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NOM’s new Dump campaign

Timothy Kincaid

April 7th, 2015

As I’m sure you know, the National Organization for Marriage (theirs, not yours) has been promoting Dump campaigns wherein the get supporters to pledge not to use certain vendors and products.

It all started back in March 2012, when NOM launched their Dump Starbucks campaign in response to the coffee giant’s support of Referendum 71, a pro-equality vote. That was also when NOM still maintained some grasp on relevance, and the media took them seriously.

Helped by cross promotion from other conservatives, NOM was able to garner tens of thousands of signatures from those who promised not to drink Starbucks coffee, nearly 50,000 in three months (they currently have 71,193). Although this was laughably low, considering Starbucks’ ubiquitous presence, it did suggest that the National Organization for Marriage did have some reach.

Next on their Dump list, in July 2012, was General Mills. Although it wasn’t a complete and true boycott (signatories promised to ‘look for alternatives’ to the General Mills products), it didn’t catch quite the same success as their Starbuck effort. Perhaps more people were willing to give up over-priced coffee than were willing to ‘look for alternatives’ to Pillsbury or Green Giant. But for whatever reason, Dump General Mills only pulled about 23,000 in the next few months and now has topped out at 27,930.

That put NOM off the boycott business for a while.

Yes they set up a temporary and limited boycott of Target last August which drew at least 2,756 participants, but that was much more low-key and wasn’t sold on the scale of their Dump campaigns.

But now NOM is making another attempt. Among the hundreds of companies now supporting the gay community, NOM has selected Angie’s List as their next target.

It’s hard to guess why some garner their ire while others slide by. I suppose it must be driven by what they consider to be “theirs” or who they think is betraying them in some way. But, in any case, Angie’s List it is. (For those unfamiliar, Angie’s List is a bit like Yelp in that participants grade the quality of service providers).

In a petition titled “I DUMPED ANGIE FOR LIBERTY“, NOM now has 1,463 people who claim to have cancelled their membership in the service (something I very much doubt) along with another 3,662 non-members who are saying “ANGIE’S LIST: STOP YOUR ATTACK ON FREEDOM“.

It will, of course, go nowhere. But unlike some of their other efforts, you can read what NOM’s supporters think. Which is quite a revelation (if not exactly surprising).

Gold Tinsel Jesus does NOT love all

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2015

Tinsel Jesus

Eureka Springs is a little corner of color and decency in Arkansas. Over the years it has developed a gay community and even managed to pass a local domestic partnership registry.

This did not sit well with the religious conservatives. After all, this tourist town was mostly known for it’s Passion Play and it’s giant Jesus statue. This was, in fact, so horrifying that in 2008 the American Family Association whipped up a video warning the world that the radical militant homosexuals had taken over the little town.

And the conservative Christians decided to fight back, taking a page out of the gay community’s playbook. In 2013, they organized a parade, the Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade.

Now I have nothing against Christians celebrating Jesus at the time of the most holy day in the Christian calendar. After all, it must be frustrating that during the Spring Equinox, bunnies and eggs and symbols of fertility seem to give more honor to Ēostre than to the Christian festival that borrowed her name.

So for the past three years, Christians have march and waved flags and driven floats, all for this stated purpose:

The focus of this family friendly event is simply to celebrate Jesus, bring unity to the body of Christ and be a visible expression of God’s love in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

And all went just fine for a couple years.

But this year there was a little problem. You see, the local United Methodist Church wanted to join the Parade. And they wanted to carry a banner with a very controversial message: Jesus loves all.

Of course every Christian knows – and often announces – that Jesus loves all. But what the conservatives mean and what the Methodists mean by that are very different things.

The First United Methodist Church of Eureka Springs has recently become a Reconciling Congregation, meaning that gay people were welcome to full inclusion in the church and further that the congregation was committing to civil and religious equality for the LGBT community. So when they say “Jesus loves all”, they mean it without asterisks.

And that was quite the opposite message from what the Celebrate Jesus people wanted to say. They don’t really want to celebrate Jesus – or not, at least, the one who kept droning on and on about treating people the way you want to be treated, and who hung out with sinners, and who blew off tradition and argued with the religious exclusionists. Nope, wrong Jesus.

They want to celebrate Gold Tinsel Jesus. He’s the one who had the decency to shut up and die and not talk about feeding the hungry and caring for those in need. And he most certainly is NOT welcoming of the Homosexuals! Especially not into churches.

So they banned the Methodists from participating. Because the Eureka Springs conservative Christians want you to know that Gold Tinsel Jesus most definitely does not love all.

So why all the corporate support?

Timothy Kincaid

April 2nd, 2015

Lately in our efforts to live in a nation in which our lives are treated and valued equally, we have come to rely on certain corporate advocates on our behalf.

For many years allies such as Wells Fargo and Levi Struass have made it clear that they welcomed gay customers and employees. Over time they were willing to help finance our causes and put their corporate name on the line. Then some tech world giants such as HP and Apple joined them, followed by Wall Street.

But no one, not on our side nor that of those who oppose equality, expected the loud, immediate, and very unanimous voice of Corporate America who demanded that Indiana and Arkansas not enact pro-discrimination provisions of their newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. This wasn’t just the usual somewhat-liberal companies, but CEO’s who had long Republican ties.

And not only did they demand change, they personally met with Republican leaders to be certain that the changes were adequate.

And let’s not fool ourselves. No progressive alliance, nor media demands, nor twitter storm changed these laws. They helped, of course. They created impetus. They undoubtedly put pressure on the Governors.

But only those who had connections and a history of contributions could walk in the door and tell the Republicans in the state legislatures that they were going to change their votes and do it now.

But why did they do it?

Some within Corporate America have very strong personal reasons for supporting the community – family, friends, those they care about. Others live in a world where diversity is respected. And undoubtedly, some were concerned about the impact that a negative image would have on the business in the states.

But I think it comes down to this: discrimination is a huge colossal pain in the ass for large businesses.

Most have gay employees who they value and need and they long ago got over the notion that it’s better moralize than make money. And anything that causes consternation in the workforce is bad for human resources. And unhappy human resources makes everyone tense. Which loses money and causes ulcers.

Frank Gilbreth proved decades ago that the single biggest contributor to productivity is the attitude of the employee. If employers show that they care about their employees, turn-over drops, production goes up and profits rise. So employers know that they have show that they are looking out for their gay employees – not just for their sake but for the other employees who are watching to see how committed they are.

And then there’s logistics.

It’s hard enough planning travel and accommodations for employees without worrying that Sanctimonious Joe’s Bed and Breakfast is going to make your keynote speaker at tomorrow’s conference sleep in her car. Or deciding where to order lunch if the Holy Memories Pizza is going to cancel on you because you have gay employees and they don’t support the homosexual lifestyle.

And what do you do with employee benefits like a gym membership or health discounts or even trivial things like winning the office raffle for a spa trip if you don’t know whether the businesses around you are going to hassle your employees because the gender of their spouse offends someone’s self-righteousness?

It’s one thing to have religious objections. Business people can work around the personal needs of others.

You need to be home by sundown on Fridays? We can do that. You need to be free Sunday mornings? Not a problem. You need a few minutes to face Mecca every day? Sure.

But it’s quite something else to pass a law whose unstated but unmissable intention is to invite discrimination. Because that’s going to cost time, energy, frustration, and money. That’s going to hurt some employees and cause hassle for others. That’s going to involve late night phone calls and interruption of golf games.

And that just won’t do.

Arkansas U-Turn: Gov Calls for Changes to License-To-Discriminate Bill

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2015

Supporters of the Arkansas License-to-Discriminate bill have argued that their state version of RFRA “mirrors” the federal law signed by President Bill clinton in 1993 — which it clearly doesn’t. Arkansas Gov Asa Hutchison (R) had promised to sign the law as soon as it reaches his desk. It reached his desk yesterday, but Hutchison announced in a news conference today that he is instead calling for changes in the bill. In a statement that acknowledges that the state RFRA’s supporters had been much less than honest in claiming that it mirrored the federal law, Hutchison called on the General Assembly to either recall the bill or amend it to bring it in line with federal law:

Hutchinson said he is asking that HB1228 be recalled so amendments can be added that bring it closer to the federal law. Or, he said, the changes could be made by new legislation. “The bill that is on my desk at the present time does not precisely mirror the federal law,” he said.

Senate President Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) stood alongside Hutchison when he made the announcement. Hutchison didn’t say whether he would veto the bill if changes weren’t made, but he did suggest another option of issuing an executive order “to make it clear that Arkansas wants to be a place of tolerance.” He acknowledged however that an order “would not be the same as a legislative fix.” As with Indiana, caution is in order. Without concrete proposals and specific language changes available, we will still have to wait to see whether this represents a true backtrack or another try at a pig’s makeover.

Hutchison also acknowledged that the controversy has deeply divided ths state — and his own family: his son signed an online petition calling on the Governor to veto the bill. Walmart, the state’s largest employer, along with several state chambers of commerce and mayors had earlier called for a veto.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 8

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Miami Beach, FL; Phoenix, AZ.

Other Events This Weekend: Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Women’s Fest, Camp Rehoboth, DE; AIDS Walk, New Haven, CT.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Just Us, 1975, page 36.

Lost and Found got off to a rough start when it opened in 1971: its unannounced admissions policy appeared to have excluded African-Americans, women, and people in drag. After several months of picketing and negotiations with a group calling themselves the Committee for Open Gay Bars, the owners relented and Lost and Found would become legendary for its spectacular drag shows. Lost and Found lasted for the next 27 years, with a two year period beginning in 1991 when it temporarily adopted the name Quorum. Lost and Found closed in 1998. Since then, the entire block has been razed and redeveloped into condos.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Michael Bennett: 1943-1987. He was something of a dancing prodigy, dropping out of high school at age sixteen to join a touring company of West Side Story. His Broadway debut was in Subways Are for Sleeping (1961). But by the mid-1960s, he decided to focus more on choreography than dancing. The first two shows he choreographed were commercial failures: A Joyful Noise (1966), and Henry, Sweet Henry (1967). His first success as choreographer came with the Bacharach and David musical Promises, Promises (1968), which he followed with Coco (1969), and Sondheim and Prince’s Company (1970) and Follies (1971), which won him two Tonys. In 1973, he took over the troubled musical Seesaw, but only after demanding complete directorial and choreographic control. The producers agreed, and he replaced both the show’s director and choreographer and claimed a writing credit as well. Seesaw won him a Tony for best choreographer.

