Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Civil Unions bill signed in Chile

Timothy Kincaid

April 13th, 2015

2011-02-02_1026360   Subscriber-false   Marketing-false   Newsletter-false   RegYSNewsletter-false  MicroTransactions-false
From the Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday signed a bill into law that will allow gays and lesbians in the South American country to enter into civil unions. “The civil union law is a vindication in the struggle for sexual diversity rights,” said Bachelet during the signing ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The bill passed the Chilean Congress in January and then went for review before the nation’s Constitutional Court.

Currently there are lawsuits for full marriage equality before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Bachelet’s administration is not opposing the lawsuits.

More former ex-gay leader support ban on reparative therapy for minors

Timothy Kincaid

April 10th, 2015

So it appears that there is something called Former Ex-Gay Leaders Alliance (FELA) which is comprised of (not surprisingly) former ex-gay leaders. FELA has issued a statement in support of the Obama Administration’s opposition to reparative therapy for minors.

Banning reparative therapy for minors from licensed clinical mental health professionals assures young people can find solace and solidarity in the scientific community, while holding mental health workers accountable. It does not limit them, or their parents, from seeking spiritual advice from clergy. It does however, send a clear message that the practice of sexual orientation change efforts does not work, and should alert and alarm guardians of its potentially dangerous, or even deadly, effects.

As one would never send a patient to a doctor to perform unethical, unnecessary, and outdated medicine, it is time to hold mental health practitioners to similar standards. We welcome President Obama’s statement and stand with him in opposition to reparative therapy for minors, and call on everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to stand with us and put an end, once and for all, to this practice.

Signatories incuded

Brad Allen – Exodus International
Darlene Bogle – Paraklete Ministries
Michael Bussee – Exodus International
Catherine Chapman – Portland Fellowship
Jeremy Marks – Courage UK, Exodus Europe
John Paulk – Love Won Out, Exodus International
Bill Prickett – Coming Back
Tim Rymel – Love in Action
Yvette Cantu Schneider – Exodus International, Family Research Council
John J. Smid – Love In Action, Exodus International
Randy Thomas – Exodus International
Michael D. Watt – Love in Action
Kevin White – Exodus Books

Yesterday Alan Chambers, former President of Exodus International, gave his support to the Administration’s position.

Chambers on Obama’s call for ban on ex-gay therapy for minors

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2015

The Obama Administration has announced it’s opposition to reparative therapy practiced on minor for the purpose of changing their sexual orientation.

The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm. As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.

Alan Chambers has written an opinion piece in the Religious News Service to support the act of the administration.

This ban is in no way an attempt to strip parents of their ability to be good parents or to keep them from helping their child to navigate the complexities of sex and sexuality. Nor is it an infringement on religious liberties.

Regardless of a person’s opinions on sexual morality, efforts to change someone’s primary sexual orientation are dangerous and always unsuccessful. Every adult should have the right to choose his or her own path. And if someone has a religious or moral objection to a particular sexual expression, then who are we to tell that person he or she must embrace a specific act or identity?

But this has nothing to do with that.

This is about protecting kids from unsubstantiated claims that sexual orientation can be changed. This is about protecting the mental health of kids by validating their worth as human beings who are loved by God. This is about reducing shame and stigma and providing an opportunity for them to grow into mature adults who make decisions based on reality, not fear.

I suspect many at the Religious News Service need to hear that message.

What the Bible says to Christian cake bakers

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2015

wedding cake

Personally, I don’t think that bakers and photographers should be compelled to offer their services to anyone they don’t like. We’ve had that discussion many times here at Box Turtle Bulletin and though I understand the arguments of those who wish to compel discrimination out of existence, my libertarian streak just doesn’t let me get there.

Frankly, there are people who I prefer not associate with or provide with services. And I respect that they may feel the same.

That being said, these angry Christians who are furious about bakers having to serve gay couples seem not to have read their Bible or believe the words of Jesus. Because the recorded words of Jesus himself tell you what to do when you are sued to bake a cake.

