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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Federal judge finds Missouri ban unconstitutional

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2014

A few days ago a state judge found Missouri’s anti-gay marriage ban to be a violation of the US Constitution. The ruling is under appeal at the state Supreme Court, but is not stayed in the interim.

Today a federal judge, Ortrie D Smith, has come to the same conclusion.

Smith has stayed the Federal ruling until it passes appeal, but the state ruling continues to allow for marriage licenses to be issued. There is some uncertainty as to whether the state ruling applies to the entire state, but at present those Missouri couples wishing to marry may get their license in St. Louis and have it recognized throughout the state.

In Other News — Sun Rises, NOM Takes Credit

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2014

NOM puffs its chest over yesterday’s elections:

“Marriage won an overwhelming victory last night,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “In red states and blue, candidates who supported marriage as the union of one man and one woman won election and those who didn’t were rejected by voters. The Republican Party should take note that their nominees who favored gay ‘marriage’ were opposed by NOM and they were resoundingly defeated.”

A Prediction

Rob Tisinai

November 4th, 2014

A hundred years from now, Christians will proudly recall how they fought for LGBT rights at the beginning of the 21st Century, and if anyone reminds them of Christian opposition to our equality, they will reply, “But that was a FALSE Christianity!” So it happened with slavery, so it will happen with gays.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 8

Jim Burroway

November 8th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN; Palm Springs Pride, Palm Springs, CA; Mazipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Bear Pride, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 1982, classified section, page 15.

From The Advocate, May 1982, classified section, page 15.

I’ve acquired quite a collection of vintage Advocates, among other newspapers and magazines from across the U.S. and a few from Europe. Each issue inevitably tells at least one interesting story about the times, either through its articles or the ads. And then there are the pages like this one, which tell us a little something about a previous reader of that particular paper, not so much by what’s in it but by what’s not.

Gladys and Mame (the “bitch and the butch”), two lesbians from the TV episode “Flowers of Evil”.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
40 YEARS AGO: Police Woman “Flowers of Evil” Episode Airs: 1974. When NBC’s hour-long action drama Police Woman starring Angie Dickinson began airing in 1974, it was so popular that even its reruns in the spring and summer of 1975 ranked number one in the Nielsen ratings. It was first successful police drama to feature a woman in the starring role. Dickinson’s unabashed sex appeal, undoubtedly, played a far greater role in its success than the plot lines themselves. One particularly odious episode, “Flowers of Evil,” had Dickinson’s character, Sgt. Pepper Anderson, investigating a trio of lesbians who run a retirement home where they murdered and robbed their elderly residents.

To add insult to injury, the Police Woman episode aired one month to the day after a similarly negative plot line appeared on ABC’s Marcus Welby, M.D., in which a child molester was portrayed as gay (see Oct 8). Police Woman’s “Flowers of Evil” was originally scheduled to air on October 25, but after the National Gay Rights Task Force organized national protests and advertisers began canceling, NBC pulled the episode for re-editing. But with the filming wrapped up, the edits were mostly cosmetic. After the episode aired on November 8, TV Guide called it “the single most homophobic show to date.” A week later, a group known as Lesbian Feminist Liberation occupied NBC’s Standards and Practices office overnight, unfurled a banner from an office window reading “Lesbians Protest NBC.” Advocates continued to negotiate with NBC for several more months, and NBC finally agreed in 1975 to not rebroadcast the episode during re-runs and to withhold it from syndication. The “Flowers of Evil” episode did re-appear again, but only after thirty years had passed, in the Season 1 DVD box set where in today’s context it can be safely viewed as a historic and cultural artifact.

Harvey Milk taking the oath of office.

Harvey Milk Elected to San Francisco Board of Supervisors: 1977. Newspapers across American carried this two-paragraph news item a few days after election day:

Homosexual Elected to Supervisors’ Board

San Francisco (AP) — Harvey Milk Tuesday became the first avowed homosexual to be elected to the city’s board of supervisors, some 25 years after he was discharged by the navy when it learned he was gay. Mr. Milk, 47, a camera store owner, said Wednesday, “I’m a symbol of hope for gays and all minorities. My election, against all the odds, shows that the system can work and that there is hope.”

Mr. Milk defeated a field of 17 candidates which included several other gays and former San Francisco 49ers football player Bob St. Clair.

This was Milk’s third run for Supervisor. He lost in 1973 and 1975 when all six Supervisor seats were elected in city-wide at-large elections where the top six vote getters joined the board. He also ran for the State Assembly in 1976, but lost in a close race. In 1977, San Francisco switched to single-member districts, and Milk won a seat on the Board of Supervisors on his third try.

Networks Reject PFLAG Ads as Offensive: 1995. Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays created at least three television ads to address the effect of anti-gay rhetoric on bullying and suicide. (According to Commercial Closet, the ads were this, this, and this — but only the last one matches the descriptions provided in news reports.) One of those ads, “Guns,” featured a teenage girl rummaging through her parents’ bedroom looking for a gun. Another ad featured a young man being beaten by bullies (that ad does not appear to be online.) Those images were disturbing enough. But what made the ads particularly controversial was that intercut between those images were video clips of Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC). The “Guns” ad, for example, went like this:

(Young woman enters her parents’ bedroom)
Jerry Falwell: Homosexuality is moral perversion and is always wrong. God hates homosexuality.

(Young woman frantically searchers dresser drawers and linen closet)
Pat Robertson: Homosexuality is an abomination. The practices of these people is appalling. It is a pathology. It is a sickness.

(Young woman finds a gun in a cedar chest)
Jesse Helms: A lot of us are sick and tired of all of the pretenses of injured innocence. They are not innocent.

(Young woman holds gun and cries.)
Announcer: It is estimated that thirty percent of teenage suicide victims are gay or lesbian.

(PFLAG logo appears)

The ad drew a direct threat from Bruce Hausknecht, associate general counsel for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network. “The spots contain defamatory material and cast Pat Robertson and CBN in a false light by implying that Pat advocates/promotes heinous crimes against gays or directly caused the suicide of one or more homosexual persons. This is outrageously false and severely damaging to the reputation of Dr. Robertson and this ministry.” Hauskenecht warned that if the ads were aired, CBN would “immediately seek judicial redress against your station,” including injunctions and monetary damages. As a result, the ads were rejected by eight stations in Washington, D.C., Tulsa, Houston and Atlanta, and by CNN, which had tentatively accepted them for Larry King Live. Some of those stations did accept the companion ad depicting the young man being beaten.

PFLAG criticized stations for not airing the ad. Pointing out that talk radio was filled with anti-gay statements on a regular basis, PFLAG’s board president Mitzi Henderson said, “These people (Falwell, Robertson and Helms) are particularly accessible and public. We think they’re representative of a variety of sources. … We wanted to say, ‘Wake up and join us in opposing hate speech.'”

PFLAG executive director Sandra Gillis said that Tulsa, Atlanta and Houston were chosen “because they’re heartland America. Mainstream, middle Americans are not an intolerant lot. They don’t realize the level of abuse and violence against gays and lesbians.” She said the campaign’s message was “watch your words. They can create a climate in which violent people think their violent action is okay.”

Charles Demuth, Self Portrait, 1907.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Charles Demuth: 1883-1938. An important modernist watercolorist and oil painter, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native studied at Drexel University and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine arts before moving on to Académie Colarossi and Académie Julian in Paris. While in Paris beginning in 1907, Demuth became part of the avant-garde scene as one of the first American painters to embrace modernism.

That exposure proved profoundly influential but Demuth didn’t stay in Paris long, just a little over a year. On returning home, he began a relationship with a longtime friend from Lancaster, decorator-designer Robert Evans Locher, a relationship that would last for the rest of Demuth’s life.

Demuth returned to Paris again in 1912, where he met the painter Marsden Hartley (see Jan 4). The two became lifelong friends. Hartley introduced Demuth to Gertrude Stein (see Feb 3), Ezra Pound, and Leo Stein. Demuth’s esthetic ideas were further sharpened on his return to American in 1914, where he became close associates with the gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz and artists Georgia O’Keefe and Marcel Duchamp. His first solo exhibit was that same year, at the Daniel Gallery in New York. Later, he would exhibit regularly in Steiglitz’s gallery, where his work was purchased by such important collectors as Louise and Walter Arensberg, Ferdinand Howald, and pharmaceutical industrialist Albert C Barnes.

Charles Demuth, Turkish Bath with Self Portrait, 1918

While Demuth traveled frequently to Provincetown, New York, Philadelphia and, occasionally, to Europe, Lancaster would always be his home base. While in New York, he frequented the Lafayette Baths, which likely inspired his 1918 homoerotic Turkish Bath with Self PortraitIn 1919, Demuth began a series of paintings inspired by the architecture and industrial landscape of Lancaster. These larger-scale paintings, which represented a kind of a simplified Cubism established Demuth as an important Precisionist artist which anticipated modern regionalism styles of the 1920s and 1930s.

Demuth returned to Paris in 1921, but ill health forced his return home, where he was treated for diabetes. He become one of the first people in the U.S. to take regular insulin injections, and Barnes often footed the bill for his sanitarium stays. But the debilitating effects of diabetes would plague him for the rest of his life.

Charles Demuth, I Saw the Figure 5 In Gold, 1928.

From the mid- to late 1920s Demeth produced a series of symbolic “poster portraits,” which were intended to depict several of his friends. His most famous painting of this series, I Saw the Figure Five in Gold, was inspired by his friend William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Great Figure.” The Wall Street Journal’s Judith Dobrzynski described its importance:

It’s the best work in a genre Demuth created, the “poster portrait”. It’s a witty homage to his close friend, the poet William Carlos Williams, and a transliteration into paint of his poem, “The Great Figure”. It’s a decidedly American work made at a time when U.S. artists were just moving beyond European influences. It’s a reference to the intertwined relationships among the arts in the 1920s, a moment of cross-pollination that led to American Modernism. And it anticipates pop art.

He created other poster portraits to honor several of his friends: Gertrude Stein, Eugene O’Neil, Georgia O’Keefe, and Marsden Hartley among them.

Charles Demuth, My Egypt, 1927.