Bennett’s next project would be his most ambitious. He decided to do a show about the lives of dancers. But instead of commissioning a script, he spent the next hear conducting hundreds of hours of taped interviews with Broadway dancers. A Chorus Line debuted off-Broadway in May 1975, and moved to Broadway’s Shubert Theater on July 25, and stayed there for the next fifteen years. The musical won nine Tonys, all eight Drama Desk Awards for which it was nominated, and a Pulitzer. Bennett would come to regard A Chorus Line as something of a mixed blessing, as the many international companies demanded so much of his time.

While Bennett would go on to have several more critical and commercial successes, but A Chorus Line would always be the high water mark. His next musical, Ballroom (1978), was a commercial failure despite earning eight Tony nominations. Bennett won for Best Choreography, the only Tony that Ballroom won. He had another hit with Dreamgirls (1981, and another Tony for Bennett’s choreography).

Bennett was bisexual, with numerous affairs with both men and women throughout his life. He had a long and stormy relationship with dancer/singer/actress Donna McKechnie, for whom he created the lead role in A Chorus Line. They married in 1976, divorced four months later, and remained close friends until his death. He had an affair with Sabine Cassel, who was then the wife of French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel, but that relationship soured. He was also linked with choreographer Larry Fuller, dancer Scott Pearson, and Gene Pruitt, who lived with Bennett for the last eight months of his life in Tucson, Arizona, where he went for treatment for AIDS and where he died on July 2, 1987 at the age of forty-four.

 Sean Kennedy: 1987-2007. He would have turned twenty-eight today if he hadn’t been killed on May 16, 2007 at about 3:45 a.m. as he left a local bar in Greenville, South Carolina. According to local news reports, Stephen Andrew Moller got out his his car, walked up to Sean, called him a faggot, and punched him hard enough to break several facial bones. When Sean fell, his head hit the pavement so hard that his brain separated from his brain stem. Fifteen minutes later, one of Sean’s friends received a voice mail from Moller:

Hey. (laughter) Whoa stop. (laughter) Hey, I was just wondering how your boyfriend’s feeling right about now. (laughter) (??) knocked the fuck out. (laughter). The fucking faggot. He ought to never stick his mother-fucking nose (??) Where are you going? Just a minute. (laughter). Yea boy, your boy is knocked out, man. The motherfucker. Tell him he owes me $500.00 for breaking my goddamn hand on his teeth that fucking bitch.

Greenville County sheriff’s office arrested Moller as part of a homicide investigation; his arrest warrant described the act as “a result of the defendant not liking the sexual identity of the victim.” But by the time the case reached the grand jury in October, the indictment was reduced to involuntary manslaughter, for which South Carolina law set the maximum penalty at five years. Moller’s attorney argued that Moller “had no idea (Sean) was gay until after the fact. It’s just a freak incident that should never have happened.”

As part of a plea deal, Moller was sentenced to three years, minus seven months for time served. After getting his GED, Moller’s sentenced was reduced again and he was released after just 13 months, his goddamn hand having healed quite nicely in the meantime.

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

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

Segregationists already wrote the conservative response to the Supreme Court

Rob Tisinai

April 7th, 2015

If justice prevails, the Supreme Court will establish marriage equality throughout the country before summer is out. Conservatives will have to respond quickly, but also carefully, especially if they’ve declared their intention to run for president. Luckily, the job’s already been done for them.

Back in 1956, 101 segregationists in Congress protested the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which integrated public schools, by issuing the Southern Manifesto. All we need to do is change a few words of that manifesto, and the exact principles used to protest the end of racist education can also protest the advent of same-sex marriage nationwide.

Here’s the (adjusted) text:

The unwarranted decision of the Supreme Court in the public school marriage cases is now bearing the fruit always produced when men substitute naked power for established law.

The Founding Fathers gave us a Constitution of checks and balances because they realized the inescapable lesson of history that no man or group of men can be safely entrusted with unlimited power. They framed this Constitution with its provisions for change by amendment in order to secure the fundamentals of government against the dangers of temporary popular passion or the personal predilections of public officeholders.

We regard the decisions of the Supreme Court in the school marriage cases as a clear abuse of judicial power. It climaxes a trend in the Federal Judiciary undertaking to legislate, in derogation of the authority of Congress, and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the States and the people.

The original Constitution does not mention education marriage. Neither does the 14th Amendment nor any other amendment. The debates preceding the submission of the 14th Amendment clearly show that there was no intent that it should affect the system of education marriage maintained by the States.

This is not a joke. Or a poe. This is a real thing. Those segregationists managed to anticipate the very same Constitutional arguments our opponents are pushing today.

Power-mad judges and justices are legislating from the bench? Check!

This ought to be decided by the states? Check!

The Constitution doesn’t mention the matter? Check!

The 14th Amendment never intended such an interpretation? Check!

They even managed to work in the argument from tradition:

Though there has been no constitutional amendment or act of Congress changing this established legal principle almost a century 3000 years old [or 6000 years, or even more, if you’re not a young-earth creationist], the Supreme Court of the United States, with no legal basis for such action, undertook to exercise their naked judicial power and substituted their personal political and social ideas for the established law of the land.

Opponents of marriage equality have already set themselves up to use this statement by issuing an amici curiae brief to the Supreme Court, signed by six Senators and 51 representatives. Let’s reverse what we did above and see how easy it be to turn quotes from that recent brief into statements that would fit right into the Southern Manifesto.

State democratic processes, not federal courts, are the fundamental incubators of change in public policy and social structure.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships Ending segregation in schools does not fall within the “clear and central purpose” of any express constitutional provision…

[R]edefining the institution of marriage to encompass same-sex couples Abolishing segregated schools cannot be viewed as falling within the “central meaning” or the “clear and central purpose” of the Fourteenth Amendment…

[T]here has been a long tradition favoring the traditional definition of marriage segregated schools, which has been reaffirmed in democratic enactments adopted by a majority of States…

See? The translation works both ways. You can go from the Southern Manifesto to the amici curiae and back again.

Of course, our opposition would never identify with segregationists or admit to wanting to take away our rights, whether it’s marriage or employment or hospital visitation. No, they’re simply trying to keep their states safe while outside mediators are threatening immediate and revolutionary changes — sorry, that last bit was from the Manifesto.

Rather, let’s say they’re protecting tradition from “people wear their sexuality on their sleeve” (in the words of Rep. Steve King, who signed the Supreme Court brief and lists his sexual partner on his government web page). Everything would be fine if homogays just stayed quietly in the closet. This all the fault of uppity outsiders who want to wreck a system that’s been working just fine. Or, as the segregationists said:

This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding.

And with arguments like that, how could you possibly want change?

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 7

Jim Burroway

April 7th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, March 1973, page 18.

Here’s another one that’s gone without a trace. The address today is nothing more than a small, narrow parking lot next to a Dollar Store in Chicago’s Little India.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
 Pearl M. Hart: 1890-1975. She was born as Pearly Minne Harchovsky in Traverse City, Michigan, the youngest of five children of Orthodox Jewish émigrés from Russia, and the only child in the family born in the U.S. The family moved to Chicago’s near west side when her rabbi father took a job as a kosher inspector for Jewish butchers. Her passion for social justice began when she left school at fourteen to work in a garment factory to help support the family, and quickly became a leader in the adult/male dominated union. A few years later she began attending classes at the John Marshall Law School, changed her name to Hart, and in 1914, was admitted to the Illinois Bar.

In 1915, she became among the first women adult probation officers in Chicago. Her early interest was in the needs of children, and she set about drafting legislation, serving on committees and speaking to audiences to reform the juvenile court system. Her attention to children led her to notice the problems of women who were passing through the legal system, many of them charged with prostitution. In 1933, she volunteered to serve as the first public defender in the morals court. Before then, women defendants typically couldn’t afford lawyers, and the court’s conviction rate was about ninety percent. Hart reversed that trend after only four months when the conviction rate plummeted to ten percent.

In the 1950s McCarthy era, Hart turned her attention to those who were being accused of subversion against the U.S. government, mostly in defending foreign-born clients who were facing deportation for allegedly working for so-called subversive organizations. One client, George Witkovich, who had received a deportation order, appeared at an immigration hearing and, on Hart’s advice, refused to answer questions about activities and affiliations on the grounds that they were irrelevant to whether he should be deported. The U.S. government sued, she counter-sued, and the court cases led eventually to a 1957 U.S. Supreme Court victory in U.S. v. Witkovich, which held that even non-citizens were protected by the constitutional rights of free association and free speech.

Hart also defended another class of so-called subversive — the sexual kind. Her clients included hundreds of gay men who were arrested for soliciting, or who were entrapped or rounded up in bar raids. Many of the arrests were little more than shakedown operations conducted by the notoriously corrupt Chicago police, and it was common knowledge that bribes paid to the right person would result in the charges being dropped. Hart steadfastly refused to get involved in bribery, and instead demanded jury trials, which also tended to have the same effect. That earned her the nickname of the “Guardian Angel of Chicago’s Gay Community.”

In 1965, she co-founded Mattachine Midwest, a Chicago-based gay rights group, and served as its legal counsel. Most of Mattachine Midwest’s job, according to president Jim Bradford, was “making the police behave.” In a May 1969 speech to the Mattachine membership she urged a “more aggressive” public posture on gay rights, two months before Stonewall.