Matthew 5:38-42:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

So what would Jesus say to Baronelle Stutzman and the other Christian bakers who fear that by baking a wedding cake for a gay couple they are then condoning immoral lifestyles? Even if they think gay people are evil? It’s not very ambiguous:

If anyone wants to sue you and force you to bake a wedding cake, bake them cupcakes as well.

But, of course, that only applies to followers of Jesus. So Stutzman and her ilk may not find it relevant.

Maggies report card on Indiana

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2015

Maggies report card on indiana

Maggie Gallagher has graded several potential Republican presidential contenders on their response to the Indiana FRFA brouhaha.

While Maggie highly regards those who wish Indiana to broadcast its antipathy towards its gay citizens, something I disavow, I think that this chart tells us something else, something useful. What this measures for me is the extent to which these potential candidates have their ear attuned to the nation’s current attitude on gay issues.

It would seem to me that those whom she grades lowest were the best capable of recognizing the quagmire the state had created and avoiding stepping in it.

NOM’s new Dump campaign

Timothy Kincaid

April 7th, 2015

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

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

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

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

That put NOM off the boycott business for a while.

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

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

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

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

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

Gold Tinsel Jesus does NOT love all

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2015

Tinsel Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all went just fine for a couple years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, April 13

Jim Burroway

April 13th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From In Step (Milwaukee, WI), March 22, 1984, page 21

From In Step (Milwaukee, WI), March 22, 1984, page 21

1101 West was Appleton, Wisconsin’s most popular gay and lesbian bar. Of course, it was sometimes Appleton’s only gay and lesbian bar. The owners, Andy Lehman and Ed Smith, lived above the bar and sometimes took in out-of-town visitors. It began operation in 1981 and lasted until 1987, when competition finally took its toll. Today, the building appears to still be empty with a for-sale/lease sign hanging on it.

Graphic from ONE, May 1953, page 5.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 State Department Announces It Has Fired 425 People for Alleged Homosexuality: 1953. The Associated Press carried this update to the ongoing quest to rid the State Department of its gay employees:

“Homosexual proclivities” led to the dismissal of 425 State Department employees since 1947, the director of the department’s office of security, John Ford, told the House Appropriations Committee yesterday. He said many cases are still pending.

 First Congressional Hearing on AIDS: 1982. It had been ten months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first alerted the world about a strange constellation of diseases which had been striking down otherwise healthy gay men (see Jun 5). By the end of 1982, more than 300 would die nationwide out of 800 cases reported to the CDC. Yet the news media remained mostly silent. The New York Times had written only two articles in all of 1981, while Time and Newsweek didn’t get around to writing their first stories until six months after the CDC’s first report.

And as long as the media remained silent, there would be no pressure on the U.S government to fully fund the National Institutes of Health and the CDC to battle the new epidemic. President Ronald Reagan was spending his first year in office implementing massive funding cuts at the NIH and CDC. When adjusted for inflation, the NIH’s budget for 1981 actually declined by 5.6%, and its purchasing power dropped by another 6.1% in 1982.  Reagan’s budget slashed 1,000 research grants from the NIH and reduced the size of the Epidemiological Intelligence Service, whose job it was to track the spread of diseases. Similarly, the administration’s budget for the CDC was also lagging inflation.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), whose Los Angeles Congressional district was heavily impacted by the epidemic, chaired the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. To call attention to the Administration’s woefully inadequate response to this new disease — it still didn’t have a name; it was known as either GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) or by the opportunistic infections that were associated with it (Pneumocystis pneumonia, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, etc.) — Waxman held the first Congressional hearing on the topic, and he chose the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in Hollywood as the hearing’s venue. Waxman began:

