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

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Federal Judge Blocks Obama Administration’s Trans Protections

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

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

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

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

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

Something Happened Over The Weekend…

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

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

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

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

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

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

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

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

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

James Kirkwood and Nancy Coleman in Valiant Lady

James Kirkwood and Nancy Coleman in Valiant Lady

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

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

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2016

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

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

This Month In History, 1966: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2016

Compton's50 YEARS AGO: Stonewall gets all of the press. Lore has it that it is the very first time in modern history that the LGBT community physically fought back against police harassment. Lore is wrong.

Until some very recent development began to take hold in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, it has always been an impoverished neighborhood, home to the transient and the marginalized. Polk Street, between Ellis and California Streets, was the heart of the gay community in the 1960s. Turk Street, to the south and east, was home to the transgender/transsexual community. Because cross-dressing was illegal in San Francisco, gay bars often didn’t welcome transgender and transsexual people out of fear of being raided by police. What’s more, and because it was extremely difficult for transwomen to hold a job, many of them turned to prostitution and drugs. Rounding out the Turk Street population was a host of homeless LGBT youth, drag queens, prostitutes and hustlers.

At the corner of Taylor and Turk streets stood Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a twenty-four hour restaurant and one of the few places that the people of Turk Street could go to get out of the weather and the violence on the street, and get a cheap meal or grab a cup of coffee between tricks. It was also the meeting place for Vanguard, a radical queer youth group established by Glide Memorial Methodist Church.

In the Spring of 1966, new management arrived at Compton’s, and they began to make life difficult for the hustlers, transwomen and homeless youth who spent a lot of time there but very little money. By summertime, Compton’s hired security guards and began calling the police to clear out the restaurant. Vanguard responded with a picket on July 18, but Compton’s policy of harassment and discrimination continued.

Then one night sometime in August — nobody knows when, and disturbances in the Tenderloin were so common that newspapers rarely bothered to report them — Compton’s again called the police to clear out the restaurant. When police arrived, One of the officers grabbed a transgender customer who threw her coffee in his face. Immediately, about fifty other customers started rioting, overturning tables, throwing dishes and breaking the cafeteria’s plate glass windows. The rioting expanded out in the street as customers left the cafeteria only to find more police officers and waiting paddy wagons. The riot only grew from there. By the time the night was over, one police car was destroyed and a corner newsstand was set on fire.

While little is known about the Compton’s riot, it did manage to have a lasting impact. The transgender community began organizing and police started backing off from arresting anyone violating the city’s cross-dressing laws. Those laws were eventually discarded a few years later. In 1968, the National Transsexual Counseling Unit was formed which brought together a network of social, psychological and medical support services for the transgender community. The NTCU was headed by Sergeant Elliot Blackstone, who had acted as a San Francisco Police liaison to the LGBT community since 1962.

Compton’s, like Stonewall, not the first time LGBT people fought back against police harassment. There had been a similar riot in 1959 at Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles. But the Compton’s riot was an important turning point. And yet it was almost forgotten. The 2005 documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria revived attention to the Compton’s riot once more, and a memorial plaque was set in the sidewalk in front of where Compton’s once stood ni 2006. The location is now a free clinic for women. The plaque reads:

Here marks the site of Gene Compton’s Cafeteria where a riot took place one August night when transgender women and gay men stood up for their rights and fought against police brutality, poverty, oppression and discrimination in the Tenderloin: We, the transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual community, are dedicating this plaque to these heroes of our civil rights movement.

Here is the trailer for Screaming Queens:

Born On This Day, 1872: Aubrey Beardsley

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2016

(d. 1898) He struggled with tuberculosis from the age of nine until his untimely death at the age of twenty-five. The nearly constant reminders of mortality may well have influenced his black ink sketches, which combined the then-popular whimsy of art nouveau stylings with grotesque themes (sometimes including depictions of enormous genitals and breasts) akin to what you might find in modern goth. “I have one aim — the grotesque,” he once said. “If I am not grotesque I am nothing,” Beardlsey received his first commission in 1893, when he published 300 illustrations for an edition of Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. That same year, he was hired to create the illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome. Other notable works followed, for an edition of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1896), a private edition of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata (1896) and his own A Book of Fifty Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley (1897).

