Today In History, 1977: Houston Klan: “We Endorse and Seek the Execution of All Homosexuals”

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Site of the Klan's bookstore in Pasadena, TX. (via Flicker)

Site of the Klan’s bookstore in Pasadena, TX. (via Flicker)

The Star, a gay paper in Houston, reported that the phone answering machine message for the Klan’s bookstore in the Houston suburb of Pasadena said, in part:

The Ku Klux Klan is not embarrassed to admit that we endorse and seek the execution of all homosexuals. While many church people are duped by their brain-washed, pinky-panty preachers into believing that we should merely pray for the homosexuals, we find that we must endorse and support the law of God, which calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. … Not only have we seen the establishment of homosexual churches in our once unblemished land, but at least two major denominations have actually ordained homosexuals into the ministry.

The Ku Klux Klan does not have to rely on the feelings or thoughts of man, nor do we need to experience a dialogue with some Jewish Psychiacrist or rabbi who is mentally warped anyway. We rely on the age-proven and reliable law of God. …The law on homosexuality states: “That if a man also lie with mankind as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, and shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). … It is not our intention to but this matter up to a discussion or debate the matter or start a dialogue with a committee of queers as to their rights of sexual freedom. The law of God states the death penalty for homosexuals, and when God’s laws are again enforced, the death penalty is what it will be.”

[Source: The Star, as quoted in “‘We endorse and seek the execution of all homosexuals’ — KKK.” Arizona Gay News (September 16, 1977): 2.]

Today In History, 1988: Canada’s Largest Protestant Church Accepts Gay Ordination

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

The governing council of the United Church of Canada voted at a meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, to allow gay men and women to be ordained into the clergy. The church, which was formed in 1925 from a merger of Canada’s Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches, decreed: “All persons regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become members of the United Church. All members of the church are eligible to be considered for the ministry. All Christian people are called to a lifestyle patterned on Jesus Christ. All congregations, presbyteries and conference covenant to work out the implications of sexual orientation and lifestyles in the light of Holy Scriptures.”

The final report approved by the governing council added: “we confess before God that as a Christian community we have participated in a history of injustice and persecution against gay and lesbian persons in violation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It also acknowledged “our continued confusion and struggle to understand homosexuality.”

The 205-160 vote followed months of heated debate, during which a quarter of the church’s ministers and 30,000 of its 860,000 members signed a declaration opposing the move. Over the next four years, membership fell by 78,000 as some congregations split and a few others left the denomination altogether.

Born On This Day, 1917: Chuck Rowland

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

(d. 1990) His tiny hometown of Gary, South Dakota, straddling the state line with Minnesota, may have been off the beaten path, but the town’s only newsstand was located in his father’s drugstore, providing young Chuck with a window to a much larger world. He vividly remembered that day when he snatched a copy of Sexology magazine, a small quasi-scientific magazine about the size of a Reader’s Digest, and read “that if one was homosexual, he shouldn’t feel strange or odd, that there were millions of us, that there was nothing wrong with it.” Rowland knew from the time he was ten years old that he was gay, when he fell in love with another boy. “As soon as I read that there were millions of us, I said to myself, well, it’s perfectly obvious that what we have to do is organize, and why don’t we identify with other minorities, such as the blacks and the Jews? I had never known a black, but I did know one Jew in our town. Obviously, it had to be an organization that worked with other minorities, so we would wield tremendous strength.” Organizing would become Rowland’s greatest contribution to the early gay rights movement.

In the late 1930s, Rowland went to the University of Minnesota where he met Bob Hull (May 31), and the two became lovers, briefly, and then lifelong friends. Rowland was drafted into the Army, but thanks to a severe injury he stayed stateside and, “frankly, I had a ball.” After his discharge in 1946, he became an organizer for the New York-based American Veterans Committee, a liberal veterans group. Rowland also became friends with a young man whose parents had been Communists. Rowland decided to join the Communist Party and became head of a youth group called the American Youth for Democracy in the Dakotas and Minnesota. He left in 1948, “not because I disagreed with anything, but because I just wanted out. Joining the Communist Party is very much like joining a monastery or becoming a priest. It is total dedication, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.”

