The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 28

We Are Orlando

Joel Rayon Paniagua

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 31 years old.

7513942-3x2-940x627-cJoel was one of three Mexican citizens who were killed at Pulse. He grew up in the very poor neighborhood known as Colonia Fredepo, just outside of the colonial city of Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico. (Personal note: I know the town fairly well. It’s only about 15 miles east of Orizaba, where I spent my summer exchange while in high school.) He moved to Ocoee, Florida, where his brother lived, in the early 2000s. He returned to Mexico so he could be with his family, but returned to Florida about a year ago to escape the drug war that has turned the state of Veracruz into the most dangerous state in Mexico. “We came because here in the United States there are many opportunities here and because we were fleeing, because in our country there was a lot of crime, violence and death … and we expect it should be more peaceful here,” said his cousin Jose Paniagua.

He had just saved enough to pay off the coyote who brought him across the border, and was beginning to save money to send home. He kept in touch with his family via WhatsApp while living near Tampa and working in landscaping. His mother said that the last time she heard from Joel, he had not worked in a week due to heavy rains in Florida. One friend in Florida remembered him as humble, cheerful, and religious, and he loved to dance. “He was always trying to do stuff to make you feel better.”

FuneralJoel’s mother and two brothers made the dangerous trip from Colonia Fredepo to Nuevo Laredo, where they crossed the border on a humanitarian visa so they could go on to Orlando to officially identify Joel’s body. Back in Colonia Fredepo a few days later, chocolate, tamales, bread, and a mariachi band playing “México Lindo y Querido” (“Mexico Beautiful and Beloved”) greeted Joel’s return, thanks to donations from neighbors. When the casket was opened, the mariachis broke into “Mi Último Deseo” — “My Last Wish.” He was buried in a donated plot in the community’s cemetery.

 

Juan Chevez Martinez

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old.

160614-orlando-victim-juan-chavez-martinez_11bd742feacf248f4a66175c948d7219.nbcnews-ux-600-700Juan was from Huichapan, Hidalgo, Mexico, a small impoverished village of 800 residents. Hidalgo state officials estimate that about 250,000 Hidalguienses are in the U.S., most of them undocumented. Juan was the seventh of nine children, and was just sixteen and barely out of high school when he decided to go al Norte. “There was no work, and they had to go to survive,” one relative explained. Two of his bothers had also made the trek north, but because Juan was single, he was his parent’s main financial support.

Juan lived in Davenport, Florida, where he worked as a housekeeping supervisor for a company that serviced Reunion Resorts in Kissimmee. His supervisor remembered Juan as a dedicated, hard working employee. “He was extremely friendly, very dedicated to his family, to his co-workers. … It is very difficult. Everybody loved him.” A co0worker added, “I was a housekeeper and he was a supervisor. He was very well known among us as very kind and loving. … There was nobody else like him. It is a devastating loss.”

When Juan left Huichapan nine years ago, his family’s home had a dirt floor. When he returned in a casket, the family’s home was still rustic, but at least now it was made of brick and had a real floor, thanks to the money he sent back home.

 

Miguel Angel Honorato

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old.

14victims20-master768-e1466523809711Originally from Tenanguillo de las Cañas, near Ixcateopan in Guerrero, Miguel came to America in 1991 with his family when he was four years old. He was married and the doting father of three children in Apopka, Florida, where he co-owned FajitaMex Mexican Catering. His business partner described him as hard working and compassionate toward his employees: “He enjoyed life and wanted to make sure everyone else did,” his partner said. Miguel had gone to Pulse that night with two lesbian friends. When the shooting started, his friends managed to escape, but Miguel was’t so lucky.

 

 

One more note: U.S. news outlets reported that there were three Mexican citizens who were killed that night in Orlando. This is, strictly speaking, correct. But because Mexican culture places such a strong emphasis on both family and community, newspapers throughout Mexico mourned the loss of four Mexicans. The fourth was Luis S. Vielma, an American citizen. His parents were from Coyuca de Catalán, Guerrero, and they made arrangements for his burial back home. We remembered Luis here.

Stonewall RebellionI’m not going to go into a blow-by-blow description of what happened that night. You already know what happened, even if the things you know didn’t really happen the way you know they happened.  In some ways, what happened or didn’t happen that night, the things that made it special in ways that weren’t all that special, the “groundbreaking” fight that was far from groundbreaking — those details, details, details — they just don’t matter.

It’s kind of like the story about Paul Revere’s ride and the Battle of Lexington. Or the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving. Or the story about Christ in the manger or Adam and Even in the Garden. What actually happened that day matters relatively little because Stonewall has gone way beyond all those mundane details. It has become our origin myth. And like all origin myths, it’s all about the idea of what happened when that world began: a police raid on a dingy and not particularly popular mafia-owned gay bar, people who had nothing to lose and who fought back, a community that organized against all odds and marched, and kept marching for more than four decades to bring us where we are today. It all traces back, like a straight line — at least in our imagination — to that hot Friday night on Christopher Street.

Stonewall RebellionMythmaking is not an entirely bad thing. In fact, it’s the most human thing we can do. But it can obscure some actual facts that would otherwise be forgotten. For example, let’s take this myth, which we hear all the time: it was “the first time in history Gay people refused to accept the status quo of oppression and stood up for themselves.” That’s from the Stonewall Inn’s official website. But it simply isn’t true, as regular readers of these Daily Agenda know very well. It wasn’t the first time gay people protested (Sep 19), it wasn’t the first time gay people organized against injustice (Nov 11Dec 10, Apr 25), and it wasn’t the first time patrons fought back physically against a police raid (Jan 1, Aug 21).