I want to be especially blunt about the political aspects of Kaposi’s sarcoma. This horrible disease afflicts members of one of the nation’s most stigmatized and discriminated against minorities, The victims are not typical Main Street Americans. They are gays, mainly from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. There is not doubt in my mind that, if the disease had appeared among Americans of Norwegian descent, or among tennis players, rather than gay males, the responses of both the government and the medical community would have been different. Legionnaire’s disease hit a group of predominantly white, heterosexual middle-aged members of the American Legion. The respectability of the victims brought them a degree of attention and funding for research and treatment far greater than that made available so for to the victims of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

I want to emphasize the contrast, because the more popular Legionnaire’s disease affected fewer people and proved less likely to be fatal. What society judged was not the severity of the disease but the social acceptability of the individuals affected with it. … I intend to fight any effort by anyone at any level to make public health policy regarding Kaposi’s sarcoma or any other disease on the basis of his or her personal prejudices regarding other people’s sexual preferences or life-styles.

Officials from the CDC and National Cancer Institute were called to testify, but as employees of the executive branch of government, they weren’t in much of a position to be candid about the crippling effects of Reagan’s budget cuts. The CDC’s Jim Curran described how they shifted funds around to try to cope with the epidemic, and the National Cancer Institute’s Bruce Chabner testified that he couldn’t provide a figure for how much grant money was available for research and treatment. But he did announced that his Institute would release $1 million for AIDS research. That was a laughably low figure; a single grant for a research center often ran beyond $10 million. Dr. Stan Matek, President of the American Public Health Association, called the official response weak. “We believe the immunoresponse system of this country is weak, that it needs to be strengthened,” he said, “and that only Congress can do it.” He praised the CDC’s efforts thus far in coping with so few resources, but added:

We believe they cannot cope with Kaposi’s sarcoma and its related syndrome. We believe their intervention abilities are so handicapped that the nation’s health is in peril. (The current approach) represents, I fear, only high-level, ‘ad-hocracy’ There is no guarantee of continuity of effort … It is an issue of budget allocation.

Where is that epidemiologically essential money going to come from? It is not going to come from NIH, or at least not in any significant amounts, given the prior commitments and loss in real funding capability. If it comes from within CDC, it will come from robbing Peter to pay Paul. It will come by shifting already committed and needed resources … which is fine if you are Paul, but not so useful if you are Peter.

The goal of the hearing was to get the media’s attention, and with that attention Waxman and health officials could pressure the White House to agree to more funding. But the media ignored the entire event. Television networks and even local Los Angeles TV stations didn’t bother to cover it. The only mention was an article in The Los Angeles Times. It’s headline read, “Epidemic Affecting Gays Now Found In Heterosexuals.”

It would be another full year before $12 million was finally allocated specifically for the AIDS epidemic.

[Source: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987): 143-146.]

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, April 12

Jim Burroway

April 12th, 2015

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

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 9.

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 9.

Waco, Texas, in the 1950s.

Waco, Texas, in the 1950s.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Sixty-Three Arrested in Waco: 1953. The United Press reported that:

A well-planned raid early Sunday morning broke up a statewide “homosexual convention” while a mock wedding was in progress, police reported Monday. Detective Capt. Wiley Stem said 63 men, mostly ranging in ages from 24 to 33 were arrested in the raid of a two-room private residence in South Waco.

Fifteen detectives, a Texas Ranger, and a district attorney working with information furnished by undercover agents, closed in on the small house as the “bride” and “groom” were going through the mock ceremony before 60 invited guests. Police said some of the “guests” had come from as far away as New York, Virginia and California.

Other “guests” were registered from Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Fort Hood, and Connally Air Force Base just north of Waco. Police said all had received “invitations” to the affair.

The Associated Press put the number arrested at 64. One guest from Ft. Worth was charged with possession of marijuana, and others were charged with vagrancy — they posted $25 bonds (that’s about $220 in today’s money) and were released. All in all, it hardly seems to justify the expense of a reported three-month investigation by fifteen officers and undercover agents. But it apparently was quite spectacular when stacked up against the ordinary goings on in Waco. The AP described “Wigs, women’s dresses, high heeled shoes and corsets were stacked on a table in the detective’s office after the raid… ‘In 30 years of policing I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Police Lt. Bob Van Wie.”

