Anti-LGBT Language Will Stay In the GOP Platform

Jim Burroway

July 18th, 2016

This development, of course, isn’t surprising. Last week, after the Republican platform committee approved the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history, delegates were gearing up for a potential floor fight over the the anti-LGBT planks. All that was needed to force a floor debate over the platform was just 28 signatures from the 2,470 delegates — just a little over one percent. But they couldn’t get even that tiny bit of support in time to force a debate today:

Rachel Hoff, the platform committee’s first openly gay member, chalked up the failure of their “minority report” to scare tactics from her fellow GOP delegates.

“The pressure and intimidation for delegates to drop their support for the minority report worked, but this effort did demonstrate strong support for a more inclusive platform,” said Hoff, who represents Washington, DC. “A simpler document that stated our core principles would have been better, and there will be even more people who believe that on the committee in 2020.”

The Republican platform, which will be rubber-stamped by the full convention later today, includes calls for laws and government regulations recognizing only opposite-sex marriages; and endorsement of a constitutional amendment or the appointment of supreme Court judges which would result in allowing states to ban same-sex marriage; support for the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” and other legislation designed to allow discrimination against LGBT people; support for lawsuits challenging the Obama administrations transgender non-discrimination policies; and a provision inserted at the last minute by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins designed to allow parents to send their children to ex-gay therapy.

But hey, the GOP platform isn’t anti-LGBT at all. Don’t believe me? Just ask Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who told CNN that it’s not anti-LGBT because “there were gay people on the platform committee themselves, and we respect that and we’re an inclusive party. We’re a big tent.”

In fact, there was just one gay person on the platform committee, Rachel Hoff, who led the fight against the anti-LGBT planks.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 18

From The Alternative (Baton Rouge, LA), July 1981, page 5. (Source.)

From The Alternative (Baton Rouge, LA), July 1981, page 5. (Source.)

Henry P. Laughlin, 1964.

Henry P. Laughlin, 1964.

A Senate subcommittee under Joseph McCarthy investigating the federal employment of gay Americans was warned that five-month long witch hunt against homosexuals would have negative consequences on government functioning (Feb 28Mar 14,Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14, Apr 18Apr 26, May 2, May 15, May 19, May 20, Jun 15, and Jul 17). “The immediate effect of the probe is to threaten the emotional security and mental health of many government employees, warned Dr. Henry P. Laughlin of the Washington Psychiatric Society. “This is indeed unfortunate, tending to lower the efficiency and work production of those who have some actual or imagined basis for concern, and especially for those people whose homosexual experiences have been isolated or of a token nature or perhaps never occurred.”

Laughlin however emphasized that he was only speaking for himself and not the Society, before continuing on a line rarely heard in 1950: “Sexual orientation doesn’t enter into a person’s ability or capacity to do work. I am sure that many persons in government, as well as in industry and other areas of endeavor, have made significant contributions, although their orientation happens to be homosexual.” Laughlin’s testimony would fall on deaf years. Tens of thousands of people would be hounded out of their jobs over the next several decades, whether they were gay, suspected of being gay, or accused of being gay for whatever reasons.

HaightThreaterClosedMay1964San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood started out as very prosperous upper middle class neighborhood, full of spacious multi-story single-family Victorian homes, those “painted ladies” which have become emblematic for the entire city. The neighborhood itself was hit hard during the Great Depression, and by the end of World War II, those prosperous residents had long since fled to the suburbs. Those “painted ladies” they left behind were subdivided into apartments, and, often, subdivided again. Many suffered from neglect, others were left vacant. By the 1950s, the neighborhood was solidly working-class, and even they were leaving as soon as they could afford to do so. But a core of longtime residents remained, and they mobilized to form the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) in 1959 to fight several threats to the neighborhood, including a planned freeway that would have destroyed the Panhandle greenbelt, and the growing influx of African-Americans who were being displaced by urban renewal elsewhere in the city and who found the rents in Haight-Ashbury attractive.

The Tenderloin’s Polk Street had long been San Francisco’s Castro before the Castro became a thing. But in the early 1960s, another longtime gayborhood in North Beach was being wiped out by the Embarcadero freeway. That area had preceded the Tenderloin as the center of gay action, but the redevelopment had decimated the gay bars in the area. So with the low rents in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood already attracting other refugees of urban renewal, it was only natural that gay men driven out of other parts of the city plagued by construction or higher rents would move in. By 1964, it looked as if Haight-Ashbury might become San Francisco’s newest gayborhood.

