an) inch long.” Basse commanded Hall “to be put in woman’s apparel,” apparently deciding that Hall was a female. To finally resolve the case, the Court decided to accept Hall’s own self-definition as both man and woman, and ordered the determination “to be published in the plantation” where Hall lived, “that he is a man and a woman” and ordered Hall to “go clothed in man’s apparel, only his head to be attired in a coyfe (coif) and crosscloth with an apron before him.”

280 YEARS AGO: 300 Lashes In Savannah for Sodomy: 1734. The description is extremely brief. No names, no details, just two short sentences in the diary of Johann Boltzius and Israel Gronau, Lutheran pastors who ministered to German settlers in the Georgia Colony:

Today an execution of judgment was held here in Savannah. A man from this place had been accused and convicted of sodomy and inciting others, for which he was to receive three hundred lashes under the gallows.

Samuel B. Woodward

“Insanity, Produced by Masturbation”: 1835. In 1829, the state of Massachusetts was alerted to the growing problem of “lunatics and persons furiously mad” who were being kept in local jails, almshouses, or private homes. After completing an informal census of the numbers of people suffering from mental illness, the state legislature established in the Massachusetts Lunatic Hospital in Worcester, among the nation’s first insane asylums, which opened its doors in 1833 under its first superintendent, Dr. Samuel B. Woodward. In many ways, Woodward’s approach represented a significant breakthrough in the attitudes towards treating the mentally ill, who he regarded as suffering from diseases which were not unlike physical illnesses.

However, being a product of his times, Woodward’s understanding of physical and mental illnesses reflected an era when medicine was still based on little more than lore and folk medicine. The mental health profession had even less to go on than that. But I guess they had to start somewhere. And observing the activities of the patients at the Lunatic Hospital was perhaps as good a place to start as anywhere else. On March 25, 1835, Woodward contributed a short article to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (which would later become the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine) detailing what he considered to be an important cause of mental illness:

No cause is more influential in producing Insanity, and, in a special manner, perpetuating the disease, than Masturbation. The records of the institutions give an appalling catalogue of cases attributed to this cause; and yet such records do not show nearly all the cases which are justly ascribable to it. For it is so obscure, and so secret in its operation, that the friends in almost all cases are wholly ignorant of it. It is in a few cases only, where the practice of the vice becomes shamefully notorious, that friends are willing to allow its agency in the production of any disease, particularly insanity; and yet no cause operates more directly upon the mind and the feeling. The mental energies are prostrated by the habit in innumerable cases, long before the delusions of insanity appear. Indeed there are many cases, in which insanity does not intervene between the incipient stages of that mental and physical imbecility, which comes early upon the victim of masturbation, and the most deplorable and hopeless idiocy, in which it frequently results.

It’s easy to be distracted by the terminology used in the early nineteenth century: idiocy, imbecility, lunacy. Today, these words are purely pejorative. But in the nineteenth century, these words had different and rather specific meanings to describe what we today would call severe intellectual disability (or severe mental retardation), milder learning difficulties, and psychosis respectively. And while Woodward used to word “vice” to describe the “notorious” practice, it would be a mistake to assume that Woodward was writing wholely out of moral indignation. (It would also be a mistake to assert that Woodward was immune to the moral indignity directed towards all non-procreative sex acts that was common in his society.)

Instead, it is perhaps best to understand Woodward as operating from what was perhaps the first true mental health laboratory in the U.S. For the first time, a trained physician could directly observe, under controlled conditions, their charges’ conduct. And these charges, often, weren’t self-possessed enough to limit their activities to what was considered proper conduct, including sexual conduct. And since sexual conduct was most certainly not a subject for polite society, Kinsey’s findings that virtually everyone masturbated would come more than a century too late to be of any use to Woodward. And so when Woodward saw crazy people masturbating, he drew the conclusion that masturbation made people crazy, though not always:

This is not, however, always the case. In some individuals there is all the raving of the most furious mania, or the deep and cruel torture of hapless melancholy, before the mind is obliterated and the energies of the system forever prostrated. … Those cases of insanity arising from other known causes, in which masturbation is a symptom, are rendered more hopeless by this circumstance. It is a counteracting influence to all the means of cure employed, either moral or medicinal, and coinciding as it does with whatever other causes may have had an agency in producing disease, renders the case almost hopeless. Of the number of tbe insane that have come under the observation of the writer (and that number is not small), few, very few have recovered, who have been in the habit of this evil practice; and still fewer, I might say almost none, have recovered, in which insanity or idiory has followed the train of symptoms enumerated in a former paper, indicating the presence of the habit, and its debilitating influence upon the minds and bodies of the young.

Clearly, with the limited data available to him, Woodward had difficulty sorting out causation versus correlation, which was a common problem in his day (as it often is today). But he provided some data to try to cast some light on this conundrum. But with no criteria to ascertain whether it was a cause or an effect of the patients’ mental health problems (or totally unrelated altogether, a prospect which apparently never occurred to him), it’s hard to see how it helps:

Of eighty males, insane, that have come under the observation of the writer, and who have been particularly examined and watched, with reference to ascertaining the proportion that practised masturbation, something more than a quarter were found to practise it; and in about 10 per cent., a large proportion of which are idiotic, the disease is supposed to have arisen from this cause.

Once someone had moved on to madness, Woodward wrote, it would be almost impossible to cure him of the practice. “They will rarely form resolutions on the subject, and still more rarely adhere to them. Reason, the balance wheel of the mind, being denied them, they are obnoxious to the influence of all the propensities in a high degree.” But he offered this advice for those who found that they could strain themselves from the habit:

As the inebriate would probably never conquer his appetite for alcoholic drink if he indulged once a month only — so in this habit, the occasional indulgence will thwart the whole plan of cure. The diet should be simple and nutritious; the exercise should be moderate and gentle; indulgence in bed should not be allowed, and the individual should always sleep alone. A matrass (sic) is better than a soft bed. He should rise immediately upon waking, and never retire till the disposition to sleep comes strongly upon him. The cold bath is a valuable remedy, a sea bath is better, and the shower bath often superior to either.

Narcotics, if there is a high degree of irritability in the system, are valuable remedies, of which conium, belladonna, hyoscyamus, nux vomica, and opium, may be used under different circumstances, combined or singly, according to the effects. Blisters and issues on the pudenda or perineum, promise well, and the different preparations of bark and iron, and other mineral tonics, should be used till all the effects of the habit are removed, till the propensity is fully conquered, and the constitution is restored to health and vigor.

Ironically, the very next article in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, titled “Quackery,” warned against the dangerous practice that passed for medical practice and called for a system of statewide regulation of the medical profession.

As for Woodward, he would go on to co-found the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, and serve as the first president. That organization, in 1892, would rename itself the American Medico-Psychological Association which, in 1921, would rename itself again as the American Psychiatric Association.

[Source: Samuel B. Woodward. "Insanity, produced by masturbation." Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 12, no. 7 (March 25, 1835): 109-111. Available online at Google Books.]

State Department Announces Firing of 126 Homosexuals: 1952. Carlisle H. Humelsine, deputy undersecretary at the Department of State, told a House Appropriations Committee that the State Department had fired 126 people accused of homosexuality since January 1, 1951. He said that 119 had been fired from the department and the foreign service during calendar year 1951, and that seven more had been fired so far in 1952. “There is no doubt in our minds,” he told the committee, “that homosexuals are security risks. We havce been working in a very vigorous way on this particular problem. We have resolved that we are going to clean it up.”

Humelsine explained how the Department went about the task. “I think one of the reasons for what appears to be a large figure is that we went to each chief of mission and called his personal attention to it, and said that there is no doubt that we have just got to eradicate this influence from the foreign service. We did the same ting in the department, and I think this shows the results of that sort of work. I hope that next year will show that we have broken the back of this particular problem.”

Committee chairman Rep. John J. Rooney (D-NY) commended the State Department’s efforts, and went on to make what he called a “gratuitous observation that the State Department wasn’t the only government agency with gay people on the payroll. “We probably could do the same thing in all of the departments of the Government, including Interior, Post Office, Treasury and everywhere else. This has been extensively advertised as a problem which is solely the State Department’s, but the facts do not bear that out …. After this committee questioned such possible conditions in the Department of Commerce, it was only a very short time until they had 53, and they were still weeding them out.”

Betty Friedan Says Lesbians Are Taking Over the Women’s Movement: 1973. During the first major fundraising event for the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, noted feminist author Betty Friedan and NOW founder cited “man hating” and lesbians as two factors that would hinder progress for women. In remarks to those gathered, the author of the 1963 book The Feminine Mystique which is credited for sparking the Women’s movement in the 1960s, repeated her opinion that lesbians were being used as a ploy to divide women. “Let U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug introduce a bill for lesbian mothers. Let Ms. Magazine do a special issue about lesbians. But let us concentrate on men and women working together for full partnership in society.” She continued:

“I have had to say some uncomfortable things because I felt they were important. I think the movement has been infiltrated and the lesbian issue has been pushed forward for divisive purposes. We must not let ourselves be used. … You don’t have to hate men or give up children to be liberated.”

An Associated Press article describing the meeting reported this reaction to Friedan’s remarks:

“Her putting down of the lesbian issue as irrelevant to the women’s movement was incredible,” said Jan Welch, who described herself as a feminist, NOW member and a lesbian, but not a man hater. “I want her to prove that I am somehow harmful to the movement because I am a lesbian. I think it’s Betty that’s causing all the problems.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Anita Bryant: 1940. The less said, the better.

Elton John: 1947. He was born Reginald Dwight in Middlesex. He started playing piano at the age of three, and took up formal lessons at seven. He took to composition and showmanship early, writing his own music and playing piano like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions. By eleven, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he learned Chopin and Bach. He became a pub pianist at fifteen and began playing in bands around London. He answered an ad in the New Musical Express for a songwriter, and was given a stack of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. Dwight wrote music for the lyrics and sent them back to Taupin, and one of history’s most successful song-writing partnerships was born. Shortly after, Dwight adopted the name Elton John. In 1969 he recorded his first Album, Empty Sky, and followed that up with the eponymous Elton John, which yielded him his first US Top Ten single, “Your Song.” A string of hits followed, building toward the 1973 smash “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” from the album by the same name. In 1976, he “came out” as bisexual, but few believed him. When he married German recording engineer Renate Blauel in 1984, many speculated that the marriage was just a cover. They divorced in 1988, and he finally decided he was “comfortable” being gay.” In 1992, he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation which raises money for HIV/AIDS prevention and fighting stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. Since 1993, John has been in a relationship with David Furnish, which they formalized with a civil partnership in 2005. They became parents in 2010.