Throughout her life, Hart remained very circumspect about her private life. She never publicly identified as a lesbian, although she had two long-term relationships. The first was with actress and singer J. Blossom Churan. They met at around 1920 and moved in together a few years later after Hart’s parents died. Churan was Hart’s first great love, but by the 1940s, Churan was bored and began an affair with a physician, Bertha Isaacs. Rather than lose Churan to Isaacs, Hart invited Isaacs to move in with the two of them, and all three lived together until Churan’s death in 1973.

Hart’s second major relationship was with pulp fiction writer and poet Valerie Taylor (see Sep 7). They met in 1961, and became close in 1963. Taylor took an apartment around the corner from Hart’s home and, as she put it, accepted the “neurotic situation” at the Hart residence. Taylor was devoted to Hart for the rest of Hart’s life. But as Hart lay dying of pancreatic cancer in 1975, Taylor was denied entrance to Hart’s hospital room thanks to the hospital’s families-only policy. By the time a friend intervened, Hart was already in a coma.

In 1981, the Midwest Gay and Lesbian Archive and Library changed its name to the Henry Gerber-Pearl M. Hart Library. Hart was inducted in the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992 and her home was marked with a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction in 2001.

Before she died, Hart had expressed her one regret in life: that she had no sons or grandsons to say kaddish for her. The Mattachine Midwest president reminded her that grateful members of that organization were her sons and grandsons, and they would gladly say kaddish. In 1991, Taylor published her last poem dedicated to the love of her life:

Kaddish

March 22
I light yahrzeit candles,
dust your photograph
that watches over my bed
and remember your touch.

You are an institution now,
a library,
a scholarship for women lawyers.

As long as I breath
you are a living woman
moving through my mind.

[Sources: Karen C. Sendziak. “Pearl M. Hart (1890-1975).” In Vern L. Bullough’s Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 56-62.

Marie J. Kuda. “Legal Pioneer: Pearl M. Hart, 1890-1975.” In Tracy Baim’s Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community (Evanston, IL: Agate Surry, 2008): 26-27.]

 Harry Hay: 1912-2002. Hay was more than just a co-founder of the Mattachine Foundation (see Nov 11; renamed Mattachine Society two years later) which became the first successful organization of gay men (and, to a much lesser extent, lesbians). It wasn’t the first such organization designed to bring gay people together. That distinction went to the short-lived Chicago Society for Human Rights, which didn’t last a year (See Dec 10). But Hay was a curious and tenuous link between the Chicago group and the Mattachines when, in 1930, at the age of 17:

I enticed an “older” gentleman (he must have been at least 33 ) to “bring me out” by finagling his picking me up in Los Angeles’s notorious Pershing Square. Poor guy–he was appalled to discover, subsequently, that I was both a virgin and jailbait. Champ Simmons didn’t really turn me on, but he was a very decent human being; he was gentle and kind and taught me a great deal.

…Champ, the guy I seduced into picking me up and bringing me out into the gay world, had himself been brought out by a guy who was a member of that Chicago group. So I first heard about that group only a few years after its sad end. My impression was that the society was primarily a social thing. But just the idea of gay people getting together at all, in more than a daisy chain, was an eye-opener of an idea. Champ passed it on to me as if it were too dangerous; the failure of the Chicago group should be a direct warning to anybody trying to do anything like that again.

Hay wasn’t put off by dangerous ideas, a propensity which would always mark him as a controversial figure throughout his life. He joined the Communist Party in 1934, and remained a member until the early 1950s. He also became active in theater, where he briefly became the lover of actor Will Greer. In 1938, he married at the urging of his therapist and party members. He and his wife adopted two daughters, but the couple divorced in 1951.

In 1948, Hay went to a party at USC with several other gay men who supported the presidential campaign of Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace. It was at that party that Hay conceived of organizing a gay activist group. His first efforts to found the “Bachelors for Wallace” failed, but Hay stuck with the idea of creating an organization specifically for gay people. Finally, on November 11, 1950, Hay and several others met at Hay’s home for the first meeting of “The Society of Fools”, which later became the Mattachine Foundation, named after the Medieval French secret societies of masked men whose anonymity allowed them to criticize the ruling monarchs. As the Mattachines got off the ground, Hay left the Communist Party, which didn’t allow gays to be members.

By 1953, Mattachine grew to over 2,000 members in Southern California. And also by 1953, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s red and pink scares were in full swing. With homosexuality being equated with subversion and treason, many Mattachine members became concerned about some of Mattachine’s founders’ communist connections, principally, Hay. They were also concerned that the Mattachine Foundation was being too public and too “radical” in advocating for gay people. When Hal Call and other Mattachine members from San Francisco sought to amend the Mattachine’s constitution to oppose “subversive elements” and to affirm that members were loyal to the U.S., Hay resigned, he said later, to save the organization from investigations related to the Red Scare. (In 1955, Hay would, in fact, be called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.) The Foundation then re-organized itself into the Mattachine Society, elected publicly named directors for the first time, disavowed its prior links with Hay, and reassured the public that the organization had no interest in changing the nation’s sodomy laws.

In the 1960s, Hay and his partner, John Burnside, became involved again with gay activism, helping to found the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, and, in 1979, a gay spirituality movement called the Radical Fairies. It was during this time when his opposition to assimilationist attitudes within the gay community really began to stand out:

“We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that’s how we got through school with a full set of teeth,” Hay once explained. “We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you’re going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you.”

Harry Hay (left), with John Burnside

Hay’s concept of homosexuality, it could be said, was more of a nineteenth century conception than a twentieth century one. He was enamored with the concepts of androgyny, with some of his ideas being similar to the nineteenth-century formulation of homosexuality being a “third sex.” He was influenced by Edward Carpenter, who wrote of gay people as a distinct, well-defined group with its own unique ideals that set if apart from society. Carpenter also wrote of “Greek love” and its pederastic ideals. This perhaps explains how Hay’s radical and anti-assimilationist politics could reach its most controversial limits when, in the early 1980s, he protested NAMBLA’s exclusion from LGBT organizations and activities. He was forcibly removed from the Los Angeles pride parade in 1986 when he showed up with a sign reading “NAMBLA walks with me.” Even some of Hay’s most dedicated supporters and closest friends couldn’t abide this stance. The majority of the gay community had grown, matured, and move in directions that Hays couldn’t accept.

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of Hay’s legacy that we are left to grapple with. And yet, without Hay’s extremely radical idea — radical for 1950 — that gay people should come together from out of the shadows and begin to ask for simple things like the freedom to gather in bars or not to be arrested or not to have their newsletters and magazines confiscated by the post office, it’s hard to know how long the fruition of a far more radical idea would have been delayed — the extremely radical, impossible-to-fathom-in-1950 idea that gays and lesbians could assimilate, that they could become police officers, run businesses, publish newspapers, serve in the military, run for office, marry, raise children, join PTAs and churches and car pools and homeowners associations and march openly in parades down the middle of public streets in June, and do all of those things without hiding or retreating back into the closet. If Hay saw himself as the sworn enemy of assimilation, his pioneering efforts in 1950 were ultimately what made that assimilation possible. And for that, I think that perhaps the late Paul Varnell put it best:

Hay may have been wrong about almost everything. But in the end we do not insist that founders have the right answers, not even ask the right questions. We can honor them as founders and leave it at that.

 Janis Ian: 1951. She was only thirteen when she wrote her first hit single, “Society’s Child.” The song’s subject, about a young girl’s interracial romance, was way too controversial for radio stations to touch when it was first released in 1964. Re-released again, and then again, the third time proved to be the charm in 1967 when “Society’s Child finally made it to number fourteen on Billboard’s Hot 100. She was on the verge of being a one-hit wonder when “At Seventeen” was released in 1975. It hit number one on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts, dragged her album, Between the Lines to the number one spot on Billboard’s Album chart, and earned her a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal. She performed “At Seventeen” as the very first musical guest for Saturday Night Live’s debut that year. Thanks to the lyric, “To those of us who knew the pain / of valentines that never came,” she reportedly received over four hundred Valentine cards on Valentine’s Day 1977.

Ian’s career since then has been considerably more low-keyed, although she has never stopped recording and touring. In 1993, her album Breaking Silence broke several silences, including the silence of her closet. She married Patricia Snyder in 2003. In 2008, Ian published her autobiography, Society’s Child, to critical acclaim. Her audio CD of Society’s Child earned a Grammy in 2013 for Best Spoken Word Recording.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, April 6

Jim Burroway

April 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, April 1975, page 21.

From Northwest Gay Review, April 1975, page 21.

Seattle’s Trojan Shield I held its first Closet Ball in 1974, an event that proved so popular they revived it again 40 years ago today. Here’s how the event was introduced in 1974:

You’re probably asking yourself, “What in the queen’s realm is a ‘Closet Ball’?” Well here it is sweetie. Go find yourself a straight friend (You do have at least one don’t you — some of my best friends are straight). If you truly don’t have any, then bring a gay substitute. Then on March 31 dress yourself up in drag and bring your (hee-hee) straight friend to the Trojan Shield at 8 p.m. Then for a specified period of time (I think one hour) you will proceed to undress yourself and dress your former friend in your drag outfit. Since neither of you will be recognizable, you can both come out of your closets. Tickets for the event are $3 with rules and entry blanks available at the Shield. The pair performing the best transformation will receive a beautiful color photo of Rock Hudson. (Northwest Gay Review, April 1974, page 14)

By the way, numerous gay publications have alluded to the fact that Rock was “one of them” as far back as the 1950s.