GlenOrGlendaThe Haight Theater, at 1700 Haight Street, had been entertaining Haight-Ashbury residents since it opened in 1910 as a nickelodeon. It became a movie theater in 1915, and was renovated into an Art Deco palace sometime in the 1930s. The Haight became the once-prosperous area’s premiere showplace, but as the neighborhood declined, so did the theater. It finally went belly-up in early 1964. Francis Rizzo and Bernie Meshioff bought the dilapidated theater and, on July 17, re-opened it with a showing of Glen or Glenda, a quasi-autobiographical Ed Wood picture about a cross-dressing man. The film’s poster — “What Am I…Male or Female! The Strange Case of a ‘Man’ who changed his SEX!” — hit a neighborhood that was already in a panic over change.

Richard D. Boyle, the editor of the weekly Haight-Ashbury Independent, immediately publish an editorial demanding the owners provide “family type entertainment or close the theater in the interest of this residential district.” At about the same time, The San Francisco Chronicle sent a reporter who wrote about “The Haight Transformed.” Rizzo and Meshioff gave the reporter a grand tour, which included a lobby renovated with murals of nude young men in classical poses, and a Ladies room where one man was applying makeup to another man who called himself “Cleopatra.” A drag show was going on in the theater itself. Rizzo told the reporter, “This used to be a family theater. It went broke. They tried everything, art films, foreign films, Spanish-speaking films—and it went bust!” He also explained:

Bernie and I were in the advertising business. We got this idea and decided to do it. It’s unique. I mean, where do these people have to go? Did you know that in a Gay bar they charge a homosexual double what anybody else pays for a drink? I mean these men are being gouged all the time. So, we opened this theater for their entertainment.

The Haight also got the attention of an un-named reporter for ONE magazine, the nation’s first gay magazine to be sold in newsstands across the country. Shortly after The Gaight screened  Glen or Glenda, it hosted a Mr. San Francisco physique contest:

This reporter saw some of the most glorious bodies in the contest that he has ever set eyes upon. The winner was a spectacular, young coal-black Negro who didn’t appear to have a single flaw in his physique. The lobby of the Haight is thickly coated with tantalizing, all-nude murals of the male body done in brilliant colors; an art show of drawings and paintings on the same theme was held on the mezzanine.

The manager, who took the stage at intermission, claimed that the theatre was a “bold, new experiment especially for you people.” He also said that the theatre had over 1,500 patrons during the first three days of its new career. He promised the audience that he would have new gay movies coming from Hollywood and Italy for them soon. …

Although appealing to the homosexual audience has been part of the program of most art movie houses for years, such public announcements as those made by the manager of the Haight have not been heard by us before. Of the more than 300 persons attending the evening we did, not one appeared to be heterophile. There were campy calls from the rear of the auditorium as the physique models did their best to please the audience. Each contestant in the show was loudly cheered.

HaightProtestNeighborhood residents weren’t so enthralled. Stirred on by what was now a full-on campaign by the Haight-Ashbury Independent, the HANC swung into action. They organized protests in front of the theater denouncing the “sex” shows being shown in a family neighborhood. Bereft of any sense of irony, they organized their own kids to march in front of the theater with sings reading “Down with Haight SEX” and “Down with the ‘Ladies’ We Want Walt Disney!” HANC also fired off letters to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the Police and District Attorney, demanding the authorities shut down the theater. The Police Department responded that the theater itself was perfectly legal, but that they would keep an eye on it to make sure no one was breaking the law. In fact, Rizzo had complained to the Chronicle that police officers were stopping by “hourly” to harass employees and patrons.

The harassment worked, although the Meshioff’s own unrelated legal difficulties likely played a larger part in the Haight Theater’s demise. He was first arrested for, allegedly, falsely accusing a group of heckling youths of robbing the theater. He skipped bail and fled town, with a string of bad checks floating around San Francisco in his wake. The Haight closed down by August.

StraightTheaterJust a few weeks later, the theater reopened under new ownership with a double feature: Jerry Lewis in Who’s Minding the Store?, and Tony Randall and Burle Ives in The Brass Bottle. “Family films” were back at the Haight, now re-named “The Straight.” But the same kind of fare that had led to the Haight’s demise earlier that year produced precisely the same result again, and the Straight closed again two weeks later. Ironically, owners blamed “hoodlums” terrorizing patrons, quite possibly the same “heckling youths” who spurred the gay Haight’s closure.

Neither the Haight nor the Straight would again operate as a movie theater. The building served briefly as an Assembly of God church, and then, in 1967, music promoters proposed turning the building into a combination theater and 4,000 square foot dance floor. City officials refused the permits, so the theater opened as the “Straight School of Dance,” with such acts as the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, Santana, and the Steve Miller Band providing “instruction.” The “school” closed in 1969, and the building sat vacant until it was demolished in 1979.