Sheryl Swoops: 1971. The standout women’s basketball player led her Texas Tech teammates to the NCAA women’s basketball championship in 1993 during her senior year after setting several NCAA records which are still on the books today. When the Women’s National Basketball Association was formed in 1997, she was the first player signed to the new league. She began her professional career with the Houston Comets, returning to the court only six weeks after giving birth to her son and leading the Comets to the 1997 WNBA Championship. From 1995 to 1999, she was married to her high school sweetheart, but in 2005 she finally announced that she was gay, saying “it doesn’t change who I am. I can’t help who I fall in love with. No one can. … Discovering I’m gay just sort of happened much later in life. Being intimate with [Alisa] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I’m a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can’t control that.” Over time, it appears that Swoopes has determined that she is not so much gay as bisexual: in 2011, she broke up with Alisa and became engaged to a man.

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World Vision unifies marriage requirements

Timothy Kincaid

March 24th, 2014


World Vision is one of the largest charities in the world, pulling in between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars each year. They are also highly rated, with good transparency and spending about 85 cents of each dollar on program services.

Focused on fighting poverty, hunger and injustice, they provide services to about 100 million people in 100 countries basing their charity on need, not on religious belief or political ideology. Although they are one of the largest AIDS services providers in the world, they also focus strongly on community development and sustainable futures.

World Vision is decided an Evangelical Christian organization. And, as such, they have strict rules about hiring, requiring employees to be Christian and to adhere to sexual ethics which includes “abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage”.

Now World Vision has decided to, well, NOT change the terms of those requirements. They have, however, decided that gay Christians who seek employment with them must follow the same rules as heterosexuals. (Christianity Today)

“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

This was a decision based on the reality that Christendom is no longer unified on the place of gay people in society or the church. With many Episcopalians and Lutherans and Congregationalists now finding grace in same-sex marriages, World Vision decided that it was not its job to hold to some purity test for just who could be the hands of Christ to a sick child or impoverished family.

Stearns took pains to emphasize what World Vision is not communicating by the policy change.

“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”

“We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us,” said Stearns. “This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.

“Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.,” he said. “So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles’ Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters.”

The organization leaves a great deal of autonomy to local affiliates in hiring decisions, so this policy will not necessarily have global impact. For example, although World Vision opposed the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, there is a recognition that the Christian community in Uganda is homophobic so there is little expectation that local managers will hire someone in a same-sex marriage.

Nevertheless, this is a hugely important shift.

Until just a few years ago, marriage was a shared position of much of Christian faith and those who supported inclusion were an anomaly. Now it appears that one’s take on recognition of same sex marriage is becoming – at least to this important organization – a issue of denominational theological variance, an interesting and respected matter of opinion but not essential to Christian faith.

[The article is incorrect on one item: the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not allow its ministers to conduct same-sex marriages. It is likely that this policy change will occur at the next convention (it narrowly lost in 2012), but at present the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not a marriage equality denomination.]

U.S. To Announce Sanctions Against Uganda

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2014

Key members of Congress were reportedly briefed yesterday on the Obama Administrations plans to curtail or redirect U.S. aid to Uganda in response to Yoweri Museveni’s signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. According to Buzzfeed, the Administration has settled on four specific steps:

Money will be shifted away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, a group that has publicly come out in support of the anti-gay law and has received millions of dollars in grants from the United States to help fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some $2.3 million will continue to go to the IRCU to continue treatment for some 50,000 current patients, but an additional $6.4 million intended for the IRCU will go to other organizations.

The Inter-Religious Council is a coalition of Ugandan Roman Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Christian Orthodox and Seventh-Day Adventist faith leaders. When the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first proposed in Parliament in 2009, the Inter-Religious Council debated the bill and many of its members gave it their full backing, although many questioned the death penalty provision in the original bill. But by the following spring, the Inter-Religious Council softened its support somewhat. Two weeks ago, the Inter-Religious Council defended the aims of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, while also calling on the government to revisit the legislation and asked that for a dialogue “with the donor community on the looming suspension of aid to our country.”

The remaining three steps the Obama Administration will take include:

Second, because the law makes “promoting homosexuality” illegal, a U.S. funded study to help identify populations at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS has been suspended. The study, which was going to be conducted by a Ugandan university and the Center for Disease Control, has been suspended out of fear that both staff and survey respondents could be put in danger.

Third, because any LGBT person or LGBT ally who now enters Uganda is at risk, money intended for tourism programs will be redirected. “Therefore, approximately $3 million in funding designated for tourism and biodiversity promotion will be redirected to NGOs working on biodiversity protection,” (National Security Council spokesman Jonathan) Lalley said.

And finally, the Department of Defense had several events scheduled in the country later this spring and those will be moved to other locations. “Certain near-term invitational travel” for Ugandan military and police personnel has also been suspended or canceled.

Norway, Demark, the Netherlands, which collectively had provided $27 million in aid to Uganda, have already announced their aid cuts aid to the Ugandan government. Sweden has cut just a little over $1 million in direct government-to-government aid, but was continuing to provide aid to non-governmental programs. Last month, the World Bank said it was delaying a $90 million loan to Uganda’s health service.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act provides for a lifetime sentence for those who are convicted of homosexuality. It also imposes a lifetime sentence for those who are 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 provides for the extradition of any “person charged with an offence under this Act.”

A coalition of Ugandan human rights activists are currently challenging the Anti-Homosexuality Act before the country’s Constitutional Court.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, March 24

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, February 2, 1976, page 50.

 
Harry’s Back East was a longtime gay bar whose origins went back to at least 1968. It probably owed its longevity to its reputation for being a simple, laid-back and friendly establishment. At least one story has it that Judy Garland paid a visit there in 1969 shortly before she died. It was a narrow space, with a very long bar in front that ran the length of the front room, with a separate dance room in the back with a disco ball and a large red light that came on whenever the cops entered the front. That was everyone’s signal to stop dancing and act innocent, lest the cops start arresting them for “lewd” conduct. If the owners weren’t current on their bribes however, all bets were off and everyone was arrested regardless of what the cops found. Harry’s survived that era and continued as a popular hangout until it finally closed in 1982. The location’s latest incarnation appears to have been a restaurant that has recently closed.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
ACT-UP Launches First Protest: 1987. Morning rush hour became ensnarled in lower Manhattan as 250 AIDS activists protested at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street. The protest was the result of growing frustration over New York City’s lax response to the AIDS crisis in the city as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s cautious and excruciatingly slow process for approving new drugs to combat the disease. Only one drug, AZT, had been approved so far (see Mar 19), but at $10,000 per year ($20,000 in today’s dollars) it was prohibitively expensive, hard to obtain (it was being rationed), and of very limited efficacy. European regulators had approved several other drugs for use in combating AIDS, but the FDA’s standard process for approval would take the better part of a decade, far longer than most people with AIDS would have to live.

The newly-formed group, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), was born from that frustration, and on the morning of March 24 they took to the streets for the first time. Playwright Larry Kramer, one of the group’s founder, said, “We’ve been told by the leading AIDS experts that there are drugs that are safer to use and more promising than AZT. We want these drugs and we want the Wall Street business community to help us get them.” The group also called for a massive public education campaign to stop the spread of the disease, an anti-discrimination policy for people with AIDS in treatment, insurance, employment and housing, and a national comprehensive national policy on AIDS. Protesters sat down in the middle of the street, resulting in seventeen arrests. After more than a year of protests, including a massive protest in which members of ACT-UP occupied the grounds of the FDA in Washington, D.C., (See Oct 11), the FDA finally relented and instituted a new emergency streamlined process for quicker approval of AIDS drugs.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Grethe Cammermeyer: 1942. She was born in Oslo during the Nazi occupation of Norway, in a home that was across the street from Nazi headquarters. Her parents were active in the resistance, and they used to hide guns under the mattress of her baby carriage, and push her through the streets of Oslo to make deliveries to the resistance. After the war, the family moved to the U.S. in 1951, and she became a U.S. citizen upon turning eighteen in 1960.

In 1961, she joined the Army Nurse Corps to learn to be a nurse. She married a fellow soldier in 1965, served at a hospital in Vietnam for fourteen months, then left the army in 1968 when she became pregnant for her first son. Army regulations at the time didn’t allow women to have dependent children. When that changed in 1972, she returned to the Army Reserves and rose to the rank of Colonel in 1987. Meanwhile, she gave birth to three more sons and entered a period that she called her “identity crisis, as I came to understand that I was a lesbian.” She divorced after fifteen years of marriage.

In 1988, she accepted a position as Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard. While interviewing for a top-secret clearance in 1989, she truthfully answered the question that would get her in trouble: “I am a lesbian.” During that past year, she had been in a relationship with Diane Divelbess, and the two would go on to become lifelong partners. But Cammermeyer’s answer to investigators kicked off an investigation and proceedings that ended with her discharge in 1992. She immediately filed a lawsuit to try to get her job back. In June, 1994, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Zilly ruled that the military’s ban on gays serving openly was unconstitutional. The Pentagon requested a stay of the decision, but Zilly refused, as did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. To preserve “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Pentagon elected not to appeal rather than risk a higher court ruling that would free others from serving under the ban. Cammermeyer returned to the National Guard, and retired with full military privileges in 1997.

After Washington voters approved a marriage equality referendum at the ballot box in 2012, Cammermeyer and Divelbess became the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Island County, where they make their home.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 23

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 14.

 
This is one of those clubs that came and went in New York City, more or less without a trace. The only bit of info that I can find on it is that the space had originally been a club called Stage 45 until the Lib came along in the early seventies. Today, even the storefront is gone. The building’s there, but the address has been walled- and glassed-in, and is no longer accessible from the street.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
New Haven Colony Sentences “Sundrie Youths” To Public Whipping: 1653. The court records for Puritan colony at New Haven includes the following account for March 23, 1653:

Upon a complaint made to he Governor of sundrie youths in the Town that had committed much wickedness in a filthy corrupting way one with another, they were called before the Governor and Magistrates … [Those charged were] Benjamin Bunill, Joshua Bradly, Joseph Benham,William Trobridg, Thomas Tuttill & Thomas Kimberly. They were examined in a private way, and their examinations taken in writing, which were of such a filthy nature as is not fit to be made known in a public way; after which the Court were called together, and the youths before them. Their examinations were read and, upon their several confessions, the Court … Sentenced the youths above named to be whipped publicly. And whereas John Clarke, servant to Jeremiah Whitnell, was questioned and charged by one of them for some filthy carriage, he denied it, and another of the company in some measure cleared him from that the other charged him with, whereupon he was not sentenced to be corrected publicly, but the Court left it with his master to give him that correction in the family which he should see meet, warning John Clarke that if ever any such carriage came forth against him hereafter, the court would call these miscarriages charge upon him to mind again.