An illustration for a privately published edition of Aristophanes’s Lysistrata (1896).

He founded the magazine The Studio in 1893 and co-founded The Yellow Book in 1894. The Yellow Book quickly earned a reputation for being provocative and daring, despite publisher John Lane’s constant attempts to keep Beardsley under control. Before each publication, Lane would painstakingly examine each of Beardsley’s illustrations to make sure he didn’t hide any inappropriate details, as Beardsley was known to do. The two played this cat-and-mouse game throughout Beardsley’s tenure at The Yellow Book, which shocked critics for his open mocking of Victorian values. In response to those critics, Beardsley published two drawings in one issue of The Yellow Book which were stylistically different from his other work, under the pseudonyms of Phillip Broughton and Albert Foschter. A critic at The Saturday Review called “Broughton’s” illustration “a drawing of merit” and Foschter’s “a clever study”. But as for Beardsley’s, they were “as freakish as ever.”

Beardskey was fired due to his association with Oscar Wilde soon after Wilde’s arrest in 1895. The Yellow Book‘s quality and popularity suffered, and it folded in 1897. Beardsly then went to The Savoy, where he also served as editor, allowing him to pursue writing as well as illustration. The Savoy was published by Leonard Smithers, a friend of Wilde who also published a number of Beardsley’s works, as well as, among other things, pornographic books. The Savoy lasted only a year. In 1897, Beardsley’s health deteriorated. He moved to the French Riviera, converted to Roman Catholicism, and died at the age of twenty-five on March 16, 1898.

Born On This Day, 1923: Don Slater

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2016

(d. 1997) Born the oldest twin, in Pasadena, California, Don Slater never did take to his father’s passion for team sports, but he did become an accomplished skier and swimmer and was passionate about nature and the outdoors. He also, early on, acquired an easiness among a variety of people, from street hustlers and cross-dressers to literature professors and librarians, which belied his conservatism — a “gentleman’s conservative,” friends called him.

While attending the University of Southern California in 1944 following his honorable discharge from the army, he quickly connected with the University’s “gay underground.” He met his partner, Tony Reyes, in 1945, and the two remained together for the next fifty-two years until Slater’s death. In the early 1950s, Slater and Reyes attended a Mattachine meeting in Los Angeles, but Slater found the whole thing silly. He was put off by the “mystic brotherhood” talk and dismissed the whole affair as “a sewing circle” and “the Stitch and Bitch club.”

But when he learned that Bill Lambert (a.k.a Dorr Legg, Dec 15), Dale Jennings (Oct 21); and others were about to found ONE Magazine as the first national publication for the emerging gay community (Oct 15), Slater felt that he found his calling. The first meetings of the nascent magazine took place in 1952 just before Slater’s graduation from USC (a graduation delayed by a bout of rheumatic fever) and those meeting minutes were written in his spiral class notebook.

Slater saw ONE’s main mission as being an educational one. When ONE, Inc., established an Educational Division, he became an Assistant Professor for Literature. He also became the organization’s archivist, which he saw is ONE’s core strength. Those duties were in addition to his role as an editor for the magazine. As the organization grew, Slater took on leadership roles on the Board of Directors. By the mid-1960s, a bitter dispute divided the board, and Slater led a group that complained that the board had been illegally usurped by the rival faction. In April of 1965, Slater, Reyes and Billy Glover moved ONE’s library and office from Venice to a new location on Cahuenga Blvd “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” For four months, confused subscribers received two competing ONE Magazines in the mail, one published by ONE, Inc., and the other by Slater’s The Tangent Group, named for a regular column in ONE.

Slater soon changed the name of his magazine to Tangents, but the dispute continued. The remnant faction at ONE, Inc., demanded the return of the archives, which Slater believed would have been threatened if they were returned. “If ONE has any assets, this is it. Damn the future of its publications, but the fate of this material is important.” After a two year court battle, the two sides settled, with ONE, Inc., retaining the right to publish ONE magazine and The Tangent Group retaining ownership of Slater’s beloved archives. In 1968, the Tangent Group re-incorporated as the Homosexual Information Center (HIC).