That year, Rowland moved to Los Angeles to start a new life. Hull soon followed and the two of them met Harry Hay (Apr 7), who was already kicking around with the idea of starting an organization for homosexuals. Rowland and Hull, along with Dale Jennings (Oct 21), met with Hay and Hay’s lover, Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), and in November of 1950 they formed what would become the Mattachine Foundation (Nov 11). Rowland’s organizational skills to be an important asset to the fledgling group. Given the fearful political climate of the McCarthy era, Mattachine meetings were held in secret, with members using aliases and the leadership known only as “The Fifth Order.” Taking a cue from the Communist party, each discussion group or chapter was operated autonomously with loose coordination, so that if police were to raid and arrest the members of one chapter, it wouldn’t endanger the others.

An exceptionally rare photo of early members of the Mattachine Society. Pictured are Harry Hay (upper left, Apr 7), then (l-r) Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings (Oct 21), Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), Stan Witt, Bob Hull (May 31), Chuck Rowland (in glasses), Paul Bernard. Photo by James Gruber (Aug 21). (Click to enlarge.)

That worked for a while. But by 1953, Mattachine had grown to over 2,000 members, thanks in part to the publicity over Dale Jennings’s acquittal of trumped up charges for soliciting a police officer (Jun 23). Mattachine raised its profile during the trial: raising money, hiring a lawyer, and generating quite a bit of publicity along the way. But the flood of new members brought pressure to change the Foundation. In particular, they demanded the secrecy surrounding the leadership’s identities be abandoned and the organization cleared of Communists. Many of them also demanded that the Foundation become less “activist,” an ironic stance given that Mattachine’s activism in the Jennings case was what made the newer members aware of the organization in the first place.

The group also split over a far more fundamental disagreement: over the nature of homosexuality itself. Were they a distinct cultural minority seeking recognition, or were they exactly like heterosexuals in every way except one? The latter “integrationist” model was sought by many (though certainly not all) of the more “conservative” members, who also demanded transparency, the ejection of former Communists, and a non-confrontational approach to public activism. A Constitutional Convention was called to try to reconcile the many emerging fault lines and come up with a new organizational structure that everyone could agree on (Apr 11). Rowland gave a speech which blasted through the wall of secrecy of the group’s leadership. “You will want to know something about the beginnings of the Mattachine Society, how the Fifth Order happened to be. … I think it is reasonable that you should ask this and important that you understand it,” he said. He then introduced the leadership to the rank-and-file. That satisfied one of the conservatives’ demands. But he also declared his unwavering belief that homosexuals were a unique, valuable segment of society, and if they could only see themselves as such, and with pride, only then could they effect change in society. “The time will come when we will march arm in arm, ten abreast down Hollywood Boulevard proclaiming our pride in our homosexuality.” The newer members found that idea far too radical and confrontational — and downright “communistic.”

Rowland proposed a new constitution, organizing the Mattachine Foundation as a group of autonomous clubs governed by a committee and an annual convention. His draft constitution was rejected and the convention decided to suspend its meeting due to a lack of consensus. During a second meeting called for May, Rowland, Hull and Hay resigned their leadership positions, the remaining members declared the Mattachine Foundation disbanded, and announced the formation of the newly reconstituted Mattachine Society with a centralized organizational structure and a disavowal of activism.

Rowland tried to remain active in the new Society, in a chapter that was intended to take on legal cases. But an attorney for the new Society charged that “the very existence of a Legal Chapter, if publicized to society at large, would intimidate and anger heterosexual society.” At the next convention in November, Rowland’s chapter was shut down, Rowland himself was branded a Communist, his credentials were revoked and he was out of the group.

Meanwhile, a group of disaffected Mattachine members had founded ONE, Inc. (Oct 15), which was originally formed solely to publish ONE magazine, but which found itself fielding questions and requests for help from gay men and women who were showing up at its tiny Los Angeles office. Rowland became director of ONE’s social services division, providing job placement and counseling services for nearly 100 people in 1955 alone. The following year, Rowland decided to found a church, the Church of One Brotherhood, using the name he lifted from ONE. The church launched a burst of activity in social work, activism and advocacy before flaming out in 1958.