Postscript: One month later on May 11, Waco would be devastated by one of thirty-three confirmed tornados that broke out across the great plans over a three day period. Waco was hit by the deadliest of them all: Of the 144 deaths from all of the storms, 114 died in Waco alone.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Amy Ray: 1964. One-half of the folk duo Indigo Girls, Ray met the other Girl, Emily Sailers (see Jul 22), when they attended the same elementary school together in Decatur, Georgia. They began hanging out together while in high school, where they began performing together and recorded their first demo in 1981. They went their separate ways for college, but they met up again a few years later when they both transferred to Emory University. By 1985, they were performing together again as Indigo Girls. They secured a contract with Epic Records in 1988, and in 1990 won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. (They were also nominated for Best New Artist, but they lost out to Milli Vanilli, who later saw the award revoked when it was revealed that they didn’t actually sing on their debut album and lip-synced their way through concerts.) Ray has also been busy with solo work and running an independent record label, Daemon Records, and she’s an activist for multiple causes, including gay rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, gun control, environmental protection, and abolishing the death penalty. The Indigo Girls released their latest original album, Beauty Queen Sister, in 2011 and a compilation of The Essential Indigo Girls in 2013. Their next studio album, One Lost Day, is due out in June.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 11

Jim Burroway

April 11th, 2015

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

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), March 28, 1986, page 8.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), March 28, 1986, page 8.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 First Mattachine Constitutional Convention: 1953. The Mattachine Foundation, founded in Los Angeles in 1950, was the brain child of Harry Hay (see Apr 7), Dale Jennings (see Oct 21), Chuck Rowland (see Aug 24), and Bob Hull (see May 31),  all of whom felt that the time was right to push for gay rights. Rowland later commented, “We had just won the war. We had rid the world of fascism, except in Spain. We came back and we were going to save the world.” Idealism came naturally to Rowland, Hay and Hull: they had earlier been members of the Communist Party.

When they formed the Mattachine Foundation, one of their chief concerns was secrecy. The Lavender Scare was just getting underway in American, and the group feared that if one member was picked up by the FBI and interrogated, he might reveal the names of other members of the Foundation. To alleviate those concerns, they decided to borrow a secretive membership structure from American Communists, with Freemasonry providing the inspiration for a series of “orders.” The founding members were anonymous members of the Fifth Order, and members in lower orders were in charge of local chapters (the first orders), and with all of them remaining anonymous through the use of pseudonyms. Once the organization structure was set, they then set about articulating the Foundation’s goals: educating the public about homosexuality, advocating for tolerance, and engaging in “political advocacy,” which presumably meant challenging the anti-sodomy laws which were then in force in all fifty states.

The Mattachine Foundation first became known to general public following Dale Jennings’s 1952 arrest in an LAPD entrapment operation (see Jun 23). Hays and Jennings decided to fight the charges, with Jennings admitting in open court that he was a homosexual — a very daring move — but insisting that he was innocent of the particular charges against him. The jury deadlocked and the charges ended up being dropped.

This court victory was a massive public relations coup for Mattachine. Suddenly new members were joining in droves and creating new discussion groups all across California. By 1953, it was estimated that membership stood at more than 2,000 with as many as 100 joining a single discussion group. This exponential growth diversified the group considerably, attracting more women to the discussion groups and drawing in those from a much broader political spectrum, many of whom didn’t share the radical vision of Mattachine’s founders. Some worried that the group wouldn’t be able to withstand an investigation by a Senate committee if some of the founders’ former Communist ties were made public. Others feared that including an explicit call for gay equality as part of its mission would endanger the security of the group’s members. That concern was amplified in March 1953 when Los Angeles Mirror columnist Paul Coates obtained copies of the Mattachine’s lobbying questionnaires, and published an article questioning the group’s legitimacy and charging that its members were “bad security risks.”