The turmoil over ONE did little to slow Slater’s activism. He helped organize a motorcade protest in Los Angeles in 1966 on Armed Forces Day to protest the exclusion of gays in the military, and he was arrested by police in 1967 when they shut down a play sponsored by HIC. In 1968, he led a picket of the Los Angeles Times for refusing to publish an ad for another gay-themed play. He continued to publish Tangents until 1973. Slater passed away in 1997 from rheumatic heart valvular disease. His HIC archives of more than 4,000 books, periodicals and pamphlets are now housed at the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection at California State University at Northridge.

Born On This Day, 1928: James “John” Gruber

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2016

(d. 2011) James Gruber was born on Des Moines, Iowa. His father, a former vaudeville performer turned music teacher, moved the family to Los Angeles in 1936. In 1946, Gruber turned eighteen and enlisted in the Marines. He later remarked that being in such close proximity to men, he “went bananas in the sex department.” Despite the, ah, camaraderie, he continued to have affairs with women, and throughout his life he considered himself bisexual. After he was honorably discharged in 1949, he studied English Literature at Occidental College and met Christopher Isherwood, who would become a close friend and mentor.

In April 1951, Gruber and his boyfriend, photographer Konrad Stevens, became the last new members of a group of gay men who had begun gathering under the name of “Society of Fools,” which proved to be a turning point. “All of us had known a whole lifetime of not talking, or repression. Just the freedom to open up … really, that’s what it was all about. We had found a sense of belonging, of camaraderie, of openness in an atmosphere of tension and distrust. … Such a great deal of it was a social climate. A family feeling came out of it, a nonsexual emphasis. … It was a brand-new idea.”

An exceptionally rare photo of early members of the Mattachine Society. Pictured are Harry Hay (upper left, Apr 7), then (l-r) Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings (Oct 21), Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), Stan Witt, Bob Hull (May 31), Chuck Rowland (in glasses, Aug 24), Paul Bernard. Photo by James Gruber. (Click to enlarge.)

Gruber and Stevens brought a new sense of urgency into group, with Gruber suggesting the group rename itself the Mattachine Foundation, referring to the medieval masque troops known as “matachines” (spelled with one “t”). Gruber was also responsible for taking the only known photo of the early members of the highly secretive group when he snapped a quick snapshot during a gathering in 1951. Founder Harry Hay was furious that the members’ faces were photographed in violation of Mattachine’s strict policy of anonymity, and Gruber was nearly expelled. The only way he stayed in was by lying and saying there was no film in the camera.

Gruber was active in Mattachine’s early public push to address ongoing harassment the Los Angeles police department. He and other Mattachine members formed the Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment to raise funds for Dale Jennings’s solicitation trial (Jun 23). Gruber wrote and distributed much of Mattachine’s early literature to publicize the trial and solicit funds for legal fees. Not only did Jennings win his case, but Mattachine’s newfound public profile attracted a crop of new members. Ironically, those new members, having discovered Mattachine because of its publicity, demanded that Foundation pull back from the spotlight over fears of further harassment. Many of them just wanted was a social organization, not a political one. They also had misgivings over co-founder Harry Hay’s Communist connections. Frustrated over the looming takeover by the newer members, Gruber and the rest of the old guard resigned (Apr 11).

Gruber moved to San Francisco, and then Palo Alto, where he started going by the name of John. “It was the most effective way I could find to escape Mom’s ceaseless calling for ‘Jimmy!’ inside my head,” he said. He became a high school and college teacher, and he loved working in his new profession. In the late 1990s, Gruber became involved with documenting the history of the gay community and was recognized as a pioneering organizer. Before he died peacefully in 2011 at his home in Santa Clara, he was the last living member of the original Mattachine Foundation.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2016

From The Washington Blade, July 23, 1982, page 18.