Soon after, Rowland began suffering from alcoholism, had a nervous breakdown, saw a business partnership go belly-up, went into debt, and was evicted from his home. When Hull committed suicide in 1962, Rowland decided it was time to start over. He moved to Iowa where he somehow managed to become a high school teacher. He then earned his master’s degree in theater in 1968 and chaired a theater arts department at a Minnesota college. On retiring in 1982, Rowland returned to Los Angeles to form Celebration Theatre, “the only theatre in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to productions of gay and lesbian plays.”

In March of 1990, Rowland was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He moved to Duluth, into an apartment donated by a former student, and spent the remainder of his days among students and relatives. He died on December 20, 1990.

Born On This Day, 1957: Stephen Fry

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Fry never really had an official coming out moment in his professional life. When he was asked when he first acknowledged his sexuality, Fry joked, “I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb. I looked back up at my mother and thought to myself: ‘That’s the last time I’m going up one of those.'” His early interests included being expelled from two schools and spending three months in prison for credit card fraud. But once he got that behind him, he earned a scholarship to Queen’s College at Cambridge where he was awarded a degree in English literature. While at Cambridge, he joined the Cambridge Footlights, an amateur theatrical club, where he met his best friend and comedy co-conspirator Hugh Laurie.

After a Cambridge Footlights Review in which Fry appeared was broadcast on television in 1982, Fry and Laurie were signed to two comedy series for Granada Television. In 1983, the duo moved to the BBC. Their first show, a science fiction mocumentary, flopped and was cancelled after only one episode. Their next project, the sketch comedy A Bit of Fry & Laurie, was considerably more successful, running for four seasons between 1986 and 1995. Fry also appeared in several episodes of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder series.

Beginning in 1992, Fry began appearing in several BBC dramas, and in in 2005 he added documentaries to his many projects. He explored his bipolar disorder in the Emmy Award-winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006, and that same year he delved into his genealogy in an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? His six part 2008 series Stephen Fry in America had him travelling through all fifty states, mostly in a London Cab. His film credits include portraying Oscar Wilde — a role he said he was born to play — in 1997’s critically acclaimed Wilde. He made his directorial debut in 2003’s Bright Young Things, and he provided the voice for the Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Fry’s interests seems to know no bounds. He’s appeared in London’s West End, published four novels and several non-fiction works, and sat on the board of directors of the Norwich City Football Club from 2010 to 2016. He flies his own biplane, and is a member of the Noel Coward Society, the Oscar Wilde Society, the Sherlock Holmes Society — and he was was voted pipe-smoker of the year in 2003.

He is also an advocate for mental health, based on his own struggles with bipolar disorder and thoughts of suicide. In 2013, he revealed that while filming abroad for a BBC documentary, “I took a huge number of pills and a huge [amount] of vodka.” The mixture made him convulse so much that he broke four ribs. “It was a close-run thing,” he said. “Fortunately, the producer I was filming with at the time came into the hotel room and I was found in a sort of unconscious state and taken back to England and looked after.” That documentary Fry was filming, “Stephen Fry: Out There” aired on BBC 2 in November 2013, and it featured him confronting anti-gay campaigners in Russia, Uganda and elsewhere around the world, as well as ex-gay movement leaders in the United States. He married comedian Elliot Spencer in 2015

Activists Urge Indonesian Court to Criminalize Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, so this development is disturbing:

A group of academics and activists urged the Constitutional Court of Indonesia to criminalize fornication and homosexuality on Tuesday in the latest hearing of a lawsuit that began earlier this year.

The suit, which has been brought by 12 academics and activists, has already had several hearings, but captured international attention earlier this month when it was reported that the petitioners sought the criminalization of homosexuality. But they are actually seeking a broader reform of the country’s criminal code, according to court filings, that would not only criminalize homosexuality but also make sex between unmarried people a crime.

Tuesday’s hearing, which was attended by a large group of activists from an Islamic women’s organization, was the second in which the petitioners were able to present witnesses in support of their case. They argued that not only was the country on the verge of a crisis of sexual morality, but it was at risk of having its core Muslim values overridden by international human rights claims that embrace LGBT rights.