New members from Northern California were among the most vocal about their misgivings over the “radical” aims of the Mattachine Foundation, as well as the secretive nature of its leadership. Hal Call (see Sep 20), who joined the group in Berkeley, was especially concerned. “We wanted to see Mattachine grow and spread, and we didn’t think that this could be done as long as Mattachine was a secret organization.” But before the group went public, it had some housecleaning to do. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have a single person in our midst who could be revealed as a Communist and disgrace us all.” The Mattachine’s founders “had to go. Mattachine had to be free of Communists.”

It all came to a head in April 1953, during the first constitutional convention to re-organize the Mattachine Foundation. Rowland delivered a speech which lifted the veil 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 five of the founding members to the rank-and-file.

The meeting broke down into an ideological battle between two distinctive camps. The first camp was represented by most of the founding members who had set up the secret society. Hay, Rowland and Hull advocated a view that homosexuals were a unique minority, and, as with other minorities, they were possessed with special qualities and a unique culture. The opposing camp, made up of Call, Kenneth Burns, Don Lucas, David Finn, and others, countered that homosexuals were no different from any other American except for their sexuality. Dale Jennings, while a founding member, would have been sympathetic with this group’s philosophy if he hadn’t already left Mattachine to join the fledgling ONE magazine (see Oct 15). He had long argued that the task for the group wasn’t homosexual emancipation, but sexual freedom for everyone. This second camp also feared an FBI investigation, and for good reason. Finn and Lucas were already acting as informants for the FBI and the police, and they were desperately trying to convince the FBI that Mattachine posed no danger to national security.

With the group unable to come to an agreement, the first attempt at a constitutional convention broke down and a second meeting was called for May. At that meeting, Mattachine’s founders grew tired of the argument and resigned. The remaining members then declared the work of the Mattachine Foundation completed and disbanded the organization, replacing it with a new one to be known as the Mattachine Society. Leadership then passed to a new group led by Call and Burns, who called for another general meeting in November to establish a new constitution which would open up the group to greater transparency, while also setting the group on a much less confrontational path.

[Sources: Douglas M. Charles “From subversion to obscenity: The FBI’s investigations of the early homophile movement in the United States, 1953-1958.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 19, no. 2 (May 2010): 262-287.

Martin Meeker. “Behind the mask of respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and male homophile practice, 1950s and 1960s.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10, no. 1 (January 2001): 78-116.]

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 10

Jim Burroway

April 10th, 2015

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

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 3, 1979, page 19

From The Advocate, May 3, 1979, page 19

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
 James Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Findlater, 4th Earl of Seafield: 1750-1811. The Scottish peer and landscape architect is known for his lavish British landscape garden designs in mainland Europe, where he spent most of his life. Some say he was exiled to Europe, but others say it was voluntary. In either case, the cause of his exile appears to be related to his homosexuality which, while a capital offense in Britain, was somewhat more tolerated on the mainland as long as things were kept discreet. And besides, they did like his gardens, particularly in Carlsbad, Bohemia, where he became a major patron of the city’s charities and parklands. Findlater trail is still well-used today.

In 1803, Findlater’s private secretary, Johan Georg Fischer purchased Helfenberg Manor near Dresden on Findlater’s behalf. Its lands gave Findlater yet another opportunity to create a garden of considerable renown. Findlater died in 1811, and his will named Fischler his sole heir. Findlater’s family in Scotland contested the will on the grounds that it was made “for a base cause,” suggesting an unspecified immorality between the two. The lawsuit created a huge scandal, but Findlater’s relatives were partly successful, having been awarded Findlater’s lands and estate in Scotland. Fisher remained at the estate in Dresden until his own death in 1860, when he was buried alongside Findlater at the Loschwitz parish church.