Haight-Ashbury never became the gayborhood that the Haight Theater’s presence appeared to herald. A few gay bars opened, but the influx of hippies just a couple of years later more or less pushed out the few gay men who had moved to the area. One of the great ironies of the 1960s was that those lefty-liberal if-it-feels-good-do-it Summer of Love practitioners with flowers in their hair were also every bit as homophobic as the rest of society. The gays of Haight decamped to Eureka Valley, another down-on-its-luck neighborhood just a few blocks away. Those new gay residents of Eureka Valley took the name of its main theater, The Castro, as the the name for their new home. And the rest of history.

[Sources: “Tangents.” ONE 12, no. 8 (August 1964): 14-15

Damon John Scott. Dissertation: “The City Aroused: Sexual Politics and the Transformation of San Francisco’s Urban Landscape, 1943-1964. (University of Texas at Austin, August 2008). Available online here. (PDF: 5.5MB/363 pages)]

NYC Police Commissioner Howard Leary

NYC Police Commissioner Howard Leary

The Stonewall rebellion a year earlier had changed a lot. The gay community was more organized and more assertive than ever before. But there were a few things that hadn’t changed: police continued to raid gay bars and clubs, nearly all of which continued to be mob-owned. The gay community often found itself fighting on two fronts: 1) against direct harassment by the police, and 2) from getting caught in the crossfire of a larger economic tug-of-war between organized crime and corrupt police officials.

Most people today are very well versed on the first battle, but we often forget how important that second one was at the time. In New York City in the late sixties and early seventies, that second battle often threatened to eclipse the first. A good illustration of that can be found in a police raid that took place at The Barn, an after-hours club in the early morning hours of July 18, 1970. LGBT activist Randy Wicker (Feb 3) described what happened in his column in GAY, the nation’s first weekly gay newspaper:

Barn baloney bared: New York Police raided the Barn Sunday, July 18th, issued summonses to nine employees and sent dozens of patrons scrambling out of the back rooms and into the streets. Management mafiosi reportedly took to the streets also shouting “gay power” and urging the patrons to return apparently hoping to provoke a confrontation a-la-Stonewall. The Police left shortly thereafter and most of the patrons re-entered the club.

“These raids shouldn’t be conducted at all,” Marty Robinson, GAA (Gay Activists Alliance) Political Affairs Committee chairman, declared. “We don’t like these management people running around the street shouting ‘gay power’ to further their own ends. Gay people should not simply be pawns in a power struggle between the police and underworld elements. A conference with Police Commissioner Leary has been arranged to discuss this matter more fully.’

The public battle between the mob and NYPD masked the fact that the current situation was actually mutually beneficial to both parties. Because of the state’s reluctance (and often, outright refusal) to issue liquor licenses to gay businessmen who wanted to open gay bars, the mob stepped in to fill the void by opening unlicensed bars. They made tons of money selling watered-down drinks at exorbitant prices, and they shared the wealth with police officers and officials who were paid to look the other way. Sometimes a payment was missed, sometimes it was shorted, or sometimes a dispute broke out over how much the mob should pay, or sometimes the police might decide to put on a show of force for public consumption. Whatever the reason, police would periodically pretend to shut a bar down, and, if they were behind on their arrest quotas, they could fix that problem by hauling some of the bar patrons to the station house. But more typically, police wouldn’t arrest anyone, except, perhaps, a few bar employees. Nobody appears to have been arrested in the Barn raid either, and that foiled the club’s attempt to exploit the situation. But police behavior toward the club’s patrons were, typically, hostile, both before and during the raid.

L-R: Lige Clarke and Jack Nichols (publishers of GAY), Jim Owles, and Marty Robinson.

L-R: Lige Clarke and Jack Nichols (publishers of GAY), Jim Owles, and Marty Robinson.

Robinson and Jim Owles, GAA president, led a delegation to meet with Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary to discuss the problem of the mafia-owned bars as well as how the police treated gay people. As GAY reported on August 17:

Jim Owles, president of GAA, told Commissioner Leary that the homosexual community is achieving a new awareness of itself and its problems, partly as a result of its witnessing other minority group struggles and partly as a result of problem. with the police that the gay community continually faces. He charged that raids on after-hours gay bars were made at hours on weekend nights, with police by their mere presence intimidating scores of patrons. “They hang around, they check I.D .’s at random. they indulge in verbal abuse, they station one man at the door and a patrol car out front for several minutes.”

Recently at the Barn (an after-hours bar), Owles contended, a police raid created a very heated atmosphere and near violence. “We’re here to ask you what can be done. Your actions make it difficult for a civil rights organization such as ours that is trying to reform the establishment. When we work against a background of such police tactics, they tend to undermine our efforts and to drive the gay community into the hands of extremists,” Owles charged. Nevertheless, he explained, “we are not asking the police to close down after-hours bars.” He said GAA’s concern was that homosexual patrons should be left alone when police take action against such establishments.”