The usual tropes are being trotted out here as we’ve seen elsewhere, including the charge that gay people are a risk to children. The chairman of the National Child Protection Commission is calling for five years imprisonment for homosexuality. Another activist representing the Family Love Alliance is calling for the expansion of an existing law mandating fifteen years’ imprisonment for sex between adults and minors to include consensual same-sex relationships between adults:

Rita Hendrawaty, chairwoman of the group, said Wednesday it was not trying to criminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“The real reason is so that we have much clearer norms,” she said.

“We are not intending to criminalize those who have a deviant sexual orientation. That is not the point. They can be free to live but not show their lifestyle.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia. The Indonesian government opposes the lawsuit, although that appears to be mainly due to its inclusion of a call to criminalize “fornication” between any two unmarried adults. But the same government has, over the past year, issued calls to ban gay groups from university campuses, prohibit positive or neutral portrayal of gay people in the media, and even the removal of LGBT-supportive emojis from smart phone apps. The defense minister likened gay rights groups to a “type of modern warefare.” Two weeks ago, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s president said that there was “no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement.” The Indonesia Psychiatric Association classifies homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism as mental disorders, leading so-called “experts” to promote conversion therapy.

The LGBT movement has been forced to set up safe houses and deploy other security measures in response.

And many LGBT Indonesians are combing through their social media to “unfriend” anyone who might disapprove of them.

“Normally I just share everything gay about me,” said Safir Soeparna, who works for Apcom, a Bangkok-based group focusing on HIV in gay men. “Now I’m a bit like … will somebody use this to blackmail me? So I rechecked my ‘friend’ list and deleted people I can’t trust 100 percent.”

Several activists have also adopted new security strategies.

“My guys don’t even go to the office any more. It’s too dangerous. We’ve never really experienced this,” Oetomo said.

The staff of Arus Pelangi, which provides legal assistance for LGBT people, set up a buddy system in January because police could not guarantee their security, and started a hotline for people needing help, Chairwoman Yuli Rustinawati said.

Mat Staver Calls for “Civil Disobedience” Over SCOTUS Marriage Decision

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

Right Wing Watch caught up with Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver who was speaking to a Pennsylvania anti-abortion group last April:

We are coming to a place, ladies and gentleman, where we have to make a decision. Where we have to make a decision like Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a decision, like Martin Niemoller made a decision. We are coming to the position where we are in the same place that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had to make a decision, where the founders of this country had to make a decision that we will either obey God or we will obey man. And when those two directly, inherently, irrevocably collide with one another. We are in a position like Daniel in the lions’ den, like the three Hebrews that would not bow down, like Esther, who offered her life on the line and engaged in civil resistance against the most powerful king on the planet. We are coming to that moment in time.

When we have five lawyers on the Supreme Court — and I’ve had the opportunity to argue there, I’ve written lots of briefs, I’ve been a dean of a law school, I’ve been a tenured law school professor, I’ve taught constitutional law, I know all of that issue. But when we have five lawyers on the Supreme Court that not only contradict themselves in a two years period because, you know in 2013 they said the states had a right to define marriage, and in June 2015 they said states don’t have the right to define marriage. Frankly, states don’t have the right to define marriage to begin with any more than they have the right to redefine gravity. It is what it is. It’s part of natural creation. But they contradict themselves in a period of two years, and as Chief Justice John Roberts said, the five lawyers — that’s his term, not mine — they impose their will on a legal judgment not based on the Constitution, not based on the Court’s precedent.

That’s a lawless opinion. When are we going to stop playing charades and pretend that whatever those five people say, whoever they might be, whatever they say, no matter how devoid of the Constitution it may be, that it becomes the law of the land? It doesn’t! If that’s your belief system, if you have gotten so brainwashed to think that whatever those five people in Washington, D.C., say, we now have to march to it like toy soldiers because if they say so, irrespective of the fact that they have no authority under the Constitution to do it, then you would support Dred Scott, you would support Buck v. Bell, because those decisions came down from the United States Supreme Court as well.