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1983): 100.]

Columnist: “State Department Hires Perverts”: 1950. The early stages of the McCarthyite red scare also had distinctly pink undertones, as gay people became looked upon as being as much as a danger to national security as communists. Deputy undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy’s revelation (see Feb 28) that the State Department had fired 91 employees for being gay sent shock waves around the country and the nation’s columnist and pundit class into a tizzy. Author and novelist Robert Ruark, whose column was syndicated by Scripps-Howard, weighed in with his own unique literary style:

Looks like a new point in journalism has finally been reached, at which it is possible to face the problem of homosexuality and perversion with the same honesty it took us so long to win in the case of venereal disease. Our peering into the well of loneliness is as much overdue as our realization that syphilis and gonorrhea were something more than “social” diseases, to be hushed behind the hand.

This belated appraisal of a human aberration is due to the fact that our State Department, in record, as been filled with a type of humanity which is not “normal” as we construe normalcy in the broad sense, and that the list of perverted sex-crimes seems to be mounting furiously.

There is considerably more to abnormality in the sexes than a simple negation of boy-meets-girl. There is a great difference between homosexuality and perversion. The homosexual in a simpler sense is less dangerous to the world around him, because his odd sexual leanings creep easily into vicious criminality with innocents as victims.

Divergents from the sexual norm are pitiable, and in general live a life of mental and spiritual torture, full of frustration and persecution. Their residence in a minority group makes them subject to censure by the majority and leads them to a life in shadow.

This creates a constant nervousness that pays off in panic. Most “queers” eventually acquire a tendency to hysteria, which means the blow their tops in time of stress. Since the also must hide from the world that outweighs them — since the must always mask their activities in stealth and secrecy — they are forever open to apprehension.

A pervert fondles a child. The child cries. The creep blows his roof. He is panic-ridden and hysterically afraid of being caught. He throttles the child. A homosexual — possibly even a “happily” married one — is suddenly confronted with public awareness of his abnormal outcroppings. His position, his job, his very life is at stake. He blows his top. He has three choices. He can kill himself, jill his discoverer, or submit to blackmail.

In the loneliness that cloaks a homosexual that places him basically apart form his fellow, he scarred soul calls out for company. So his inclination is to surround himself with his like. Homosexuals travel in packs, as do most divergents from an accepted status.

It is all well to say that a man must live his own life and in a manner which best suits him, but in government which is operated for the greater good of the greatest number a dissenter from accepted behavior is a great liability. The drunkard, the boss who chases every stenographer, the sexual degenerate or homosexual all have a gaping chink in the behavioristic armor. This leads almost invariably to erratic action, neglect of job, and even to blackmail. Always to blackmail.

When a man or woman is susceptible to easy blackmail, he is a tremendous risk in a position of trust. I know the story of the highly-placed State Department executive who crowded the lists with so many homosexuals that 91 resignations of firings have recently resulted. His appointees surrounded themselves with their appointees, and on down the line. What you have finally is a corroded organization which can be bribed, bulled or blackmailed in the easiest possible fashion.

Homosexuality has figured, off stage, in one of our traitorous operations. Homosexuality and similar irresponsibility has weakened us all over the world through the State Department’s calm acceptance of abnormality. A great deal of the trouble we are in, internationally, can be laid to the tolerance of that kind of weakness in a service which should be above reproach. You can say that the queer ones are pathetic and deserve a right to pursue happiness in most businesses but you don’t need them in positions of heavy trust.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Carl Westphal: 1833-1890. the German neurologist is credited for revolutionizing psychiatry and bringing it into the world of modern medicine. That he is much lesser known today than Sigmund Freud just goes to show how much of a lock psychoanalysis held in the mental health professions throughout the first three-quarters of the twentieth century.  Westphal founded the Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten (Archives of Psychiatry and Nervous Diseases) in 1868 where, for the first time, German clinicians could publish articles and discuss a new understanding of mental illness: that it was a  medical problem rather than moral or sinful failings subject to conviction and incarceration under the law. Westphal is credited for coining the term “agoraphobia,” to describe the case of three male patients who feared going out in public. He was the first to describe what is now known as hepatolenticular degeneration, in which cooper accumulates in the tissues and causes neurological and psychiatric symptoms, as well as liver disease. And he was the first to describe narcolepsy and cataplexy, which is a sudden temporary loss of muscle tone.

And, owing to a paper Westphal published in the Archiv in 1869 where he wrote about the case of a woman who was sexually attracted to other women rather than men, Westphal became the first to describe, in clinical terms, those who experienced Konträre Sexualempfindung (“contrary sexual feeling”). He described what would later become known as homosexuality as being the result of an individual’s alienation from his or her own gender, an archaic and ultimately unproven theory that remains a crucial underpinning of much of what is taught in ex-gay circles today. Westphal wrote:

I chose the term ‘contrary sexual feeling’ from a suggestion by an admirable, and in the field of philology and archeology, most distinguished colleague, after failing to find shorter and more appropriate terms. What shall here be expressed is that it is not always simultaneously the sexual urge as such with which we are dealing, but rather also merely the feeling of the complete inner being, being alienated form its own sex.

By describing homosexuality as something that was an expression of the essential nature in an individual, the paper sparked tremendous controversy in medical circles. Until then, those who were caught engaging in homosexual behavior were treated as heretics, sinners, and criminals. Westphal instead sought to abolish those primitive, archaic superstitions with a new “scientific” understanding of gay people. Westphal’s paper, in particular, ascribed homosexuality to a disorder of the central nervous system. And while that particular theory was eventually discarded, it nevertheless placed homosexuality in the realm of psychiatry, there it it would remain for more than a century. So while Westphal can be credited for introducing the idea that gay people weren’t sinful criminals, he can also be blamed for the classifying all gay people as mentally sick. It could be argued that in 1869, that represented a huge advancement, but in reality it merely represented an exchange of prison, the pillory and other torturous punishments for the mental asylum and torturous “medical” treatments (see Jan 18, Jan 20Mar 11, Jun 3, Jul 26, Oct 30, Dec 8), an exchange that would last for another hundred years before the American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality form its list of mental disorders in 1973.

140 YEARS AGO: J. C. Leyendecker: 1874-1951. At the turn of the century, men’s shirts were sold with detachable collars, and New York’s Cluett, Peabody & Co. and their advertising agency launched one of the most successful advertising campaign for Cluett’s line of Arrow collars. The Arrow Collar Man was the creation of Joseph Leyendecker, one of the the pre-eminent American illustrators of the era. Little did the nation’s housewives know that when they purchased those collars for their husbands with the handsome and debonair Arrow Collar Man in mind, that he was modeled after Leyendecker’s life-long partner, Canadian-born Charles Beach. By the time Leyendecker landed the Arrow Collar gig at the turn of the century, his work was already making regular appearances on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, a relationship that would last for 44 years. Meanwhile the handsome Beach would turn up for Leyendecker’s illustrations in ads for Kuppenheimer Suits, Interwoven Socks, Pierce-Arrow automobiles, and wherever style and class were called for.

By 1914, Leyendecker was financially secure enough to buy a large home in New Rochelle, NY for himself, Beach, and Leyendecker’s brother and sister. The parties which Leyendecker and Beach hosted at their home became important social events as Leyendecker was acknowledged as one of the country’s great illustrators. But with the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the great depression, Leyendecker’s high-society style lost favor among advertising agencies. Cluett, Peabody & Co. dropped him in 1931 as the company had stopped making collars in favor of completed shirts. By 1936, the Saturday Evening Post cut back on their commissions for his covers. World War II brought something of a respite, with contracts for war bond posters, but that work would mark the end of his output. He died in 1951, survived by his sister and Beach. A really great monograph of his illustrations was published in 2008 by Abrams.

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Michigan Couples Rush County Clerks Offices For Marriage Licenses (Updated)

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2014

Couples line up in Ann Arbor for a shot at sixty marriage licenses to be issued today by the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office. (Photo: Steve Friess)

 

Marsha Caspar, 52, and Glenna DeJong, 53.

News reports are crediting a Lansing couple, Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, as the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan this morning after a Federal judge struck down Michigan’s Marriage Amendment (MMA) as unconstitutional late yesterday afternoon. They were married, after twenty-seven years together, shortly after the Ingham County Clerk’s office opened at 8:00 a.m. and issued them a license.

Ingham County was one of a handful of Michigan to open for special hours today specifically to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The other counties where clerks have opened today for special hours included Washtenaw (Ann Arbor), Muskegon (Muskegon, on Lake Michigan) and Oakland (Pontiac).

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed a notice that he was appealing the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he filed a separate request to the Sixth Circuit  to stay the lower court’s ruling. The Sixth Circuit has yet to act on the request.

Update: From the Detroit Free Press:

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will not act over the weekend on a stay requested by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in the gay marriage case, the court said in an order posted today.

The court has given the plaintiffs in the case, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, until Tuesday to file a response to Schuette’s request for a stay of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman’s Friday order declaring Michigan’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

More than two hundred couples were able to marry in the four counties which opened their offices today. This notice from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals indicates that thousands more will be able to marry beginning on Monday when County Clerks Offices open statewide.

Update: The Sixth Circuit late Saturday issued a temporary stay until Wednesday. Again, from the Detroit Free Press:

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after first signaling it would not intervene in Michigan’s gay marriage case until Tuesday, posted a new order late Saturday imposing a stay in the case until Wednesday. …

“To allow a more reasoned consideration of the motion to stay, it is ordered that the district court judgment is temporarily stayed until Wednesday,” the 6th Circuit said in an order late Saturday.

About 323 marriage licenses had been issued in four Michigan counties before the Sixth Circuit issued its stay.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 22

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the H.E.L.P. Newsletter, July 1971, page 6.