…Robinson pointed out that the syndicate owns legitimate bars, too. He said “We’re here about a social condition — syndicate control of gay bars and payoffs to police. The bars are run shabbily and are a bad influence on the young kids just coming out who patronize these places and who already don’t know what to make of themselves because of the way society receives them. Such gay bars shouldn’t be tolerated in these years. We can’t live with it. We want to see legitimate bars where there’s no guy at the door with a cigar in his face saying to kids, ‘Welcome to your life- this is it, your subculture, your subterranean existence.’ Commissioner, our desire now is that anyone who’s honest can get into business and stay in without a shakedown, and can get police protection. But we must have police protection for this to be possible.”

…Reinforcing Robinson’s earlier remarks, Owles told the police that successful bars not opened by the syndicate were quickly taken over by it. “In an era when homosexuals are seeking their civil rights, it’s a blatant insult to have to go to a bar taken over by the syndicate. This situation will blow up sooner or later,” he warned. “Hence GAA is pressing for an investigation of alleged collusion between the State Liquor Authority and organized crime. Meanwhile, whatever struggles there are between the police and the syndicate, we simply ask that homosexual patrons not be used as pawns in between.”

Leary countered that if the GAA or anyone in the gay community had specific evidence of official corruption, they should bring it to the police. Owles countered that this was a problem for the NYPD to solve, not his. “As far as a police investigation is concerned,” he said, “it would be most difficult for most homosexuals to appear in court to help you. Actual lives would be in danger.”

The previous April, The New York Times published a front-page article about police corruption using information supplied by two officers, Detective David Durk and Officer Frank Serpico. That article forced New York Mayor John Lindsay to appoint a five-member panel to investigate charges of police corruption. A year later, the commission issued a report saying that police corruption was endemic, and it faulted the Mayor and Leary, who by then was a former police commissioner, for failing to act.

[Sources: Kay Tobin. “Police Commissioner Howard Leary Meets with G.A.A.” GAY (August 17, 1970): 3, 12.

Randy Wicker. “The Wicker Basket” GAY (August 17, 1970): 8.]

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 17

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), April 1983, page 18. (Source.)

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), April 1983, page 18. (Source.)

The Body Politic, Toronto’s gay newspaper, was known for keeping tabs on which gay bars were excluding which clientele for which reasons:

The fall bar hop for Gays and Lesbians at the University of Toronto (GLAUT) ended on a sour note this year when a group of about 20 gay men and lesbians was refused admission to The Outpost, a popular denim and leather bar at Jarvis and Gerrard Streets.

Brian Pronger, organizer of the yearly tour of local bars, reports that the group was stopped at the door October 15 by an employee, apparently the bouncer, who said they would all have to show age of majority cards. Several in the group began to reach for their cards when the employee suddenly called them “a bunch of rowdies’ ‘ and asked why they wanted “to go to a gay bar.”

Pronger says he was “aghast” to realize that the man thought they were straight: “I told him that we were most certainly gay and to prove it I showed him my Club Bath card.” The employee, however, remained intransigent and went on to say that if members of the group objected to being turned away they should “phone The Body Politic.”

He finally suggested they should all “go back to Buddy’s” (a bar popular with collegiate and post-collegiate types). Acting manager Bob Saunders told TBP the bar is concerned about crowds of straight kids coming into the bar. He felt the bouncer must have mistaken the GLAUT members for “a bunch of rowdy straights.”

Pronger notes that the primary purpose of the GLAUT bar hop is to introduce members to the Toronto bar scene. “I don’t think many of them will go back to The Outpost,” he said.

The bar has also been criticized for its policy of excluding women. Two local gay men wrote to TBP recently reporting two incidents in which women were told to leave the bar. In both cases, the management refused to discuss the policy, and the women met with a response similar to what the GLAUT members experienced.

The following month, John Allec returned to this incident for a Body Politic editorial on behalf of the newspaper’s collective:

In its bar listings, Toronto’s new gay magazine, Circuit, says of The Outpost: “You are made to feel at home and you will want to go back.” Such is the case, but only, it seems, if you can get in in the first place.

I’ve been in The Outpost, a leather and western bar, several times a week since it opened last year; it’s my favourite bar. As Circuit writes, “if you’re a real man — or can give a good imitation” you’ll feel right at home. Lately, the management seems to be making sure that no one else gets in to spoil the atmosphere. There have been several reports of women being rudely barred at the door and, on a Saturday night last month, a friend and I were behind a dozen or so youngish (mostly male) university students who were told to “go back to Buddy’s, where you belong.”