But Stonewall gets remembered for all of these things. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down marriage bans nationwide, the news media went to Stonewall to repeat to America our creation myth and say that this place is where it all started.

But why is that? Why Stonewall? Why not the Black Cat? Or Compton’s Cafeteria or Dewey’s?

Well, like all things in history, it seems to be a matter of two critical elements coming together in a near-perfect fashion. Stonewall 1) happend at the right place, and 2) it happened at the right time.

Stonewall InnThe Stonewall Inn’s location couldn’t have been more perfect for building a legacy. It wasn’t just in a very dense part of America’s largest city and media capital, it was also just a few blocks from the Village Voice. Two Voice reporters just happened to be in the neighborhood when New York Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, commander of Lower Manhattan’s vice squad, decided that the Stonewall needed to be cleared out. Lucian Truscott IV wrote his eyewitness account of what happened from outside the Stonewall, and Howard Smith wrote about how he wound up being trapped inside the Stonewall with the besieged police. Those eyewitness accounts, and numerous articles that followed, meant that the history of Stonewall was being written, however imperfectly, while it happened. Prior confrontations were typically ignored or downplayed by the mainstream press.

The mainstream press would have been content to downplay Stonewall too. They either buried it deep inside their papers or they mocked it, as the New York Daily News did with the headline, “Homo Nest Raided! Queen Bees are stinging mad!” (Jul 6). But the Village Voice, the go-to paper for the city’s radicals, leftists, cultural savants, hippies, and civil rights workers, transmitted those nights’ events to a larger readership that was already primed to usher in sweeping social and political changes. If Stonewall had been located further away from the Voice’s offices, say, across any of the three rivers that separate Manhattan from the rest of America, it’s very likely that the rebellion would have been just one more riot that the media was already tired of counting.

Gay Power, 1970The Voice may have carried the news about Stonewall beyond the boundaries of New York City, but Stonewall’s legacy didn’t begin or end there. Because it happened on the streets of Greenwich Village, in dense neighborhoods filled with young people, news of it spread almost as fast as modern-day tweets. And what happened next leads to the second critical element that made Stonewall what it is today: it happened at the right time, at the tail end of the 1960s.

That was the decade that taught young people what to do when confronted with war, the draft, segregation, assassinations, injustice, and police oppression: they organized. They formed committees, councils, alliances, liberation fronts, and task forces. They held meetings and rallies, rap sessions and zaps. They organized marches and political campaigns. They turned a small movement led by careful but weary strategists doing the best they could with little support into a mass movement propelled by a youthful energy that defied containment. And they did all of this because by 1969 it was in their DNA. They knew no other way. And the fact that Stonewall touched on that other hallmark of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, was just icing on the cake.

The Stonewall Inn wasn’t the only place our origin story could have taken place. There were countless other locations in countless other cities that were just as ripe for starting a revolution. It just happened that the Stonewall Inn was there, and that’s where it happened. It was perfectly placed and perfectly timed to fire our shot heard around the world.

As is true with all origin myths, this one gets recast with each generation’s telling, complete with new heroes. Last summer, the semi-fictionalized Stonewall movie, which bombed at the box office, was criticized for “whitewashing” the rioters and “erasing” other minority communities who were out that night. That criticism was part of a newer re-telling of Stonewall, where some argue that it was a specifically transgender uprising and a specifically people-of-color movement. Gay white men, that argument goes, have stolen the real history of Stonewall.

People who were actually there in 1969, including two leading transgender activists, dispute that. Dana Bryer wrote, “I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night, too, and the streets were overwhelmingly filled with white men (which included the way I was perceived back then, too).” Lesbian activist Robin Tyler added, “I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night. The majority of protesters were white gay men.”

But of course, transgender people were there. So were people of color. And women. Some were all three, and more. All of that is true. And it’s also true that history is typically recorded from a white male viewpoint. And so ensuring that history is accurately recorded matters a lot, as does making sure it is comprehensively recorded.

The scene in front of the Stonewall moments after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, June 26, 2015.

The scene in front of the Stonewall moments after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, June 26, 2015.

Yet the arguments over “whitewashing” (or historical revisionisms to accommodate political imperatives, depending on your perspective) miss the far bigger picture. Because Stonewall has become our creation myth, we all have a natural human need to see ourselves, directly, in that story. Just as Ethiopian Orthodox Christians have for millennia painted their icons depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as Africans, just as Asian missionaries gave the saints Asian facial features, just as Egyptian Coptics drew the martyrs and prophets (perhaps most accurately) as inhabitants of a harsh Mideast desert, and just as Caucasians around the world turned their prayerful gaze upon a Nordic blue-eyed Jesus, we too, in our rich diversity, also need to see ourselves in our foundational story. Those very parochial responses are powerful illustrations of the truly universal ways those stories speak to us. As I said, no impulse could ever be more human.

Mourners gather at the Stonewall to remember the victims of the Pulse gay night club massacre in Orlando.

Mourners gather at the Stonewall to remember the victims of the Pulse gay night club massacre in Orlando.