 Frances Perkins: 1880-1965. There’s little doubt that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal forever changed America, mostly for the better. But what isn’t well known is that the individual responsible for the lion’s share of the New Deal’s enduring legacy was Frances Perkins, who, as Secretary of Labor, already made history by becoming the first woman cabinet secretary barely thirteen years after the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. Lesser-known still was the fact that by being a woman, Perkins broke an important code in Washington society, one in which a Cabinet secretary was expected to guests to his home with his wife playing the role of gracious host, which entailed a lot of planning, coordinating, preparations, etc. Perkins, having no wife, could not be expected to perform all of those functions while also still put in a full day’s work as Labor Secretary. Perkins’s husband was of no use; he was permanently sidelined with debilitating mental illness. But her special friend, railroad heiress Mary Harriman Rumsey, came to the rescue, with a finely-appointed Georgetown home which the two shared, and where the consummate power-couple hosted dinner parties said to include Eleanor Roosevelt, Will Rogers, Margaret Bourke-White, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and unknown Appalachian folk singers.

Perkins became interested in labor issues while in New York, where she personally witnessed the tragic Triangle Shirt Factory Fire of 1911. The fire killed 147 young men and women, mostly seamstresses, who were unable to escape because the owner locked the exists for fear that feared theft from his employees. Perkins joined a commission that investigated the fire and recommended changes to the state’s labor laws. She then served in several labor-related commissions in state government under Gov. Alfred Smith. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected governor in 1929, Perkins served as his first State Commissioner of Labor. It would only be natural, then, that Perkins would follow him to Washington as his Labor Secretary when FDR was elected President.

Frances Perkins on the cover of Time, Aug 14, 1933.

When Perkins arrived in D.C., she was brimming with ideas. She saw hundreds of thousands of productive, employable people who were out of work, and she came up with an unemployment insurance fund which would be paid into during good years and drawn from in bad. She saw the elderly, no longer able to work, being thrown out of their homes after draining their life savings, and thought that there ought to be some kind of a social security that could protect them. She saw companies hiring children instead of adults to cut costs, children who should be in school and not supporting their families, and argued that child labor laws were needed. And with FDR’s backing, she set about putting those ideas into action.

Perkins’s most enduring legacy, Social Security, came about during a particularly trying time. While struggling to meet a Christmas 1934 deadline for her committee to complete its work designing the system, Rumsey died on December 19 from complications from a fall from a horse. Amid the intense political pressure of designing a brand-new federal program, Perkins also was mourning Rumsey’s death, quietly and alone. And so on the very same week Rumsey died, Perkins called the committee members to her home — a home she would soon lose because only Rumsey could afford the rent — sat a bottle of Scotch on the table, and announced that no one would leave that night until the work was done.

As Labor Secretary, Perkins oversaw the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Works Agency. She established the minimum wage and the forty-hour work week through the Fair Labor Standards Act. Perkins remained Labor Secretary for all four terms of FDR’s presidency. In 1945, President Harry Truman asked her to serve in the Civil Service Commission, a post that she held until 1952 when her husband finally died. After her career in government service, she taught at Cornell until her death in 1965 at the age of 85.

Perkins’ parents were Maine natives, and that’s where she was buried. It’s also where an eleven-panel mural celebrating labor throughout history — including colonial shoe cobblers, lumberjacks, “Rosie the Riveter, striking paper mill workers, and Frances Perkins in a conversation with a family — was on display at Maine’s Department of Labor. In 2011, Maine’s tea-party governor, Paul LePage, ordered the mural’s removal. His spokesman claimed that the mural was reminiscent of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.” LePage also ordered the re-naming of seven conference rooms, including one originally named for Perkins.

[Source: Kirsten Downey. The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, (New York: Anchor Books, 2010)]

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 9

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2015

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

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), April 1972, page 9.

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), April 1972, page 9.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 80 YEARS AGO: Freud’s Letter to a Concerned Mother: 1935. At the turn of the twentieth century, the most common opinion about homosexuality among psychiatrists was that it was the result of natural degeneracy, which was a kind of a theory of evolution in reverse (for more detailed descriptions of Degeneracy Theory, see Aug 16Sep 9, or Oct 26). But Sigmund Freud challenged that prevailing theory early in his career. In his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud argued that if degeneracy theory were a valid explanation, it would mean that gay people who have to exhibit not many different behaviors from the norm, but their “efficient functioning” would have to be limited as well. Freud however found gay men and women who exhibited no other behavioral problems, and rather than exhibit unimpaired functioning but many were “indeed distinguished by specially high intellectual development and ethical culture.” If gay people were truly the product of degeneracy, none of his observations would make sense.