Although the barring is inconsistent so far, it may be an effort to assure The Outpost’s regular customers that they can dress like walking hardware stores without having to put up with curiosity seekers. In today’s strained economic cHmate, every drawing card counts, though the management should ask itself whether such a policy is worth the bad feelings, and the damage it could do to a community still learning to stand together. Even those in macho drag, often on the periphery of the gay scene and generally an older crowd, may have experienced the unpleasantness of being told they aren’t welcome at certain places.

Charges of discrimination because of age, race, sex, effeminacy and dress are not new to Toronto. But the last place the city’s gay community, which has shown exemplary and militant opposition to discrimination, should tolerate such practices is within its own institutions.

Gay communities in smaller centres do not have the resources to support special interest socializing — Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Halifax, for example, have long histories of lesbians and gay men partying side by side. Must a larger community force its members to choose friends by sex and clothes to make sure they can go out together on a Saturday night? Most lesbians and gay men (myself included, I suppose) probably do prefer to mix with people they’re attracted to. But it’s unacceptable that some establishments feel they should make that decision for us and take advantage of the fact that they can dictate who goes where.

Did I end up going into The Outpost after the incident that Saturday night? Well, yes. But I did feel uneasy, knowing that next time I just might not make it through.

[Sources: Jim Bartley. “Outpost Turfs out U of T Group Party.” The Body Politic (November 1982): 16.

John Allec. Editorial: “Left Out At The Outpost.” The Body Politic (December 1982): 6. Both issues are available online here.]

Kenneth Wherry

Max Lerner, a columnist for the New York Post, began a series of articles on homosexuality in July, 1950, spurred on by the growing hysteria in government and the press over the presence of gay people in federal employment (Feb 28Mar 14,Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14, Apr 18Apr 26, May 2, May 15, May 19, May 20, and Jun 15). On July 17, Lerner published his interview with Sen. Kenneth Wherry (R-NE), the GOP’s floor leader and whip, and a primary backer of the ongoing Senate investigations into gays and lesbian employees in the federal government. Two months earlier, Sen. Wherry had issued a report estimating 3,750 “perverts” were government employees (May 19). The interview revealed just how uninformed those crusaders against gays in the federal government really were:

I asked Senator Wherry whether the problem of homosexuals in the government was primarily a moral or a security issue. He answered that it was both, but security was uppermost in his mind. I asked whether he made a connection between homosexuals and Communists. “You can’t hardly separate homosexuals from subversives,” the Senator told me. “Mind you, I don’t say every homosexual is a subversive, and I don’t say every subversive is a homosexual. But a man of low morality is a menace in the government, whatever he is, and they are all tied up together.”

…I asked whether he would be content to get the homosexuals out of the “sensitive posts,” leaving alone those who have nothing to do with military security. There might be “associations,” he said, between men in the sensitive and the minor posts. “There should be no people of that type working in any position in the government.”

…I asked on what he based his view that homosexuals represent an unusual security risk. I cited a group of American psychiatrists who hold that a heterosexual with promiscuous morals may also be a security risk, that some men might be reckless gamblers or confirmed alcoholics and get themselves entangled or blackmailed. The Senator’s answer was firm: “You can stretch the security risk further if you want to,” he said, “but right now I want to start with the homosexuals. When we get through them, then we’ll see what comes next.”

This brought me to the question of definitions. “You must have a clear idea, Senator,” I said, “of what a homosexual is. It is a problem that has been troubling the psychiatrists and statisticians. Can you tell me what your idea is?”

“Quite simple,” answered the Senator. “A homosexual is a diseased man, an abnormal man.”

I persisted. “Do you mean one who has made a habit of homosexuality? Would you include someone who, perhaps in his teens, had some homosexual relations and had never had them since? Would you include those who are capable of both kinds of relations, some who may even be raising families?”

“You can handle it without requiring a definition,” the Senator answered. “I’m convinced in my own mind that any homosexual is a bad risk.”

“But how about those who get pushed out of their jobs when they are only in a minor post, when no security risk is involved, and when they are forced to resign for something they may have done years ago?”

“They resign voluntarily, don’t they?” asked the Senator. “That’s an admission of their guilt. That’s all I need. My feeling is that there will be very few people hurt.”

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): pp 95-97.]