Stonewall is as much a real physical place as it is a place of inspiration that we carry in our hearts. It’s where we return to whenever we need to find ourselves. As soon as the news of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage hit the airwaves, the first instinct for thousands of us was to make a pilgrimage to Stonewall. And when news broke about the horrible massacre in Orlando, Stonewall was one of the first places New Yorkers gathered to remember the dead — not just the dead of Orlando, but all of our dead. And while we mourned the dead, we also renewed our resolve to keep the fight alive. Again and again, we return to Stonewall, because it is our Bethlehem and our Golgotha, and the empty tomb where we refuse to lay down.

Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day

The actual Stonewall uprising received scant attention in the mainstream media. There were very few reporters there and only a bare handful of photos taken of the uprising. By in the space of a year, Stonewall had already become a single word that meant more than just a run-down bar in the Village. Gay people across the country took June 28 as their own Independence Day with commemorative marches taking place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and, of course, New York. The day was celebrated as “Christopher Street Liberation Day” for several years before Pride took over. (The celebration is still called CSD, or Christopher Street Day, in Germany.) One of the more interesting articles to appear in the mainstream media for those first Christopher Street Liberation Day marches was a brief description of the parade up Christopher Street on June 28, 1970 that appeared in July 11 edition of The New Yorker

A number of policemen were standout around, looking benevolent and keeping an eye on things. Many of the marchers were carrying banners that identified them as members of homosexual organizations, like the Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society, and the Gay Activists Alliance. The symbol of the G.A.A. is a lambda, which physicists use as a symbol for wavelength, and many of the kids were wearing purple T-shirts with yellow lambdas on them.

Most of the marchers chatted in anticipatory tones, and a few reporters were among them looking for interviews. One approached two boys standing together and asked them the question that reporters always ask: “How do you feel?”

One of the boys said, “I feel proud.”

Pride MarchersAt the head of the parade, one boy stood carrying the American flag. Near him stood a man talking to another man. “Homosexuals are very silly,” said the first man. “They congregate in certain areas and then spend all other time walking up and down the street ignoring each other.”

While “Pride” as a name for these marches was still several years ago, you can already see that pride was already the operative word for the day. The author (whose name is not given) reported that marchers carried signs reading “Homosexual is not a four letter word,” “Latent Homosexuals Unite!” and “Hi Mom!” Anti-gay protesters were there as well, one with a sign reading simply “Sodom + Gomorrah.” But despite a few sour notes, the parade was more than just a success: it was cathartic for some:

Pride at Central Park

Arrival at Central Park.

An eighteen-year-old boy from Long Island who was marching in the middle of the parade with his arms around two friends said, “I’ve been up since six-thirty, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t going to come, but then I figured I’m gay and I might as well support my people. So here I is!” Sometimes the marchers addressed the onlookers. “Join us!” they called, and “Come on in, the water’s fine!” They got a few grins for this, and once or twice somebody did step out from the crowd to join the parade. These people were roundly cheered by the marchers. Just south of Central Park, a well-dressed middle-aged woman on the sidewalk flashed a V-sign. A marcher, a young man with a mustache, shouted to a cop, also a young man with a mustache, “It isn’t so bad, is it?” The cop shouted back, “No!”

As the parade entered the Park, a young marcher said, “Would you believe it! It looks like an invading army. It’s a gay Woodstock. And after all those years I spent in psychotherapy!”

A friend of his laughed and said, “What will your shrink do without you? He’s dependent on your for the payments on his car.”

The Village Voice has another first-person account of the 1970 celebration. A short film by Lilli Vincenz, Gay and Proud, documenting New York’s march can be seen at the Library of Congress.

[Thanks to BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of the New Yorker article.]

James Dale at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony, 1988.

James Dale at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony, 1988.

James Dale joined a Cub Scouts pack in Monmouth County, New Jersey and stayed with it through Boy Scouts, where he became an Eagle Scout at the age of seventeen. His Eagle Award was presented to him by none other than M. Norman Powell, a descendent of the founder of international scouting, Lord Baden-Powell. When he turned nineteen, Dale became an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 73 while a freshman at Rutgers University, where Dale also became co-president of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance. In July of 1990, he was a featured speaker at a Rutgers Conference where he spoke about the health care needs of gay and lesbian teens. He was interviewed by the Newark Star Ledger, which quoted him as saying he was gay. When local Boy Scout officials saw the interview, they promptly expelled him for violating “the standards for leadership established by the Boy Scouts of America, which specifically forbid membership to homosexuals.

Dale sued the BSA in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that the Boy Scouts had violated a New Jersey statute forbidding discrimination in a public accommodation. Superior Court Judge Patrick J. McGann ruled for the BSA and against the “active sodomite” — McGann’s very words in his ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling in a unanimous decision, and held that the BSA’s actions violated state law. The Boy Scouts then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s application of its public accommodations law violated the Boy Scouts’ rights of free expressive association under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the majority, wrote that “[t]he Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill,” and that Dale’s presence “would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the young members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” He then added:

We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts’ teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization’s expression does not justify the State’s effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization’s expressive message. “While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government.” Hurley, 515 U.S. at 579.

Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined Rehnquist in the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens dissented. In Stevens’s dissent, he noted that the Boy Scouts had been inconsistent in its policies towards gay people, and its newfound opposition to homosexuality was inconsistent to the guidance it gave scout leaders on sexual and religious matters:

Insofar as religious matters are concerned, BSA’s bylaws state that it is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward . . . religious training.” App. 362. “The BSA does not define what constitutes duty to God or the practice of religion. This is the responsibility of parents and religious leaders.” In fact, many diverse religious organizations sponsor local Boy Scout troops. Because a number of religious groups do not view homosexuality as immoral or wrong and reject discrimination against homosexuals, it is exceedingly difficult to believe that BSA nonetheless adopts a single particular religious or moral philosophy when it comes to sexual orientation. This is especially so in light of the fact that Scouts are advised to seek guidance on sexual matters from their religious leaders (and Scoutmasters are told to refer Scouts to them); BSA surely is aware that some religions do not teach that homosexuality is wrong.