At any rate, I’m not so sure there were that many straight participants at that first Closet Ball. But it was a success nonetheless, as was the second annual event in 1975:

On Sunday, April 6th, the Trojan Shield presented the Second Annual Closet Queen Ball . Needless to say the evening was filled with many surprises, especially when Del Petersen entered the contest looking like Catherine the Great a la Jan Del Rio and, after many comments, he said, with tears in’ his eyes, “I don’t see how you guys go through all of this,” and in my usual quick response replied, “IT AINT EASY, IT AINT EASY.” A stillness came over the audience as the first announcement of the evening came. It named Kenny K-Y (You remember him, Kenny K-Was the past Emperor of Vancouver B.C.) as the Camp Queen of 1975. Kenny was striking in his yellow hard hat, bathrobe, boots and yellow and green feather boa. He reminded one of a proud polish bride. The second announcement was that Tinkerbelle – Dan C – was the Girl Most Likely. Tinkerbelle wore a striking accordion pleated pants suit with a mid-calf tunic of brocade. The the big moment arrived. The new Closet Queen, 1975 – Brian – sponsored by Starlet. Brian was ravishing in a black panne’ velvet sheath adorned by mirrors. Each winner was given a trophy and cash prizes. Our congratulations to the winners and all the other contestants – each deserving of winning. (Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 11.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Study of 100 Homosexuals: 1957. There had been a string of high profile arrests of very prominent and well-known men in Britain in the early 1950s, including Lord Montagu (see Oct 20), his cousin, Maj. Michael Pitt-Rivers, and journalist Peter Wildeblood (see May 19), all of whom had been charged and convicted of homosexual offenses. Their arrests opened the debate over whether homosexual acts between consenting adults should remain criminalized. In 1954, the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, convened a committee to study the issue under the leadership of Lord John Wolfenden, and they would study the question for the next three years. The multi-disciplined committee, which included theologians, psychiatrists, educators, judges, lawyers, and several other leading figures, was tasked with reviewing the medical, legal, and moral aspects of homosexuality (along with prostitution, as laws forbidding it were also open for discussion.)

One of the psychiatrists on that committee was Dr. Desmond Curran of the Department of Psychiatry at St. George’s Hospital in London. Curran and fellow researcher Dr. Denis Parr, took on the task of preparing a study of 100 gay men, which appeared in the April 6, 1957 edition of the British Medical Journal titled “Homosexuality: An Analysis of 100 Male Cases Seen in Private Practice.”

The men described in this paper were referred to the authors for evaluation and treatment for the following reasons:

  • Criminal charge or executive consequences thereof: 30
  • Worry over homosexual propensities (for example, “Can I change?”) as the presenting complaint: 25
  • Various psychological problems (for example, depression, excessive drinking) rather than direct worry over homosexuality as the presenting complaint: 22
  • Pressure from friends or relatives: 12
  • Marital difficulties, including impotence: 5
  • Homosexual jealousy or deprivation reactions: 2
  • Executive problems: 2
  • Fear of scandal arising from homosexual acts: 2

The authors observed that homosexuality was a criminal offense in Britain in three very distinct ways. The crime of “buggery,” which was generally interpreted as penetrative anal intercourse, carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The crimes of “indecent assault” and “gross indecency” provided maximum penalties of ten years and two years respectively. “Indecent assault” generally was used for sexual behavior with minors under the age of 16, while “gross indecency” was any contact or exposure of genitalia for sexual excitement.

One problem with the published research on gay men was that virtually all of it was based on clinical or criminal populations, which Curran and Parr acknowledged would not necessarily be representative of the general population of gay men. In their report, they acknowledged that their sample would likely exhibit higher rates of psychiatric problems or criminal recidivism. But when they looked into the files of these 100 men who had been referred to their practice, the authors observed:

…[I]n spite of the probability that any group of homosexuals referred to a psychiatrist might be expected to be heavily weighted in the direction of psychiatric abnormality, no fewer than 51 % were considered to be free from gross personality disorder, neurosis, or psychosis during their adult lives. Only one was certifiably defective and none certifiably insane. They included a number of important and talented individuals of high integrity, successful, efficient, and respected members of the community. Only two had been on any criminal charge other than homosexuality. Very few showed the traditional “pansy” picture of homosexuals; indeed, only 21 were noted to have at all obvious homosexual personality traits, only one of these being a paedophiliac.

As for the treatment programs the men underwent:

The objects of treatment can be arbitrarily divided under four main headings : (1) change in direction of the sex urge, (2) greater continence, (3) greater discretion, and (4) better adaptation to the sexual problem and to life in general.

The authors don’t go into much detail of what kind of treatment the men underwent, saying simply that “treatment consists in a mixture of physical, psychological, social, and environmental measures, in varying proportions according to the case.” In general, it appears to have been confined to psychotherapy or simple counseling, although in some cases the “prescription of medications or environmental adjustments” were noted. As for the attempts at changing sexual orientation, the results weren’t very encouraging:

Of the 59 patients about whom sufficient information was available, 9 (or roughly 1 in 6) reported less intense homosexual feelings, or increased capacity for heterosexual arousal, 3 became more homosexual in preference than when first seen, and no change, even of a minor order, was found in the sexual orientations of the other 47. When a change was found it often amounted only to a slight alteration in the balance of masturbatory fantasies.

Eight of the nine who claimed a “slight alteration” toward heterosexuality were classified as bisexual or “predominately” homosexual (as distinct from “100% homosexual”). What isn’t stated in the article is how many of those who claimed to have experience a “slight alteration” were among the thirty men who faced criminal charges. This would be important; the authors noted elsewhere in their paper that those who were criminally charged had “come in the hope of establishing medical reasons for mitigating the rigours of the law.”

Since the prospect of “slight alteration” of homosexuality was minimal, the only other question remaining was whether there was anything intrinsically wrong with being gay. Curran and Parr found little evidence for it:

Only half the patients showed significant psychiatric abnormality other than their sexual deviation, and such associated abnormalities were often slight. Moreover, many of these abnormalities were explicable as a reaction to the difficulties of being homosexual. Symptomatic homosexuality was rare. If homosexuality is a disease (as has often been suggested), it is in a vast number of cases monosymptomatic, non-progressive, and compatible with subjective well-being and objective efficiency. In our series, both practising and non-practising homosexuals were on the whole successful and valuable members of society, quite unlike the popular conception of such persons as vicious, criminal, effete, or depraved. Only one-fifth were at all obviously ” pansy,” and we found no reason to regard most of the patients as physically, intellectually, or emotionally immature (unless the basic criterion for ” immaturity” is that of being homosexual-a circular argument).

This study, among others, would find its way into the Wolfenden Report later that year, which recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence” (see Sep 4). It would take Parliament another ten years to act on that recommendation (see Jul 28).

[Source: Desmond Curran and Denis Parr. “Homosexuality: An analysis of 100 male cases seen in private practice.” British Medical Journal 1, no. 5022 (April 6, 1957): 797-801. Available online for free at PubMed Central.]

Rob Epstein

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 60 YEARS AGO: Rob Epstein: 1955. He was nineteen years old when he answered an ad in a San Francisco alt-weekly for “a non-sexist person to work on a documentary film on gay life.” That led to his becoming the youngest filmmaker in the six-member collective, the Mariposa Film Group, which The collective produced the landmark 1977 documentary Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives. The film featured interviews with 26 gay men and women, ranging in age from eighteen to seventy-seven, and was the first feature-length documentary by and about gays and lesbians. For the first time, man thousands of gay people saw themselves on the screen, and they flooded the Mariposa Film Group’s mailbox with expressions of gratitude, with many of the crediting the film with saving their lives. Word Is Out premiered at the Castro Theater in 1977, and aired on several local PBS stations the next year.

After the success of Word Is Out, Epstein started off on his own solo filmmaking career. He began working on a documentary about Proposition 6, also known as the Brigg’s Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California’s public schools (see Nov 7). Epstein planned to center his documentary on San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s efforts to defeat the measure. But when Milk was assassinated just three weeks later (see Nov 27), Epstein decided to make the documentary about Milk himself. With narration by actor Harvey Firestein, The Times of Harvey Milk won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 1985.

AIDS was the focal point for his next two projects: The AIDS Show: Artists Involved with Death and Survival (1986) for PBS, and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989), with Jeffrey Friedman, about the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt. Common Threads won his second Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, and it won a George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Television when it aired on HBO.

In 1995, he and Friedman wrote and directed The Celluloid Closet, based on Vito Russo’s 1981 book by the same name, and explored how Hollywood portrayed LGBT characters throughout history. After it aired on HBO, it won four Emmys and a Peabody. In 2000, Epstein and Friedman released Paragraph 175, which featured first-person accounts of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals during the Third Reich. In 2010, they entered the world of scripted, narrative filmmaking with Howl, which portrays the early life of Allen Ginsberg (played by James Franco). In 2013, Epstein and Friedman released Lovelace, a biopic about Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried in the title role, with Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone and James Franco.

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The Daily Agenda for Easter Sunday

Jim Burroway

April 5th, 2015

J.C. Leyendecker’s cover for the Saturday Evening Post, April 11, 1925 (Click to enlarge)

Easter and her Easter Lilly, about 1925.

Easter Wishes: Easter always has a very special and personal significance for me, all because of a very special woman who was born on an Easter Sunday. In 1898, that Easter Sunday was April 10, which is Margaret Nash gave birth to a little girl. Her husband, Louis, wanted to name the infant Easter Lilly Nash, but Margaret, being an eminently sensible woman, had no intention of giving her daughter such a frivolous name. They compromised, and the infant who would become my great-grandmother was named Easter Mary Nash. When I came along, I always knew her as “Easter” and not grandma because, she later informed me, she wasn’t nearly old enough to be a grandma. She was, I think, already seventy when she said that.

She was a remarkable woman, one who never let this small matter of being a woman get in her way. Despite being married to my great-grandfather who held a very steady job at a local shoe factory, and despite being a mother of three, she was a working woman in the 1920s and 1930s. And more than that, she was an entrepreneur through much of her life. This was at a time when women simply didn’t do these things, and in in a place, Appalachian Ohio, where this was doubly unusual.