One of the top goals of the early gay rights movement was to get the mental health professions to remove homosexuality from their list of mental disorders. As long as homosexuality remained listed, governmental agencies and private companies had all the excuse they needed to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The biggest problem was that the mental health community reached their determination about gays being mentally deficient based on all the prior research which had only studied people who were confined to mental hospitals or were seen in clinical settings. In 1957, Psychologist Evelyn Hooker began publishing the results of a series of tests which demonstrated that gays and lesbians who weren’t patients of mental health professionals were indistinguishable from heterosexuals (Aug 30). And if mental health professionals couldn’t pick gays and lesbians out from among their heterosexual counterparts, then there couldn’t be anything about homosexuality which made gays and leasbians inherrently mentally ill.

Despite the strength of this new evidence, it would still take many years for it to sink in. In 1963, the American Psychological Association was preparing to meet in Philadelphia for their annual convention. Leading gay activists, under the banner of the newly-formed East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) also planned to meet in Philadelphia at the same time, and they proposed a meeting with members of the APA. But the APA convention’s organizing committee declined the invitation. In a very brief letter to leading gay rights activist Frank Kameny (May 21) and the Washington, D.C., Mattachine Society, the APA simply said, “This problem” — yes, the APA saw the meeting as a problem — “has already been considered by the Convention Committee and it was decided that it was not in the best interests of the APA to meet with you, nor to publicize your meetings.”

Another nine years would pass before Kameny and Daughters of Bilitis New York activist Barbara Gittings would appear with Dr. John E. Fryer (as “Dr. H. Anonymous”) on a panel discussion on homosexuality with the American Psychiatric Association (the other APA, which is the keeper of the list of mental disorders known as the DSM) (May 2). That appearance would wind up being a key moment leading to the APA finally striking homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15).

Left to right: David Foreman, Tim McCaskell, Ed Jackson, Merv Walker, David Gibson, Michael Riordon.

Left to right: David Foreman, Tim McCaskell, Ed Jackson, Merv Walker, David Gibson, Michael Riordon.

40 YEARS AGO: On February 12, Bill Holloway and Tom Field were in front of a Hudson Bay store in Toronto, posing for photos for an article on homophobia. The photos were to depict the two of them kissing, right there out in the open, on the streets, where anyone could see them. When a police officer saw them, right there out on the street, he arrested the two and charged them with committing an indecent act: kissing. On July 12, they were found guilty of committing an indecent act, kissing, and fined $50 each (CAN$210 today).

Gay leaders were outraged. “Gay people can kiss their rights good-bye,” said Tom Warne, president of the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE). “It looks as if there’s now a legal precedent that can be used against gays who want to express their affection in public. I feel certain that a straight couple in the same situation would not have been charged.” As Tim McCaskell explained in 2015:

The two arrested men were part of this “Alternative to Alienation” collective, which was kind of flaky. They weren’t particularly a gay group, but they were sexual liberation, psychological stuff, anti-capitalist. It was all this primeval muck of that 1970s period.

But when it actually came down to it, they hired a lawyer who said we don’t want any kind of politics around this at all. So they were found guilty. And they said they were going to appeal. And they didn’t appeal, just paid the fine. And it was over. But for those of us in the gay liberation movement, that left this precedent on the law books that two men kissing in public was a crime, because they hadn’t fought it. So in order to be able to try to challenge that, we organized a kiss-in.

On July 17, GATE and The Body Politic, Toronto’s gay newspaper, went back to the scene of the crime, and committed that same crime again. As The Body Politic reported:

About 20 gays paraded in couples and triples, kissing as they walked. Occasionally, the group would stop and create a small circle of kissers

Reaction from passers-by was mixed. The group had prepared an attractive hand-bill which explained the situation, and those who look the time to read it seemed convinced of the injustice. Others were offended, a few were outraged. Although about a half dozen police arrived on the scene during the course of the hour-long event, they merely watched from the sidelines and did not interrupt. The kissers were careful to keep moving so that no one could be charged with obstructing the sidewalk.

Gerald Hannon was one of the kissers:

It’s hard to imagine now, when it’s pretty easy. You were supposed to be ashamed of yourself. This was a good way of showing that we weren’t. … U think we felt mostly exhilaration that we were doing it. You know, the exhilaration you get when you go out on the edge of a building, where you’re both excited and you feel slightly in danger. It was that kind of mix of feelings. We didn’t really expect anyone would come and beat us up. (But) the police (charging us was) also a possibility. I mean, they’d already done it once.

No one was arrested, but because there was now documented evidence that police did not intervene to bring a halt to those indecent acts, kissing, it established a kind of precedent that would make any more such prosecutions difficult. A week later, protesters were back again, this time for an old-fashioned picket in front of old City Hall, which housed the court room where the convictions took place. “Again, the event attracted a crowd of interested bystanders,” reported The Body Politic. “Ironically, the demonstration played itself out against a background of wedding parties being photographed on the steps of the historic building.”