He then concluded:

The only apparent explanation for the majority’s holding, then, is that homosexuals are simply so different from the rest of society that their presence alone— unlike any other individual’s— should be singled out for special First Amendment treatment. Under the majority’s reasoning, an openly gay male is irreversibly affixed with the label “homosexual.” That label, even though unseen, communicates a message that permits his exclusion wherever he goes. His openness is the sole and sufficient justification for his ostracism. Though unintended, reliance on such a justification is tantamount to a constitutionally prescribed symbol of inferiority.

… That such prejudices are still prevalent and that they have caused serious and tangible harm to countless members of the class New Jersey seeks to protect are established matters of fact that neither the Boy Scouts nor the Court disputes. That harm can only be aggravated by the creation of a constitutional shield for a policy that is itself the product of a habitual way of thinking about strangers. As Justice Brandeis so wisely advised, “we must be ever on our guard, lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles.”

The Boy Scouts’ gay ban wasn’t limited to leaders, but extended to Scouts themselves. In 2013, after a long and contentious debate, the Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would rescind their ban against gay Scouts beginning January 1, 2014. The ban on gay leaders, however, remained in place until July 27, 2015, when the National Executive Board formally amended its adult leadership policy, although “religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders.”

Rainbow Lounge raid

Exactly forty years earlier, the New York policed raid the  Stonewall Inn and sparked a revolution. Forty years later, LGBT people across America were reflecting on that important milestone. But the Fort Worth Police Department and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) observed the occasion by raiding the newly-opened Rainbow Lounge and dragging about twenty outside before deciding to arrest seven of them.

Officers claimed that bar patrons were drunk, groping officers and acting aggressively. Eyewitness accounts however contradicted the Police Department’s claims. Todd Camp, a former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter who was at the bar, said, “No one was acting aggressive to officers.” Another eyewitness, Chuck Potter, told a local CBS affiliate, “I can guarantee there wasn’t a man in this bar that would’ve touched one of those officers, knowing they were arresting people.” Brandon Addicks, a straight man who was there with his girlfriend and some of her friends, said, “I saw a cop walk up behind a guy who was sitting at a table. The cop told him to stand up, and when the guy asked what for, the cop said, ‘You’re intoxicated.’ Then there was that guy getting the crap beat out of him there in the back. I have been in bars before when police have come in, and I have never seen anything like this.”

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor.

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor.

One patron suffered broken ribs, second had a broken thumb, and another experienced severe bruising and muscle strain. But the guy getting the crap beat out of him ended up in intensive care. Chad Gibson was walking down a hallways to a men’s room when police threw him against the wall and slammed him down onto the brick floor. He suffered severe head trauma which resulted in a brain hemorrhage. Police Chief Jeff Halstead however went to the media to claim that Gibson had “severe alcohol poisoning” and not a head injury, despite a number of credible eyewitness reports to the contrary.

The afternoon following the raid, a couple hundred people showed up to protest in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse. Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, addressed the crowd and called for “an immediate and thorough investigation”

Chad Gibson

Chad Gibson

On July 1, the TABC acknowledged that Griffin had indeed suffered a head injury.  At a community meeting that evening, Chief Halstead retreated from his earlier statements and announced that he would appoint an LGBT liaison — up until then, the nation’s seventeenth largest city still didn’t have one — and he would institute sensitivity training for the department’s officers. On July 2, TABC reassigned two agents to desk duty, while the Fort Worth Police Department announced they were suspending operations with state agents. Two weeks later, TABC Administrator Alan Steen apologized for the raid and said that his agents violated the agencies policies. “If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there.” In all, TABC tallied nineteen violations of state policy and fired three agents. Chief Halstead also announced several FWPD policy changes as a result of the raid, and two officers were officially reprimanded for failing to follow procedures.

John Inman(d. 2007) The quintessential British poofter was best known as Mr. Humphries in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? He was also a pantomime dame, a distinctly British form of drag performance (Dame Edna is actually Australian, but think of her and you get the idea.) “I’m a tits and feathers man,” he once said in explaining his love for show business. His character’s high camp and trademark high-pitched “I’m free!” in Are You Being Served? became a catchphrase in Britain.

Not everyone was amused. He was picketed by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality because they felt that his character posed a bad image for gay men. Inman said, “they thought I was over exaggerating the gay character. But I don’t think I do. In fact there are people far more camp than Mr. Humphries walking around this country. Anyway, I know for a fact that an enormous number of viewers like Mr. Humphries and don’t really care whether he’s camp or not. So far from doing harm to the homosexual image, I feel I might be doing some good.” In December 2005 he and his partner of 35 years, Ron Lynch, took part in a civil partnership ceremony at London’s Westminster Register Office. Inman died in 2007.

He is the former Republican Congressman for Arizona’s 8th congressional district — the same Tucson and Southeast Arizona district later held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before she resigned after being seriously injured in a 2011 shooting. Kolbe was outed in 1996 after voting for the Defense of Marriage Act. He was reelected to his seat in 1998, and in 2000, he became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention, although his speech did not address gay rights. He also continued to defend his vote for DOMA. “My vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was cast because of my view that states should be allowed to make that decision, about whether or not they would recognize gay marriages,” he said. “Certainly, I believe that states should have the right, as Vermont did, to provide for protections for such unions.” He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006.