She hated being told that she couldn’t do something.  More often than not, she’d take such a statement as a personal challenge and she’d go out of her way to prove the challenger wrong. She and her husband, Cecil, brewed beer and made bathtub gin during Prohibition, perhaps because the government said they couldn’t, but more likely because, well, you had to offer your guests something whenever they paid a call (although none was ever offered to her husband’s relatives: they were teetotalers.) When an aspiring writer in the neighborhood complained that he couldn’t get published, she got tired of his bellyaching and, on a dare, wrote a short story and got it published in a popular romance magazine. Later in life, she took up oil painting with passable success (I have a number of her paintings hanging in our home). The only challenge she didn’t meet is that she never learned to drive. That didn’t bother her — that was Cecil’s job — and besides, she was a great story-teller and she loved to regale her audience with the hilarious misadventures of her lone spin (literally) behind the wheel. The story ended, improbably, with the car more or less upright but somehow balanced precariously on a telephone pole’s guy wire.

Easter (left) with a customer at her grocery store’s soda fountain, about 1955.

But that small failure didn’t slow her down. Easter took pride in being an independent and shrewd business woman. She operated shoe stores around town, and later she owned a grocery store and rented houses — all on her own, even though she was married to a perfectly dependable husband who was quite capable of supporting her. She was often told that women couldn’t do these things, and that married women with children shouldn’t. “Maybe your husband should look over these papers,” bankers and wholesalers would say, but she’d just remind them that she was the one taking care of business, not him. When she was building her grocery store, the building inspector came out to check on the stakes that the contractor had laid out to determine where the building would go, and declared that the stakes were too close to the street and needed to be set back another five feet. She argued with him for more than an hour, but he wouldn’t budge. She relented, the contractor moved the stakes back, the inspector gave the okay and left, and everyone went home for the day. That night, she returned to the lot and moved the stakes back where they were, and the building went up right where she wanted it in the first place.

You might be forgiven if you called her a feminist, but probably not by her. She hated labels. She regarded feminism as silly and politics irrelevant. The only political statement I ever heard pass her lips was that she thought JFK was sexy. It’s not that she didn’t understand that a woman’s place was in the home — I never heard he argue against it, and she seemed to accept it more or less as the normal state of things — she just didn’t see how it applied to her. Her only interest was in the things that she wanted to do, and she was determined never to allow anyone to stand in her way. If you were to insist on pinning a label on her — and since she’s dead I think it’s probably safe to do so now — you could say that Easter was a post-feminist woman in a pre-feminist world.

Easter and me, Christmas, 1961.

Easter loved the age in which she lived: 1898 to 1990. I grew up just a few blocks from her house, and I’d often go over there and ask, “Easter, tell me about the olden days.” That would always get a laugh out of her since, like I said, she didn’t think of herself as particularly olden. But she’d tell me about her childhood and the many things she did and saw: the kerosene lanterns they used when they still lived in Kentucky, the first time she saw a car or heard a phonograph, the time they moved to Ohio and she got to live in the apartment above her father’s new grocery store on Market Street, with electricity. She told me about flappers (like her), speakeasies (like the ones she went to), and the slang popular among her friends which they apparently picked up from listening to Cab Calloway (Are you all-reet?). (She was apparently quite the partier; her daughter, my grandmother, confirmed to me that even while married, she “enjoyed the company of men.” Cecil knew, but for the sake of the children looked the other way.) She told me about the trips she and Cecil took, to New Orleans (where they drank a beer called Greasy Dick’s), to Florida (she loved  Weeki-Wachee Springs), to Niagara Falls and New York City and Radio City Music Hall. Her stories were as captivating to me as any movie. And she’d always end by telling me that she thought that she was very lucky to have been born on that Easter Sunday in 1898, the most perfect moment in the history of all mankind: “I’ve seen us go from the horse and buggy to the moon. No one will ever get to see a greater span of progress than that in one lifetime.”

She also imparted this piece of wisdom that I have always carried with me. I remember asking her what the word “hick” meant. She thought about it — this woman from Appalachia who saw so much of the U.S. but always felt happiest at home — and told me, “A hick is someone who lives in one place all their lives and they don’t know anything about the world or people outside their small little place.” She gave me the usual examples: hillbillies, people we would see living back in the hollers across the river, or tiny little out-of-the-way towns. Then she paused and thought a little bit more, and added another example: “And you’ll even find hicks in New York City and other mighty fancy places, people who think they know more about the rest of the world than they really do.” I never forgot that.

My Easter was very special to me. She’s been gone for almost twenty-five years and I can still hear her chuckle and the way she spoke, with that particular Appalachian accent that has all but died out with her generation. As I grow older, I appreciate and honor her more and more. I hope your Easter is just as precious.

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Gay Easter Parade, New Orleans, LA; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, DC), April 3, 1980, page 24.

From The Blade (Washington, DC), April 3, 1980, page 24.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 120 YEARS AGO: Oscar Wilde Loses Criminal Libel Case: 1895. It had already been a bad year for the acclaimed author, and the year was barely a quarter of the way through. In February, Wilde was dining at the Albermarle Club when the Marquess of Queensbury left a calling card with the porter. It read, “For Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite.” The misspelling may have been the product of Queensbury’s rage over the relationship between his son Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Wilde.  Bosie refused to end it despite Queensbury’s arguments and threats, including the threat to publicly expose Wilde, which he accomplished with that calling card. Friends urged Wilde to ignore it, but Wilde felt that such an insult required a vigorous response, namely a lawsuit against Queensbury for criminal libel. No response, he reasoned, it would be tantamount to admitting the truth, something that Wilde knew would be disastrous not only to his reputation and career, but also to his very freedom. Homosexuality was a criminal offense.

Unfortunately, Wilde’s libel case collapsed on the second day of the sensational trial, when Wilde took the stand and Queensbury’s lawyer asked whether he had ever kissed a young man named Walter Grainger. Wilde replied, “Oh, dear no. He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was, unfortunately, extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnbury’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s reason for not kissing Grainger: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular man. That was on April 4. The next morning, Queensbury’s lawyer announced that he planned to call several male prostitutes to testify against Wilde. Wilde’s lawyer, after conferring with Wilde, addressed the court. He said that since Queensbury’s letter only accused Wilde of “posing as” a sodomite rather than actually being one, he asked the court to drop the charges and return a verdict of “not guilty” against Queensbury. But this proved complicated. Libel law hinged on two findings: to be not guilty of libel, it had to have been found to be true and it had to have been made for the “public benefit.” And that’s what the judge found, that the statement “is true in fact and substance, and that the publication is for the public benefit.”

With that verdict as evidence, an arrest warrant was filed that afternoon and Wilde was arrested at 6:30 that evening. charged with gross indecency. Queensbury denied that he pressed officials to bring criminal charges against Wilde, but acknowledged sending Wilde a message which read, “If the country allows you to leave all the better for the country; but if you take my son with you, I will follow you wherever you go and shoot you.” That very day, Wilde’s name was removed was removed from the play-bills at the Haymarket and St. James Theatres, where his plays, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest were being performed. Both plays were cancelled soon after.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Nigel Hawthorne: 1929-2001. British audiences (and fans of British sitcoms) will known him best as Sir Humphrey Appleby, a permanent secretary in Yes, Minister (1980-1984) and a cabinet secretary in the follow-up Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988), for which he won four BAFTAs. That acclaim was long in coming. He spent much of the previous three decades playing various roles as a character actor on stage, film and television. But after his successful run on the two sitcoms, Hawthorne’s career truly came onto its own, with a 1991 Tony for Best Actor for the Broadway production of Shadowlands, and his portrayal of the king in Alan Bennett’s stage play The Madness of George III. Three years later, he appeared in the title role again for the film version (which was renamed The Madness of King George), for which he won another BAFTA and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Amid the publicity surrounding his Academy Award nomination, Hawthorne granted an interview with The Advocate, in which he discussed, among quite a lot of things, his private life and his relationship with his longtime partner since 1979, Trevor Bentham. Hawthorne later said that he asked The Advocate to respect his privacy, and was surprised and upset to find The Advocate describe him as “the first openly gay actor to be nominated for a Best Actor Award.” Hawthorne described the outing as traumatic, but he nevertheless attended the Oscar ceremony with his partner and began speaking about being gay in interviews from then on. He also portrayed a gay character in 1998’s The Object of My Affection, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999. After battling pancreatic cancer for two years, he died of a heart attack in 2001.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 4

Jim Burroway

April 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Gay Easter Parade, New Orleans, LA; Pride, Osaka, Japan; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Christopher Street, June 1977, page 42.

From Christopher Street, June 1977, page 42.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Anita Bryant Suggests Sending Gay People To Prison For 20 Years: 1978. Newspapers across the country got a bit of a tease from Playboy, which released a couple of tantalizing tidbits from an interview with anti-gay activist Anita Bryant that would appear in its May issue. A small preview released to the wire services quoted Bryant as suggesting that sending gay people to prison for 20 years “might make them think twice, especially the young ones. Any time you water down the law, it just makes it easier for immorality to be tolerated.”