[Additional source: “Kiss-In Protests Conviction of Kissers.” The Body Politic (September 1976): 3. Available online here.]

Methodists Elect First Openly Gay Bishop

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2016

In defiance of a United Methodist ban on ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” delegates of the Western Jurisdictional Conference meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, selected Rev. Karen Oliveto to be the denomination’s first openly gay/lesbian bishop. Ovieto is the senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, which has a pro-LGBT history that goes back nearly six decades. Ovieto’s election came after two days and seventeen ballots. Two other contenders withdrew just before the seventeenth vote:

Rev. Karen Oliveto“I think at this moment I have a glimpse of the realm of God. I want to thank the candidates who I have journeyed with these past few days, for the grace with which we walked with each other. And know I stand before you because of the work and prayers of so many, especially those saints who yearned to live for this day, who blazed a trail where there was none, who are no longer with us, and yet whose shoulders I stand on,” Oliveto said after her election.

She especially thanked the delegates of the Western Jurisdiction “who dared to live into this Kairos moment. Today we took a step closer to embody beloved community and while we may be moving there, we are not there yet. We are moving on to perfection,” Oliveto said.

She said as along as people “walk by our churches and wonder” if they belong, because of race, sexuality orientation, ethnicity, social class or immigration status, then “we have work to do.”

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, responded in a statement:

Rev. Oliveto has been described as “an openly lesbian clergyperson.” This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity.

Our Book of Discipline has clearly delineated processes in place for resolving issues even as complex and unprecedented as this election.

The authority to elect bishops is constitutionally reserved to the jurisdictional and central conferences. Any elder in good standing is eligible for election as a bishop of the church. An elder under an unresolved complaint is still considered to be in good standing. Being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual is a chargeable offense for any clergyperson in The United Methodist Church, if indeed this is the case.

The Council of Bishops is monitoring this situation very closely. The Council does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election or supervisory processes at either the annual conference, jurisdictional or central conference levels. And, we are careful to not jeopardize any clergy or lay person’s due process by ill-advised comments.

Ough cautioned that “an endless cycle of actions, reactions and counter-reactions is not a viable path and tears at the very fabric of our Connections. …Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable.”

The United Methodist Reporter provided some background:

Most Annual Conferences in the Western Jurisdiction passed resolutions that said sexual orientation should not be a consideration for qualifications to be bishop. The 2012 Discipline only indicates that “Elders in good standing” are eligible to be Bishop, and many Annual Conferences interpreted that as not a bar to sexual orientation. All of the episcopal candidates in the West are in good standing.

However, some are wondering the implications of this election, given the United Methodist Book of Discipline’s proscriptions against homosexual clergy being ordained as ministers in the UMC. While a complaint could be made, it would have to be filed with the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops and they generally been more inclusive of LGBTQ persons in ministry in the past.

Rev. Oliveto was formally consecrated this afternoon at Paradise Valley UMC in Scottsdale.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 16

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), December 1976, page 13.

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), December 1976, page 13.

Lambda Rising opened in 1974 in a tiny 300 square foot space with 250 titles, and it quickly became a kind of an informal community center for Washington, D.C.’s gay community. From those humble beginnings, it moved in 1984 to a larger 4,800 square foot, two-story space on Connecticut Avenue and expanded to three other locations in Baltimore, Richmond, and Rehoboth Beach. In 2003, Lambda Rising bought the venerable Oscar Wilde Book Shop in New York and saved it from certain closure. But the rise of and the willingness of general bookstores to carry LGBT titles cut into Lambda Rising’s business. Lambda Rising sold Oscar Wilde in 2006, and closed its three expansion bookstores between 2007 and 2009. The main store on Connecticut Avenue finally closed its doors for good on December 31, 2010.

Reinaldo Arenas(d. 1990) His background would have made him  tailor-made for Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Cuba. Arenas was born to a destitute family in the rural Oriente province, Castro’s native province and the cradle of the revolution that Arenas joined as a teenager. Arenas moved to Havana in 1961, and became a researcher at the José Martí­ National Library from 1963 to 1966. His 1965 semi-autobiographical novel, Singing from the Well, was the first novel of his five-part Pentagonia (The Five Agonies) series, which he described as “the secret history of Cuba.” Singing From the Well was awarded a first honorable mention by a committee of Cuban writers, and the Prix Médicis in France four years later.