By the time he was wrapping up his congressional service in 2006, Kolbe was a supporter of same-sex marriage, telling local audiences in Tucson that “in a few years,” same-sex marriage would be normal and uncontroversial. In 2008, his good friend Tim Bee, who was the state Senate Majority Leader, announced that he would run against Giffords for Congress, Kolbe agreed to serve in Bee’s election campaign. Kolbe withdrew his support however when Bee cast his tie-breaking vote to place the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot. Kolbe is currently a fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

David KopayAfter the former American football running back in the National Football League retired in 1972, David Copay assumed that his future would be in coaching since he had been working as a player-coach during his last few years. “But I wasn’t getting any interviews,” he later revealed. “There were all kinds of rumors about me being gay — you know, bullshit stuff. All those rumors about how gay men are into sex constantly, how they can’t control themselves in the locker room. The whole bullshit that you’re one of those people who lurks in the bathrooms at the park, who’s after young boys.”

“That kind of talk really bothered me and made me angry — that’s one of the reasons I spoke out.” Which he did in December of 1975 when he became one of the first professional male athletes to come out as gay. By then, he said, “I had nothing left to lose. … I didn’t have the $150,000 or $200,000 beer commercial to lose. … I felt, Dammit! I can do something here and I know it’s important because I wish I had that kind of person to read about when I was younger.”

Whatever hope he may have harbored for a coaching job evaporated when the Washington Star broke his coming-out story. So he wrote a book. His 1977 biography, David Kopay Story, dished about the sexual adventures of his fellow heterosexual football teammates and revealed their widespread homophobia. In 1986, Kopay revealed his brief affair with Jerry Smith, his close friend and David Kopay Story co-author who played for the Washington Redskins from 1965–1977, and who died of AIDS in 1986 without ever having publicly come out of the closet.

Dave KopayHe is today a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation, and he has been active in the Federation of Gay Games. Since Kopay came out, four other NFL players came out and one more was publicly outed, but only after their playing days were over. In February of 2014, University of Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam came out as gay. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, making him the first out current player in NFL history, although he was cut from the team’s final roster before the regular season began.

In 2007, Kopay announced he would leave an endowment of $1 million to the his alma mater University of Washington’s Q Center, a resource and support center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and faculty. He has said that it is one of the most important efforts he will ever undertake.

[Additional source: David Copay. “The Jock.” In Eric Marcus (ed.) Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990: An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 275-278.

Pope Francis: Church Must Apologize To Gay People, Others

Jim Burroway

June 27th, 2016

The Roman Catholic Church is often misunderstood as some kind of an absolute monarchy with the Pope undisputedly on top and all of the bishops lined up and acting on the Pope’s orders. If only that were true when we have news like this:

Pope FrancisFrancis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisers, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.

…He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”

“We must accompany them,” Francis said.

“I think the church must not only apologize … to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons” and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

It’s undeniable that no other Pope has spoken like this in the history of the Church. Just two years ago, comments like this coming from Francis were such a startling break from the past that they seemed to portend some rather huge changes in how the Church approaches LGBT Catholics. I, too, got caught up in that excitement, only to see the conservative old guard come roaring back. So now, I think the more correct perspective is this: when the Church moves, it does so at a snail’s pace, often while leaving a trail of slime behind it.

So while Francis can’t snap his fingers and expect his bishops to fall into line, it does appear that we are starting to see that a tiny number of those bishops are starting to get the message. In addition to Cardinal Marx, we have Bishop Robert Lynch of the St. Petersburg diocese, who wrote in the wake of the Orlando attacks that “sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”

Hardliners are still firmly in charge where they think it matters, in the Church’s governing structures. But hardliners also prevail  where they really do matter: in Catholic media and among individual priests and deacons in the local parishes. For those who are looking for reasons to despair, you need look no further than at some of these parishes, particularly those being run by younger priests who were attracted to the seminary under Pope John Paul’s more absolutist papacy. In one of the great ironies of our age, it’s the older priests who came of age in the 1960s and are now reaching retirement age who are far more likely to be amenable to Francis’s message.

But as James Joyce observed when he defined Catholicism in Finnegan’s Wake (“Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody'”), those hardliners are increasingly being seen as out of step among ordinary Catholics in the pews. And that’s where, more often than not, those hardliners make their first real contact reality. And this is where that famous Catholic accomodation takes place. You’ve seen it before, in the way that Catholics in the pews responded to the Church’s teaching on birth control. It’s also the way 58% of them are now responding to the Church’s teaching on civil marriage for same-sex couples: we’ll let you pretend to be our leaders, and maybe we’ll pretend we’re paying attention.

That accommodation worked pretty well with birth control because hardliners couldn’t actually gain entrance into their parishioners’ bedrooms. But it won’t get far with LGBT people because those in charge can — and do — deny marriage rites, baptisms, school enrollment, health insurance, adoption services, and even a spot in the church choir. Far worse still, many of them openly endorse ex-gay programs for LGBT youth. So while I’m always thrilled to see Pope Francis saying these kinds of thing, I’m not going to get too excited and say it is unprecedented or far-reaching or groundbreaking. Nor will I use any other adjective to suggest that change is just around the corner. It was exciting to hear it in 2013. Let’s just say the novelty has worn off since then.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 27

We Are Orlando

Jean Carlos Nieves Ridriguez

Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, 27 years old.