And those decisions, the Dred Scott by the Supreme Court, they said that Blacks were not entitled to citizenship and therefore you cannot bring your case in court. We had a civil war to overturn that nonsense.

Staver gets his history just about as wrong as he does the law. Whenever anyone disagrees with a Supreme Court decision, they often point to Dred Scott as an example as a truly awful decision. We all know it was morally repugnant and a dark stain on our nation’s history. But that dark stain came about because the Constitution at the time — remember, it counted Black slaves like Dred Scott as only three-fifths of a person — made it pretty clear that he and others in his situation were not full citizens, not according to that pre-Thirteenth Amendment Constitution anyway. Pointing out that awful fact of history and the sorry state of the Constitution that our forefathers had foisted on this country is in now way the same as saying you support Dred Scott. No decent person can support what that decision did to Mr. Scott and million others like him. But since justices can’t declare constitutions unconstitutional, it seems to me that a decision like Dred Scott, as odious as it was, was also inevitable under the version of the Constitution they were stuck with in 1857. And that’s why we had a civil war and two critical constitutional amendments to ensure that black people would be full citizens rather than three-fifths of a person.

Staver’s respect for the law is just about as slippery as his grasp of history. As the law school dean at Liberty University, which he bragged about in this clip, he taught his law students that they should counsel their clients to break the law in favor of “God’s Law” if they perceive a conflict. And according to a RICO lawsuit that is currently pending in court connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school apparently practices what he taught.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

From GAY (New York, NY), August 8, 1970, page 15.

From GAY (New York, NY), August 8, 1970, page 15.

Twenty-nine year old Morris Levy used his fortune from Roulette Records, which he had founded in 1956, to buy Roundtable two year later when the previous owners racked up a $750,000 tax bill. Before Levy bought, renovated and renamed it, the club had been the Versailles, which for the previous twenty-two years was regarded as one of the finest restaurant/cabarets in the world. Levy turned the Roundtable into a restaurant and jazz club featuring several major acts. It was also a rather convivial place, with Steve Allen stopping in to take a spin at the piano and Jackie Cooper joining him on drums from time to time. By about 1970, jazz had departed the Roundtable, and the stage and dance floor area was given over to the gays, and a few years after that the Roundtable jumped on the disco bandwagon. GAY, the nation’s first weekly gay newspaper, said in 1971 that the Roundtable was “like dying and going to heaven.

Today In History, 1971: Newsweek’s “The Militant Homosexual”

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

We’re here…

In the two years following the seminal Stonewall Rebellion, a new wave of gay advocacy and visibility broke over the landscape, going far beyond anything that had gone before. Straight America was scratching its collective head: where did all of these homosexuals come from? They seemed to be everywhere — holding hands in Greenwich Village, running for student presidents at major universities, and marching in the streets shouting something about “gay pride.” Newsweek devoted four pages trying to explain it all to its readers:

To supporters of gay liberation, marching in the streets and holding hands in public are only minor gestures of assertion. They are picketing the Pentagon, testifying at government hearings on discrimination, appearing on TV talk shows, lecturing to Rotary Clubs, organizing their own churches and social organizations and, perhaps most important of all, using their real names. “Two or three years ago, a homosexual who tried to explain what he and the gay movement were all about would have been ridiculed,” says Troy Perry, a homosexual minister who established Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 and has been a movement hero ever since.

…What seemed then it relatively minor clash is now enshrined in gay-lib lore as the “Stonewall Rebellion.” Within weeks, the first of scores of militant homosexual groups, the Gay Liberation Front, was formed in New York. The new mood quickly crossed the continent, leading to the creation of similar organizations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. By the first anniversary of the Stonewall incident, the militants were on the march in a dozen cities. By the second anniversary, they were celebrating Gay Pride Week with an elaborate panoply of parades and protests. The movement already has a book-length history in print and some of its more imaginative propagandists have even begun to speak of a “Stonewall Nation.”