From The Washington Blade, July 23, 1982, page 18.

The Exile was a popular Country and Western bar in downtown Washington, D.C. operated by the same owners who operated the D.C. Eagle. Both the Eagle and Exile, which were located just a couple of blocks from each other, have been displaced by downtown redevelopment. There had been plans to revive both clubs in a new location, but only the Eagle managed to reopen.

Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2016

The following letter to the editor appeared in the September 1953 issue of ONE magazine:

A Reply to R.L.M. in your JULY issue, AS FOR ME:

Who is in a position in this world to require conformity from anyone?–least of all one homosexual from another. The desire to have all homosexuals well mannered, intelligent, courageous, manly, men is easily understood. These are attributes most of us classify as desirable; most humans do, according to the standards of their own society. Is it not the aim of all persons in this country to attain both a personal integrity and equal rights before the law of our society? We as reasonably enlightened, 20th Century individuals are not in any position to slap the bar-fly or to condemn bar-flitting; promiscuity to us is a personal matter; emasculated affectation is neither my concern nor another’s. The so called “gay life” is not for me to reform and I hesitate to define the “very worst elements”.

No! If we must have a crusade it must be for civil rights and equality before the laws of this land, not for conformity to some ideal of personal ethics. I do not care how many “gay” bars exist or who goes to them or what they do there, who delights in emasculated affectation or uses perfume; but I do care that my rights as a citizen of this country are nil and I know that getting all homosexuals to act like bourgeois gentlemen is not going to get those rights for me. I am not sure what will but I think ONE may be on the right track.

RENO, NEVADA

This Month In History, 1953: ONE Magazine Debates “Homosexual Marriage”

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2016

ONE magazine, August 1953.

ONE magazine, August 1953.

The push for marriage equality has often been measured in years. Some of the more amazingly short-sighted have asserted that “the revolution began” when Prop 8 was challenged in Federal District court in 2009. Others with somewhat longer memories can remember the excitement of Massachusetts becoming the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 (May 17), or the Netherlands becoming the first country in the world to offer marriage equality in 2001 (Apr 1), or Hawaii almost becoming the first jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriages in 1993 (May 5). Those with longer memories may recall the battle Mike McConnell and Jack Baker waged to get a marriage license in 1970 (May 18).

Discussions about same-sex marriage had taken place in the gay community long before all of that. ONE magazine, the nation’s first nationally-distributed gay publication, had called for a push for “homophile marriage” in 1963 (Jun 20). In 1959, ONE published “Homosexual Marriage: Fact or Fancy?” Its author had been in a relationship for eleven years which he very much likened to a marriage, and proceeded to offer advice on the ingredients that made for a successful  marriage. But with gay relationships themselves still criminalized throughout much of the U.S. and the mental health professions considering homosexuality a mental illness, marriage was considered a much lower priority.

Marriage License Or Just License?

ONE‘s first discussion of gay marriage came in its very first year of existence, in 1953. Written by a ONE reader who signed his name “E.B. Saunders,” the article’s title, “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License?”, predicted the tug-of-war between assimilationists and liberationists that would dominate the gay rights movement for the next half century. It also records some of the pre-pill/pre-sexual revolution/pre-women’s liberation-era assumptions about what was considered acceptable behavior. Overall, it’s a fascinating time capsule, left by of a group of people who were still trying to figure out who they were and what they wanted.

The activists in the early homophile movement believed they knew what they wanted. First and foremost, ONE and the Mattachine Society wanted to reform anti-gay laws criminalizing gay relationships in all fifty states. That word, reform, was carefully chosen so as not to draw the charge that they were encouraging people to adopt what was seen as an immoral lifestyle. To speak boldly of repeal during those years following the Lavender Scare would have been, politically, like touching a third rail. The backlash, it was feared, would have been devastating. But the reason ONE and Mattachine wanted those laws reformed was obvious: they wanted people to no longer face arrest for having homosexual sex. This made gay people among the earliest proponents of sexual liberation — or sexual “license,” depending on your viewpoint.