In 1927, Demuth returned to his Lancaster landscapes, producing some of his iconic My Egypt (1927), Buildings, Lancaster (1930), Chimney and Water Tower (1931), and And Home of the Brave (1931).  Those paintings today are regarded as among the most notable achievements in American art. His last painting in the series, After All, was completed in 1933. By then, the ravages of diabetes were taking their toll. Demuth finally succumbed in 1935 at the age of 51. Demuth’s house on King Street in Lancaster was bequeathed to Locher, who lived there until his own death in 1956.  The home is now a museum.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Friday, November 7 (Updated)

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2014

I have an update on the history of lesbian literature added to the bottom of Lisa Ben’s biography.

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN; Palm Springs Pride, Palm Springs, CA; Mazipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Bear Pride, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Ladder, August 1960, page 25.

From The Ladder, August 1960, page 25.

“Frankie and Johnnie” was a popular song from 1904, which tells the story of a woman named Frankie who shoots her man, Johnnie, after discovering him in bed with another woman. Based on a true story of a murder in St. Louis in 1899, “Frankie and Johnnie” has been recorded by hundreds of artists, including Lead Belly, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Lena Horne, Elvis Presley (who sang it in the 1966 film Frankie and Johnny), Taj Mahal, Sam Cooke, Van Morrison and Stevie Wonder. Lisa Ben’s rendition however as a parody, with the lyrics changed to tell the story of two gay lovers:

Frankie and Johnnie were lovers
Lordy, but how they could camp.
Swore to stick to one another
Just like two wet postage stamps;
He was his man, but he done him wrong.

Frankie swished down to the gay bar
to sip him some pink lemonade.
He asked, “Has my Johnnie been in here,
Was he caught in last night’s raid?
Ooh, he’s my man, is he a-doing me wrong?”

The bartender said, “Listen Frankie,
I ain’t gonna tell you no lie.
Your John’s got it made with a piece of trade
Who is known as Nellie Bly.
If he’s your man, he’s a-doin’ you wrong.”

Frankie went to the hotel room,
knelt down by the keyhole to spy.
And sure enough, there was his John-boy
Foolin’ ’round this other guy.
He caught his man, he was a-doing him wrong.

Frankie flew down to the gun shop,
Bought a pearl-handled ’44.
Toot-a-toot-toot at his fickle fruit
He shot right through that door,
He shot his man, for a-doin’ him wrong.

Frank was not much of a marksman
And that hotel door was shut.
Those bullets were meant for their cruel, cruel hearts.
And they landed in there — but
He shot his man, for a-doin’ him wrong.

Now this story has quite a moral
as you can plainly see:
There’s plenty more fruit in the orchard
so go out and shake that tree.
Don’t shoot your man for a-doing’ you wrong.
Never, never shoot your man for a-doing’ you wrong!

TODAY IN HISTORY:
José Sarria Runs for San Francisco City Supervisor: 1961. He lost, of course, but he also won by losing. Before throwing his tiara into the ring, José Sarria (see Dec 12) was better known as a drag performer and waiter at San Francisco’s Black Cat bar, where he regaled audiences with campy versions of Italian opera. He fought constantly against police raids against gay men and gay bars — he himself had been arrested in an entrapment case. One tactic was for police to raid gay bars and arrest everyone dressed in drag for violating a city ordinance that barred men from dressing as women with “an intent to deceive.” He printed up buttons for drag queens to wear on their dresses reading, “I am a boy.” That tactic effectively ended the raids on drag queens.

When Sarria decided to run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961, he became the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States. The elections that year were for five at-large seats in which the top five vote-getters citywide were seated. Sarria almost won by default until city officials put out a call for more candidates at the last minute when they realized what was up. Thirty-four candidates ended up running for the five slots. Sarria’s platform was a simple one:

My platform when I ran was “Equality Before the Law.” The San Francisco Court House had just been built and that was the slogan on it and I said, “This is what my slogan will be. I’m going to take it and shove it right down their throat.” I saw that there were two interpretations of the laws and that they were trying to make gay people second rate citizens. I’ve never been a second rate citizen.

Sarria earned nearly 6,000 votes, putting him in ninth place. While he didn’t make it onto the Board of Supervisors, his 6,000 votes effectively defined a significant voting block which could not be ignored in future elections. Sarria’s loss marked a change in San Francisco city politics as a result. As Sarria recalled, “From that day on, nobody ran for anything in San Francisco without knocking on the door of the gay community.”

Prop 6/Briggs Initiative Defeated: 1978. State Sen. John Briggs had been a part of Anita Bryant’s campaign two years earlier to roll back a gay rights ordinance in Miami, Florida. So when he decided to run for the Republican nomination for California Governorship in 1978, he thought he had hit on the perfect campaign platform: the so-called threat posed by gay teachers in the public schools. He lost the nomination, but managed to get placed on the California ballot Proposition 6, which would have banned gays and lesbians from being teachers. It also would have banned anyone else from teaching, gay or straight, who defended gays and lesbians whether they did so in the schools or outside. And with Prop 6 on the ballot, Briggs saw an opportunity to really make a name for himself. He told the Escondido Times-Advocate, “I could well end up being America’s newest and biggest folk hero, or I could very well end up being the world’s biggest chump.” If the amendment passed, Briggs told the paper that it would put him into position to challenge the U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston (D) in 1980.

CA state Sen. John V. Briggs

CA state Sen. John V. Briggs

Briggs played to society’s fears of gays as predators. He told the San Francisco Examiner, “One-third of San Francisco teachers are homosexuals. I assume most of them are seducing young boys in toilets.” The pro-Prop 6 campaign called themselves “Defend Our Children,” and their campaign was both nasty and personal. One television ad that ran in Los Angeles featured Heraldsburg  school board president Lee Lee, saying that in her school district there was a second-grade teacher who “uses his status as a teacher to promote homosexuality.” The teacher wasn’t specifically named, but the Sonoma County school district was so tiny — there was only one male second-grade teacher in the Heraldsburg district — that Larry Berner was quickly singled out as the one who was teaching “reading, writing and homosexuality,” according to the Prop 6 campaign. The school board was pressured to fire Berner, but the state Supreme Court had already ruled that homosexuality wasn’t valid grounds to dismiss a teacher. Lee instead promised to do everything she could to see Prop 6 pass, and the campaign sought to make Berner their poster child. In the official voters handbook, the Briggs campaign said, “If you don’t think Proposition 6 is necessary, then ask the parents of Heraldsburg.” They probably should have. Heraldsburg parents, outraged over how their teacher was being treated, printed up T-shirts that read, “Ask a Heraldsburg Parent — No on 6.” Berner also got the backing of nineteen out of the district’s twenty-one teachers.

Prop-6-ad-e1336466369414Yet in September, Prop 6 still looked like a sure thing, with 61% supporting the proposal. But several events conspired to lead to the measure’s defeat: with San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk (see May 22) setting the example, thousands of gays and lesbians emerged from the closet for the first time to their friends, families and co-workers. For many gay people, it was their first time engaging in a political campaign. Log Cabin Republicans organized to become a rallying point for other conservative Republicans to oppose the measure, and former Gov. Ronald Reagan came out against it — going so far as to write an op-ed against Prop 6 for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. “Whatever else it is, he wrote, “homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter also came out against it.

No on 6 poster: “You don’t have to be gay to be fired.” (Click to enlarge.)

But what likely killed the Biggs Initiative was Briggs’s overreach. Briggs started out just wanting to ban gay people from teaching, but he crafted his initiative so broadly that even straight teachers who supported gay rights, publicly or privately, were threatened. Del Martin (see May 5), the San Francisco lesbian-rights activist who had co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, showed how Prop 6 threatened to unleash a witch hunt that would hurt everyone. “All you have to do is point your finger and say, ‘you’re gay,'” she said. “That kind of thing is as damaging to heterosexuals as to homosexuals.” For many straight voters, opposition to Prop 6 wasn’t so much a show of support for gay people as it was a vote for self-protection.

When election day came, Prop 6 went down in defeat, 58-42%. In San Francisco, Prop 6 was lopsidedly defeated in a 75-25% landslide. Berner’s Sonoma County rejected Prop 6 by 62-38% Even Briggs’s own Orange County turned against him by a 53-47% margin. The only urban county to approve Prop 6 was San Bernardino, 57-43%.

With Prop 6’s defeat, California’s teachers were safe from political witch hunts. But more importantly, the victory helped to usher the emergence of a truly national gay rights movement out of what had been a series of relatively isolated, autonomous local communities. For the first time, gays and lesbians across America began to see themselves as part of a larger community, which would take visible form a year later when 75,000 showed up for with the First National March on Washington (see Oct 14).

Anti-Initiative 13 poster (via Gay Seattle History. Click to enlarge.)

Seattle Voters Reject Repeal of Gay Rights Ordinances: 1978. While the nation’s eyes were on California’s Briggs Initiative, voters in Seattle were contending with yet another Anita Bryant-inspired effort at the ballot box to eliminate gay rights ordinances. Since Bryant’s 1977 victory in Miami (see Jun 7), she took her anti-gay show on the road to similar victories in St. Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25); Wichita, Kansas (see May 9);  and Eugene, Oregon (see May 23). Now the steam roller was headed for Seattle.

Seattle had come to the idea of protecting its gay community relatively early, passing a non-discrimination employment ordinance in 1973, and extending discrimination protections to housing two years later. Those bills generated little controversy at the time, but with Bryant’s national barnstorming attracting widespread attention, Seattle Police officers David Estes and Dennis Falk decided to act. They founded a local group, Save Our Moral Ethics (SOME), and launched a campaign to place Initiative 13 on the ballot and repeal the city’s non-discrimination ordinances.

A counter group, Citizens to Retain Fair Employment, rose up the challenge the initiative, but right away they ran into a stark political reality: how do you get straight people to care about such a tiny and reviled minority? CRFE studied the campaigns in Miami and St. Paul and concluded that trying to argue for the civil rights of gay people was a flop. Either the electorate didn’t care or was overtly hostile to that idea. Repeating that same formula in Seattle, they reasoned, would produce the same result. Sure, fighting for civil rights was important, but it would take years — perhaps decades — of dialogue and conversations before the public could be moved to look at gay people as equal citizens. CRFE only had a few months. Clearly they needed a different approach, which that could bring quick results and which hinged on something everyone cared about now. CRFE found that issue: privacy.