Virtually the entire four-page article dealt with the sudden visibility of the gay community — a visibility which had personal, psychological, familial and political aspects, according to Newsweek. As one measure of the surprise this new openness must have engendered, the word “militant” appeared in the four-page article fifteen times. And what the authors regarded “militant” is revealing: they described “militants” coming out to their friends, families and employers; “militants” wanting acceptance; “militants” refusing to accept the APA’s verdict that they were mentally ill (the APA would set aside that verdict two years later); “militants” demanding an end to the ban on federal employment; “militants” starting gay churches and “militants” getting married in them, and “militants” saying it’s great to be gay. And that last thing, according to Newsweek was especially dangerous:

What all this suggests is a central problem that gay liberation usually chooses to ignore: if the movement succeeds in creating an image of “normality” for homosexuals in the society at large, would it encourage more homosexually inclined people — particularly young people — to follow their urges without hesitation? No one really knows for certain. Dr. Paul Gebhard, the distinguished anthropologist who directs the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, believes that gay lib “will not convert heterosexuals into homosexuals but might encourage those who are going in a homosexual direction to feel less guilty about it.” New York sociologist Edward Sagarin takes an even dimmer view. “If the militants didn’t say that it is great to be gay,” Sagarin insists, “more adolescents with homosexual tendencies might seek to change instead of resolving their confusion by accepting the immediate warm security that tells them they are normal.”

A sharp-eyed reader may recognize Edward Sagarin’s name. A decade earlier, he used to be a regarded as the influential “Father of the Homophile Movement,” writing under the pseudonym of Donald Webster Corey. Sagarin might have been a towering gay rights figure if he hadn’t turned against the very movement he inspired (Sep 18). Three weeks later, gay rights advocate Frank Kameny (May 21), who undoubtedly felt a personal responsibility to respond to the man who had once inspired him to advocate for gay rights, challenged that paragraph with this letter to the editor:

The gay liberation movement has been formulating its positions for some twenty years, has quite “come to grips with all the implications of its own positions” and does not at all “choose to ignore” the “problem” of “more homosexually inclined people — particularly young people — [following] their urges without hesitation.” Not only do we consider this neither a problem nor a danger; we consider it an eminently desirable goal to be worked toward and achieved as soon and as fully as possible. It is the very essence of liberation.

Charlotte Pride Sees Record Attendance, Loud Protests

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

This past weekend, anti-gay and anti-abortion activist Flip Benham tried to disrupt Charlotte Pride by ranting into a portable loudspeaker in a Parking lot near the sound stage. Yelling, “stop celebrating sodomy in the streets!” and complaining about men who “puts his penis up another man’s rectum,” Benham sought to present the face of Christ to the gathered sodomites. The Charlotte Observer has more:

Christina Woodruff of Huntersville is only 10 years old, but she learned a very grown-up lesson about bigotry this weekend at the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade in uptown.

“I was just standing there and a man told me that I was a child of the Devil,” said Christina, who is parented by a same sex couple. “I wanted to punch him, but my mom stopped me. I cried instead.”

Conservative religious groups have long provided sideline heckling at Charlotte’s annual gay pride celebration, including a group this year that tried to drown out Mayor Jennifer Roberts during the opening ceremony Saturday.

Fortunately, this wound up being little more than a side show. Charlotte Pride officials estimate that about 200,000 people showed up for the festival and parade, up from 120,000 people last year. The parade saw about 3,500 marchers, about ten of 135 contingents representing faith groups, which represents another record. Event organizers believe the record turnout is a show of support for the LGBT community in the face of North Carolina’s HB2.

Update: Charlotte Pride has issued a press release urging caution with the 200,000 attendance figure:

Final attendance estimates have not been released. We are confident that we met or exceeded last year’s attendance, which stood at 120,000 visitors over the course of the weekend. Parade participation jumped to over 140 parade entries, with 3,500 individual marchers in the parade, but full spectator and attendee numbers for the 2016 events are not yet available. We’ll be looking at all the numbers and doing some analysis in the coming days.

Several media outlets are reporting that organizers “expected 200,000” people or are reporting that organizers estimated attendance matched that number. This is incorrect, and has not been released by our organization.