A native of Puerto Rico, Jean bought his first home a month and a half ago because he wanted his mother to live somewhere nice. He had a long history of taking responsibility for his family. He started working at a McDonalds when he was fifteen, and he became a general manager within a few short years. More recently, he had become a manager at a check cashing store. One friend said, “He wanted to be the best at what he did, and he would work very hard to achieve that. So if he had to put in the long hours to get it right, he’d do it. If he had to stay to work a double [shift], he did it. That’s why whatever job he went to, he became a manager.”

Enrique L Rios, Jr.

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old.

Enrique worked as a social worker for the elderly in east Brooklyn while attending nursing school. He had gone to Orlando to spend the weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday. He was due to return home later that Sunday and was getting a last hour of dancing in at Pulse when the gunman opened fire. His mother, a janitor, told reporters before leaving for Olrando to bring her son home, “There’s always room for forgiveness, I’m not angry at the gunman, I’m not angry about the situation. I’m forever going to miss my son but I’ve been taught to believe that my son knew the Lord Jesus Christ and so I still have the hope that I’m going to see him again one day.”

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez

Gerardo Ortiz-Jiminez, 25 years old.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, he had graduated high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was studying law at the Universidad del Éste in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He took jobs as an actor, dancer, and server at a cafe in San Juan. Friends described him as funny, humble, charismatic, and a huge Selina Gomez fan. Drake, as family and friends called him, had flown to Orlando from Puerto Rico to see Gomez in concert on Friday night. Just hours before going to Pulse, he went to a gym and posted photo of himself on Instagram.

Sen. Pat McCarran and Rep. Francis Walker.

Sen. Pat McCarran (D-NV) and Rep. Francis Walter (D-PA)

When Congress passed a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, it did so with an eye toward protecting the country from alleged hordes of communists and fellow travelers invading the country. The McCarran-Walter Act, as it was known, removed the previous quotas which excluded immigrants based on the country of origin, and replaced them with a provision barring those who were deemed unlawful, immoral, diseased, or politically suspect.

The two lawmakers for which the bill was named were well-known anti-Communist crusaders. Rep. Francis E. Walter (D-PA) was a prominent member of the House Un-American-Activities Committee from 1951 until his death in 1963, service as committee chair for the last nine of those years. He was also a director of the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi organization which sought to promote the encouragement of the propagation of those “descend predominately from white persons who settle the original thirteen states.” It promoted eugenics and “scientific” studies purporting to demonstrate that heredity resulted in significant variations of IQ among the races. Sen. Pat McCarran (D-NV) was little better. His xenophobia was legendary, and his open admiration for Spain’s fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco gave rise to his nickname, “the Senator from Madrid.”

With politicians looking for communists and homosexuals under ever bed and in every closet, few Senators and Representatives dared to vote against the bill, despite a promised veto by President Harry Truman. After Congress defied Truman and passed the bill, Truman kept his word and vetoed it on June 26, calling it “un-American” and an “absurdity.” The very next day, the House overrode his veto in a 278 to 113 vote, and the Senate followed suit on June 27 with a 57 to 26 vote. The bill became law that very day.

For the next four decades, the U.S. government used the McCarran-Walter Act to prevent hundreds of people each year from visiting the U.S solely because of their political beliefs and associations. Political beliefs however weren’t the only litmus test the government applied. One provision prohibited entry to “aliens afflicted with psychopathic personality, epilepsy, or a mental defect.” Since the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental defect, the Immigration and Naturalization Service took that to mean that gays and lesbians were to be barred from entry into the United States. Even after the APA removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders 1973 (Dec 15), the INS continued to bar openly gay people from immigrating. As the years wore on, the ban was enforced haphazardly, but gay immigrants remained subject to deportation at the whim of an immigration judge.

That remained the state of affairs until the 1990 Immigration Act finally removed homosexuality as grounds for exclusion (Nov 29). But three years earlier, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) pushed through a provision to an appropriations bill prohibiting anyone with HIV from entering the country. That ban went beyond prohibiting immigration, and included visits by HIV-positive tourists, health care advocates, business people, or anyone else entering the U.S. for so much as a single day. That ban remained in place until 2010.

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 26

We Are Orlando

RodolfoAyala-Ayala

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old.

Ck6h-toVAAAFUeS.jpg-largeAs soon as people in Orlando understood the magnitude of what happened that night, thousands rushed to donate blood for the victims. OneBlood, the state’s largest blood bank, put out a call for all of its employees to come in to work. One employee however didn’t answer that call.

A native of San Germán, Puerto Rico, Rody had been working at OneBlood since 2011 as a biologics assistant, and had recently been promoted to supervisor of a platelet products team. In the past year, he had bought a car and a house in Kissimmee. Adam Colon, a member of Ayala-Ayala’s team, said he was “a prankster” and “a kind, warm-hearted soul.” “Rody would not hurt a fly, he continued. “He was gentle and sweet and charismatic. He had an infectious smile. If you were having a bad day, he would come in the room with his smile and he would brighten up the whole room.”

rodolfo-ayala-435He also had a unique sense of style: “He could rock a bowtie,” said Colin. “He was famous for the bowtie. He wore very vibrant colors. Suspenders. A full hawk one day and the following day, blond hair. You could spot him a mile away. His personality went hand in hand with that outfit. He was very proud of being a gay man in the community. No one could tell him different. He wasn’t ashamed of it. He was out there and that is who he was and if you didn’t like it – tough cookie. He wasn’t going to let nobody bring him down.”