So while SOME were throwing mud and claiming that seventy percent of all child molestations were at the hands of homosexuals, CRFE didn’t bother trying to make Seattleites feel good about gay people. Instead, they countered that Initiative 13 would give employers and landlords carte blanche to look into everyone’s private backgrounds, especially those who were single, had roommates, or were just generally not well-liked or thought of as being a little different. One anti-13 poster showed a keyhole with an eye peering through it, while television ads depicted people living in a fishbowl. And nobody’s comfortable with that kind of scrutiny. On election day, Seattle voters drove that point home by defeating Initiative 13 by a whopping 63-37% margin.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lisa Ben: 1921. Her job as secretary at RKO Studios didn’t involve a lot of work, even though her boss wanted her to look busy. So she used her side project to fill the time. Using five sheets of carbon paper, she would type out her little newsletter twice over, making a total of twelve copies at the most. She could have used a mimeograph machine, but that would have meant using a machine in a common area where other secretaries might discover what she was up to. Between June 1947 to February 1948, she put out nine issues of Vice Versa, which, as modest as that was, is believed to be the first known lesbian publication in the world. Each issue consisted of a dozen or so pages of book and film reviews, essays, short stories, opinion pieces, and a smattering of poetry. She mailed three issues to friends; the rest she hand-distributed at her favorite lesbian bars in Los Angeles. And she always encouraged her readers to pass their copies on to others when they were done with them.

She was born Edith Edye, an only child who grew up on an apricot farm in Santa Clara County. She developed her first crush on another girl while in High School. Devastated when the other girl broke it off, she wen to to her mother for solace, but her mother reacted so badly that she knew she’d never be able to discuss her personal life with her parents again. In 1945, she left Northern California and moved to Los Angeles, where she met other women in her apartment building who were as little interested in boys as she was:

“I don’t know what brought up the subject, but one of the girls turned to me and said, ‘are you gay?’ And I said, ‘I try to be as happy as I can under the circumstances.’ They all laughed. Then they said, ‘No, no’ and told me what it meant. And I said, ‘Well, yes, I guess I am because I don’t really go out and search for boyfriends. I don’t care for that.’ So they said, ‘You must come with us to a girl’s softball game.’ I went with them, but I didn’t tell them that softball bored the tar out of me. I just don’t care for sports. I know that’s very funny for a lesbian to say. But it’s true, I never have cared for sports. I went along to be with the crowd.”

Meeting other lesbians quickly became a priority for her. “The most common way for us to meet others of the same inclination was to frequent the gay bars,” she remembered.” It was easy to form friendships and be invited to the apartments and dwelling-places of these acquaintances … sometimes someone would have a party and invite quite a few friends, who would bring their friends along. There were no lesbian organizations and, of course, one could never place an ad in a personals column!”

There was also no reading material. That’s where she got the idea for Vice Versa, which had the added benefit of helping her to expand her social circle. “When I turned out my first copy I probably knew about four people. And the next month, they introduced me to some more, and I knew, like, ten people. And so on and so on and so on. So it grew. And eventually it grew to more girls than I had copies and I couldn’t turn out anymore!”

From the first issue of Vice Versa (Source. Click to enlarge.)

That’s when she adopted her public pseudonym of Lisa Ben, an anagram of “lesbian.” Her first issue of Vice Versa explained what she had in mind for her magazine. She noted that on every newsstand, there were magazines specializing on just about every topic imaginable:

Yet, there is one kind of publication which would, I am sure, have a great appeal to a definite group. Such a publication has never appeared on the stands. News stands carrying the crudest kind of magazine or pictorial pamphlets appealing to the vulgar would find themselves severely censured were they to display those other type of publication. Why? Because Society decrees it thus.

Hence the appearance of VICE VERSA, a magazine dedicated, in all seriousness, to those of us who will never quite be able to adapt ourselves to the iron-bound rules of Convention. The circulation of this publication, under the circumstances, must be very limited, going only to those who, it is felt, will genuinely enjoy such a magazine. … If the contents interest you and please you, that is the purpose of the magazine. If the material included herein seems rather monotonous, please keep in mind that the entire publication was originated and compiled by one person.

An ad for Lisa Ben’s record. From ONE, September 1960, page 22.

Ben had to end her run with Vice Versa after the Valentine’s Day issue in 1948. That’s when Howard Hughes bought RKO, and almost everyone was let go. Ben’s next job was much busier, leaving her with no time to work on Vice Versa. But by then Ben was enjoying her expanded social circle so much that, as she later said, “I wanted to live it rather than write about it.”

A tiny pebble thrown in the pond — it may be an overused cliché, but it perfectly describes Vice Versa’s impact. Copies were passed around and copied some more, like the Samizdat dissident newsletters that were the lifeline of Soviet dissidents half a world away. Very few originals survive; what we have today are almost always copies of copies. Over the next several years, those copies attained near-mythical status as hundreds, then thousands, read Vice Versa. When the Daughters of Bilitis began publishing The Ladder, some of Ben’s Vice Versa material appeared again, this time under her pseudonym “Lisa Ben,” an anagram of “lesbian.” (Vice Versa had carried no byline.) She also wrote some original articles as well for The Ladder.

Writing wasn’t her only talent. After her Vice Versa days were over, she indulged her love of music and began writing and performing a variety of gay-themed parodies. Her aim was to entertain, but to do it in a way that wasn’t demeaning. “I was absolutely appalled at the gay (male) entertainers who would, on stage, make derogatory remarks and dirty jokes about themselves to entertain the non-gay people who came there to be entertained and ‘see how the queers lived,'” she said. “No wonder society had such a bad opinion of us.”

From the film  Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community, 1984.

From the film Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community, 1984.

She often based her parodies on older popular songs: “I’m a Boy Being a Girl,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write My Butch a Letter”, and “The Vice Squad Keeps On Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine.” She didn’t take her singing very seriously. But, again, it helped to expand her social circle. “It was always a lot of fun and I found myself attending more and more parties and meeting more and more gay folks, both men and women.” In 1960, two of her songs, “Cruising Down the Boulevard” and “Frankie and Johnnie,” were recorded on 45 rpm and sold by the Daughters of Bilitis through ads in The Ladder and ONE magazine.

But it was those nine issues of Vice Versa that secured her place in history by providing a model for ONE and The Ladder. In 1972, she was honored by ONE, Inc., as “the father [sic] of the homophile movement,” and she appeared in the 1984 PBS Emmy-winning documentary Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community, and she was inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame in 2010. All of which fulfilled a wish she shared in the fourth issue of Vice Versa in 1947: “Perhaps even Vice Versa might be the forerunner of better magazines dedicated to the third sex, which in some future time might take their rightful place n the newsstands beside other publications, to be available openly and without restriction to those who wish to read them.”

lisaben98Lisa Ben still lives in California, and even though her real name is easy to find on the Internet, she still prefers to be known publicly by her pseudonym. And why not? Tab Hunter has his.

You can see an interview with Lisa Ben online at the Herstories digital collection of the Lesbian Herstory Archives here and here.

[Sources: “Vice Versa, by Lisa Ben.” Queer Music Heritage web site. You can find scans of all nine issues of Vice Versa here.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights: 1945-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 5-15.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement(Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007): xxxii-xxxv]

Update: A BTB reader in Austria sent the following:

Hi Jim,

>>
Between June 1947 to February 1948, she put out nine issues of Vice Versa, which, as modest as that was, is believed to be the first known lesbian publication in the world.
<<

Maybe the first lesbian publication in the United States or in the English speaking world.

In Weimar Germany there existed several lesbian publications in the 1920es and early 30es, the best known being “Die Freundin” (= girlfriend). It was published from 1924 to 1933 according to Wikipedia.

Other German Papers authored by and targeted at lesbians were Garçonne (1930–1932), Frauenliebe (1926–1930), BIF – Blätter Idealer Frauenfreundschaft (presumed 1926–1927), Ledige Frauen (1928–1929), Frauen Liebe und Leben (1928) and Liebende Frauen (1926–1931).

Most of these papers were only of local reach (mostly in Berlin) all all of them ceased to be published when the Nazis took over.

“Die Freundin” is even available in some German libraries, I haven’t found any digital version of it though.

The situation was different in Austria, as lesbian sex was illegal according to section 129 of the former criminal code. (In Germany only male gay sex was illegal.) We had numerous women’s magazines and feminist magazines in the second half of the 19th and first decades of 20th centuries, but none of them were explicitely lesbian, as far as I know.

Thank you, Zutta!

John Fryer: 1938-2003. You have John Fryer to thank for that fact that you’re not crazy. For many years, he was known only as Dr. H. Anonymous, the disguised gay psychiatrist whose talk at an American Psychiatric Association panel on homosexuality is credited for paving the way for the organization’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. But friends who knew him knew a complicated man: gregarious and charming, difficult and biting, always intense.

He knew he was gay from the age of fourteen, and did little to hide it through his high school and college years. But when he became a medical intern at Ohio State, he understood that it was in his best interest to keep his sexuality a secret from his superiors. His psychiatric residency at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka only reinforced his closet door. There were only about 100,000 people in Topeka, and if he went to a gay bar there, he was almost certain to run into someone connected with the clinic — either as a patient or an employee. Menninger was a very homophobic place, and Fryer soon became depressed. A supervisor noticed and set him up with free therapy with a psychoanalyst. Fryer went out on the limb and confessed everything to her. “There is only one solution,” she said. “Did you ever think of leaving Topeka?”

Leave he did, to the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. That residency lasted about six months until his supervisor there found out that he was gay. “You can either resign or I’ll fire you.” Fryer accepted six months’ severance and resigned. He ended up working at Norristown State Hospital in northern Philadelphia, where he was given the worst assignment: Building 11 as the only psychiatrist for 400 male patients, and Building 13 which housed the chronically incontinent. Fryer set up a behavioral program in Building 13 which rewarded patients who controlled themselves with trips to the Poconos. By the time he was finished, he had solved the incontinence problem in Building 13. He also found himself surrounded by staff that could accept the fact that he was gay.

By 1970, he became a part of what was loosely called the Gay-PA, an underground network of closeted gay psychiatrists who attended the annual meetings of the APA. They watched in 1970 when “outside agitators” — Frank Kameny (see May 21), Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), among others — picketed the APA meeting in San Francisco in 1970 (see May 14). Fryer later recalled, “We in the Gay-PA commented, ‘Isn’t that nice?’ But we weren’t about to do anything that might expose us.”