She went on: “Why make it easier for them? I think it only helps to condone it and make it easier for kids who wouldn’t be so concerned if it was a misdemeanor, whereas a felony might make them think twice, especially the younger ones.” When asked whether prison life might not be conducive to homosexuality, she answered, “They’ll have plenty of time to think. Just because prisons are corrupt and not doing the right thing in rehabilitation because they don’t have enough emphasis on spiritual emphasis doesn’t mean there should not be a strong punishment for that.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Anthony Perkins: 1932-1992. Best known for his role as the sexually-conflicted Norman Bates in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho, Perkins’s own sexuality was the subject of rumors throughout his career. He shared a long-term relationship with fellow 1950s teen idol Tab Hunter (See Jul 11. Hunter discussed their time together in his 2005 memoir Tab Hunter Confidential) and another six-year relationship with dancer/choreographer Grover Dale. In 1973, Perkins and Dale broke up when both of them married other women. Perkins’s marriage to Berry Berenson, which has been described as a bid to keep his name out of the scandal sheets, puzzled his friends. But Perkins seemed to have made the best of it. By all accounts he was devoted to Berenson and their two children. But it remains doubtful that his devotion extended to sexual exclusivity. He died on September 12, 1992 from complications of AIDS, with Berry by his side, two years after the National Enquirer outed him both as gay and as a person with AIDS. His public acknowledgment of his illness came posthumously in a statement dictated to his sons and released to the public. His private acknowledgement of his sexuality, he took with him to his grave. In a tragic coda, his widow died on September 11, 2001, on American Airlines flight 11 when it was hijacked and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

 Graham Norton: 1963. The Irish comic’s 1992 stand up comedy performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a tea-towel clad Mother Teresa caught the attention of Scottish Television, which, bizzarely, mistook him for the real Mother Teresa. Soon he was appearing on BBC radio, then as a stand-in late night talk show host for Channel 5, before eventually taking his openly-camp act to Channel 4 for his own weekly talk show, So Graham Norton, then V Graham Norton. In 2004, he tried to take his show to America, with The Graham Norton Effect on Comedy Central, but the controversy over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl that year soured Norton on bringing his raunchy, innuendo-laden comedy to the U.S. He returned to Britain in 2005, and landed several gigs on the Beeb. He has also regularly hosted the British Academy Television Awards, several British reality/game shows as well as the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2007, he returned to weekly late-night talk with The Graham Norton Show on BBC2, which moved to BBC1 in 2009.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 3

Jim Burroway

April 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Gay Easter Parade, New Orleans, LA; Pride, Osaka, Japan; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1975, page 13.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1975, page 13.

State Sen. Charley E. Johns (center) with two members of the Johns Committee.

Florida state Sen. Charley E. Johns (center) with two members of the Johns Committee.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 University of Florida Dismisses 14 Employees, 50 Students Over “Morals”: 1959. Florida had its own home-grown version of the McCarthyesque Red and Lavender Scares that lasted from 1956 to 1964. Filling the role of McCarthy was State Sen. Charley E. Johns, who led the Florida Legislative Investigations Committee, popularly known simply as the Johns Committee. Johns launched his committee in 1956 with a mandate to investigate alleged communist links to the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The NAACP successfully got bogged the committee’s work down in several court challenges, so Johns decided to go after a much less organized target: gays and lesbians in the state’s schools, colleges and universities.

In early January, the Miami Herald reported that the committee was “quietly probing reports of homosexuality at the University of Florida” (see Jan 12). Nearly three months later, Dr. Wayne Reitz, president of the University of Florida in Gainesville, announced that 14 academic and non-academic employees of the university had been dismissed as a result of the Johns Committee investigation.

“Action has also been taken with respect to the few students involved,” Reitz said in a statement. He declined to disclose the names of those dismissed, and added, “I want to emphasize that there is no reason to believe that the extent of homosexual conduct at the University of Florida is unique and that other public institutions have any lesser problem. This conclusion is expressed in the legislative investigation committee confidential report. Certainly this statement neither condones such activities nor alters our firm position in taking action whenever we develop adequate evidence.”

Little was known about the Johns Committee’s activities until records became available under Florida’s new open records law in 1993. Those records revealed that Johns had sent two investigators to the University of Florida during the summer of 1958. By October, the investigator found very little evidence of anything going on, but boasted in a report that he found “a considerable homosexual operation” on campus that deserved further investigation. Having gotten the go-ahead, the investigators began hiring student informants and used highway patrolmen to remove professors and individual students from classrooms for interrogation. Most of what they got was rumor and innuendo. One student identified professors “by observing them in class… the way they act… nothing specific. Another student named a professor because he wore Bermuda shorts on campus.

Students were also caught up in the witch hunt. Some students accused of homosexuality were allowed to remain on campus, but only if they visited the infirmary and submitted themselves to psychiatric treatment through the duration of their time on campus. In violation of privacy laws, clinic personnel were required to turn over information from patients records. Nearly fifty students wound up being dismissed.

In February 1959, Reitz received a 1900-page confidential report titled, “Crimes against Nature at the University of Florida.” That report led to the firing of fourteen employees. At the end of April, the committee summarized the report during a closed-door session of the state Senate. In response, the legislature extended the committee’s mandate for two more years so it could “investigate any agitator who may appear in Florida.”

[Source: Associated Press. “14 Are Dismissed in UF Morals Probe.” The News Tribune (Four Pierce, Florida, April 3, 1959): 1. Via Newspapers.com.

James A. Schnur. “Closest Crusaders: The Johns Committee and Homophobia, 1956-1965.” Chapter 8 in John Howard (ed.) Carryin’ On in the Lesbian and Gay South (New York: New York University Press, 1997): 132-138.]

The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court who made history in the Midwest

 Iowa Supreme Court Declares Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional: 2009. he Iowa Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court ruling which held that the state’s marriage statute was unconstitutional. The Court concluded that:

We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy issued a joint statement welcoming the court’s decision. Citing Iowa’s long tradition in being a leader in civil rights, they congratulated “the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.” Iowa’s same-sex couples began marrying on April 27.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Anne Lister: 1791-1840. Her father was a veteran British soldier who fought with the Redcoats at the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the American War for Independence. (He later wrote a book about it). After the war, he married and became a wealthy country gentleman in Yorkshire. His eldest daughter, Anne, was brought up with all of the advantages of education and erudition, the latter resulting in an intense interest in classical literature. In 1826, she inherited the family estate, Shibden Hall, and with it a steady income from the estate’s tenants. That modest wealth was enough to afford her a measure of independence and deference from those who might otherwise criticize her “masculine appearance.” She was sometimes referred to as “Gentleman Jack,” for her business (she was a major player in the very male-dominated coal mining business) and recreational affairs (she was the first woman to climb Mont Perdy in the Pyrenees in 1830). These interests were certainly not considered normal for a woman of her standing.

What’s more, her private life wasn’t considered normal for a woman of any standing. Lister had a long term relationship with Marianna Belcombe, which lasted lasting several years including a period of time when Belcombe was married. In 1832, Lister met and fell in love with a wealthy landowner Ann Walker, and the two of them would remain together for the rest of Lister’s short life. Their relationship was as close to a marriage as was possible, given the times. Lister died in 1840, at the age of 49, while traveling with Walker in Eastern Europe.

Lister left behind a 26-volume diary covering the years 1806 to 1840. Most of the diary covered various mundane topics — the weather, social events, business concerns, her travels — but about a sixth of the diary was encrypted in a simple code. Those coded sections describe her lesbian nature and affairs. When a relative, John Lister, who was the last to inhabit Shibden Hall, decoded the diaries and discovered the contents, he was advised to burn them. He didn’t, but he did hide them.

A century later, Helena Whitbread published portions of the diaries in two volumes in 1988 and 1992, and issued a re-release of selected excerpts as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister in 2012. As Shibden Gall curator Claire Shelby observed, the diaries reveal a complicated woman who was very frank about her sexuality. “She talks about her tactics for wooing women. She talks about how she likes a particular woman, how she is interested and how she has spoken to tem. It’s almost like you can see relationships developing as they go along. And, though she doesn’t refer to it in the sort of language we use today, it is clear to see a sexual element in her relationships. … She approached an awful lot of women, including married women, and it doesn’t sound like she was rejected very often. She could be very charming when she wanted to be.” In 2010, BBC Two aired a dramatization and a documentary of Lister’s life. Between the books and the television programs, Lister’s reputation as “the first modern lesbian” has been firmly cemented.

 George Copeland: 1882-1971. The Massachusetts-born concert pianist is best known for his devotion to the work of notoriously heterosexual Claude Debussy. Their meeting in 1911 in Paris marked a huge turning point for Copeland, who had already performed the American debut of Debussy’s Deux Arabesques in Boston seven years earlier. Copeland spent four months studying with Debussey, discussing and playing each of Debussy’s piano works. Copeland later said that at the end of those four months, Debussy told him, “I never dreamed that I would hear my music played like that in my lifetime.”

Whether Debussy really said that or not, it’s hard to say. Nevertheless, Copeland became the leading expert on Debussey’s piano works. He gave several U.S. and world premiers of Debussy’s works, including La Boîte à joujoux in 1914 and numbers X and XI of the Etudes in 1916. From 1904 until his final performance in 1964, Copeland played at least one Debussy work in each of his recitals. Copeland also had a fondness for Spanish music from the likes of Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and Manuel de Falla. In 1909, he performed the American debuts of three of Albéniz works. Copeland was known as part of the avant-garde, often performing new works by contemporary composers, although he became considerably less adventurous as time went on.

Copeland was also rather iconoclastic in his private life. He was open about his homosexuality, telling a Cleveland paper in 1913 that “I don’t care what people think of my morals. I never think anything about other people’s morals. Morals have nothing to do with me.” He also had a passion for wearing exotic jewelry and perfume. His openness reportedly caused problems for composer Aaron Copland (see Nov 14), who was also gay but considerably more circumspect. During a tour of Latin America, the composer Copland-without-an-“e” received a frosty reception from local officials. After discreetly asking around, Copland learned that Copeland-with-an-“e” had been there on a concert tour and had gotten into trouble on a “morals charge.” Copland cleared up the confusion and the concert went on with considerably more cooperation with the locals. Meanwhile, Copeland, in 1936, met a young German, Horst Frolich, in Barcelona, who became Copeland’s “secretary” and partner for more than thirty years.

Copeland’s career suffered an interruption in 1958 when he broke his shoulder in a fall and was unable to play for several years. He thought his career was over, but he made a comeback in 1963 when he re-entered the recording studio and gave several small concerts. He performed what would be his final concert at Yale in 1964. He talked about returning to the concert hall in 1966, but he never followed through. He died of bone cancer on June 16, 1971.

 David Hyde Pierce: 1959. He took up acting in high school, but he went to Yale to study classical piano. He soon grew bored with it, and decided to switch his major to English and Theatre Arts. He moved to New York, where he struggled to find acting jobs. His big break came in 1993 when he was cast as Niles Crane, Frasier Crane’s younger brother for the Cheers spin-off Frasier, which lasted eleven seasons. Pierce earned eleven consecutive Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor, and won in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2004.