Rody was a big Ricky Martin Fan and loved to dance, especially the cha-cha and merengue. Friends say he didn’t go out very often, but when he did it was to dance. said one friend, “He didn’t even drink because he had a long drive home and always wanted to be safe.”

Life Magazine: Homosexuality In America

“These brawny young men in their leather caps, shirts, jackets and pants are practicing homosexuals, men who turn to other men for affection and sexual satisfaction. They are part of what they call the “gay world,” which is actually a sad and often sordid world. …

“Homosexuality shears across the spectrum of American life — the professions, the arts, business and labor. It always has. But today, especially in big cities, homosexuals are discarding their furtive ways and openly admitting, even flaunting, their deviation. Homosexuals have their own drinking places, their special assignation streets, even their own organizations. And for every obvious homosexual, there are probably nine nearly impossible to detect. This social disorder, which society tries to suppress, has forced itself into the public eye because it does present a problem — and parents especially are concerned. The myth and misconception with which homosexuality has so long been clothed must be cleared away, not to condone it but to cope with it.”

The opening paragraphs and the accompanying photo described the Toob Box, a San Francisco bar that was popular with the leather crowd. Over the next fourteen pages, Life magazine explored that so-called “sordid world”: in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, “which rates as the ‘gay capital’ [with] 30 bars that cater exclusively to a homosexual clientele.” The articles provide interesting vignettes and photos of gay life in the pre-Stonewall era, but reading through them today probably tells us more about society’s revulsion towards gay people than it does about gay people themselves.

For the first part of the article describing gay night life in San Francisco, Life turned to Hal Call (Sep 20), who had taken over the Mattachine Society in a coup against the Society’s founder in 1953 (Apr 11). He also was the publisher of the Mattachine Review, which, owing to the Mattachine’s disbanding as a national organization in 1961, had effectively become Call’s personal property. Life worked with Call to document two gay bars in San Francisco. As Call later explained:

In January of that year, people from Life magazine contacted us and wondered if we could help them get a photographic representation of the homosexual community in the San Francisco area. It had to be authentic news, not staged, because Life was a news magazine. But the identity of the people in the photographs had to be protected because in those days you could’d just go out and photograph a bunch of gays and them label them without being subject to lawsuits.

We chose two bars two bars, and they were both reluctant. One of them was the Tool Box. We chose it because it had a particular black-and-white mural of macho, leather cowboy times. We got a number of regular customers to come in. For the photo shoot, the place was lighted by opening the door wide to allow daylight to flood in on one side. Most the the people inside were shown in silhouette. Plus, there was smoke haze in the air. One or two faces were somewhat identifiable after the picture was taken, so Life did an air brush job on them.

When the article came out in June, the owner of the Tool Box said, “Jesus Christ, Hal Call, we shouldn’t have done that. Now the ABC (Alcohol Control Board) is going to close my bar.” I said, “Don’t you worry. You’ve got a black-and-white double-page ad in Life magazine.” … Anyway, he was pacified, especially when business picked up. My God, every gay that came two San Francisco wanted to see the Tool Box and see that mural!”

JumpingFrogThe other bar featured in Life was called the Jumping Frog. Located on Polk Street (then the heart of San Francisco’s gay night life about a decade before the Castro grabbed that distinction), the Jumping Frog showed old Hollywood films using a sixteen-millimeter projector. For the Life shot, they were showing Some Like It Hot. 

Call praised the article as “the first time a national magazine had ever treated the subject of homosexuality with any sensitivity or understanding.” But it wasn’t all movies and a few beers. In what passed as “fair and balanced” for its day, Life also documented a Los Angeles police officer acting as a decoy, entrapping gay men into propositioning him. Even if the proposition involves going to a private home for the evening — the same type of invitation being made in straight bars all across Los Angeles that very same night — it would end badly with an arrest and possible lifetime registration as a sex offender. LGBT activist Dale Jennings’s 1952 arrest in the privacy of his own home and the city’s embarrassing failure to secure a conviction in a well-publicized case (Jun 23) had still done nothing to stem police harassment twelve years later.

One educational pamphlet compiled for Los Angeles police warned that what gay men really want is “a fruit world.” Life continued: “Although the anti-homosexual stand taken by the Los Angeles police is unswervingly tough, it reflects the attitude of most U.S. law-enforcement agencies on the subject.” Three years later, gay Angelenos would reach their breaking point and the Black Cat riots would become the high water mark — though not the end — of police harassment in Los Angeles (Jan 1), more than two years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York.

Life also printed a second article in which “scientists search of the answers” about what purportedly causes homosexuality. For this article, Life broke no new ground, although it did include some friendly voices from the Kinsey Institute. But it also included conjectures by some of the leading anti-gay psychologists and therapists of the day, including psychoanalyst Sando Rado (it’s “hidden but incapacitating fears of the opposite sex”) and Irving Bieber, whose 1962 book proposed the smothering-mother-distant-father theory (“Babied and demasculinized by his mother, despised by his father, he arrived at adolescence ‘beset by feelings of inadequacy, impotence and self-contempt’.”) It did however included a brief comment on Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s research (Sep 2), which found, according to Life, that “homosexuals can be just as healthy as anybody else” (Aug 30). Although, in that fair-and-balanced-for-1964 thing, Life cautioned that her research might have only proven that “personality tests are unreliable, as many scientists suspect.”