In 1935, Freud outlined some of these beliefs again in a letter which is often described as being to “an American mother” The letter has been so described perhaps because it was sent anonymously to the American sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey from “a grateful mother.” We don’t actually know who that mother was. Kinsey, in turn, shared it with the American Journal of Psychiatry, where it appeared in the April 1951 edition. The handwritten letter reads as follows:

April 9th, 1935.

Dear Mrs. ——

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you, why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime and cruelty too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way, we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies which are present in every homosexual, in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs in a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don’t expect you will –, he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with kind wishes,
Freud.

P. S. I did not find it difficult to read your handwriting. Hope you will not find my writing and my English a harder task.

It would take another four decades before the American Psychiatric Association would finally catch up with Freud’s finding that homosexuality “cannot be classified as an illness.”

[Sources: Sigmund Freud. Three Essays On The Theory Of Sexuality. Translated and edited by James Strachey. (New York: Basic Books, 2000): 4-5.

Sigmund Freud. “Letter (to an American mother, 1935)” American Journal of Psychiatry 107, no. 10 (April 1951): 786-787.]

Piccadilly Circus in London's West End, 1959.

Piccadilly Circus in London’s West End, 1959.

 Daily Express Calls for Homosexual Purge from London’s Theaters: 1959. Under the ownership of Canadian-born Max Aitken (who, in 1917, became the first Lord Beaverbrook when he was granted a peerage), London’s Daily Express had long enjoyed a reputation for both forming and reflecting the prejudices and outrages of its conservative and working class readers. Following World War II, the Express newspapers enjoyed the world’s largest circulation and Beaverbrook was known as “the first Baron of Fleet Street.” In 1959, author and historian John Deane Potter took to the pages of the Daily Express to warn its readers about a terrible menace in London’s theater district:

I read with dismay the news yesterday that a 31-year-old South African called John Cranko was fined £10 at Marlborough-street police court.

It was not the fine. It was the man and the offence. Because he pleaded guilty to a crime which has become known as the West Side vice.

Cranko is the latest on the list of famous stage names who have been found guilty of this squalid behaviour. He is a talented man of the theatre. He was the co-author of the spectacularly successful review “Cranks.”

The private lives of people, whether they are a brilliant ballet designer and author like Cranko, or an ordinary office worker on the 6.15, should, according to the Wolfenden Report, be their own business. But this question is public business.

It has become a sour commonplace in the West End theatre that unless you are a member of an unpleasant freemasonry your chances of success are often lessened.

For the theatre is far too full of people belonging to a secret brotherhood.

Most of them are not tortured misfits. They do not want psychiatric treatment or cures.

They live complacently in their own remote world, with its shrill enthusiasms.

But they are evil. For two reasons.

One is their PERSONAL POWER.

Corruption is an outmoded word that used to be thundered with hellfire vigour from Victorian pulpits. Now this West End weakness is the subject of sophisticated wit.

Their chi-chi world may seem remote from the normal theatregoer. Except for this.

If your son wants to go on the stage — what will his future be? It is a shivering thought.

So many talented young men have said to me: “It is no good in the theatre unless you are camp. You must be queer to get on.”

Those are just two expressions from the cryptic slang they use to describe the social disease from which they suffer.

The boy, whatever his talents, may become bitter and frustrated.

Or worse. He does not have to travel far along the corridors of the West End back-stage to meet the smooth, unspoken. proposition. He may, through ambition, try to play along with it. And, make no mistake, many of these men take pleasure in corrupting the young.

Danger number two is their PROFESSIONAL POWER.

Some of the stuff they produce is beautiful, witty, and clever. But too often they try to foist upon the public a false set of values.