Please note that official attendance estimates will be publicized solely from Charlotte Pride’s media spokesperson, Matt Comer, via press release or media advisory

Australia’s Prime Minister Pushes Marriage Equality Plebiscite Off Until Next Year

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

For the past few years, Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his predecessor, Tony Abbott, have been promising for more than a year to hold a plebiscite in 2016 on same-sex marriage. Turnbull, who has refused a free vote in Parliament, was narrowly re-elected on that pledge. Now it looks like that vote won’t happen until February 2017 at the earliest.

The Turnbull government will push back the date of the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite until February 2017, breaking a flagship pledge. The Prime Minister had said he wanted the vote to be held this year.

However a spokesperson for Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Media that Special Minister of State, Scott Ryan,  received advice last week from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) advising the government to push the vote back.

“The government has always said that a decision on same-sex marriage will be made by a vote of all Australians in a national plebiscite to be held as soon as practicable,” the spokesperson said.

“That commitment has not changed. Late last week, the AEC provided advice to the Special Minister of State that strongly recommended against the conduct of a plebiscite this calendar year.”

Labor and Greens, who oppose a plebiscite and call for a free vote in Parliament, have attacked the announcement as “another broken promise by Malcolm Turnbull“:

“Mr Turnbull is willing to waste taxpayers’ money and provide a platform for hate campaigns, all because he doesn’t have the guts to put a vote to Parliament,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

“Let’s just get on with it. Parliament should do its job and deal with a marriage equality bill, with all parties afforded a free vote.”

An analysis published by the Sydney Morning Herald shows that if Turnbull would allow a free vote in Parliament, it could pass both houses:

The analysis found at least 84 lower house MPs and 41 senators in the new Parliament would vote in favour of marriage equality if a free vote were granted – enough to succeed in both chambers.

“Marriage equality enjoys clear majority support in both houses of Parliament,” said long-time gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome. “If the Coalition allowed a free vote, marriage equality could pass tomorrow and the nation could move on.”

… Mr Croome said the number of supportive lower house MPs could be as high as 87, including the Coalition’s Jason Falinski, Jane Prentice and Melissa Price. “Either way, it’s a strong majority,” he said.

The vote appears tighter in the Senate, but marriage equality advocates counted 41 locked-on supporters, including all nine Greens and the three NXT senators. Thirty-nine votes are required for a majority.

Australian Marriage Equality chairman Alex Greenwich concurred with those numbers but warned a “stalemate” could occur if the plebiscite was blocked in the Senate and the Coalition then refused to grant a free vote.

Texas Federal Judge Blocks Obama Administration’s Trans Protections

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

Responding to a lawsuit filed by Texas and ten other states, Ft. Worth Federal District Judge Reed O’Connor has blocked the Obama Administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to extend discrimination protections for transgender people under the law’s provisions based on sex. According to Buzzfeed:

The court found that the Obama administration’s actions likely violate the Administrative Procedure Act for failing to follow proper notice and comment procedures under the law because, the court found, the policies are “legislative and substantive.” Additionally, the court found that, under the text of the law, the Obama administration’s interpretation is incorrect — a ruling that contradicts an earlier decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in a related case challenging a Virginia school district’s policies.

“A definition that confuses instead of clarifies is unpersuasive,” O’Connor wrote of the policies, citing the judge who dissented from the 4th Circuit’s decision for support.

O’Connor, in granting the states’ request, issued a nationwide injunction of the guidance, writing that “while this injunction remains in place, [the Obama administration is] enjoined from initiating, continuing, or concluding any investigation based on [its] interpretation that the definition of sex includes gender identity in Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex.”

While the Fourth Circuit Court’s rulings aren’t binding in Texas, I don’t see how the Texas judge can issue a nationwide injunction. Maybe legal eagles can weigh in here. Others seems to agree:

Other courts have sided with the Obama administration, agreeing that transgender students can be protected by anti-discrimination laws.

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination,” said a statement from five groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that have filed “friend of the court” briefs on behalf of transgender students.

The injunction does not prevent parents of transgender students from suing school districts for discrimination, nor does it prevent districts from offering bathroom access policies that run according to the guidelines, those group said.