Pierce has appeared in Jody Foster’s Little Man Tate (1991), Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), as Meg Ryan’s brother in Sleepless in Seattle (1992) and as Ewan McGregor’s boss and best friend in Down With Love (2003). That’s in addition to voicing several animated features and a couple of episodes of The Simpsons. On stage, he starred in the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains, which won him a Tony for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical Ffor 2007. Pierce, who had formally come out as gay earlier that year, thanked his partner, television writer/director/producer Brian Hargrove, when accepting his Tony “because it’s 24 years of listening to your damn notes — that’s why I’m up here tonight.” They married in October, 2008 in California, just days before voters approved Proposition 8.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 2

Jim Burroway

April 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Gay Easter Parade, New Orleans, LA; Pride, Osaka, Japan; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, October 1968, page 5.

Thanks to ongoing bar raids, entrapment operations and general police harassment, the risk of arrest was an ever-present worry in the gay community, making ads for bail bond agencies a not altogether uncommon feature in gay publications of the 1960s and into the early 1970s.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
ONE Magazine Educates Readers on Legal Definition of Entrapment: 1954. Police entrapment was a very real concern for LGBT people everywhere, with many police departments being particularly aggressive in their pursuit of gay people. But the difficulty of proving entrapment made it an extremely rare defense, as an article from the April 1954 issue of ONE illustrates. The unsigned article, written by “ONE’s legal counsel” (probably Eric Julber, who would later successfully defend ONE in a landmark censorship case; see Jan 13) begins with a brief overview of the relevant law, and then provides three specific examples to illustrate what does and does not constitute entrapment:

1 — The first situation is that where an officer offers to buy a prohibited article, and the defendant is willing to sell. This can arise in narcotics cases, liquor cases, or in prostitution. In these cases, it is no defense that the officer disguised his identity. Where the defendant is motivated by a desire for money, there is no entrapment by an officer who offers money.

2 — The second type of case involves more active activity on the part of the officer. He may secure the confidence of a thief and loan him a gun with which to commit a robbery; he may pretend to be an accomplice; he may take narcotics into a city and there-by attract narcotic peddlers anxious to buy. In these situations, the officer creates situations which make it easier for a criminal to commit an offense which he seeks an opportunity to commit. The idea for the offense has, however, originated with the defendant.

3 — In the third situation, the officer suggests the commission of the crime. He overcomes the defendant’s unwillingness by threats or appeals to sympathy, pity or friendship. In this situation, entrapment exists. (For example, in a famous case, a prostitute induced a man to live with her outside of wedlock. She had been hired to do so by police, who arrested the man for violation of a morals law. It was held the man had been entrapped.) But in this situation, the proof of the defendant’s reluctance must be clear and overwhelming. CASES ARE EXTREMELY RARE IN WHICH A CLAIM OF ENTRAPMENT IS SUCCESSFUL AS A DEFENSE.

In situations of homosexual life, we can apply the law as obtained from the above situations and lay down the following general rules, dependent in each case, of course, upon the particular facts:

It is obvious that, for instance, a homosexual who makes the acquaintance of a strange man, perhaps in a public place, and proposes to him the commission of an illegal act, cannot urge the defense of entrapment, even though the stranger was a vice-squadder “staked out” as a decoy to attract such defendants.

If, in the same situation, it was the vice-squadder who proposed the illegal act the same would be true. A MERE SOLICITATION BY A VICE SQUAD OFFICER DOES NOT CREATE ENTRAPMENT. These cases are similar to situation (2) above: the officer has merely created a situation in which a defendant can commit an act with more ease.

Only in the third situation can entrapment truly be claimed: If the officer “picks up” the defendant, gains his acquaintance, proposes the act, and proceeds to overcome the defendant’s genuine reluctance and unwillingness by appeals to sympathy, pity. friendship, etc., entrapment exists, but IF, AND ONLY IF the defendant was in fact unwilling, and the officer’s appeals were such as to leave no doubt that he was the procuring party. To prove such a state of fact requires a strong degree of proof; obviously, the defendant is forced to take the stand in his own defense, and his version of the facts must be so strong and believable as to convince a judge or jury of its truth and validity.

This discussion by ONE was not only in the immediate interest of many of its readers, but it also came about as the result of direct experience of least one member of ONE’s founding staff members. Dale Jennings recounted in ONE’s very first issue on 1953 of his own narrow escape after having been arrested in a clear case of entrapment by the Los Angeles Police (see Jun 23). Jennings surprised everyone by publicly proclaiming his homosexuality in court while refusing to plead guilty to the charges. His case was finally dismissed, not because he was exonerated, but because the jury couldn’t agree on whether to believe his claims of entrapment.

[Source: Unsigned. “The law: A discussion of entrapment.” ONE 2, no. 4 (April 1954): 7-8.]

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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Report: Indiana GOP Leaders Circulating Proposed Changes To License-To-Discriminate Bill

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2015

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that Indiana GOP leaders are vetting a proposed deal with business leaders and the Governor that would explicitely state that the law couldn’t be used as a defense against anti-gay discrimination:

A copy of the language obtained by The Indianapolis Star was being presented to Gov. Mike Pence Wednesday morning. The measure would specify that the new religious freedom law cannot be used as a legal defense to discriminate against residents based on their sexual orientation.

The measure goes much further than a “preamble” that was proposed earlier in the week, explaining exactly what the RFRA law does. But it doesn’t go as far as establishing gays and lesbians as a protected class of citizens or repealing the law outright, both things that Republican leaders have said they could not support.

The clarification would say that the new “religious freedom” law does not authorize a provider – including businesses or individuals – to refuse to offer or provide its services, facilities, goods, or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, or military service.

The proposed language exempts churches or other nonprofit religious organizations – including affiliated schools – from the definition of “provider.”

Democrats continue to call for full repeal of the state’s RFRA. The bill’s supporters, including the American Family Association of Indiana, the Indiana Family Institute, and Advance America, have not commented on the proposed changes. It’s also not clear how the proposed changes will go down with the Republican caucus in the legislature. They are due to meet tomorrow at noon to discuss the chagnes. Those reactions will be telling, considering all of the objections voiced by Pence and others that the bill somehow had nothing to do  with making super-doublely sure that discrimination against LGBT people would be perfectly legal.

Meanwhile In Arkansas

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2015

The Arkansas legislature yesterday sent a License-To-Discriminate bill to Gov. Asa Hutchison (R), who has promised to sign the bill into law, but not before calling a news conference for later this morning. As in Indiana, supporters of the Arkansas RFIA have striven to minimize both its intent and intended effects, claiming that all it is is a state version of the federal RFIA signed into law in 1993. In fact, Arkansas’ (and Indiana’s) go way beyond federal legislation in several respects:

  • The Federal law was narrowly written to protect religious worship, observations and related practices which may be “substantially burdened” by governmental intrusion. The I laws were written specifically to provide expansive protections for all claims which simply “burden” — without qualification — someone’s claimed religious belief, regardless of how peripheral or incidental those claimed beliefs may be to a claimant’s religion — and regardless of whether the claimant’s denomination espouses those beliefs or not. (The Indiana law is worse in this regard; it specifies “burden or is likely to burden.”)  This dramatically lowers the bar and will tie courts’ hands when these lawsuits come to trial.
  • The Federal law protects against governmental intrusion. The state laws are designed to provide a nearly carte-blanch right to discriminate regardless of whether governmental action is involved or not.
  • The Federal law applies to individuals and religious institutions. The state laws apply to everyone and anyone, including corporations, limited partnerships, private companies, non-profits, and individuals employed by them or the government. This expansion goes far beyond the federal RFIA, and it even goes beyond the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which limited the federal expansion to “closely held corporations.”
  • But the most significant difference between the Federal and state laws is that the Federal law was designed with the goal that neither party is significantly harmed by the law’s outcome. But the state RFIAs have been designed with the specific goal to inflict harm on anyone who gets on someone else’s bad side and can claim a religious reason to retaliate.

These license-to-discriminate bills represent a massive attack against all anti-discirmination protections, not just the LGBT community. Members of the Little Rock Nine, who endured death threats and assaults to desegregate Little Rock High School in 1957, have denounced the Arkansas bill:

“’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, and those words are as true today as they were half a century ago. In our home state of Arkansas, legislators are attempting to enshrine their own hatred into law,” said (Ernie) Green and (Carlotta) Walls. “Once again, opponents of equality are giving credence to those who would refuse to serve their own neighbors under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’ telling us that our freedom of religion, cemented into law by the Constitution and by state law, is under attack. But we stand with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters, as well as religious minorities and others who could fall victim to discrimination under HB 1228, and we stand against this dangerous and derogatory legislation in its current form. This bill must be amended to protect civil rights or abandoned entirely.”

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 1

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Gay Easter Parade, New Orleans, LA; Pride, Osaka, Japan; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Body Politic (Toronto, ON), January 1984, page 14.

From Body Politic (Toronto, ON), January 1984, page 14.

In 2006, Canada’s Daily Xtra published a walking tour of Vancouver:

In the 1960s, the Castle Pub was an important gathering place for gay men seeking community. “But the owners had no tolerance for visible homosexuality,” remembers Don Hann. “I was thrown out of it one Saturday afternoon in 1975 for kissing a gay man in the bar.”

Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the Castle struggled with its predominantly gay clientele, at times welcoming it, at times reviling it. In 1971, the Gay Liberation Front held a kiss-in in front of the pub; a year later, the Gay Alliance Toward Equality boycotted it. But the gay community always returned to claim its space, its members eager to meet other homos and make new friends.

In 1978, the Castle finally stopped fighting its destiny and hired Terry Wallace to manage the pub and embrace its gay clientele once and for all. For the next decade, the pub became an openly friendly, supportive gay space.