 
Located in Sliver Lake where Santa Monica Blvd turns to become Sunset Blvd, what used to be a gay leather/biker bar is now the straight/hipster 4100 Bar.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Suspensions Announced of Allegedly Gay Teachers in Florida: 1961. Pinellas County School Superintendent Floyd T. Christian confirmed at a school board meeting that five St. Petersburg-area teachers had been suspended for “alleged homosexual practices.” The action came after the state’s Legislative Investigative Committee lodged allegations against the teachers. The Legislative Investigative Committee, known as the Johns Committee for its first chairman, state Sen. Charley Johns, was created in 1956 to root out communists from government but switched its focus to look for gays teachers and university professors. Superintendent Christian said that following the accusations from the state, the teachers were suspended last October “with the full knowledge and approval of the board.”

The matter was referred to the state’s Cabinet Board of Education in Tallahassee, which revoked the certificates of three of the teachers. That decision was overturned by the State Supreme Court in 1962, saying the state board didn’t follow proper procedures. The three teachers’ certificates were finally restored in 1963.

Superintendent Christian would go on to become the Florida Commissioner of Education from 1965 to 1973, which became an elected position with Florida’s new constitution in 1968. Superintendent Christian would go on to become the Florida Commissioner of Education from 1965 to 1973. After resisting desegregation as Pinellas County School Superintendent, Christian would shift his position as state Commissioner and become a strong defender of desegregation efforts in the state. Christian’s political career ended in scandal, and he spent several months in federal prison in 1975 for income tax evasion.

Christan’s career ended in scandal, and he spent several months in federal prison following a conviction for income tax evasion.

Montana Senate Requires Convicted Gays To Register With Police: 1995. In a 41-8 vote, the Montana Senate gave its approval to a bill that would require offenders of the state’s anti-homosexuality law (which prohibited “deviate sexual conduct”) to register for life with local law enforcement officials. The provision was a last minute amendment to a bill requiring registration for those convicted of murder, rape, aggravated assault, incest, sexual assault, and indecent exposure. During the debate, Sen. Al Bishop (R-Billings) said that homosexual acts, even consensual acts between adults, were “even worse than a violent sexual act,” a statement that drew outrage among women’s rape crisis advocates. Gay rights advocates quickly organized rallies in Helena, Billings and Missoula, and the entire state became the target of national scorn. By noon the next day, red-faced lawmakers were in full retreat mode, repealing the provision specifying “deviate sexual conduct” from the bill that they had just passed the day before, in a unanimous voice vote with no debate.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Stephen Sondheim: 1930. Born to a well-to-do Jewish family in New York’s Upper West Side, Sondheim describes his childhood as an exceedingly lonely one. ” it’s luxurious, you’re in an environment that supplies you with everything but human contact. No brothers and sisters, no parents, and yet plenty to eat, and friends to play with and a warm bed, you know?” His parents divorce when he was ten; his father abandoned the family for another woman, and his mothre was, according to Sondheim, psychologically abusive.

But at around the time of his parents’ divorce, Sondheim became friends with Jimmy Hamerstein, son of the Broadway legend, Oscar Hammerstein II, who became a kind of a surrogate father and mentor. While attending the prestegious George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Sondheim wrote a musical, By George, which proved popular with his classmate. Proud of his efforts, he took it to Hammerstein and asked him to evaluated it. Hammerstein said it was the worst thing he ever saw. “But if you want to know why it’s terrible, I’ll tell you.” Sondheim then received and education that afternoon which, as he later said, taught him ” more about songwriting and the musical theater than most people learn in a lifetime.”

After studying musical thater at Williams College and graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1950, when through “a few painful years of struggle” trying to break into the business. But his persistence was rewared when, in 1955, he was hired to write the lyrics for Leornard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In 1959, he wrote the lyrics for Gypsy, which ran for 702 performances. Then he got the chance to write music and lyrics for the musical farce, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which opened in 1962, ran for 964 performances, and earned him his first Tony. But then followed a dry spell, until 1970, when he began his fruitful collaboration with director Hal Prince. That partnership produced a string of innovative hits: Company (1970, which won him three Tonys), Follies (1971, and another Tony), and A Little Night Music (1973), which won him two Tonys and yielded his only Top 40 hit with Judy Collins’s recording of “Send In the Clowns.”

Stephen Sondheim with James Lapine.

The collaboration with Prince continued with Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeny Todd (1979, which won him another Tony), and Merrily We Roll Along (1984, which flopped badly). The tone of the reviews for Merrily were such that he felt that critics and the public were rooting for his failure. (Merrily would later go on to see several successful revivals.), and it almost convinced Sondheim to quit musical theater altogether. Instead, he went off Broadway and discoverd a play by director James Lapine, whose unorthodic presentation rekindled Sondheim’s creative interests. Their first collaboration, Sunday in the Park with George opened off Broadway in 1983, despite the first act still being in development. The act was finished and the second act was developed before the run of 25 performances were over. The production then moved to Broadway in 1984, with the show completed only a few days before its opening.  It opened to mixed reviews, and ran for 604 performances. It lost money, but Sondheim and Lapine won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Sunday has seen several rivivals since then. Sondheim’s collaborations with Levine continued with Into the Woods (1987, which won Sondheim another Tony), and Passion (1994, and two more Tonys).

When Sondhein turned 80 in 2010, he was feted with several benefits and concerts in New York and London, and the former Henry Miller’s Theater was renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theater. He is still working, and lives with his partner Jeff Romley.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Federal Judge Strikes Down Michigan Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2014

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman issued a ruling today striking down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. This ruling marks the ninth federal court victory in a row for marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision last summer striking down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Reagan-appointee to the Federal bench heard testimony in the case two weeks ago which featured Mark Regnerus, the author of the widely discredited report alleging that children of same-sex parents have poorer outcomes, as the state’s star witness. His testimony didn’t hold up well under cross examination. What’s more, his own sociology department at the University of Texas issued a statement distancing themselves from Regnerus on the very morning he was set to testify. All that had Judge Freidman devoting two pages of his thirty-one page opinion to Regnerus’s testimony:

The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.” See Pls.’ Motion in limine to Exclude Testimony of Mark Regnerus, Ex. 9. In the funder’s view, “the future of the institution of marriage at this moment is very uncertain” and “proper research” was needed to counter the many studies showing no differences in child outcomes. Id. The funder also stated that “this is a project where time is of the essence.” Id. Time was of the essence at the time of the funder’s comments in April 2011, and when Dr. Regnerus published the NFSS in 2012, because decisions such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010), and Windsor v. United States, 833 F. Supp. 2d 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), were threatening the funder’s concept of “the institution of marriage.”

The primary funder was the $the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, which provided $695,000 for the study. The Bradley Institute kicked in another $90,000. Anti-gay activist Robert George sits on the board of directors of both organizations, as well as the editorial advisory  board of the LDS-owned Deseret News, which was the only paper to receive an advance copy of the study.  The study had been fast-tracked to publication by the conservative editor of the journal Social Science Research. Judge Friedman found the study’s funding source was at least partly behind the study’s appalling methodology:

While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.

Regernus’s testimony was part of a larger argument that the state of Michigan tried to make in support of the ban on same-sex marriage. Attorneys for the state based much of their case on what they called the “optimal environment” for raising children. Judge Friedman found that position “absurd”:

[T]he state defendants’ position suffers from a glaring inconsistency. Even assuming that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by heterosexual married couples, the state defendants fail to explain why Michigan law does not similarly exclude certain classes of heterosexual couples from marrying whose children persistently have had “sub-optimal” developmental outcomes. According to Rosenfeld’s study, children raised by suburban residents academically outperformed those children raised by rural and urban residents. Likewise, “middle class and poor families are ‘sub-optimal’ compared to well-off families, and couples with less formal education are “sub-optimal” compared to couples with more formal education.” Pls.’ Ex. 31 at 5. A child’s racial background is another predictive indicator of future success, as the study showed that “the probability of making good progress through school is greater in the U.S. for children of Asian descent than for children of all other racial groups.” Id. Taking the state defendants’ position to its logical conclusion, the empirical evidence at hand should require that only rich, educated, suburban-dwelling, married Asians may marry, to the exclusion of all other heterosexual couples. Obviously the state has not adopted this policy and with good reason. The absurdity of such a requirement is self-evident. Optimal academic outcomes for children cannot logically dictate which groups may marry.

The state also argued that any changes to the institution of marriage should “proceed with caution” before opening it up to same-sex couples. Judge Friedman found that argument “not persuasive”:

But the calculus is fundamentally altered when constitutional rights are implicated because “any deprivation of constitutional rights calls for prompt rectification.” Watson v. Memphis, 373 U.S. 526, 532-533 (1963). “The basic guarantees of our Constitution are warrants for the here and now and, unless there is an overwhelmingly compelling reason, they are to be promptly fulfilled.” Id. The state may not shield itself with the “wait-and-see” approach and sit idly while social science research takes its plodding and deliberative course. Were the Court to accept this position, “it would turn the rational basis analysis into a toothless and perfunctory review” because “the state can plead an interest in proceeding with caution in almost any setting.” Kitchen v. Herbert, No. 13-217, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179331, at *77 (D. Utah Dec. 20, 2013).  Rather, the state must have some rationale beyond merely asserting that there is no conclusive evidence to decide an issue one way or another. See Perry, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 972 (quoting Romer for the proposition that “[e]ven under the most deferential standard of review . . . the court must ‘insist on knowing the relation between the classification adopted and the object to be attained.’”). Since the “wait-and-see” approach fails to meet this most basic threshold it cannot pass the rational basis test.

The state also argued that it had a legitimate interest in upholding “tradition and morality”:

The difficulty with this justification is two-fold. First, the Supreme Court has held that tradition alone does not satisfy rational basis review. See Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 326 (1993) (stating that the “[a]ncient lineage of a legal concept does not give it immunity from attack for lacking a rational basis.”). Second, traditional notions of marriage are often enmeshed with the moral disapproval of redefining marriage to encompass same-sex relationships. On this point, many federal courts have noted that moral disapproval is not a sufficient rationale for upholding a provision of law on equal protection grounds. See Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Servs., 682 F.3d 1, 15 (1st Cir. 2012) (invalidating section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act because the  statute expressed a moral disapproval of homosexuality)…

And finally, in the throw-all-the-spaghetti-against-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks strategy of the state’s attorneys, they argued that marriage was solely a state question, and they even tried to cite Windsor to support that argument:

The state defendants gloss over one important caveat. While the justices recognized the state’s expansive power in the realm of domestic relations, they also noted that this power has its limits. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy stated that domestic relations “laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons . . . but, subject to those guarantees, regulation of domestic relations is an area that has long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the states,” id. (citing Loving) (internal quotations omitted), and that “[t]he states’ interest in defining and regulating the marital relation [is] subject to constitutional guarantees . . .” Id. at 2692. These statements are not merely surplusage, and as one district astutely remarked, “[a] citation to Loving is a disclaimer of enormous proportion.” Bishop, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4374, at *66.