But things quickly changed for Fryer. The APA asked Barbara Gittings to be a part of a panel on “Lifestyles of Non-Patient Homosexuals.” Barbara’s partner, Kay Lahusen (see Jan 5), noticed that the panel had gays who weren’t psychiatrists and psychiatrists who weren’t gay. What the panel needed, she said, was a gay psychiatrist. Fryer recalled:

Barbara Gittings called and said, “John, we need you to be on a panel [in May of 1972],” and I said, “Tell me about it.” She said, “It’s going to be a panel about homosexuality, and we need a gay psychiatrist.” I said, “Sooo . . . ?!” She responded, “Well look, you…um…think about it.”

He had a lot to think about. His father had died and he was between jobs. This was not a good time for him to expose himself, either emotionally or professionally. But he had already been thrown out of one residency for being gay and lost another job for the same thing. He knew that his fellow psychiatrists needed to hear about that. So he called Gittings back and said he would do it — on one condition: he couldn’t do it as himself. He would need a disguise. His lover at the time, a drama major, devised one: a formal suit several sizes too big — not an easy task for such a big man to begin with — and a wig and rubber mask that was distorted beyond recognition. He also spoke into a special microphone to disguise his voice.

L-R: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous”

Speaking as “Dr. H. Anonymous,” Fryer opened with the words, “I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist.” He talked about just a few of the different closets he was forced to hide in: as a gay man who had to hide his sexuality among his professional colleagues, and as a gay man who had to hide his profession among other gay people. “There is much negative feeling in the homosexual community towards psychiatrists,” he explained. “And those of us, who are visible, are the easiest targets from which the angry can vent their wrath.”  He also addressed the “more than a hundred [gay] psychiatrists” attending the convention, urging them to find ways to help change the attitudes of their patients, both gay and straight, towards homosexuality. It would be risky, but “We are taking an even bigger risk, however, not accepting fully our own humanity, with all the lessons it has to teach all the other humans around us and ourselves. This is the greatest loss: our honest humanity.”

The panel was a resounding success. That night, Fryer wrote in his diary:

The day has passed — it has come and gone and I am still alive. For the first time, I have identified with a force which is akin to my selfhood. I am not Black. I am not alcoholic. I am not really addicted. I am homosexual, and I am the only American psychiatrist who has stood up on a podium to let real flesh and blood tell this nation it is so.

The next year, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was in charge of revising the APA’s Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) which defined the official list of mental disorders, met with members of the Gay-PA, and those meetings eventually led to the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in 1973.

But for Fryer, life continued to be difficult. After the 1972 APA meeting, he took a job at another psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia. A medical student learned that Fryer was gay — Fryer later hinted that he may have come on to the student but insisted that it went no further — and went to the Administration. Fryer was called in and told, “If you were gay and not flamboyant we would keep you. If you were flamboyant and not gay we would keep you. But since you are both gay and flamboyant, we cannot keep you.” Ironically, that same administrator had sat in the front row at the APA meeting during Fryer’s talk the year before, and had no idea who he was.

Fryer then took a teaching assignment at Temple University. In 1978, he got his associate professorship and with it came tenure. He could no longer be fired. He was free to be out, and he could also, finally, tell the full story behind Dr. H. Anonymous. Fryer retired from Temple in 2000, and died in 2003 at the age of 64. In 2004, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists endowed an award in his name. The first John E. Fryer Award, sponsored by AGLP and given by the APA, was awarded to Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings in 2006 for their role in that fateful APA panel in 1972.

[Source: David L. Scasta. “John E. Fryer, MD, and the Dr. H. Anonymous Episode.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy 6, No. 4 (2002): 73-84.

Jeanne Lenzer. “John Fryer.” British Medical Journal 326, no 7390 (March 22, 2003): 662. Available online here.]

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

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ACLU To Appeal Sixth Circuit Decision Straight to the U.S. Supreme Court

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2014

Chase Strangio, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, has announced that they will bypass an en banc review and appeal today’s Sixth Circuit decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court:

“This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse. We believe it’s wholly unconstitutional to deny same sex couples and their families access to the rights and respect that all other families receive. We will be filing for Supreme Court review right away and hope that through this deeply disappointing ruling we will be able to bring a uniform rule of equality to the entire country.”

Meanwhile, this dissent of today’s decision, written by Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Daughtrey, caught my eye. She denounced the majority’s opinion which refused to recognize the judiciary’s responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of all Americans (PDF: 309KB/64 pages):

Today, my colleagues seem to have fallen prey to the misguided notion that the intent of the framers of the United States Constitution can be effectuated only by cleaving to the legislative will and ignoring and demonizing an independent judiciary. Of course, the framers presciently recognized that two of the three co-equal branches of government were representative in nature and necessarily would be guided by self-interest and the pull of popular opinion. To restrain those natural, human impulses, the framers crafted Article III to ensure that rights, liberties, and duties need not be held hostage by popular whims.

More than 20 years ago, when I took my oath of office to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, I solemnly swore to “administer justice without respect to persons,” to “do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” and to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me . . . under the Constitution and laws of the United States.” See 28 U.S.C. § 453. If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams

She also wonders aloud:

These four cases from our sister circuits provide a rich mine of responses to every rationale raised by the defendants in the Sixth Circuit cases as a basis for excluding same-sex couples from contracting valid marriages. Indeed, it would seem unnecessary for this court to do more than cite those cases in affirming the district courts’ decisions in the six cases now before us. Because the correct result is so obvious, one is tempted to speculate that the majority has purposefully taken the contrary position to create the circuit split regarding the legality of same-sex marriage that could prompt a grant of certiorari by the Supreme Court and an end to the uncertainty of status and the interstate chaos that the current discrepancy in state laws threatens. Perhaps that is the case, but it does not relieve the dissenting member of the panel from the obligation of a rejoinder.

Sixth Circuit upholds anti-gay marriage bans

Timothy Kincaid

November 6th, 2014

marriage 2014

In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the state constitutional bans on marriage of the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Writing for the majority, Judge Jeffrey Sutton said:

When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.

This determination ignores the fact that when animus in present, a minority cannot become the “hero of it’s own stories” as they lack the ability to win in the “customary political processes”. When confronting Goliath on the field of political battle, the only stone in David’s sling is that of judicial protection. Judge Sutton would have David face the giant with no stones at all.

This is, of course, not the end of the story.

It is likely that the plaintiffs will ask for an en banc review and, if they do not prevail in that venue, will appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, November 6

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN; Palm Springs Pride, Palm Springs, CA; Mazipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Bear Pride, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, October 1968, p. 20.

What was once a rowdy gay bar in what would later become West Hollywood is now home to the Tbilisi and Yerevan Bakery.

London’s Piccadilly Circus.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Britain Lift Ban on Plays Portraying Gay Themes: 1958. The Lord Chamberlain’s office, which acted as the nation’s official censor, notified the Theatres National Committee that the ban on the portrayal of homosexuality in plays in public productions was officially lifted. Previously, plays such as Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge or Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof had been produced in London, but only at private theater clubs and not in public venues. The Earl of Scarborough, Sir Roger Lumley, who was serving as the Lord Chamberlain, wrote in a letter to the Committee, “This subject is now so widely debated, written about and talked of that its complete exclusion from the stage can no longer be regarded as justifiable. In future, therefore, plays on this subject which are sincere and serious will be admitted.”

One couple among many who registered their partnerships on the first day Domestic Partnerships became available.

San Francisco Voters Approve Domestic Partnerships: 1990. The road to providing even limited recognition of same-sex couples was long and plagued by seeming dead ends. In 1983, and in response to numerous reports of longtime partners being barred from their loved ones’ hospital rooms and funerals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted a Domestic Partnership ordinance. The law created a partnership registry and gave registered partners of city employees the same benefits as those available to spouses of married couples. It also ensured that domestic partners were granted the same visitation rights at city hospitals. But owing to tremendous pressure exerted by Catholic Archbishop John Quinn and much of the rest of the major religious leaders — including the Episcopal bishop — Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed the bill, much to the fury of San Francisco’s gay community.

Feinstein left office in 1988, and the following year the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Domestic Partnership ordinance which, this time, was signed into law by Mayor Art Agnos. But before it could take effect, the ordinance became the subject of a repeal initiative. That initiative narrowly won by fewer than 2,000 votes with an unusually high turnout for an off-year election. This time the gay community fought back in 1990 with Proposition K, which provided for a more limited version of Domestic Partnership without formal benefits. This time, Prop K prevailed, 60% to 40%. The registry went into effect the following Valentine’s Day.

Sunset Blvd.

30 YEARS AGO: West Hollywood Residents Approve Incorporation as a City: 1984. Voters in the an unincorporated area of Los Angeles known as West Hollywood voted to incorporate as a city and elected a city council in a combined election. Attention in the news media focus on the fact that three of the five new council members were gay or lesbian in the new municipality, while many gay leaders hailed the new city with gays making up an estimated 40% of the population as a “gay Camelot.” But the main issue that ignited the incorporation campaign in a city where 90% were renters was the decision by the County of Los Angeles to significantly reduce its rent-control regulations. Nevertheless, gay leaders saw incorporation as yet another stepping stone toward full acceptance.

Valerie Ferrigno, who was selected by the council to serve as mayor for the council-manager city government, became the first known lesbian mayor of an American city. “You don’t have to say avowed lesbian or admitted lesbian,” she said. “I am a lesbian. I won’t deny it.” She then summed up the significance: “We were illegal not too long ago. The first consenting adults bill wasn’t proposed until 1968. Ten years ago I couldn’t have been elected, and not because I was too young. We’ve come a long way in a very short time.” The city’s incorporation took effect on November 29.

Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington Approve Marriage Equality: 2012. For the first time in history, voters in three states turned back aggressive challenges by anti-gay force and became the first in the nation to enact marriage quality by popular vote. In Maine, voters approved Question 1 by 53-47%, which not only reversed a 2009 ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage but also guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. In Maryland, voters approved Question 6 and allowed that state’s marriage equality law to go forward in a 52-48% vote. Washington state voters came through even more strongly for Referendum 74 by approving marriage quality by a 54-46% vote.

And just to add icing on the cake, Minnesota voters rejected Amendment 1, which would have placed a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in that state’s constitution. Minnesotans rejected that ban 53-47%.