ONE and Mattachine also wanted the “acceptance” of gay people, a goal they sought to achieve by educating the broader society of the “homosexual’s problems.”  But Saunders wrote that if ONE and Mattachine really wanted society’s acceptance, then their efforts would be doomed unless they adopted an agenda that included the one thing that society found most worthy of acceptance: marriage.

…Then you sit back and try to visualize our society as these well-meaning enthusiasts would have it. And suddenly you realize that their plans are impossible! They have missed one of their most essential points and committed a basic and staggering error.”

…Image that the year were 2053 and homosexuality were accepted to the point of being of no importance. Now, is the deviate allowed to continue his pursuit of physical happiness without restraint as he attempts to do today? Or is he, in this Utopia, subject to marriage laws? It is a pertinent question. For why should he be permitted permiscuity (sic) when those heterosexuals who people the earth must be married to enjoy sexual intercourse? The answer does not lie in the fact that the deviate cannot reproduce: this is irrelevant to the effect upon society of his acceptance as a valuable citizen.

This effect would be one of immense consternation for it would be a legalizing of promiscuity for a special section of the population — which, incidentally, now begs for its rights on the very grounds that it desires the respectability and dignity of all other citizens. It is not likely that either of these would be attained by a lifting of legal sex constraints for this group alone. Actually such a change would loosen heterosexual marriage ties, too, and make even shallower the meaning of marriage as we know it… Heterosexual marriage must be protected. The acceptance of homosexuality without homosexual marriage ties would be an attack upon it.

Let’s pause a minute and let this amazing point sink in. Saunders is saying — in 1953! — that acceptance of gay people without letting them marry (or, more to the point expecting them to marry; this is, after all, 1953) would be an attack on straight marriages.

Saunders obviously overstated the constraints marriage placed on people’s behavior, as the Kinsey Reports of 1948 and 1953 had already shown (Jan 5Aug 14). A large number of married people were already findings a large number of ways to be promiscuous. Marriage did little to lessen the constraints of sex, legally or otherwise. But if gay people really wanted to be accepted, then Saunders argued that they should be fighting for the one thing that would open the doors to acceptance:

Yet one would think that in a movement demanding acceptance, legalized marriage would be one of its primary issues. What a logical and convincing means of assuring society that they are sincere in wanting respect and dignity! But nowhere do we see this idea prominently displayed either in Society publications or the magazine ONE. It is dealt with in passing and dismissed as all-right-for-those-who-want-it. But it is not incorporated as a keystone in Society aims — which it must be before such a movement can hope for any success.

Saunders saw some practical problems that would need to be addressed if they were to press for gay marriage. Some of those problems were a reflection of the rigid gender roles that were still prevalent in the early 1950s. “For instance, should the Mr. And Mrs. Idea be retained? If so, what legal developments would come of the objection by the ‘Mr.’ that ‘Mrs.’ doesn’t contribute equally?” He wondered how childrearing and adoption would work. “Would the time come when homosexuals would be forced to care for children as part of their social duties? How many homosexuals would actually want to bring up a child?”

A Philadelphia gay wedding, ca 1957. This photograph was part of a set that was deemed inappropriate by a photo shop in Philadelphia and never returned to the customer. From the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.

A Philadelphia gay wedding, ca 1957. This photograph was part of a set that was deemed inappropriate by a film processor in Philadelphia and never returned to the customer. From the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.

Saunders saw the idea of two men or two women vowing to remain together, monogamously, for the rest of their lives “a dubious proposition.” Here again, he apparently hadn’t absorbed some of the statistics from the Kinsey report that found those expectations a dubious proposition for large numbers of heterosexual couples But he acknowledged that social pressure made for an additional and significant obstacle for gay couples. Those in a visible same-sex relationships risked arrest, eviction and unemployment, factors which tended to dampen the enthusiasm for such arrangements.

That’s why many of the early homophile activists saw sexual liberation as the only viable option. But that would be inimicable to the monogamous expectations of a homosexual marriage. “The concept of homosexual marriage cannot come into being without a companion idea: homosexual adultery,” with all of its societal and legal sanctions. For the sexual outlaws of 1953, would such a price for acceptance be worth it?