…Taken together, both the Windsor and Loving decisions stand for the proposition that, without some overriding legitimate interest, the state cannot use its domestic relations authority to legislate families out of existence. Having failed to establish such an interest in the context of same-sex marriage, the MMA cannot stand.

Because Judge Friedman did not issue a temporary stay against his ruling, there had been reports now that an unknown number of clerk offices in Michigan are re-opening to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So far, it appears that the ruling came down after most of the county clerk offices had closed. Unless some of them open for special hours this weekend, the earliest that anyone will be able to marry will be Monday morning.

Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has already filed a notice that he was appealing the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a separate filing, he asked the Sixth Circuit  to stay the lower court’s ruling.

 

When we act the way we wish they would

Timothy Kincaid

March 21st, 2014


The funny thing about jerks, bigots, blowhards, and idiots is that they truly believe that everybody else is just like them. And if their message is one no one else is saying, they assume that others have been cowed into silence, that the media is hiding the truth, and that the great silent majority is looking to them to speak what everyone really wishes they could say.

They also believe that their tactics are reasonable and ordinary and that their self-chosen enemies would act just the same if given the chance. No matter how atrocious their behavior, it’s justified by a belief that it’s war and you’re just as bad – or worse!

So it’s illuminating that this week we twice seen that assumption challenged.

First was the reported illness, and then death, of Fred Phelps. Although members of the Westboro Baptist Church positioned that the evil homosexuals were celebrating his death, for the most part the gay community was respectful. There have been no calls to picket Phelps’ funeral in retaliation. There have been only scattered declarations of hate and few have celebrated.

Because it wasn’t his politics or beliefs that made Fred so objectionable. It wasn’t that he “opposed homosexuality” that angered “the militant homosexuals”. Rather it was that his behavior of screaming hateful things during a person’s time of grief that is beyond the pale. And we want no part of that.

And the second example is far more amusing.

Bill Donahue, the leader of the Catholic League was one of the most strident (and absurd) voices calling for the exclusion of gay people from the Saint Patrick’s Parades in New York and Boston. And firmly convinced in the accuracy of his own narrative that gay people hate straights and poeple of faith and are “the real bigots”, Donahue set out to prove his point.

He filed a petition with the organizers of the New York Gay Pride Parade requesting that he be allowed to march under a “Straight is Great” banner. He was sure that this was a message that gay people would find offensive. And, being a hate-filled asshat, he assumed that gay people would act with the same animus and exclusion towards him that is Donahue’s standard action towards us.

But, of course, we don’t hate straight people. And we agree, straight actually is great – just like gay and bisexual. And, thought Donahue probably didn’t know it, many many straight people – Catholics, even – happily march in the parade each year to show their support for the community. Heck, some Catholic churches even have delegations.

So the organizers immediately said yes. Sarah Kate Ellis, the head of GLAAD and a fellow Irish New-Yorker, said she’d be happy to march with him.

The irony is, of course, that the last thing Donohue wants to do is march in a gay pride parade. And now, having been greeted with graciousness, he’s looking for a way to weasel out. (Newcivilrightsmovement)

“Their initial response was okay, you have to come to a training session,” Donohue said in an interview yesterday with NewsMax TV. “People have to wear LGBT paraphernalia … Now they are dancing. They are saying, well … we have our own rules and what not,” Donohue is claiming.

None of which is true.

We require all March registrants to have group leaders attend an event operations training. This is for the safety for our participants. The requirement is not unique to Mr. Donohue.

Mr. Donohue sought prior approval on his group’s slogan, “Straight is Great.” We acknowledged his message and said the text was fine. At no point have we instructed Mr. Donohue as to what must be printed on his group’s shirts.

These moments are important.

Despite how ignoble the Phelpses and the Donohues of the world are, they claim we are worse. And, absent any reason to believe otherwise, gullible people may believe them.

So I cherish the moments when given the choice whether to engage in retribution or to live the message we claim, we choose to rise above the temptations to mirror bad behavior and to instead and give kindness where we received cruelty and show graciousness where only animus has been offered.

Gay GOP woman of faith

Timothy Kincaid

March 21st, 2014

Ashley Rooney, an executive assistant at Log Cabin Republicans, wrote an opinion piece for TownHall arguing that Republican Party holds a place of promise for gay and lesbian people of faith.

The article itself is mostly twaddle, a sort of blind stabbing at “liberals” and “the left” and and extolling of the theoretical virtues of the Republican Party.

But, nevertheless, the message – if heard by the right ears – is an important one. Too often people on both sides of the political divide assume that orientation dictates ones political ideology. And too often both sides of the political divide assume that matters of faith do the same. Rooney argues that this need not be the case.

Similarly, LGBT Republicans need to expose the inaccuracy of the liberal claim that the LGBT community is “overwhelmingly” Democrat. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2012, one in four LGBT people consider themselves to be conservative or very conservative, and a deeper look into these numbers reveals that the demographic breakdown of LGBT voter preferences is similar to that of the overall population.

Relatedly, we need to stop assuming that being a person of faith and being a supporter of LGBT equality are mutually exclusive. The left’s smears against religious Americans as anti-LGBT not only outcast LGBT people of faith but also ignore the reality that many religious communities are increasingly supportive of LGBT equality. A 2013 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that a majority of white mainline Protestants, 62 percent of Catholics, and over one in four white evangelical Protestants support marriage equality. A strong majority in every major religious group favors protections from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there are a growing number of religious groups dedicated to advancing LGBT equality.

Now I know that the first reaction of many will be to think, “but she’s wrong, Republicans are vile and any gay person so registered is delusional and self-loathing.” And undoubtedly some will find it impossible to skip an opportunity to weigh in on their own political leanings.

But setting aside Rooney’s partisanship and the perhaps idealistic rose-glassed view of her political affiliation, there is value in her statement. Primarily because it is something that flies in the face of the assumptions of a certain target audience.

Which makes where I read this all the more important. Rooney’s TownHall opinion piece was picked up by the Christian Post.

The Christian Post has, to the best of my recollection, only ever presented one variation of gay person before: the kind that advances an anti-gay crusade. They’ve had “former homosexuals” declare that no one is born gay. They’ve had bitter and emotionally stunted gay people rant on about the horrors of the “homosexual lifestyle”. They’ve presented the wacky two or three that buddy up with NOM to argue that gay marriage will be the end of the world as we know it.

But I don’t recall ever seeing a gay person on the Christian Post insisting that gay people should live openly and honestly, irrespective of their political leanings. Nor have I seen there an appeal to readers to find commonality or recognize support for gay people from within their own community.

I don’t know that this is a major capitulation on the part of the Christian Post. Nor will it likely change the minds of those who pretend that gay people either don’t exist or are demon possessed or are out to destroy America and civilization. But it might jar some who have simply accepted the easy stereotypes about gay people being “them” and perhaps plant the seeds of thought.

And it will, without doubt, piss off the LaBarberas and Stavers and Donahues who assume that all people of faith should and will rally around them and their campaign for bigotry. And that, if nothing else, is always a good thing.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, March 21

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 20.

 
Two different discos have taken the Limelight name in New York. There was the famous one on the Avenue of the Americas from 1983 through the 1990s that was located in a former Episcopal Church. That Limelight was part of a chain of nightclubs, all called the Limelight, in South Florida, Atlanta, Chicago and London. But the earlier Limelight had nothing to do with that one. Located on Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village, the building had long been associated with the Limelight name, having opened as the Limelight gallery and coffee bar in the 1950s. When it became the Limelight disco in 1973, it drew a mainly Puerto Rican crowd. The dance floor featured a lit stained-glass ceiling overhead, and thanks to the DJ’s who played a formative role in disco’s early years, the Limelight quickly became the place to be for those who took their disco dancing seriously. The dancing ended in 1980 as the disco area came to a close. The building has been Disneyfied to house the Jekyll and Hyde restaurant “for explorers and mad scientists.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Vadim Alekseevich Kozin: 1903-1994. The great Russian tenor Vadim Alekseevich Kozin was celebrated throughout the Soviet Union in the 1920s for his recordings and concerts specializing in gypsy romances and love songs. He sang those songs, which he wrote himself, with such passion and tenderness that garnered him the title of the “Russian Orpheus.” He once gave a concert with American Paul Robeson and is said to have performed for Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Tehran conference in 1943. But in those precarious days during Stalin’s rule, Kozin fell out of favor with the Kremlin and was arrested in 1944. He was sent to a prison camp near Magadan in the Russian Far East for five years for political offenses, “corruption of youth” and homosexuality. From that moment on, his songs disappeared from the radio and his public concerts came to an end.

After his release in 1950, Kozen resumed performing in local theaters in the Russian Far East and Siberia, but he was prohibited from performing in Moscow and Leningrad. It was during this period when Kozen began to keep a diary. “How I would like even just once,” he wrote of one unnamed man in 1956, “even for one instant, to look into the depth of those green eyes. Why does it happen like this? One person appears, and there is nothing else sacred in the world. He has filled it all himself. Who that person is, no one will ever find out.”

Kozin also used his diary to express his impatience with the official attitude toward homosexuality. “There is nothing unnatural in the life I want to live,” he wrote. “There is real, good friendship and complete mutual trust.” In another entry, he criticized actors with their “demonstration of fictional family values” and waving of party cards. “Do I have the moral right, with my defects, to see them that way? After torturous and long thought, I have realized that I do. They are much more rotten people.”

But Kozin worried that he risked further imprisonment. In another entry, he was alarmed by another actor while on tour. “His behavior will lead him to the camp. I must tell him that his sexual motives shouldn’t affect me at all. … I don’t want people to think about me like that again. I will try to suffer alone.”

Kozin’s fears were well-founded. He was arrested again in 1959 for homosexuality and was forced to write a humiliatingly detailed confession. Despite a brief revival in the 1980′s when his records were reissued, he was never officially rehabilitated. He died in Madagan in 1994 at the age of 91. Since his death, Vadim Kozin has become an icon in Russia’s gay community. One of his most famous songs is one called “Friendship” which, he later confided to a friend, was dedicated to another man:

“We are so close that words do not have to be repeated. Our tenderness and our friendship are stronger than passion and greater than love.”