This marked the first time in history in which every attempt by anti-gay forces to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples went down in defeat. Same-sex marriages began in Washington on December 6, followed by Maine (December 29) and Maryland (January 1). Five months later, Minnesota joined the marriage equality movement after the legislature and governor gave their approval legalizing same-sex marriage.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Jackie Forster: 1926-1998. She began her adult life as an aspiring actress in London’s West End before becoming (as Jacqueline MacKenzie, her maiden name) a television presenter and reporter in the mid-1950s. In 1957, she went on a lecture tour in North American and entered her first lesbian affair, but it wasn’t enough to convince her she was lesbian:

“I didn’t see myself as being a Lesbian, or her, because I didn’t look as I imagined they did, and nor did she. We weren’t short back and sides and natty gent’s suiting. I got the image from The Well of Loneliness, like we all did. There were drug stores around the States, with these pulp books, lurid stories about lesbians who smoked cigars and had orgies with young girls. I thought, Where are these women? We never met anyone we knew were lesbians. There were no other books that I found about lesbians, no films that we ever saw: nothing at all.”

She returned to Britain and married novelist Peter Forster in 1958. They divorce four years later when she decided she was one of them after all. She joined the Minorities Research Group, an early UK lesbian rights organization, and she came out publicly in 1969 as a member of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. She was a founding member of London’s Gay Liberation Front in 1970 and co-founded Sappho, whose eponymous magazine became one of Britain’s longest running lesbian publications. In 1992 until her death, she was an active member of the Lesbian Archive and Information Centre, which is currently housed at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

65 YEARS AGO: Brad Davis: 1949-1991. Born Robert Davis and known as “Bobby” while growing up, Brad Davis took his stage name after learning that there already was a Bob Davis registered in Actors Equity. Acting was always his ambition, from appearing in productions at Theater Atlanta at the age of sixteen, and moving to New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at the American Place Theater. Television roles soon followed, in a short-lived soap opera and in the miniseries Roots and Sybil (both 1976). But it was his role as Billy Hayes in the film Midnight Express which rocketed him to fame and won him two Golden Globes.

Davis’s career should have taken off. Instead, it languished, somewhat due to homophobia — his bisexuality was generally known if not always acknowledged — and more directly due to his own drug and alcohol abuse. He sobered up in 1981 in time to take a minor role in Chariots of Fire. In 1983, he took a professional risk playing a gay sailor in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle (which flopped), and a dying man of AIDS in Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart. That last role mirrored, somewhat, his own life. When he died in 1991, news reports distinguished him as “the first heterosexual actor to die of AIDS.” Only a small part of that phrase was true. His bisexuality aside, he didn’t, strictly speaking, die of AIDS. He decided to end his life on his own terms when it became clear that death from AIDS was imminent.

Michael Cunningham: 1952. He’s gay and he’s a writer, but don’t call him a gay writer. That’s not what he does. He wins Pulitzers for writing novels with the title of The Hours, or at least he did in 1998. He also won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1999. In 2002, The Hours was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.

Born in Cincinnati, raised in Pasadena, Cunningham studied English Lit at Stanford and received a Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While studying for his Masters, he had short stories published in Atlantic Monthly (back when Atlantic used to publish short fiction) and Paris Review. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 and an NEA Fellowship in 1998. He has taught at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and at Brooklyn College. He currently teaches at Yale. His most recent novel, The Snow Queen, was released last May.

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State judge throws out Missouri anti-gay marriage ban – Updated

Timothy Kincaid

November 5th, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Denying Missouri’s gay couples the opportunity to marry is unconstitutional, a judge ruled this afternoon.

As a result, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in his decision, marriage licenses can be issued.

“The Court finds and declares that any same sex couple that satisfies all the requirements for marriage under Missouri law, other than being of different sexes, is legally entitled to a marriage license,” Burlison wrote.

He said that the Missouri Constitution violates the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Last month the courts found that marriage conducted outside of Missouri must be recognized by the state. The Attorney General did not appeal. It is unclear whether he will appeal this decision.

UPDATE:

The language seems to suggest that this applies only to St. Louis.

UPDATE:

The Attorney General has appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court. However, he has NOT requested a stay while under appeal. Marriage licenses are being distributed in St. Louis.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 5

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN; Palm Springs Pride, Palm Springs, CA; Mazipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Bear Pride, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 24, 1972, page 38.

From the Advocate, May 24, 1972, page 38.

The Coronet opened in 1947 and quickly established itself as an important center for the performing arts. In its first year, it hosted the world premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo Galilei and the west cost premiere of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of our Teeth. Over the decades, it hosted several daring productions and experimental films. In 2008, the theater changed hands and was renamed Largo at the Coronet, where it now operates as a music hall and comedy club.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
45 YEARS AGO: Los Angeles Times Picketed over Refusal to Run Ads With the Word “Homosexual”: 1969. In October, the Homosexual Information Center sponsored the production of a one act play, Geese, followed by a panel discussion at the Coronet Theater on La Cienega Blvd. The Times refused to run an ad for the event, citing their policy against printing the word “homosexual.” Outraged by the refusal, Don Slater (see Aug 21), John Hanson and Morris Kight met with the Times’ editorial board on October 29. Paul Rothermell, the administrative assistant in charge of advertising, reiterated that the Times was “a family paper” and that no changes would be made to the paper’s longstanding policy. Kight remembered, “They showed us a list that contained child molesters, rapists, axe murderers, homosexuals, and so forth. We asked why we were on that list; we weren’t a part of that. And they stood up and said we could either accept it or not.”

Accept it they didn’t. One week later, the crew returned to the Times headquarters with pickets in hand. According to their press release, “The Times by its attitude shows that it is cold and indifferent to the efforts of homosexuals to improve their legal and social position in America.” The release also noted that the Homosexual Information Center — with Homosexual prominently a part of its name — was a legally chartered California corporation. “The Times might like to forget that there are some 200,000 homosexuals living in the Los Angeles area … these men and women will not go away simply because the Times shuts them out of its advertising vocabulary.”

Local radio and television covered the protest, along with just about every other paper in the Los Angeles basin, eager to embarrass the competition. But the Times didn’t budge. Later that afternoon, the Times’ executive editor, Robert D, Nelson, issued a statement: “The Times cannot accept advertisements which, in our judgment, fail to meet the standards of acceptability which we have established and which apply to all advertising copy. We feel that it must be our responsibility to make the final decisions as to what is acceptable for publication.”

What made the Times’ policy particularly odd is that the previous March, the paper carried a reasonably well-balanced and sympathetic front page story on the Los Angeles gay community. The word “homosexual” appeared in the sub-headline and eleven more times on the front page, as well as scores more times in two more inside pages. Nevertheless, the Times’ advertising policy remained firm for the next six months until, without fanfare, the Times ran an ad in April for the film Song of the Loon, with ad copy that proclaimed it “a homosexual classic” in big, bold type. It’s hard to say exactly what prompted the Times’ about face, but it came out just as Slater learned that the Times was buying the Dallas Times Herald, which also owned KRLD radio and TV, and threatened to organize a letter-writing campaign to the FCC to block the sale.

[Sources: Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 94-95.

Todd White. Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009):191-192.]

40 YEARS AGO: First Openly Gay Candidate Elected to State Legislature: 1974. Elaine Noble, an “avowed Lesbian” in the parlance of the day, made history when she became the first openly gay candidate to win a seat in a state legislature. She won her seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives with 59% of the vote. When she decided to run, she was pressured to hide her sexuality. “There was a lot of pressure from some of my supporters in the community not to mention it,” she told reporters after her win. “But I thought it was necessary to state that politically. I mean, we’re not purple, right? … I figured the worst thing that can happen is that I lose.”

And so she listed among her qualifications in her campaign literature her master’s degree from Harvard, her membership in the Women’s Political Caucus, and her radio program “Gay Way” on a local FM station. She focused her campaign on neighborhood issues: crime, health care, housing for the district’s many elderly residents, and neglect in city services. She later described the campaign as “very ugly.” Her windows were shot out, her car was vandalized, and windows were broken out at her campaign headquarters. The harassment continued even after she took office. She had to deal with obscene profanities, and at one time human feces were left in her desk. She also learned a lot about her fellow liberals’ lack of backbone when it came to walking the progressive walk for anti-discrimination proposals. “We can never expect other liberal people to speak for us. It is our responsibility to speak for ourselves. Nobody is going to do it for us ….Power is what it’s all about. And that is why I think it is important for more gay people to get involved in the political process.” When she stood for re-election two years later, she won with almost 90% of the vote.

San Francisco Bans AIDS Discrimination: 1985. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a measure forbidding the firing or eviction of anyone because they had AIDS, and would prohibit others from requiring AIDS tests. The move came after similar bans were enacted in Los Angeles and West Hollywood.

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And Kansas makes 33

Timothy Kincaid

November 4th, 2014

marriage 2014

Kansas is in the Tenth Circuit, which has ruled anti-gay marriage bans unconstitutional. The Supreme Court opted not to hear an appeal to that ruling, which establishes that states within the Tenth Circuit are bound by the Appeals Court’s ruling.

Same-sex couples requested that the federal courts direct Kansas to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and now a federal judge has done so. (Topeka Capital-Journal:)

Judge Daniel Crabtree, in a written ruling, granted a preliminary injunction that had been sought by the ACLU of Kansas on behalf of two lesbian couples who had been denied marriage licenses in Sedgwick and Douglas counties. The injunction will prevent the state from enforcing the ban on same-sex marriage found in the Kansas Constitution.

However, marriages will not begin immediately. Crabtree stayed the injunction until 5 p.m. on Nov. 11.

The state has a week to appeal Judge Crabtree’s decision, which – by all accounts – would be a waste of time and state resources. Should they inform him earlier that they will not appeal, the stay will be lifted at that time.

The odds are that Governor Sam Brownback will happily waste the taxpayers’ money on a futile attempt to appeal so as to grandstand on the issue. However, as the election is today, it’s possible that he’ll not see any political value to foolish, time-consuming, wasteful, quixotic efforts and will allow couples to marry sooner than next Tuesday.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, November 4

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Souvenir Program of the 1973 San Francisco Coronation Ball. (Source)

From the Souvenir Program of the 1973 San Francisco Coronation Ball. (Source)

The smaller communities of Bryte, Broderick and West Sacramento were joined together to form what is now the city of West Sacramento, which was incorporated in 1987. The address today now houses a fundamentalist church.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
California Voters Reject Prop 64 To Quarantine People With AIDS: 1986. Lyndon LaRouche’s name is all but forgotten today, but in the early 1980s the paranoid perennial Presidential candidate was regarded more as a joke than as a serious political thinker, even though he took himself very seriously. LaRouche typically ran as a self-styled Democrat (much to the consternation of real Democrats) while putting forth elaborate conspiracy theories and bizarre economic platforms. During his 1984 campaign, he managed to purchase 14 television spots in which he called Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale a Soviet KGB agent, and charged that Henry Kissinger and the Queen of England were in charge of worldwide drug cartels. He lost, of course, but he didn’t go away.