[T]his acceptance will cause as great a change in homosexual thinking as in the heterosexual — perhaps greater. No more sexual abandon: imagine! Me, married? Yes, a great change in the deviate himself, yet nothing in the literature of the Mattachine Society and little of ONE is devoted to initiating and exploring this idea of necessary homosexual monogamy. The idea seems stuffy and hide-bound. We simply don’t join movements to limit ourselves! Rebels such as we, demand freedom! But actually we have a greater freedom now (sub rosa as it may be) than do heterosexuals and any change will be to lose some of it in return for respectability. Are we willing to make the trade? From the silence of the Society on the subject, perhaps not.

What a turn! After challenging the homophile movement to embrace gay marriage in order to advance the cause of  acceptance, he backtracks somewhat and indirectly questions whether gay people really knew what they wanted.

It is unfortunate that enthusiasm demands more action than thought, and that necessity often makes us run wildly before we’ve decided exactly where we’re running (although we may be quite sure of what we’re running from). Commendable as the Society is, it appears that there is yet to be conceived in its prospectus a concrete plan for the homosexual’s place in society. Until we know exactly where we’re going, and the stuffy and hide-bound — who can help us exceedingly — might not be willing to run along just for the exercise. When one digs, it must be to make a ditch, a well, a trench: something! Otherwise all of this energetic work merely produces a hole. Any bomb can do that.

The homophile movement did somehow manage to converge on a consensus, and that consensus leaned toward “just license” — or “liberation,” in the language of the next decade. Over the next several months, readers responded more or less that way in letters to ONE. One questioned the either/or proposition between the marriage license and “just license” by pointing to Scandinavia where “sex laws are sane, (heterosexual) marriage still exists, home is sacred, and mother is honored.” Another wondered why Saunders seemed intent on imposing restrictions rather than expanding options. “In the year 2053, he asks, are we to be allowed to continue our pursuit of physical happiness without restraint as we attempt to do today? Well, why the hell not? What is this tendency on the part of some people to seek more and more restrictions?” Another scoffed: “It seems preposterous to me to use a sexual behavior yardstick for present and future generations of homosexuals which does not even meet the needs and actions of most present day heterosexuals, much less their probable future needs. … I would also be for the legalized marriage of homosexuals who desire this. And, I am one who desires this. But, E.B.S.’s naiveté regarding heterosexual chastity before marriage astounds me.”

The homophile movement didn’t adopt Saunders’s call for gay marriage. It also came to realize that its plaintive pleas for “acceptance” and “understanding” of the 1950s would never produce the kind of changes they were looking for. By the time the decade ended, the push was on for license — liberation, in the lingo of the following decade — among gay activists like Frank Kameny (May 21) who demanded that the rights of gays and lesbians be respected solely because it was their birthright as citizens. By the time Stonewall came around, the lure of liberation made the idea of marriage seem irrelevant (although visionaries like Jack Baker and McConnell saw things differently (May 18)). But the AIDS tragedy of the 1980s had a way of injecting cold hard reality into the equation. There’s nothing like losing a partner to a terrible disease to focus one’s mind on all that was lost, and on all of the vulnerabilities — legal, financial, and social — that gay people were exposed to when they were denied access to marriage. The revolution may have picked up steam as the twentieth century began to draw to a close, but the seeds of discontent were already sown at least a half a century earlier.

[Sources: E.B. Saunders. “Reformers Choice: Marriage License or Just License?” ONE 1, no. 8 (August 1953): 10-12.

“Letters.” ONE 1, 10 (October 1953): 10-15.

“Letters.” ONE 1, 11 (November 1953): 18-24.]