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Vadim Kozin with friends in Madagan in 1993:

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Rosie O’Donnel: 1962. Times change, don’t they? During her years hosting her popular daytime talk show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, from 1996 to 2002, she developed a reputation for being “The Queen of Nice” and for her self-professed crush with actor Tom Cruise. Two months before her talk show ended, she came out, saying, “I’m a dyke!” When she became a moderator for The View in 2006, her “queen of nice” persona was ancient history, as she engaged in several public controversies and on-air disputes. She was encouraged by the program to be provocative and outspoken, and she certainly delivered. She picked a public fight with Donald Trump, she compared the Mark Foley congressional page scandal to the Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse scandals, and she condemned the Bush Administration’s Iraq war policies. The final straw for O’Donnel was during an on-air argument with co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the producers showed O’Donnel and Hasselbeck in a split screen, which, O’Donnel, said, “they (the producers) had to prepare that in advance… I felt there was setup egging me into that position.” Tired of the confrontations, O’Donnel left the show in May, 2007. Parade magazine named her “The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2007,” while Time called her one of their “100 Most Influential People.”

Since then, O’Donnell has been involved in several projects, including acting as Executive Producer of a Lifetime movie, hosting SiriusXM’s “Rosie Radio” from 2009 to 2011, a short-lived talk show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, and a collaborative partner in the LGBT family vacation company R Family Vacations. She has also been involved with several charitable causes, including early childhood care and education, adoption and foster parenting, and rehabilitation therapies for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Her For All Kids Foundation has awarded more than $22 million in grants to 1,400 child-related organizations. Overall, O’Donnell has given more than $100 million to charity. O’Donnel herself is a foster and adoptive mother, and in February of 2004, she married Kelly Carpenter in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom launched an ill-fated effort to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the couples split in 2007. (Their marriage, by then, had been invalidated by the California Supreme Court, along with all of the other 2004 “winder of love” marriages.) In 2012, O’Donnel married Michelle Rounds in a private ceremony in New York, and they adopted a daughter, Dakota, in early 2013.

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

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Fred Phelps is dead

Timothy Kincaid

March 20th, 2014

Fred Phelps was the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, a small group of extreme Calvinists who made a loud splash by picketing gay events – and then military funerals, other churches, and eventually anything that caught their fancy – with signs designed to shock and offend. With “God Hates Fags” as their chief rallying cry, they soon found themselves as Bad Example #1, even for many who shared their religious opposition to gay rights.

It’s easy to think of Phelps as solely as a vaudeville villain. And, indeed he caused much harm.

But, interestingly, despite their theological rancor, most first-hand reports I’ve seen suggest that the Phelps clan is personally engaging, amusing and perhaps a bit charming. They see their obligation is to tell you that you are vile and hell-bound and hated by God. But since you’re eternally damned anyway, why not have a sense of humor about it.

And while Fred Phelps has wasted his life and caused far more pain than any person should, his life was not always on this track. Before he allowed his narrow faith to warp his thinking, Phelps was an attorney fighting for civil rights and against racial discrimination.

Fred Phelps was a bit of a conundrum. But by the end of his days, his rallying call for hate and his fervor for offense outweighed any good he had performed. Following a seventeenth century vengeful deity into the abyss of hatred and condemnation, Phelps turned himself and his family into a living morality play about the dangers of extremism and self-righteousness.

As his life came to a close, his sole redeeming quality might be that he had, inadvertently, galvanized moderate people of faith into countering his message and silenced many who might have expressed similar views in a much less strident fashion. And perhaps his legal defense of his right to cause offense has helped protect the rights to free speech for other dissident voices.

Now Fred Phelps is dead. (ksn)

The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who founded Westboro Baptist Church widely known for its protests at military funerals and anti-gay sentiments, has died according to his son Tim Phelps and daughter Margie Phelps.

Margie says her father died shortly before midnight. She didn’t give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.

Few will mourn his passing.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 20

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From TWN (The Weekly News, Miami), October 21, 1987, page 10.

 
If you Google the address today, you get a business called Costumes, Etc., but when you go to Google Streetview, you get this.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Florida Supreme Court: Gays Can’t Be Barred From State Bar: 1978. In 1976, Robert F. Eimers, a recent graduate of Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, had already been certified for admission to the Pennsylvania bar when he moved to Florida and took the exam for the Florida bar. He passed, but the Florida Board of Bar Examiners found that he might fail to meet the “good moral character” standard for admission because, in response to a question at a hearing, Eimers said that he was gay. The twelve member board deadlocked on whether to admit him and referred the matter to the Florida Supreme Court. On March 20, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-1 decision that a “substantial connection” between private behavior and the ability to carry out professional responsibilities would be required to bar Eimers from practicing law, and his homosexuality did not rise to that level. “Otherwise, the bar will be virtually unfettered in its power to censor the private morals of Florida bar members, regardless of any nexus between the behavior and the ability to responsibly perform as an attorney.”

That’s where the “Today in History” part of the story ends, but Eimers’ story continues. While Florida’s Supreme Court was correct in ruling that a gay man cannot be prohibited from practicing law because of his “private morals,” that same court nine years later would wind up disbarring Eimers because of his dismal public morals, not to mention breaking a few laws along the way. In 1982 Eimers, his law partner (who was not licensed to practice law) and husband-and-wife clients Daniel and Sally Phelps, were the subjects of an undercover sting involving money laundering and prostitution. In November 1982, they were all charged with two counts of money laundering, and the Phelps’s, in addition, were charged with three counts associated with the prostitution ring. After their arrest and indictment, they were all released on bail. The Phelps and Eimers were tried and convicted in June, 1983, but Eimers’s conviction was in absentia due to his becoming a fugitive in March. Eimers was sentenced to ten years and fined $100,000. In 1987, the Florida Supreme Court officially disbarred him (PDF: 176KB/6 pages) because of his felony conviction and allegations that he had misappropriated funds from three of his clients. I can’t find any record of his having served his sentence, but in 1993 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ordered his disablement in that state as well. He apparently died in 1998 at the age of 51.

And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Samuel-Auguste Tissot: 1728-1797. You know you’ll go blind if you keep doing that, don’t you? Ever wonder where those old medical “facts” came from? Blame this eighteenth-century Swiss physician from Lausanne, but also consider his time. In his day, the medical establishment was built on little more than folk medicine and superstitions, some of which where handed down from as far back as ancient Greece.

To his credit, Tissot tried to change that and turn the practice of medicine into a scientific endeavor. His 1761 textbook Avis au Peuple sur sa Santé (Advise to the Public Concerning their Health) became the best-selling medical self-help book of the century and it established his international reputation. In a 1769 essay, he argued that doctors must have a working knowledge of physics and the natural sciences: “Whoever is unacquainted with the powers and properties of bodies and the laws of motion will never be able to learn the art of healing.” He became an early proponent of exercise for “literary and sedentary persons,” observing that exercise “strengthens the fibres, preserves the fluids in their proper state, procures an appetite, facilitates the secretions particularly perspiration, raises our spirits, and produces an agreeable sensation in the whole nervous system.” His 1789 Traité des Nerfs et de Leurs Maladies (Treatise on the Nerves and Nervous Disorders) included an 83-page chapter devote to the study of migraines, which is today considered a foundational work for future doctors’ understanding of the phenomenon.

So you can see he was off to a pretty good start in professionalizing the practice of medicine. But his efforts were ultimately constrained by the state of medical knowledge in the 1700s which still came mainly from two sources: ancient manuscripts, from Greek and Roman times through the Renaissance, and ongoing observations by physicians who knew nothing about viruses, bacteria, hormones, genetics or even the precise functions of a number of organs. And so Tissot believed, like many of his contemporaries, that the human body was governed by a balance between the excretion of vital fluids — the ancient Greeks called them “humours” — and their replenishment through eating and drinking. Blood, obviously, was an essential humour. Lose too much of it, and death is certain. Perspiration was a humor, as was mother’s milk, which he called a “non-essential” humour — for the mother, anyway. Also, in the tally of humours:

There is another, the seminal fluid, which has so much influence on the strength of the body and on the perfection of digestion which restores it, that physicians of every age have unanimously admitted, that the loss of one ounce of it, enfeebles more than forty ounces of blood. We may form some idea of its importance by observing the effects it produces; when it begins to form, the voice, the countenance, and even the features change; the beard grows, and the whole body often assumes another appearance, since the muscles become so large and firm that they form a sensible difference between the body of an adult, and that of one who has not arrived at puberty. All these developments are prevented by debilitating the organ which serves to separate the fluid producing them. Correct observations prove that the extirpation of the testicles, at the period of virility, causes the loss of the beard, and the return of an infantile voice. Can we doubt, after this of its action on the whole body, and not perceive the many bad consequences with which the emission of so precious a fluid must be attended.

The third edition of Tissot’s L’onanisme, 1765.

That passage is from the introduction of Tissot’s most enduring work, his highly influential L’onanisme, ou Dissertation Physique, sur les Maladies Produites par la Masturbation (Onanism: Or a Treatise Upon the Disorders produced by Masturbation), published first in Latin in 1758, then in French in 1760. According to Tissot, the loss of just an ounce of semen brought about a terrible blow to the body. During the sexual act, Tissot observed that other humours were excreted through perspiration and heavy breathing, leading to the “evacuation of the semen,” which is accompanied by:

a general shock, a convulsion of all the parts, an increase of the rapidity of the movements of all the fluids, to displace and expel it. Is it too great presumption to say, we must regard this necessary concurrence of the whole system, at the moment of its evacuation, as a rational proof of its influence on the body? …The promptitude with which the weakness follows the act, appears to many people, and with reason, a proof that this cannot be occasioned by merely a loss of semen; but the debility of all those affected with convulsive diseases, proves that the weakness is produced by the spasm…

Men weren’t alone in their susceptibility to masturbation’s dangers. Semen’s analog in women was the fluids of vaginal lubrication. Like men, women also experienced the perspiration, the “rapidity of the movements of all the fluids,” the general shock and convulstions, and so forth. But masturbation posed an even greater danger to women because their weaker nerves made the loss of those vital fluids all the more serious. The consequences, for men and women both, were numerous: pimples, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, weak-mindedness, weakness or partial paralysis in the limbs, ashen skin, pain, digestive problems, epilepsy, blindness, and even death.