Marchers protest Prop 64, known as the LaRouche Initiative, during San Francisco’s Freedom Day Parade, June 29, 1986.

In 1986, at the height of the hysterical anti-gay backlash that had sprung up against the growing AIDS epidemic, LaRouche founded his Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee (PANIC), which gathered enough signatures to place Proposition 64 onto the California ballot. Prop 64, also known popularly as the LaRouche Initiative, would have added AIDS to California’s list of communicable diseases under the state’s public health law, and that would have effectively forced anyone who was HIV-positive out of their jobs and schools and into a quarantine.

The LaRouchites said that such measures were required because AIDS was “worse than the Black Death” that devastated 14th-century Europe and Asia, and was “more deadly to mankind than a full-scale thermonuclear war.” They also claimed that AIDS had been created by the Soviets — or maybe the International Monetary Fund or maybe the World Bank, depending on when you asked — to kill “excess eaters” in Africa. LaRouche asserted that AIDS could be spread like the common cold through casual contact or through mosquito bites. “A person with AIDS running around is like a person with a machine gun shooting up a neighborhood,” LaRouche told a San Francisco radio audience. Health officials denounced LaRouche’s harebrained theories, but LaRouche held his ground. His Biological Holocaust Task Force charged that “AIDS is the first known epidemic which could potentially wipe out the entire human race” and that his detractors were “guilty of one of the most evil cover-ups in medical history.”

Flyer for a LaRouche-sponsored conference in Atlanta, 1992. (Click to enlarge.)

Despite support from Congressman William E. “Wild Bill” Dannemeyer, Prop 64 lost in a landslide, 71% to 29%. LaRouche brought it back again in 1988 as Prop 69, when it lost by an even wider margin. He then made that AIDS quarantine the centerpiece of his quixotic 1988 presidential campaign. But Prop 64 would prove to be his high water mark, such as it was. In October 1986, federal and state agents raided his heavily guarded compound in Loudon County, Virginia and offices in Massachusetts. A federal grand jury indicted LaRouche and several of his associates with credit card fraud and obstruction of justice. In 1988, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 11 counts of actual mail fraud and a count of conspiring to defraud the IRS, all part of a wider effort to obtain credit card loans in his name and those of his supporters that he had no intention of repaying. LaRouche, true to form, blamed the raid on Raisa Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s First Lady.

LaRouche served six years in prison, running again for President from prison in 1992. At one time, he shared his cell with televangelist Jim Bakker, who recalled, “to say LaRouche was a little paranoid would be like saying that the Titanic had a little leak.”

He still hasn’t gone away. He ran again for President in 2000 and drew 22% of the Democratic primary vote in Arkansas. He claimed the 9/11 attacks were “an inside job” and an attempted coup d’état. More recently, he posted an image of President Barack Obama as Hitler that began appearing at Tea Party and Town Hall meetings in 2009, and he helped to popularize the fiction that Obama’s health care reform included so-called “death panels.”

Maurice Grossman displays a “No on 102″ sign. You can read about Maurice here.

Voters Approve Prop 8 (CA), Prop 102 (AZ) and Amendment 2 (FL): 2008. Voters in Arizona, California and Florida approved proposed amendments to their respective state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Arizona voters approved Prop 102 by a 56-44% margin, reversing the 2006 vote when they turned down a much more restrictive Prop 107 in a 48-52% vote. Prop 107 had proposed banning same-sex marriage and all other forms of recognition for same-sex couples, a provision which proved unpopular with unmarried straight couples. So for 2008, anti-gay forces, with the powerful financial backing of the Mormon Church, returned with a stripped down Prop 102 that carefully targeted gay couples only, a “clean” ban against same-sex marriage which ultimately proved successful. Meanwhile, voters in Florida also approved an amendment to their state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage “or the substantial equivalent thereof,” by a 62-38% margin, clearing the 60% bar required for passage.

But the biggest heartbreak came in California, where marriage equality had been the law of the land since May, when the state Supreme Court declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages began on June 16, even though California’s Secretary of State reported two weeks earlier that marriage equality opponents had turned in enough signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages on the November ballot. Polls initially looked promising for Prop 8’s failure, but millions of Mormon dollars flooding the state and a decidedly negative, misleadingfear-mongering, (and at times, coercive) campaign by the Yes on 8 Campaign had its effect. California voters ultimately approved Prop 8 by a 52-48% margin. (That same day, those same voters said that farm chickens deserved more humane treatment.) The result was devastating for LGBT people nationwide. For the very first time in history, gay Americans were stripped of a constitutional right that they had won and were exercising. Protests broke out throughout California and the rest of the country.

Two years later, Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional in Federal Court. That decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2013, The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to rule on the case and sent it back to the Ninth Court. Two days later, marriage equality was restored to the Golden State, once and for all.

A federal district judge declared Arizona’s Prop 102 unconstitutional on October 17 2014, shortly after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Federal district court decisions knocking down similar bans in Idaho and Nevada. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R), who was not running for re-election, decided not to appeal. Florida’s ban remains in effect, with two sate courts having declared the ban unconstitutional. Both courts have stayed their rulings pending appeals to the Florida Supreme Court.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY::
Barbara Grier: 1933-2011. The Cincinnati native came from a colorful family: Her father was a womanizing former small town doctor who became a medical salesman, and her mother was a before-her-time feminist and actress. Her great-grandfather, James Jesse Strang, had five wives and headed a breakaway Mormon sect known as the Strangites which had a somewhat feminist bent. One of Strang’s wives, Grier’s great-grandmother, dressed in men’s clothing and travelled with him as a man on evangelical tours.

Grier herself didn’t fall very far from the family tree. She announced to her mother at the age of twelve that she was a homosexual. As Grier recalled later, her mother corrected her. “Mother said that since I was a woman, I wasn’t a homosexual. I was a lesbian. She also said that since I was twelve I was a little young to make this decision and we should wait six months to tell the newspapers.” That task out of the way, Grier then began collecting lesbian fiction, beginning with her mother’s copy of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. “Mother gave my wider world validation, Grier said. “It’s a pretty easy jump to see why I began collecting a lesbian fiction a few years later — Mother opened me up to many, many things.”

Shortly after Grier graduated from High School, she met Helen Bennett in the public library and they became partners for the next twenty years in Kansas City. While there, Grier met Jeannette Howard Foster (see Nov 3), who was herself in the process of compiling her groundbreaking bibliography of lesbian literature, Sex Variant Women in Literature. Foster mentored Grier in the art of bibliography, and Grier set about compiling her own extensive bibliographies, including several volumes of The Lesbian in Literature. It was during this time that Grier discovered the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder. “From the first issue I saw, the March 1956 issue, I said this is what I am going to spend the rest of my life doing.” Grier’s memory must have been a little off: The Ladder’s first issue wasn’t until October 1956. But the March 1957 issue inaugurated an important new column called “Lesbiana,” which was a running bibliography of lesbian fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry, along with a brief overview of each work. Grier wrote a letter to The Ladder, which was published in August of that year offering her own additions for “Lesbiana”:

“I have now received and thoroughly read (and reread) five issues of THE LADDER, and I feel I must write and congratulate you on your magnificent work for us all. I enjoyed your attempt to list and annotate literature in your feature ‘Lesbiana’ most of all, as I know the years of frustration and work involved in collecting a library of gay literature. I now have some 300 works of fiction, poetry and drama, with perhaps 200 devoted to women. Your , column should help many others along the same lines. … I am enclosing with this letter a few additions you might wish for ‘Lesbiana’. …

G.D., Kansas City, Kansas

That anonymous introduction marked the start of fifteen years of Grier (as “Gene Damon”) reviewing lesbian-themed writings in The Ladder, beginning with the following month’s issue which featured her reviews of two works of pulp fiction. She continued contributing book reviews under multiple pseudonyms, including Lennox Strong and Vern Niven (her fifth cousin was British actor David Niven). During the nearly-disastrous 1968 Daughters of Bilitis convention (see Shirley Willer’s bio, Sep 26), Grier was named editor of The Ladder, and she immediately began remaking the magazine to reflect her own priorities. Without consulting with the national board, she dropped the subtitle “A Lesbian Review” and began focusing more on the growing women’s liberation movement. She expanded every section to add more fiction, poetry, and artwork, but cut back publication to six times a year instead of monthly.

But her boldest move occurred two years later when Rita Laporte, DoB’s President, walked into the Daughters of Bilitis office in San Francisco and walked out with the magazine’s production tools, correspondence, archives and, most importantly, its mailing list — all without the board and other officer’s knowledge. Laporte turned those materials over to Grier, and in the following issue (August/September 1970), The Ladder proclaimed itself an independent publication for “all women, that majority of human beings that has known oppression longer than anyone.”

While Laporte did the deed, Grier was suspected of instigating the move. According to Marcia Gallo’s Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement:

“It was Barbara’s idea,” (DoB co-founder) Phyllis Lyon insists. She believes to this day that Barbara Grier convinced Rita Laport to help her steal The Ladder. “Rita went to the place where the addressograph plates were made for mailing The Ladder to subscribers.” The small business was one that she and (her partner Del) Martin, along with three other friends, were partners in. One of them, Pat Durham, was there that day Laporte came in asking for the mailing materials. She knew Laport was the president of DOB so gave her the plates when asked. However, “she wondered, and later that same day called us,” Lyon explained. Laporte took the address plates as well as files from DOB’s office and transported all of it to her new home in Sparks, Nevada, near Reno. Although Grier still was editing the magazine from Kansas City, they began producing The Ladder from Nevada in early summer 1970 — away from San Francisco and DOB’s organizational center.

Grier defended the theft as an act of lesbian feminist salvation, explaining that they did it to save The Ladder from the DOB’s institutional weakness. “DOB was falling apart — we wanted The Ladder to survive. But Grier’s actions wound up hastening The Ladder’s doom now that it was cut off from DOB funding. It lasted another two years before folding in 1972. It barely outlasted the DOB as a national organization. Denied the powerful organizing tool and voice that The Ladder provided, the DOB board vote to disband the national organization and free the local chapters to operate autonomously.