[Sources: Paul Welch. “Homosexuality In America.” Life 26, no. 26 (June 26, 1964): 66-74. Available online via Google Books here.

Earnest Havemann. “Scientists search for the answers to a touchy and puzzling question: Why?” Life 26, no. 26 (June 26, 1964). 76-80. Available online via Google Books here.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990: An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 65-66.]

Picketing was a new and controversial tactic for East Coast gay rights activists, but the year 1965 saw them finally shedding their reservations and, in keeping with the times, assuming a more confrontational posture in their demands for equal treatment. The very first public protest, a picket of the Whitehall Army Induction Center in New York City, occurred in 1964 (Sep 19). That tiny protest of only five marchers inspired four East Coast groups — the Daughters of Blitzes of New York, the Janus Society of Philadelphia, and the Mattachine Societies of New York and Washington, D.C. — meeting in Washington under the banner of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), to embark on a program of direct action to raise public awareness of anti-gay discrimination (Oct 10).

To test the waters, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. organized their first gay rights protest in front of the White House earlier that year (Apr 17). They had decided not to publicize the hour-long protest ahead of time because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent an excuse to block their demonstration. They were so excited over how well that protest went that they decided to do it again a month later, and this time they invited the press to cover it (May 29). Meanwhile, New York activists also organized another public protest, this time at the United Nations (Apr 18).

But it was the federal government’s ban on employment of gay people that really stuck in Frank Kameny’s crawl. He was the co-founder and president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. (May 21) Eight years earlier, Kameny had been fired from his civilian job by the U.S. Army map service over his homosexuality (Dec 20). Kemeny had been caught up in the same ban against gay federal employees that led to thousands of others to lose their jobs. That ban had been formally in place ever since President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 in 1953 (Apr 27), just as the Lavender and Red scares were about to down. After Kameny exhausted his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, he turned his attention to organizing other activists to confront the Civil Service Commission over the discriminatory employment ban. Their earlier efforts to sit down with the Commission to discuss the matter were curtly rebuffed (Sep 28: “It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.”), and all further requests for meetings were stonewalled.

So the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. and the rest of ECHO, with members of Chicago’s newly-formed Mattachine Midwest now joining to group, decided to take it to the streets once again. Eighteen men and seven women, all conservatively dressed — “If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”, Kameny ordered — carried picket signs demanding and end to the employment ban. According to pamphlets distributed during the protest, their purposes were two-fold:

  1. To protest the policies of the Civl Service Commission in totally disqualifying homosexuals from Federal Employment, regardless of ability, training, competence or background — policies which are unjustified, unwise, harmful to the national interest, and immoral.
  2. To protest the un-American refusal of the Civil Service Commission to meet with spokesmen for the homosexual community (which, with its fifteen million members, is the nation’s largest minority group after the Negro) to discuss policies and procedures in regard to homosexuals — a meeting with their public officials which citizens in a democracy should be able to expect as a matter of right, not of mere privilege.

The two-hour protest in front of the Civil Service Commission headquarters generated just enough publicity for the CSC to request a meeting in September. Nothing much came from that meeting, but for the first time in history, federal officials were forced to justify their policies directly to the very group that was most affected by them. That meeting was followed by another ten years of letters, phone calls, lawsuits and meetings before the CSC finally capitulated, in a phone call to Kameny personally, in 1975 (Jul 3). Times continued to change, and in 2009, Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.

[Sources: Unsigned. “Homosexuals Picket U.S. Civil Service Commission” (): Eastern Mattachine Magazine 10, no. 7 (August 1965): 21-22.

Unsigned. “Homosexuals Picket in Nation’s Capital.” The Ladder 9, no. 10-11 (July-August 1965): 23-25.]

John Lawrence (left) and Tyron Garner, 1988.

John Lawrence (left) and Tyron Garner, 1988.

One of the most important gay rights cases to reach the Supreme Court had its beginnings under very unusual circumstances. In 1998, Houston police were called to the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence over what was supposed to be some kind of a “weapons disturbance” (Nov 20). As the story went, police arrived and caught Lawrence and Tyron Garner having oral sex, or anal sex, or no sex at all, depending on which eyewitness you want to believe. But if they were having sex, then that meant that they were breaking Texas’s anti-sodomy law. They were held overnight in jail and charged with violating Chapter 21, Sec. 21.06 of the Texas Penal code, a class C misdemeanor, for engaging “in deviate sexual intercourse with an individual of the same sex.”

Lawrence and Garner hadn’t had a sexual relationship, as author Dale Carpenter revealed in his 2012 book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. But gay rights advocates were looking for a test case to try to overturn the state’s sodomy law. This case wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough. They convinced Lawrence and Garner to plead no contest. After they were convicted by a Justice of the Peace, they exercised their right to a full trial before the Texas Criminal Court, where they asked for the case to be dismissed on Fourteenth Amendment grounds. When the court rejected that argument, they pleaded no contest again and were fined $200 each. Lawyers appealed on their behalf to a three-judge panel of the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, which ruled in their favor. That decision was then overturned by the full Appeals court, and the case was appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which operates as the state’s supreme court for criminal matters. After that court declined to hear the case, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down Texas’s sodomy law, and other laws like it in thirteen other states. In the 6-3 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the decision specifically overruled the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision which upheld Georgia’s sodomy law. “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled.” Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, one part of which has proved to be very prescient:

If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct…what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.

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