The loss of semen was always bad, but it was worse when the loss occurred during non-procreative sex, all forms of which he grouped under the umbrella term “Onanism.” At least with ordinary vaginal intercourse, he reasoned, there was a reciprocity taking place which helped to lower the dangers:

A person perspires more during coition than at any other time, because the power of the circulation is quickened. This perspiration is perhaps more active and more volatile than at any other time: it is a real loss, and occurs whenever emissions of semen take place, from whatever cause, since it depends on the agitation attending it. In coition it is reciprocal, and the one inspires, what the other expires. This exchange has been verified by certain observations. In masturbation there is a loss without this reciprocal benefit.

Tissot’s L’onanisme wasn’t the first anti-masturbation tract. Some thirty-five years earlier, an unknown London doctor and clergymen published the final edition of Onania; or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution (see Oct 16), which warned about the many dangers of masturbation from both a medical and moral standpoint. But Tissot criticized the English Onania for its “theological and moral trivialities” which made it  ”truly a chaos, the most unfinished work written for a long time.” Tissot’s L’onanisme, on the other hand, sought to correct those errors and re-cast sexual morality solely on the basis of the physical imperative rather than a divine one. It became a best-seller. Twelve authorized editions appeared between 1760 and 1799 in the original French, with translations into German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and English. Thanks to Tissot, the idea that masturbation was the source of a number of serious physical, medical and social diseases quickly became medical dogma all the way up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

[Source: Samuel-Auguste Tissot. Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism. Translated by "A Physician" (New York: Collins & Hannay, 1832). Available online at Archive.org. The original 1760 French edition of L'onanisme is available at Google Books.]

 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 Wednesday, March 19

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Alpe d’Huez, France; Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; Gay Snow Happening, Sölden, Austria; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Bay Area Reporter, March 6, 1975, page 24.

 
This is another one of those San Francisco bars that is difficult to find anything about. It appears to have opened around 1972 near the corner of Market and Sanchez, at about the time the area was still a down-on-its-luck Irish neighborhood known as Eureka Valley, rather than the gay mecca of the Castro as it’s known today. The storefront today is now a Venetian seafood restaurant called Pesce.

Pope Alexander III

TODAY IN HISTORY:
835 YEARS AGO: Final Session of the Third Lateran Council, Orders Excommunication for the “Unnatural Vice”: 1179. Upon Pope Hadrian IV’s death in 1157, the divided Cardinals split into two camps backing two separate popes: Roland of Siena, who took the name of Alexander III, and Octavian of Rome who assumed the name of Pope Victor IV. While Pope Alexander III had majority of the Cardinals’ support, Pope Victor had the crucial support of Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick declared war on the Italian states and the Church in support of his candidate, causing a schism in the Church. Victor died in 1164, and two further Popes were declared in Frederick’s faction: Paschal III (1164–1168) and Callistus III (1168–1178).

Finally, the forces supporting Pope Alexander III proved victorious at the Battle of Legnano of 29 May 1176. WIth the Treaty of Venice in 1177, Pope Alexander III promised to hold an ecumenical council to bring the Church back together. That council, known as the Third Council of the Lateran established new regulations on papal elections to try to prevent future schisms, and laid down new Canons on the qualifications and proper conduct of the clergy. Twenty-seven Canons were promulgated in all, with some tying up some loose ends in civil matters: they abolished usury, forbade Jews and Muslims from employing Christian servants, and required that the evidence of Christians would always be accepted against Jews. In addition, Canon 11 read:

11. Clerics in holy orders, who in open concubinage keep their mistresses in their houses, should either cast them out and live continently or be deprived of ecclesiastical office and benefice. Let all who are found guilty of that unnatural vice for which the wrath of God came down upon the sons of disobedience and destroyed the five cities with fire, if they are clerics be expelled from the clergy or confined in monasteries to do penance; if they are laymen they are to incur excommunication and be completely separated from the society of the faithful. If any cleric without clear and necessary cause presumes to frequent convents of nuns, let the bishop keep him away; and if he does not stop, let him be ineligible for an ecclesiastical benefice.

Africans Identified As AIDS Risk Group: 1983. As I’ve said before, by the time 1983 came around the panic surrounding the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis had already reached epic proportions, with anti-gay groups and individuals pinning everlasting blame on the gay community. When they had bothered to notice, some would acknowledge that Haitians, drug addicts and hemophiliacs were also at risk for AIDS. But it was the gay community which bore the brunt of the responsibility for the new “plague.”

If ignorance among many Americans was running a fevered pitch, things were very different in Europe, particularly in Belgium and France where doctors had been noticing a strange development for quite some time. For several years, they had been treating wealthy Africans from their former colonies who were suffering from diseases which were remarkably similar to those reported by AIDS patients in America. While AIDS was also showing up in gay communities in Europe, these African patients signaled to European specialists that AIDs was neither a homosexual nor Western disease. Finally on March 19, 1983, the rest of the world would learn what they have been noticing with the publication of this brief letter by Dr. Nathan Clumeck of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in the respected journal The Lancet:

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Black Africans

SIR,-Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been described in homosexual or bisexual men, in drug addicts, in haemophiliacs, and in Haitian immigrants. To our knowledge there is no report of AIDS and opportunistic infections in previously healthy Black Africans with no history of homosexuality or drug abuse.

Tables I and II show the clinical and immunological data on five Black patients seen in Brussels and who were from Central Africa (Zaire and Chad). Three of them had been living in Belgium, for between 8 months and 3 years. All were of good socioeconomic status. They presented with prodromes of fever, weight loss, and generalised lymphadenopathy, and extensive investigations did not reveal any neoplasia. Patients A and E died; the three survivors are still ill.

Because the HIV virus had not been discovered yet, there was no test for it. Doctors had to rely on a process of elimination to determine whether the patient really had AIDS:

These patients fulfilled all the criteria of AIDS. Two of them had severe herpes simplex infections and to exclude the possible role of herpes virus in their immune deficiency we did lymphocyte subset analyses in a control group of eight patients with HSV-2 infections. None had OKT4+ deficiency and their OKT4/OKT8 ratios were between 0.99 and 2.52 (mean 1.80), so it is unlikely that HSV-2 alone was responsible for the AIDS in the African patients.

Responses to mitogen stimulation (phytohaemagglutinin, concanavalin A, pokeweed) were well below normal in all cases. In eleven healthy Black Africans reactions to intradermal tuberculin, candida, and streptodornase were >5 mm: all five patients were skin test negative to these antigens.

This preliminary report suggests that Black Africans, immigrants or not, may be another group predisposed to AIDS.

This small letter to the editor would later prove to be an important first indication of the horror that had been stalking the Congo river region for decades. Clumeck and his colleagues would follow up that letter with a larger study a year later in the New England Journal of Medicine. That study presented detailed data on 23 Africans treated for AIDS from as far back as May 1979. That would be a full two years before the CDC reported on the five gay patients in Los Angeles (See Jun 5). Eighteen of the patients treated in Brussels were from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), one from Chad, two from Rwanda, and two from Burundi. By then, ten had died. On further investigation, researchers found that the husband of one patient had died in 1976 in Belgium at the age of 27 from diseases “consistent with AIDS.”

In December 1984, Clumeck and associates published another paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences expanding their study to 40 patients who had undergone treatment in Belgium. Only two of them were gay male Belgians; the rest were Africans. By then, they had concluded, “It is likely that AIDS is endemic now in Central Africa, and that the cases seen in Belgium represent only the tip of the iceberg.”

[Sources: N. Clumek, F. Mascart-Lemone, J. de Maubeuge, D. Brenez, L. Marcelis. Letter to the editor: "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Black Africans." Lancet 1, no. 8325 (March 19, 1983): 624.

Nathan Clumeck, Jean Sonnet, Henri Taelman, et al. "Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in African patients." New England Journal of Medicine 310, no, 8 (February 23, 1984): 492-497.

Nathan Clumeck, Jean Sonnet, Henri Taelman, et al. "Acquired immune deficiency syndrome in Belgium and its relation to Central Africa." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 437 (December 1984): 264-269.]

FDA approves AZT to treat AIDS: 1987. Dr. Jerome P. Horwitz, a researcher at Wayne State University’s cancer center, developed azidothymidine (AZT) as cancer drug in 1964. Part of a new approach to curing cancer, AZT was was made as a synthetic form of nucleosides, which is a fundamental building block of genetic material. The idea was to inject AZT into cancer cells and watch it confuse the cell’s real nucleosides and render the cancer unable to reproduce. It failed. Horwitz never bothered to patent it, and moved on to other avenues of investigation. For the next two decades, AZT would remain, in Horwitz’s words, “a very interesting set of compounds that were waiting for the right disease.”

Fast forward twenty years to 1984. The pharmaceutical company Burroughs-Wellcome  (now GlaxoSmithKline) asked the National Cancer Institute to investigate AZT’s potential in combatting AIDS. The investigation, conducted by government scientists under government funding, began clinical trials of AZT provided by Burroughs-Wellcome, and found that the drug was able to interfere with the reproduction of HIV’s DNA and reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in the blood). Burroughs-Wellcome patented the drug in 1985, and with no other drugs available and AZT proving to be a real benefit, the FDA gave its approval in 1987, in record time, despite the drug only having gone through a phase one trial.

Marketed as Retrovir, AZT cost $10,000 for a one-year supply (that would be about $20,600 in today’s money), making it the most expensive drug in history. It’s cost was prohibitive for the estimated thirty-five percent of people with AIDS who either had no health insurance or whose policies didn’t cover the drug. And because it only went through a phase one trial, optimum dosage was still unknown. Consequently, and under the FDA’s recommendation, doctors prescribed it at very high doses which revealed its toxic side effects, which included anemia, depressed white blood count, liver damage, heart muscle damage, muscular weakness, changes in abdominal body fat, acid reflux, headache and loss of appetite.

But while there were a patchwork of medications to treat the various opportunistic diseases that befell people with aids, AZT remained the only FDA-approved drug for treating AIDS itself for several more years. Over time, researchers discovered that AZT’s dosage could be reduced to minimize the side effects without hindering its effectiveness. But AZT’s effectiveness was limited, regardless of dosage, by HIV’s remarkable ability to mutate into an AZT-resistant form. ATZ by itself prolonged life, on average, by a year or so, which was an eternity for a disease with a 100 percent mortality rate. It wouldn’t be until two other drugs entered the market in 1995 and AZT became a part of the three-drug cocktail (see Dec 6) when an effective treatment regimen to combat AIDS would finally become available. As for Dr. Horwitz, he never did see any royalties from his invention of AZT.

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 Tuesday, March 18

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee), September 1977, page 43.