Shortly after The Ladder’s demise, Grier launched Naiad Press, which for the next twenty-five year focused on publishing books “about lesbians who love lesbians, where the girl is not just going through a phase.” Naiad published more than 500 original titles, making it the world’s largest lesbian publisher. It brought back several out-of-print works, including Gertrude Stein’s prose poem “Lifting Belly” and countless classic lesbian pulp fiction titles from the 1950s and 1960s, which sparked an enormous revival of interest in the genre. Among Naiad’s notable works was Jane Rule’s Outlander, Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Ann Bannon’s Beebo Brinker series and the 1985 anthology Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, which earned the condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church. When Grier serialized several of the stories in Penthouse Forum, she earned additional condemnations from many of the nuns in the book as well as feminists who denounced the men’s porn magazine as exploitative of women. They also condemned her for cashing in on Naiad’s largest selling book. Grier defended the serialization, saying that it reached a larger audience of non-lesbian women who might never have encountered the stories elsewhere.

In 1985, Grier was given the President’s Award for Lifetime Service from the Gay Academic Union for her work in cataloguing and preserving lesbian literature. In 1991, she and her longtime partner Donna McBride were given the Lambda Literary Award for Publisher’s Service for their work with Naiad Press, and in 2002 they were honored with the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award. Grier’s own collection of lesbian literature is believed to be the world’s largest. Almost fifteen thousand books and several hundred feet of papers is now housed in the James C. Hormel Collection of the San Francisco Library. Grier died of cancer in Tallahassee in 2011 at the age of 78.

[Sources. Unsigned “Lesbiana.” The Ladder 1, no. 6 (March 1957): 12.

“G.D.” Letter to the editor. The Ladder 1, no. 11 (August 1957): 24-25.

Victoria A. Brownworth. “Barbara Grier (1933- ): Climbing the Ladder.” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 253-264.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement(Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007).]

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-portrait, 1980

Robbert Mapplethorpe: 1946-1989. Nearly banned in Cincinnati, shunned by the Corcoran, denounced by politicians, Mapplethorpe has become a kind of a shorthand for those who see contemporary art as sending civilization to hell in a hand basket and seek to control it. His studio work consisted mainly of rather common subjects: still lifes, orchids, lilies, and celebrities. Lots of celebrities, including Richard Gere, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Andy Warhol, and Patti Smith, who Mapplethorpe dated while still trying to figure out how to come to terms with his own sexuality.

It wasn’t until he began putting together the works for his 1989 solo tour The Perfect Moment, that he decided to include, for the first time, some recent photos that he had taken. They included several provocative, sexually explicit images of homoeroticism and BDSM. The American Family Association slammed the National Endowment for the Arts, which had funded the exhibit, which they called “nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material.” Congressional leaders threatened to cut funding for the NEA. When that failed, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) introduced an amendment prohibiting the NEA from funding “obscenity,” which cast a chilling effect on the arts for more than a decade.

The Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. had initially agreed to host the travelling exhibit, But on June 12, 1989, it announced its cancellation. That reversal, in turn, generated further public protests from defenders of art and free expression. In one protest, artists and LGBT advocates projected slides of Mapplethorpe’s photos on the museum’s facade. Pop artist Lowell Blair Nesbitt revoked his $1.5 million bequest to the Corcoran and several artists began canceling their own exhibits. The Corcoran’s director, Christina Orr-Cahall, issued a formal statement of apology in September, and resigned the following December.

When The Perfect Moment arrived at the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati in April of 1990, it drew large crowds and considerable controversy (see Oct 5). Hamilton county’s prosecutor tried to shut the show down, but the judge ordered the city and county not to interfere with the exhibit. After the show was over, the center and its director, Dennis Barrie, were charged with “pandering obscenity,” in what may well be the first time an art museum has faced criminal charges over the contents of an exhibit. The museum and Barrie were both acquitted.

Mapplethorpe didn’t live to see the controversy over his photos. He died on March 9, 1989 of complications from AIDS at the age of 42.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Monday, November 3

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 22.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 22.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Oregon’s Measure 9 Defeated: 1992. By a vote of 56-44%, voters in Oregon rejected Measure 9, which would have amended the state constitution to prohibit the expenditure of “monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.” This would have banned gay groups from using city parks or books about homosexuality in the public library. The measure was an effort of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, a conservative religious right group that was closely aligned with the Christian Coalition and was headed by Lon Mabon, with Scott Lively serving as his right hand man.

The campaign for Measure 9 was particularly nasty, with the OCA releasing a graphic video depicting gays as universally debauched and corrupt, while extolling the virtues of two “ex-gays.” The campaign also saw Lively found guilty of using unreasonable force to remove a free-lance photographer from an OCA meeting which debuted the video. Typical of anything associated with Lively, the OCA refused to acknowledge the magnitude of Measure 9’s defeat, and vowed to return to the ballot box two years later. But Measure 19 in went down in flames in 1994 by a similar margin. A poll in December 1992 found that 57% of all Oregonians had an unfavorable view of the OCA, against only a 14% with a favorable view. Lively called the poll “flawed.”

Colorado’s Amendment 2 Passed: 1992. You win one, you lose one. That’s what happened in 1992. The same year in which Oregonians rejected Measure 9, voters in Colorado passed Amendment 2 to that state’s constitution which prohibited state and local governments or court from taking any action recognizing gays or lesbians as a protected class in anti-discrimination measures. The measure passed 60% to 40%.

The Amendment immediately landed in court, with the State Supreme Court ruling that the measure couldn’t pass “strict scrutiny” under the Federal Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. When supporters appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, they ruled in 1995 in the landmark Romer v Evans that the measure didn’t even pass muster under a rational basis test. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, found that Amendment 2 went far beyond prohibiting “special rights” to gay people as supporters argued. It went further by actually disenfranchising gay people — and only gay people — from an important part of the political process. While everyone else could ask for redress from local governments and courts, gay people were singled out for being barred from that right of citizenship. “(Amendment 2) is at once too narrow and too broad,” he wrote. “It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence.”

L-R: Russell Henderson, Aaron McKinney

15 YEARS AGO: Aaron McKinney Found Guilty of Matthew Shepard’s Murder: 1999. After ten hours of deliberation, a jury in Laramie, Wyoming found Aaron McKinney guilty of first-degree murder of Matthew Shepard, after having been acquitted of the higher charge of premeditated first-degree murder. Testimony would begin the next day for the penalty phase to determine McKinney’s eligibility for the death penalty. The jury would ultimately reject that option and McKinney instead drew two consecutive life terms.

McKinney confessed to his role in beating Matthew Shepard with a .357 magnum and tying him to a fence outside of Laramie. After Shepard died from severe brain damage, McKinney’s attorneys spent the trial fighting for a reduced conviction to escape the death penalty. Co-defendant Russell Henderson plea bargained two life sentences without possibility of parole earlier in the year.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Jeanette Howard Foster: 1895-1981. A pioneer of what would later be known as lesbian studies, Foster had graduated from Rockford College with a degree in chemistry in 1918. Her biographer, Joanne Passet, said that Rockford College was valuable in contributing “to her health, sense of self and confidence.” Perhaps some of that occurred when, as a junior, she was on the student council deciding the fate of two young women who were judged in a “morals case.” No details were given except that the two women had taken every opportunity to lock themselves together in a dorm room. Foster realized that she was the only one on the student council who didn’t understand the implications of what that might mean. She went to the library and, guessing that the “morals case” reflected something sexual, looked into a copy of Havelock Ellis’s Studies in the Psychology of Sex and discovered that there was a phenomenon called Sexual Inversion in Women.

Recognizing herself in that description, Foster quickly recognized that if it was that difficult for her to find published information about women like herself despite having access to a major university library, how hard would it have been for women in small towns or rural areas to learn anything about others like themselves. Thus began a lifelong passion for compiling a massive bibliography containing everything she could find about female sexuality, a task that was initially made difficult by the very closeted nature of most lesbian and bisexual women.   She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School, which opened doors to jobs at libraries and universities across the country, wherever she could have access to libraries which might have examples of lesbian literature. As Passet observed:

In her lifetime, she lived in 17 states and changed jobs frequently in order to gain access to library collections that would advance her research. The gay activist and Professor Karla Jay, who interviewed Foster in the mid-1970s, claims that she would have become a nun if it would have gained her access to lesbian literature in the Vatican Library.

Along the way, Foster became the first librarian for Alfred Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research at the University of Indiana from 1948 until 1952. By 1956, she was ready to publish the result of more than two decades of research. Sex Variant Women in Literature: A Historical and Qualitative Survey was the first text to systematically document works by and about lesbian, bisexual and cross-dressing women in literary texts. Foster’s choice of title was very deliberate. “I had learned from searching bibliographies a title beginning with the word sex couldn’t be ignored.” As for “variant woman,” she reasoned that because its meaning was “no more than differing from a chosen standard,” it was neither judgmental nor emotionally charged. As if that weren’t groundbreaking enough, Howard Foster published the text under her own name in the immediate wake of the McCarthy era. She also contributed fiction, poetry and reviews to the Daughters of Bilitis’ groundbreaking magazine The Ladder. Much of her fiction and poetry however was published under a variety of pseudonyms because she wanted to preserve her own name’s association with what she regarded as her most important work, her ever-expanding bibliography.

Today, Sex Variant Women in Literature is considered the founding document for an entirely new area of scholarship. Without it, it is certain that so much of lesbian-themed literature would have been lost to history. In 1974, Foster was honored with the 1974 Stonewall Book Award, and her bibliography was reissued the in 1976 and again in 1985. It remains to this day a definitive bibliography for libraries seeking to establish a core collection of lesbian literature. Foster eventually retired to Pocahontas, Arkansas with two other women, where she died in 1981 at the age of 85.

[Sources: Virginia Elwood-Akers. “Jeannette Howard Foster (1895-1981).” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 48-55.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement(Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007).

Joanne Passet. Sex Variant Woman: The Life of Jeanette Howard Foster (Cambridge, MA: Da Cappo Press, 2008).]

Nothing gay here: Charles Nolte as Billy Bud

Charles Nolte: 1923-2010. His 1947 Broadway debut was in a production of Antony and Cleopatra staring Charlton Heston and Maureen Stapleton, but it was his 1951 appearance as the title role in Billy Budd which earned him critical acclaim, even as those same critics ignored the play’s homoerotic subtext:

Nolte recalls, “Not one of the reviewers, and there were dozens in those days, mention the fact, of course, that Claggart has the hots for Billy Budd, and so did Captain Vere. But what is so fascinating is the fact that you could not discuss it, although everybody knew it. But they had to find ways of obfuscating the basic facts. Making end runs around. Using similes and metaphors. The whole canon of Billy Budd is replete with people trying to avoid saying what is perfectly obvious.”