Born On This Day, 1948: Perry Watkins

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2016

Photo by Rex Wockner

Photo by Rex Wockner

(d. 1996) The Tacoma, Washington, teen was always open about his sexuality. He was out in junior high school. He was out when he studied ballet. His mother told him he should never lie or “give a hoot about what anybody thinks.” So when he was drafted into the army in 1967, he checked the “yes” box for “homosexual tendencies” on his paperwork. The doctor at the induction center saw it, but decided Watkins was qualified for service. Watkins figured the doctor assumed he’d be sent to Vietnam, get killed, and no one would hear about it ever again. After several more rounds of psychiatric interviews, and Watkins repeating very plainly that he was gay — and that he wasn’t just saying that to get out of the draft — he was inducted in May 1968 into the U.S. Army.

At first, he thought they’d changed the rules somewhere along the way — until a friend was discharged for telling his commanding officer the friend was gay. The only difference Watkins could see between his friend’s situation and his own was this: his friend was white. Meanwhile, another African-American friend who had also checked the “yes” box was also inducted, with no major problems. So it was a shock when Watkins applied to become a chaplain’s assistant, and his application was denied because he was gay. Angry, Watkins sought a discharge. The Army denied his request saying it couldn’t be established firmly that he really was a homosexual. In other words, he was too gay to be a chaplain’s assistant, but not gay enough to be kicked out. He became a personnel clerk instead.

Perry WatkinsWhen his service was up in 1970, Watkins returned home to Tacoma, but realized he’d need more education to get a decent job. The Army could provide that. So he signed up again. And like the first time, he marked on his paperwork that he was gay. When he was inducted again, he showed up with twice as much luggage as usual: for Watkins and for “Simone,” a drag character he developed at at Tacoma gay bar called the Sand Box. When he reported for duty in the personnel office at a Pershing missile unit in Frankfurt, Germany, a recreation officer asked what he did in civilian life. “I was a female impersonator,” he said. The recreation officer recruited Watkins to perform in a military show. It was such a success that Watkins got an agent who booked him in NCO and enlisted men’s clubs throughout Europe. When Simone competed against eleven other actual women in an Army beauty pageant, Simone won. Simone’s act even got written up in Stars and Stripes. When Watkins noticed that married soldiers got the day off for their wedding anniversaries, he demanded the day off on the one year anniversary of meeting his German boyfriend. He got it.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have been any more out that Watkins. So it must have seen rather comical when the Army’s CID began investigating reports that Watkins was gay in1972. CID investigators  inspected his locker and took photos of his drag paraphernalia. They interviewed him and he confirmed that he was gay. They talked to several other soldiers in Watkins’s unit, all of whom also confirmed Watkins was gay. But because Watkins refused to name anyone he slept with, the CID dropped the investigation.

In 1975, while serving as a mail clerk outside of Seoul, South Korea, the prior investigations into Watkins’s sexuality caught up with him again. This time, the Army tried to discharge him. But Watkins was confident during his discharge hearing in October. His outstanding record, his awards, his diploma, and the witnesses who praised his performance and said they’d work with him again — all of that impressed the discharge board, which opted to keep him in the army — much to his commanding officer’s surprise and relief.

Meanwhile, Simone kept performing for the USO.

By 1981, Watson was stationed at Fort Lewis, back home in Tacoma, determined to stay for another seven years to qualify for his pension. But problems already arose the year before when his security clearance was revoked for performing in drag and because he did “not deny that he was a homosexual.” Watkins contacted the ACLU, who represented Watkins in his appeal of the revocation. When that went nowhere, he filed suit in Federal Court. This put the government in an untenable bind. Its official policy was to discharge all gay people. But Watkins’s record clearly showed that in practice, the Army only discharged those it wanted to discharge and kept the others. When the Army held its discharge hearing and found Watkins “undesirable for further retention in the military service,” the Federal District Court judge pointed to the 1975 discharge hearing and ruled the Army committed double jeopardy.

Watkins was back in the Army for the remainder of his enlistment. When he tried to re-enlist in 1982, the Army refused until a Federal judge ordered his re-enlistment. When his enlistment was up again in 1984, a Federal Appeals Court had overturned the judge’s ruling and the Army discharged him again, this time acting so quickly that Watkins was unable to get a lawyer and a court order before he was drummed out.