 
Lambda Lounge opened in Appleton sometime in 1977. Before that, it was another gay bar called Doris’ Super Bar. Lambda Lounge remained in business until 1982. The building now houses an Irish pub called the Durty Leprechaun.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
NYPD Back Down From Gay Demonstrators: 1966. The Stonewall Rebellion is often described as the first time that the gays fought back in the face of police repression. That’s not entirely true, as indicated by a brief notice in the May 1966 copy of the Homosexual Citizen, which was published by the Mattachine Societies of Washington, D.C. and Miami.

Police Retreat from Angry Villagers
Greenwich Village has long been known as a homosexual Bohemia. On March 18, New York police erected baracades in an unsuccessful attempt to curb “undesirables” by preventing their entrance to a 14-block area. The barricades attracted a howling, chanting mob of 1500 “assorted undesirables” who forced the police to retreat and remove their barricades. The police experiment was part of Mayor Lindsay’s current push to “clean up and quiet down Greenwich Village.” The police are mapping new strategy while members of the Mattachine Society, Inc. of New York are distributing “If You Are Arrested” leaflets to the surging crowds.

[Source Warren D. Adkins (Jack Nichols, see Mar 16). "Newsfronts." The Homosexual Citizen 1, no. 5 (May 1966): 13.]

William F. Buckley, Jr. Proposes Tattooing “All AIDS Carriers”: 1986. Two op-eds appeared in The New York Times’s editorial page under the heading, “Critical Steps in Combating the AIDS Epidemic.” One was written by Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, and the other by conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Jr. Dershowitz’s column, in keeping with the general hysteria of the day, was not without its alarmist elements. He repeated the belief that “AIDS may, in fact, be transmissible by tears, saliva, bodily fluids and mosquito bites” — a contention that was quickly refuted by those more familiar with the disease. But he also pleaded that “the flow of solid data should not be polluted by personal moralism. … We have a right to know the hard facts about AIDS, unvarnished by moralistic prejudgments.”

That recommendation contrasted sharply with Buckley’s op-ed that appeared on the same page. Buckley acknowledged that many who see homosexuality as morally wrong also saw AIDS as a “special curse of the homosexual, transmitted through anal sex between males.” But that didn’t stop him from trying to claim that those who “tend to disapprove forcefully of homosexuality … (tend) to approach the problem of AIDS empirically.” And how did Buckley “empirically” approach the AIDS crisis?

We face a utilitarian imperative, and the requires absolutely nothing less than the identification of the million-odd people who, the doctors estimate, are carriers.

How?

Well, the military has taken the first concrete step. Two million soldiers will be given the blood test, and those who have AIDS will be discreetly discharged. …The next logical step would be to require of anyone who seeks a marriage license that he present himself not only with a Wassermann test but also an AIDS test.

But if he has AIDS, should he then be free to marry?

Only after the intended spouse is advised that her intended husband has AIDS, and agrees to sterilization. We know already of children born with the disease, transmitted by the mother, who contracted it from the father.

…The next logical enforcer is the insurance company. Blue Cross, for instance, can reasonably require of those who wish to join it a physical examination that requires tests. Almost every American, making his way from infancy to maturity, needs to pass by one or another institutional turnstile. Here the lady will spring out, her right hand on a needle, her left on a computer, to capture a blood specimen.

Is it then proposed …that AIDS carriers should be publicly identified as such?

The evidence is not completely in as to the communicability of the disease. But while much has been said that is reassuring, the moment has not yet come when men and women of science are unanimously agreed that AIDS cannot be casually communicated. Let us be patient on that score, pending any tilt in the evidence: If the news is progressively reassuring, public identification would not be necessary. If it turns in the other direction and AIDS develops among, say, children who have merely roughhoused with other children who suffer from AIDS, then more drastic segregation measures would be called for.

But if the time has not come, and may never come, for public identification, what then of private identification?

Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.

A year later, Buckley “withdrew” his proposal under the unique kind of protest that only Buckley could muster:

Sixteen months ago, in a thinking-out-loud exchange with Professor Alan Dershowitz, I suggested that perhaps AIDS carriers should be tattooed discreetly, to guard uncontaminated sexual or needle partners from danger. This proposal reminded everyone of Auschwitz, and I have seen, in print, that Mr. Buckley “wants to tattoo all homosexuals.” It is as though anyone who found a use for barbed wire was secretly a concentration-camp fetishist. Never mind: I quickly withdrew the proposal for the simple reasoning that it proved socially intolerable. I have ever since been waiting for a socially tolerable alternative to be proposed…

But in 2005 when the news media would initiate a new round of hysteria over an imaginary AIDS “superbug,” Buckley was there again, suggesting that the tattoo idea be revived:

The objective is to identify the carrier, and to warn his victim. Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration.

The so-called “superbug” was a phantom; but Buckley’s Buchenwaldist proposal was, apparently, serious — serious enough for him to raise it again unapologetically 20 years later.

Malcom Forbes on his Harley-Davidson, on the cover of OutWeek, March 18, 1990. (Click to enlarge.)

Michelangelo Sigornile Reports That A Very Wealthy Businessman Was Gay: 1990. Malcolm Forbes was gay. You knew that, right? Playwright George Osterman knew. He had had sex with Forbes a few times, and was one of the very few willing to talk about it under his own name. “To a degree, he was very charming. I did it for the experience, I mean, I was having sex with a millionaire, It was an experience. It was fine,” he said. A host of New York City waiters knew; Forbes seemed to have had a particular thing for waiters. A former employee at Forbes magazine said that half of the staff knew and the other half just didn’t want to know about it. New York’s gossip columnists knew: Newsday’s James Revson, The Daily News’ Billy Norwich, Village Voice’s Michael Musto. Liz Smith, also at The Daily News, undoubtedly knew, though she claimed to be “too square” to be aware of it. Besides, she was still tending to her own closet at the time. Even Elizabeth Taylor knew — even though the New York Times implied in Forbes’s obituary that he had wanted to marry her, only to strike that reference in the paper’s later editions. And because Michelangelo Signorile put all of that in a cover story for OutWeek three weeks after Forbes died of a heart attack, you know it too:

People talked and, in quite a few segments of the gay male community at least, it seamed that everyone knew someone who’d done it with Malcolm Forbes. He was also quite showy, liking to ride around with his “dates” on his motorcycle. It was not uncommon to spot Forbes on Christopher Street taking a break next to his bike with a hot, young, leathered bikemate by his side. He also would show up — often with young men — at such mixed clubs as Love Machine and Celebrity Club at the Tunnel, where the crowed was predominately gay but was never listed as such or considered a gay club per se. This the contradiction of Forbes: While he tried to keep it all very hush-hush, he behaved many times in a sloppy, seemingly deliberate way, yearning to have fun, and testing the limits of living a closeted life.

Michelangelo Signorile

Signorile’s first job out of college was with a public relations firm that specialized in getting their clients mentioned in gossip columns. That’s where he became increasingly aware of the double standard with which gossip columnists — and journalists generally — treated gay people. Every hint of a heterosexual dalliance was given press, but whenever they became aware of a romance involving a gay celebrity, there was nothing but silence — or a manufactured story of a heterosexual romance. As Signorile became involved with ACT UP in 1989, the group’s motto “SILENCE = DEATH” took on a special meaning. As long as gay people were an abstraction to the general public — as long as gay people were those people, relatively nameless and faceless because those who were well known remained silent — the unique combination of apathy and hysteria surrounding AIDS would continue.

Forbes wasn’t the first celebrity whose homosexuality Signorile reported on. As the features editor of OutWeek, Signorile also wrote a regular column titled “Gossip Watch,” in which he sought to hold New York’s other gossip columnists accountable. Beginning in 1989, he launched a second column called “Peek-A-Boo,” in which he listed the names of some ninety allegedly closeted celebrities. Critics, including many in the gay community, lambasted Signorile for publishing private and “salacious” details, as though being gay itself was somehow salacious. By 1990, the mainstream media began to notice, when Time magazine published “Forcing Gays Out of the Closet,” in which media critic William Henry III coined the word “outing” as a verb, a term that Signorile has always disliked. As he saw it, what he was doing was reporting, and was in no way different from what other journalists were writing about heterosexual celebrities.

As for the Forbes article, Signorile’s portrait was actually somewhat sympathetic. But in the end, Signorile said that setting the record straight, so to speak, was important “for the sake of posterity:

Is our society so overwhelmingly repressive that even individuals as all-powerful as the late Malcolm Forbes feel they absolutely cannot come out of the closet? It would seem so. Much like Congressman Barney Frank before he came out, Forbes was the victim of a virulently homophobic society which he too fed into regularly. He was forced to lead a life of secret pursuits and dark, dirty doings; of exploitation and abuse, His own internalized homophobia far outweighed the commanding authority that any amount of dollars could possibly wield.

And what is the significance of bringing all of this out now?

First, for the sake of posterity the truth must be told. All too often history is distorted. One of the most influential men in America just died, and regardless of how we may or may not see him as a proper public figure, he was gay, And that must be recorded.

Second, it sends a clear message to the public at large that we are everywhere.

Third, perhaps gays and lesbians at all levels of society can learn a great deal from the story of Malcolm Forbes, In researching this piece, in an attempt to try to obtain more information about Forbes and get to people who were close to him, I came upon someone who kneW the family very well and who would have been able to discuss intimate details about the man; not merely about sex, but about the the real inner-workings of Forbes’ mind, It was a person who could perhaps provide an insight into what Forbes thought about such issues as gay rights and AIDS, But, after considerable thought, he decided not to speak to me. Currently living a closeted existence with regard to his own family and business, he said, “My choice in speaking to you is between myself and the greater gay community, And — at this moment — I have to go with myself.”

Ultimately, that was the tragedy of Malcolm Forbes’ entire life, Under the guise, perhaps, of doing the best for “himself,” Forbes initiated a senseless, self-imposed prison sentence which benefited no one.

Despite what had become rather common knowledge — and despite Signorile’s efforts to promote to story to other news organizations, the mainstream press remained silent. Several months later, The New York Times, in an article about the “outing” controversy, refused to mention Forbes’s name, referring to him simply as “a famous businessman who had recently died.”

[Sources: Michelangelo Signorile. "The other side of Malcolm." Outweek (March 18, 1990): 40-45. Available online here (PDF: 21.3 MB/108 pages).

William Henry III. "Forcing gays out of the closet." Time (January 29, 1990). Available online with subscription here.]

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