What is often received with trills of praise by the closed West End set remains puzzling to the formal mind of the average theatregoer who is unaware of the lace-like intricacies of the decor or the obscure oddities of the plot.

And the theatre has an expensive flop on its hands.

No one likes to indulge in a Jehovah-like loftiness about other people’s lives.

But I repeat: these are evil men. They have spun their web through the West End today until it is a simmering scandal.

I say they should be driven from their positions of theatrical power.

[Source: John Deane Potter. “Isn’t It About Time Someone Said This… Plainly and Frankly”  The (London) Daily Express (April 9, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review 5, no. 6 (June 1959): 21.]

apa_logo

 APA Membership Affirms Decision To Remove Homosexuality From DSM-II: 1974. When the American Psychiatric Association’s board of trustees ratified the Nomenclature Committee’s recommendation to remove homosexuality from the second edition of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM-II, the APA’s official list of mental disorders — see Dec 15), the faction within the APA opposing the move, led by Charles Socarides, vowed to overturn the board’s decision and return the nation’s gays and lesbians to the ranks of the mentally ill. Socarides’s Ad Hoc Committee Against the Deletion of Homosexuality from DSM-II moved quickly to put the board’s decision to a vote of the membership. This demand was most remarkable: having lost the scientific argument, the dissident committee turned to the organization’s by-laws — which were intended to democratize the APA’s policy decisions — and turn it into a referendum on a scientific finding. In other words, they wanted to put facts up for a vote.

The APA board was appalled at the idea that a scientific finding should be the product of a vote, but the wording of the bylaws left them no choice. The day after board’s decision to delete homosexuality from the DSM they set a date for the referendum. Ballots were mailed out to the membership, and the controversy was hotly debated in the APA’s publication Psychiatry News. On April 9, 1974, the APA released the results:

Result
Favoring the board’s decision 5,854 58%
Opposing the board’s decision 3,810 37%
Abstaining 367 3%
Invalid votes 9 <1%
Not voting on this issue 51 <1%
TOTAL 10,091

Socarides and others were never able to reconcile themselves to the APA’s decision. In 1992, Socarides joined Benjamin Kaufman and Joseph Nicolosi in founding the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which continues to argue that homosexuality is pathological and can be cured, against all scientific evidence to the contrary.

[Source: Ronald Bayer. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987): 138-150.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Cynthia Nixon: 1966. Daughter of actress Anne Knoll and radio journalist Walter E. Nixon, Cynthia Nixon already was in two simultaneous hit Broadway plays while also a freshman at Barnard College in 1984. Her roles were short and the two theaters were just two blocks from each other, close enough that she could run from one to the other in time to get dressed and deliver her performances. She had minor roles in a number of films and made-for-TV movies before landing her first major supporting part in 1986’s The Manhattan Project. But of course, her best-known role was that of Miranda Hobbes in HBO’s Sex and the City, which ran from 1998 to 2004 and spawned two moves, one okay and one awful. In 2006, she won a Tony for Best Actress in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Rabbit Hole and she won a 2008 Emmy for a guest appearance in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2009, she shared a Grammy, with Beau Bridges and Blair Underwood for Best Spoken Word Album for the audio CD of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

But perhaps her most important prize came in May of 2012 when she married her partner, Christine Marinoni after a three year engagement. When she came out in 2007, Nixon, who had been previously married to photographer Danny Mozes, said “I don’t really feel I’ve changed. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.” She married education activist Christine Marinon in 2012 in New York City.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 8

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2015

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

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Just Us, 1975, page 36.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Segregationists already wrote the conservative response to the Supreme Court

Rob Tisinai

April 7th, 2015

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

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

Here’s the (adjusted) text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This ought to be decided by the states? Check!

The Constitution doesn’t mention the matter? Check!

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

They even managed to work in the argument from tradition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 7

Jim Burroway

April 7th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, March 1973, page 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaddish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry Hay (left), with John Burnside

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

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

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

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

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

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