Singing From the Well would be Arenas’s only novel to be published in Cuba. And because of his open homosexuality, its printing in Cuba never extended beyond its initial run of 2,000 copies. Cuba’s benefactor, the Soviet Union, saw homosexuality as a product of a decadent capitalist society, ideas which easily took root in Cuba which already had its own entrenched homophobic qualities. Castro regarded regarded homosexuality as a bourgeois decadence. “In the country, there are no homosexuals,” he once said, and declared that “we would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true Communist militant.” New laws were passed and concentration camps were opened to house Cuba’s homosexuals, particularly effeminate men, who were believed to have violated the ideal of Cuba’s “new man.” Those prison camps were supposed to turn these men into the New Man through forced labor, scarce food, shaved heads, and physical mistreatment.

Arenas avoided that fate and managed to find work as a journalist and editor for the literary magazine La Caceta de Cuba. Meanwhile, he was prohibited from publishing any more novels abroad while the government refused to publish his books at home. His second novel, Hallucinations, published abroad in 1968, violated that ban. In 1970, Arenas was officially branded a “social misfit” and sentenced to a labor camp to cut sugar cane. When he still managed to get his works smuggled out of Cuba and into the hands of foreign publishers, the Cuban government branded him a counterrevolutionary and sent him to the notorious El Morro Prison from 1974 to 1976. But Arenas kept writing, both in and out of prison. He wrote Farewell to the Sea three times because the authorities kept confiscating it. He dedicated his epic poem, El Central, to “my dear friend R., who made me a present of 87 sheets of blank paper.” He tried to escape Cuba, but the attempt ending in failure and more imprisonment. He was finally able to escape during the 1980 Mariel boatlift thanks to a bureaucratic snafu.

On arriving in the United States, he settled to New York and launched a frenzied period of writing: novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and newspaper articles. The two decade saw the publication of the rest of Pentagonia, with The Palace of the White Skunks (1982), Farewell to the Sea (1987), The Color of Summer, (1990), and The Assault (1992). The last major work he wrote was his autobiography, Before Night Falls, which was posthumously published in 1992. Mario Vargas Llosa, the Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author, praised Before Night Falls and Arena’s uncompromisingly frank — some may say explicit — depiction of his homosexuality in defiance of the homophobia of his Spanish-speaking audience: “This is one of the most moving testimonies that has ever been written in our language about oppression and rebellion, but few will dare to acknowledge this fact since the book, although one reads it with an uncontrollable appetite, has the perverse power of leaving its readers uncomfortable”

Weak with AIDS, without health insurance and living in poverty, Arenas killed himself in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment on December 7, 1990. He titled his final poem Self-Epitaph:

A bad poet in love with the moon,
he counted terror as his only fortune:
and it was enough because, being no saint,
he knew that life is risk or abstinence,
that every great ambition is great insanity
and the most sordid horror has its charm.

He lived for life’s sake, which means seeing death
as a daily occurrence on which we wager
a splendid body or our entire lot.
He knew the best things are those we abandon
— precisely because we are leaving.
The everyday becomes’ hateful,
there’ s just one place to live, the impossible.
He knew imprisonment offenses
typical of human baseness;
but was always escorted by a certain stoicism
that helped him walk the tightrope
or enjoy the morning’s glory,
And when he tottered, a window would appear
for him to jump toward infinity.

He wanted no ceremony, speech, mourning or cry,
no sandy mound where his skeleton be laid to rest
(not even after death he wished to live in peace).
He ordered that his ashes be scattered at sea
where they would be in constant flow.
He hasn’t lost the habit of dreaming:
he hopes some adolescent will plunge into his waters.

60 YEARS AGO: He is most acclaimed for his Pulitzer prize-winning play, Angels In America, the seven-hour epic about the AIDS crises in the Ed Koch-era of New York. Kushner wrote the play for eight actors, but stipulated that each of the actors was to play multiple roles (including multiple genders) throughout the production. When he adapted the play for an HBO miniseries starring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, the same construct was applied. In addition to the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Kushner won the Tony Awards for Best Play in 1993 and 1994 (Angels In America is actually in two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, each having its own separate Broadway debut.)

After the turn of the new millennium, Kushner began writing for film, co-writing the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Most recently, he was the screenwriter for Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, for which Kushner won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and a Writers Guild award for best adapted screenplay. In 2013, Kushner was one of twenty-four recipients for the National Medal of Arts and Humanities from President Barack Obama.

Earlier This Week, The GOP Platform Committee Declared Porn a Public Health Crisis

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2016

I scoffed the time, but now I have to apologize. It looks like the crisis is way worse than I thought:


Twitter, naturally, is having a field day:


It’s Trump-Pence

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2016

You, of course, remember Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for his bumbling, bungling handling of Indiana’s ill-fated right-to-discriminate law. Pence has positioned himself as political poison among LGBT voters and many women, while Trump’s name is poison to African Americans and Latino voters. Which I guess makes this the ultimate Republican diversity ticket.

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