ACLU attorney Joshua Block said the main practical impact of the decision is that it would prevent the Obama administration from carrying out administrative enforcement actions against schools on transgender issues.

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

The thirteen states which are suing the Obama administration under Texas vs. United States are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. That lawsuit is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Eleven states are suing the administration in a separate lawsuit, Nebraska vs. U.S: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. That lawsuit is being led by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson.

Four separate lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina over HB2, which prohibits municipalities from enacting local non-discrimination ordinances based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, and which requires transgender people to use the rest room based on the gender listed on their birth certificates. Two of those lawsuits are challenging the law, and two others are challenging the Obama administration’s transgender policies.

In another lawsuit, a Virginia high school student is suing the Gloucester County school board over the district’s bathroom policy that would force him to use the women’s restroom. After his case was rejected in Federal District Court, the Fourth Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction allowing the teen to use the mens’s restrooms and ordered the lower court to re-hear the case, saying that the U.S. Department of Education could interpret Title IX as applying to gender identity. That injunction was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on August 3.

Twelve states, led by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, filed a brief in the Northern District of Texas supporting the Obama administration’s policies. They were: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, as well as Washington, DC.

Something Happened Over The Weekend…

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

We had some performance issues with BTB over the past few weeks, so I asked our host provider to look into it. They decided to upgrade our PHP thingy, which now makes the web site load faster but it seems to have somehow broken the visual design of the thing. So if things look a little odd today, it’s because I reverted back to an older interim set of templates (thank God for backups) that seem to work okay for now. What this mainly means is that the Daily Agenda items aren’t set off with their own highlighting to make them distinct from regular posts. You can live with that for a few days, right?

UPDATE: Also, the list of recent comments is missing. If you see anything else screwing up, please let me know in the comments.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

From The Blade (Washington, DC), March 20, 1981, page B6

From The Blade (Washington, DC), March 20, 1981, page B6

Born On This Day, 1924: James Kirkwood, Jr.

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

(d. 1989) With both parents as silent film stars and his father a director, it should surprise no one that the future author and Pulitzer prize-winning playwright would begin his career as an actor. In 1953, on the CBS soap opera Valiant Lady, Kirkwood played the title character’s son, Mickey Emerson. The fifteen minute program was a noontime fixture for four years, broadcast daily from New York. You can see one complete episode here, complete with organ music and commercials. (“Mickey” makes his appearance at 5:24, but you won’t want to miss the melodrama preceding that scene.) Kirkwood stayed on the series for its entire run through 1957.

James Kirkwood and Nancy Coleman in Valiant Lady

James Kirkwood and Nancy Coleman in Valiant Lady

That Kirkwood’s debut should be on Valiant Lady is appropriate since already in his young life he had experienced more twists and turns than could be portrayed on any soap opera. His parents’ careers were already fizzling by the time he was born, and the millionaire couple was soon flat broke. They divorced when he was seven after his mother left the family. Biographer Sean Egan, author of Ponies & Rainbows: The Life of James Kirkwood, writes that the younger Kirkwood stumbled upon the dead body of his divorced mother’s fiancée when he was twelve, endured kamikaze attacks when serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, and befriended Clay Shaw, the only man to be put on trial in connection with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

With all of that going for him, it’s no wonder he decided to try his hand at comedy. His first semi-biographical novel, There Must Be A Pony! was based on the scandal surrounding his mother’s dead fiancée. Another novel, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead was turned into a stage play and a film by Steve Guttenberg. Kirkwood’s crowning achievement was the book he co-wrote with Nicholas Dante for A Chorus Line, which earned him a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976. He also wrote the comedy Legends! which toured the U.S. with Mary Martin and Carol Channing in 1987, and was revived in 2006 starring Joan Collins and Linda Evans. But for the most part, the fame from A Chorus Line proved to be more of a distraction than a boost, and the last fourteen years of his life were more notable for his unproduced screen plays, stage projects, and the epic novel about his father that he never finished. Kirkwood died of spinal cancer in 1989.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2016

From Vector magazine (San Francisco, CA), July 1968, page 31.

From Vector magazine (San Francisco, CA), July 1968, page 31.

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