When the Castle finally closed in 1990, its gay patrons lovingly carried their portrait of the Queen in a now-famous procession three blocks south to 1025 Granville St. There, the Royal picked up where the Castle left off–until the gay community gradually drifted away to other bars and the Royal went straight in 2001.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Canada Reduces Criminal Penalty for Sodomy: 1955. Canada enacted the first of a long series of consolidations of its federal statues, with a new amended Criminal Code going into effect on April 1, 1955, which replaced the Section 202 of the old Code:

“Everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life who commits buggery, either with a human being or with any living creature.”

with Section 147, which reduced the penalty from life imprisonment to fourteen years:

“Everyone who commits buggery or bestiality is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”

The Criminal Code would undergo another round of consolidation and modernization with the Criminal Amendment Act of 1968, which, when it was finally passed in 1969, resulted in the full decriminalization of homosexuality (see May 14).

Dr. Samuel B. Hadden

50 YEARS AGO: Gay Rights Activists Challenge “Gay Cure” Doctor: 1965. Just a few weeks earlier, Frank Kameny convinced the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. to endorse a resolution declaring that “the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense, but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity on par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality” (see Mar 4). It was a bold statement, challenging the collective verdict to the contrary as delivered by the mental health professions, but it was the first step in the long march by Kameny, Barbara Gittings and others to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.

But in 1965, that resolution was considered a radical and controversial move in the gay community and among gay rights activists. Indicative of the kind of deference that many in the gay community were willing to accord mental health professionals, the Philadelphia-based gay rights group known as the Janus Society hosted a lecture by Dr. Samuel B. Hadden, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a well-known practitioner of group therapy to try to cure male homosexuals. Hadden gave his usual spiel to the gathering: that gay people were suffering from a treatable neurotic disorder, one brought about by a dominating mother-figure or an absent father. Jody Shotwell, writing for The Ladder described Hadden’s treatment approach:

In his group-therapy technique, the homosexual is brought into contact w1th other homosexuals who, according to Dr. Hadden, have seen some kind of light. During the sessions, those patients farther along in treatment try to convince the newer members of the group of the dissat1sfactions — if not horrors — of life as a homosexual. Some attention is given to dress and mannerisms, in an effort to get the more effeminate homosexuals to conform to our culture’s notion of masculinity.

Hadden claimed he had managed to cure twelve of his thirty two-patients, a claim that an audience member challenged by asking whether any of his patients may have been motivated to lie about their progress. Hadden had no answer. He also didn’t bother trying to conceal his contempt for his audience. He likened homophile organizations to Nazis and the Klan, said that gay people should never be granted security clearances, and falsely asserted that everyone who had defected to the Soviet Union were gay. It was toward the end of the discussion that Kameny rose to challenge Hadden on his own turf:

Dr. Franklin E. Kameny of the Mattachine Society of Washington put the following questions to the speaker: 1. Are not his patients particularly susceptible or prone — as demonstrated by their being his patients — to justify the changes he has wrought, and hence atypical of homosexuals as a whole? 2. He seems to have taken it as a premise or axiom that homosexuality is pathological. What scientifically meaningful proof or demonstration of such pathology does he have? Dr. Hadden did not reply to or touch on the first question. In answering the second, he spoke in terms of “I feel (that homosexuality is a sickness, etc.) … We believe… I consider… We think…” In the exchange of remarks, Dr. Kameny asked for a definition of pathology in this context and said that homosexuals have been defined into sickness. When Dr. Hadden’s responses continued in terms of “I think” and “We feel,” Dr. Kameny declared, “This is not science, Dr. Hadden; this is faith.”

[Source: Jody Shotwell. “Special Report: Faith and Fury.” The Ladder 9, n0. 8 (May 1965): 20-21.]

The old hotel at Bankhead Springs (Google Streetview)

Gay Groups Consider Buying Small California Town: 1971. Just five months after the Gay Liberation Front revealed plans to encourage gays and lesbians to move to rural Alpine County, California and take it over as a haven from discrimination and oppression (see Oct 19), reports emerged that Los Angeles-area gay leaders were considering buying another town east of San Diego and “colonizing” it.

The tiny town of Bankhead Springs, population 19, was up for sale. For a cool $239,000 (that would be almost $1.4 million today), the buyer would get a 51-year-old hotel, a cafe and eight houses. Bankhead Springs was named for Sen. John Bankhead, Tallulah Bankhead’s father and Alabama Senator who championed the construction of U.S. Route 80, “the nation’s Broadway,” from Savannah to San Diego. In southern San Diego County, Route 80 covered an old winding, mountainous stagecoach road, and Bankhead Springs became a convenient stop for automobile travelers midway between San Diego and El Centro.

But when Interstate 8 bypassed that section of Route 80 in the 1960s, traffic through town plummeted and businesses closed all along the route. LA-area activists saw an opportunity to create a settlement where gays could escape harassment, raise livestock, and establish an arts and crafts community. Morris Kight said that some of the surrounding properties had already been sold. “They’ve quietly moved into those villages in considerable numbers and are gradually colonizing them,” he claimed.

Kight said that the project to buy the town itself was sponsored by the Gay Liberation Front of Los Angeles, but a spokeswoman for another group interested in the town said the GLF only offered “moral support.” She said the plan was to buy the town, rename it Mount Love, and subdivide it into quarter-acre lots. But the town’s owner, Helen Miller, said she hadn’t talked with any prospective buyers who identified themselves as part a gay group, and added, “I don’t know if I would sell to them anyway. I love these mountains and don’t want to be run out.”

[Source: Associated Press. “Homosexual group eyes small town.” (April 1, 1971).]

First Openly Lesbian Candidate Wins Public Office: 1974. For most of the previous decade, politics was the lifeblood of The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. In 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson chose that progressive campus to unveil his Great Society proposals during the commencement ceremony. In 1965, the anti-war movement was born when UM faculty members and 3,000 students held the nation’s first faculty-led “teach-in” to protest the Vietnam war. By 1974, protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and teach-ins to support all sorts of counter-cultural causes — civil rights, peace, women’s liberation, marijuana decriminalization, and all sorts of other progressive and radical causes — became mundane events in Ann Arbor’s student life.

And so when Ann Arbor city elections came around in 1974, few eyebrows were raised when a local political party, the Human Rights Party (HRP), ran Kathy Kozachenko to represent the second ward surrounding the UM campus. Republicans, which until then had held a solid lock on city government, couldn’t find anyone to run in the second ward, leaving a lone Democratic candidate to run against Kozachenko. With Kozachenko running openly as a lesbian, it proved to be a tight race. After expressing fears that she might lose on election day, she ended up winning by just nine votes. “This is so goddamn great!” she told reporters. “Our victory cannot be attributed simply to gay people and the HRP ‘core’. I think people really understood the difference between actions and words.” Meanwhile, Kozachenko’s opponent, Mary Richman, gave what was perhaps the most unlikely concession speech in the history of American politics: “Apparently all the Republicans voted for Kathy.” In fact, Kozachenko may have been helped by a successful HRP-sponsored ballot initiative which proved popular with UM students: the so-called “dope ordinance” which reduced the fine for possession of marijuana to $5.

Peter Lemke and Frank Wittebrood, Ton Jansen and Louis Rogmans, Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus, Dolf Pasker and Geert Kasteel

First Gay Couples Marry in Netherlands: 2001. In 1998, the Netherlands became the first non-Scandinavian country to institute registered partnerships (geregistreerd partnerschap). That law was written so that opposite-sex couples could also enter into registered partnerships, making it a viable alternative to marriage for straight people while, at the same time, being the only option available for gay couples. That changed in April 1, 2001, when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to grant marriage equality to same-sex couples. At the stroke of midnight, four couples — three male and one female — were among the first to be pronounced legal spouses in ceremonies at Amsterdam City Hall.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
120 YEARS AGO: Alberta Hunter: 1895-1984. Born in Memphis to a very troubled family, she left home at the age of fourteen, moved to Chicago, lied about her age, and became one of Chicago’s top Blues singers in the 1910s and 1920s. She toured London and Paris in 1917, and appeared in clubs and musicals in New York and London throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including an appearance as “Queenie” in the first London production of Show Boat with Paul Robeson. In 1934, she was a regular with the Jack Jackson orchestra at London’s Dorchester Hotel. With the outbreak of World War II, she returned to America and toured with the U.S.O, entertaining troops in Casablanca, Europe and the Pacific.

Hunter was fiercely independent, which prompted rumors about her sexuality. To silence the rumors, she married in 1919, but the couple never slept together and the divorced in 1923. She had a long-term relationship with Lottie Tyler, a woman from New York that Hunter had met in Chicago. Tyler accompanied Hunter on at least one trip to Europe.

Alberta Hunter in her nursing uniform

Hunter’s mother death in 1954 caused her to reconsider her priorities. “I went as far as you could go. I played Broadway. I played the Royal Theatre in London. I played in Paris… and I figured I had gone to the top,” she later told a documentary filmmaker.” A career change was in order. So she took twelve years off her age, created a false high school diploma, and enrolled in nursing school in New York City. She was, by all accounts, a dedicated nurse for the next twenty years. None of her co-workers suspected that they were working alongside a singer who had been celebrated on two continents. In 1961, she broke her eleven-year vow to stay away from show business when she agreed to record her signature composition, “Down Hearted Blues,” and a few other songs for a couple of albums. She enjoyed the diversion, but decided to stick with nursing. She remained at New York’s Goldwater Memorial Hospital until 1977, when she reached, according to their records anyway, the mandatory retirement age of seventy. (She was, in fact, eighty two.)

Bored, she decided to launch a comeback. In 1978, she was booked for what was supposed to be a two-week engagement at a Greenwich Village club, the Cookery, which quickly turned out to be a huge hit. Columbia Records gave her another recording contract. She released two albums, supervised the re-release of her old material, made television appearances and began touring again in Europe and South America. The White House invited her to perform for Jimmy Carter, but she refused because “they wanted me there on my day off.” The White House adjusted its schedule and she accepted the invite. She continued to perform regularly at the Cookery until she died in October, 1984. She was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011.

Here she is, in 1981, performing “Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out” at the Cookery.

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