Watkins tried, without much success, to enter gainful employment in civilian life. Having by then appeared on national television and becoming something of a local celebrity in Tacoma, potential employers shied away from hiring him. Meanwhile, his appeals dragged on. Finally, in 1989, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Army to allow Watkins to re-enlist. That ruling was stayed, preventing his re-enlistment, but the following year, an eleven-member panel delivered its en banc ruling, once again ordering the Army to let Watkins re-enlist. Pointing out that the Army knew about his sexuality since the day he was drafted, the court’s order would “simply require the Army to continue to do what it has repeatedly done for 14 years with only positive results: re-enlist a single soldier with an exceptionally outstanding military record.” The Army had “plainly acted affirmatively in in admitting, reclassifying, reenlisting, retaining and promoting” Watkins throughout his career, and it was unfair to discharge him after that.

The court’s ruling was narrow. It didn’t touch on any constitutional questions, and it only applied to Watkins only. The GHW Bush Administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which let the Appeals Court ruling stand. Watkins and the Army then settled the case a year later. Watkins declined to re-enlist in lieu of the the Army restoring his retroactive pay of about $135,000, full retirement benefits, an honorable discharge and a retroactive promotion from staff sergeant to sergeant first class.

[Source Randy Shilts. Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993): 60-63, 78, 155-156, 161-162, 218-219,241-243, 383-386, 395-398, 425, 448-450, 641-642, 718-719.]

NBA Picks New Orleans To Host All-Star Game

Jim Burroway

August 19th, 2016

Last month, the National Basketball Association announced that they were pulling their 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, in protest over HB2, which targeted LGBT people, especially transgender people, for discrimination. While the NBA didn’t say where the game would be held, sources speculated that New Orleans was in strong contention. Today, the NBA made it official:

New Orleans, announced Friday as the new location of the game, replaces Charlotte, which was set to host the game until the NBA decided last month to move it elsewhere.

Unlike several other Southern states, Louisiana has not been swept up in legislative efforts to pass laws similar to that in North Carolina — a fact Gov. John Bel Edwards has touted while lobbying the NBA to bring its All-Star weekend to New Orleans.

Gov. Edwards (D) hasn’t issued a statement since this morning’s announcement, what with having to deal with the disastrous flooding and other distractions. Tony Perkins, who’s home was flooded out, not only found the time to take advantage of those same distractions, but also found the time to respond to the NBA’s announcement:

I commend North Carolina Governor McCrory for his political courage and moral clarity in not caving in to the NBA’s threats to move the All-Star game. He stared down the giant of the NBA and stood strong against government discrimination of private entities and for the principles of protecting privacy and safety in government buildings.

“My home state of Louisiana, like North Carolina, is one of 32 states in the U.S. that does not force private businesses to allow men in women’s showers, locker rooms, and restrooms. On the other hand, in New Orleans—the same as in Charlotte—the NBA will be free to divide the restrooms at its own event on the basis of self-professed ‘gender identity’ instead of objective biological sex, if it wishes to do so. Only politics—not the well-being of transgender persons or anyone else—motivated this disruptive and punitive move.

“The hypocrisy of the NBA over North Carolina’s HB 2 law is utterly stunning. The NBA is willing to turn a blind eye and play games in countries, like the People’s Republic of China, that regularly oppress their own citizens.

“The NBA should focus on basketball, not on redefining what it means to be male or female,” concluded Perkins.

It looks like Perkins and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) have compared talking points. McCrory’s tantrum runs along a similar vein:

“According to his own statements, Commissioner Silver has no credibility in telling America that he’s more ‘comfortable’ playing a basketball game in the People’s Republic of China with its oppressive human rights record, rather than the 9th most populous state in the U.S.A.,” said Communications Director Josh Ellis. “This is another classic example of politically-correct hypocrisy gone mad. We are proud that Louisiana has joined 21 other states that are fighting for basic privacy expectations for our children and families in school restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.”

While Louisiana has no North Carolina bathroom bill, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) has joined twelve other states in a lawsuit led by Texas against the Obama Administration’s directives to extend federal gender-based anti-discrimination protections to transgender people.

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