In 1954, Nolte  played opposite Henry Fonda in the premiere of the hit play, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. After appearing in several live television dramas and four feature films — War Paint (1953), The Steel Cage (1954), and two other uncredited roles in Ten Seconds to Hell (1959) and Under Ten Flags (1960) —  Nolte decided to return to his native Minnesota to earn a Ph.D. and teach acting at the University of Minnesota’s Theater Department. He also taught acting at the Guthrie Theater drama school at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He continued writing plays, including “Do Not Pass Go” which was produced off-Broadway. He also appeared in a local production, this time as an openly gay man in “Exit Strategy,” about two senior citizens who are about to lose their home. Nolte died in 2010 at the age of 86, reportedly while doing what he loved: listening to a recording of one of his favorite operas. He was survived by his partner of over fifty years, former child actor Terry Kilburn.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, November 2

Jim Burroway

November 2nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From NW Fountain (Portland, OR), May 1979, page 17.

From NW Fountain (Portland, OR), May 1979, page 17.

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TODAY IN HISTORY:
Observations About “Sexual Inversion in Women”: 1912. The journal Lancet-Clinic published an article by Dr. Douglas C. McMurtrie which tries to explain lesbianism, or as he put it, “sexual inversion in women.” McMurtrie set the stage for his discussion by observing that most physicians may know little to nothing about sexual inversion in general:

Cases of abnormal sexual development are liable to come under the observation of the psychologist as frequently if not more frequently than under the notice of the physician. That this is true is due to the fact that very few such cases are ever brought to the physician in a professional capacity. The subjects tend to conceal the fact of their condition, and are inclined to work out their own salvation. Only when their course conflicts violently with the interests of the community is the medical man called upon to diagnose and prescribe. The great majority of the sexually abnormal live their lives without ever coming in contact with the medical profession, at least in so far as their physical characteristics are concerned.

Given the relative rarity of physicians’ experience with homosexuality, McMurtrie wrote that the medical profession’s exposure to lesbianism was rarer still:

Perhaps one of the least known phases of sexual abnormality is that of homosexuality in women. There have been many studies of inversion, but practically all devote but little attention to female manifestations. …One reason for the lack of data on the subject is undoubtedly the difficulty of recognizing sexual inversion in women, due to the customs of the day which permit and even call for caresses and outward demonstrations between members of the female sex. In addition women are very generally ignorant of the details of sexual character and, not recognizing themselves the character of their tendencies, there would be greater difficulty for others to secure definite information.

Ten case descriptions followed, three of them men who were included as “of immediate interest to the subject” of homosexuality generally. Of the five women, three were prostitutes and one was an actress. Two more had scant details of only a sentence or two. One had a longstanding relationship with another woman who cheated on her, plunging her into depression. When, her lover returned after a two year absence, all was well. This woman, identified only as “G,” seemed to have a particular self-assurance about her sexuality, which McMurtrie obviously regarded with some surprise:

G. has only cared for this one woman. She describes this passion, however, as the most intense possible in life and the companionship of the loved one as the greatest happiness. She can see nothing wrong in such relationships except promiscuity, and regards the bond as being as holy as the conventional marriage vow. To this very unusual history I have only to add that the woman in question is highly regarded by all who know her, and not even her relatives and closest friends have the slightest idea of her sexual characteristics.

[Source: Douglas C McMurtie, “Some observations on the psychology of sexual inversion in women.” Lancet-Clinic 108, no. 18 (November 2, 1912): 487-490.]

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“Boise Underworld” Anti-Gay Witchhunt Begins: 1955. Terrible crimes were being committed in Boise, Idaho. Vernon Cassel, Ralph Cooper and Charles Brokaw were arrested and confessed to their crimes: sex acts wth at least ten local underage teenagers. Cooper, 33, had an arrest record that went back twenty years. He was quickly sentenced to life in the state pen, without the benefit of a lawyer. Ada County probation officer Emery Bess told the local newspaper that the investigation had only “scratched the surface” of a larger ring of several adults allegedly molesting hundreds of teens.

Boise was a rather quiet town of 50,000, the kind of place in which everyone knew just about everyone else. News of the arrests sent shock waves through the city. The next day, an editorial in the normally mild-mannered Idaho Evening Statesman quickly amped the panic:

Crush the Monster

Disclosure that the evils of moral perversion prevail in Boise on an extensive scale must come as a distinct and intensely disagreeable shock to most Boiseans. It seems almost incredible that any such cancerous growth could have taken roots and developed in our midst. … the situation is one that causes general alarm and calls for immediate and systematic cauterization.

The situation might be dismissed with an expression of regret and a sigh of relief if only one could be quite sure that none other than these three men and these 10 boys have been infected by the monstrous evil here.

But the responsible court officer says that only the surface has been scratched and that “partial evidence has been gathered showing that several other adults and about 100 boys are involved.” So long as any such possibility exists, there can be no rest. …

Until the whole sordid situation is completely cleared up, and the premises thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, the job is one in which the full strength of county and city agencies should and must be enlisted. That’s what we demand: and that’s what we expect.

The three more arrests followed two weeks later: a respected lawyer, a teacher, the vice president of Idaho First National Bank, the city’s largest bank. With the second round of arrests, the Statesman followed with another alarmist editorial:

This Mess Must Be Removed
The decent foundations of the Boise community were jolted beyond description recently withthe arrest of three local men on morals charges involving young boys. It did not seem possible that this community ever harbored homosexuals to ravage our youth. Yet it was true as confessions of both men and young boys made disgustingly clear.

…It might not be a bad idea for Boise parents to keep an eye on the whereabouts of their offspring. To date a number of boys have been victimized by these perverts. The greatest tragedy of all is that fact that young boys so involved grow into manhood with the same inclinations of those who are called homosexuals.

No matter what is required, this sordid mess must be removed from this community.

Parents did respond, by calling the police and high school officials with names of men they found suspicious: the man who paused to look at a football practice, men who were involved with youth groups, single men with no girlfriends. Calls overwhelmed the switchboards for the police, sheriff’s office, prosecuting attorney’s office, and the Statesman. Those calls led to more arrests. On December 12, Time magazine took the panic nationwide. In a story titled “Idaho Underworld,” Time wrote that the city “had sheltered a widespread homosexual underworld that involved some of Boise’s most prominent men and had preyed on hundreds of teen-age boys for the past decade.” On December 22, the city council hired William Fairchild, who had previously worked at the State Department rooting out gay people as part of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s “lavender scare” a few years earlier, to head up Boise’s witch hunt. Fairfchild quickly expanded the investigation with a list of five hundred suspected gay men.

StatesmanMore arrests followed, and with each arrest came more names and more arrests. The terror among gay men led many of them to abruptly pack up and leaving town. (In one famous example, a teacher left so quickly upon reading the news that he left his half-eaten eggs on the breakfast table.) And by now, there was little concern whether the crimes were with teens or between consenting adults. In the end, sixteen were arrested and charged, and only four of them were charged with crimes against minors. The others were charged with “infamous crimes against nature” with other consenting adults. As for the minors themselves, most of them ranged from high school age up to twenty-one years old. Court testimony revealed that they were gang members, either hustling, robbing, or blackmailing their sexual targets. This gave rise to numerous proposals for social programs to rehabilitate the youths and provide them with more respectable means of earning money.

But the sentiment was very different for the men who were caught up in the witch hunt. For them, the cry was the lock them up and throw away the key. Fifteen of the sixteen were found guilty and given prison terms. Meanwhile, accusations and counter-accusations mounted, and many of them took on darker political undertones. The Statesman entering a running battle with the reform-minded mayor and specific members of the City Council. But by mid-1956, the investigation wound down, partly because of a lack of evidence to support some of the wild accusations, partly because of credibility problems with some of the gang members whose testimony was critical, partly because the national attention paid to Boise was becoming an embarrassment, and partly because Boiseans themselves began to feel that the investigations were going too far.

In the end, 1,472 people had been interviewed, countless lives were ruined, and a generally threatening cloud hung over Boise. That cloud would not go away for many more years to come. When CBS broadcast its 1967 hit piece, The Homosexuals (see Mar 7), Boise was singled out for “illustrat(ing) the fact that homosexuality cannot be stamped out; that it is everywhere, not just in the big cities.”

The scandal may have had a lasting effect of another kind. Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), left the Senate in disgrace after his arrest for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport mens room, was ten years old and growing up on a ranch about an hour and a half northwest of Boise. When asked to respond to allegations that while attending college at the University of Idaho in 1967, he hit on another male student who was pledging to Craig’s fraternity, Craig denied it: “I’m not gay, and I don’t cruise, and I don’t hit on men. … don’t go around anywhere hitting on men, and by God, if I did, I wouldn’t do it in Boise, Idaho! Jiminy!”

[Sources: John Gerassi. The Boys of Boise: Furor, Vice and Folly in an American City 2001 edition (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).

“Idaho Underworld.” Time (December 12, 1955). Available online to Time subscribers here.]

An anti-gay marriage rally in Provo, UT.

An anti-gay marriage rally in Provo, UT.

10 YEARS AGO: Voters Approve Constitutional Bans on Same-Sex Marriage in Eleven States: 2004. That’s right, eleven of them. It was a terrible year for LGBT communities across the country when voters in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah all decided, by rather decisive margins, to stain their constitutions with discrimination during what was already turning out to be a very contentious presidential election year. Six months earlier, gay and lesbian couples won the right to marry in Massachusetts (see May 17), and three months before that, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom handed out some 4,000 thousand marriage licenses over a four week period. (see Feb 12). Those two developments touched off a massive panic by anti-gay political forces. The closest race was in Oregon, where gay rights groups spent $2.8 million on TV and Radio ads, outspending anti-gay forces by a comfortable margin. But even there, voters approved their amendment by a 57% to 43% margin. The defeats went downhill from there:

For Against
Oregon 57% 43%
Michigan 59% 41%
Ohio 62% 38%
Utah 66% 34%
Montana 67% 33%
North Dakota 73% 27%
Arkansas 75% 25%
Kentucky 75% 25%
Georgia 76% 24%
Oklahoma 76% 24%
Mississippi 86% 14%

Voters in Missouri had already passed its constitutional amendment earlier that year in August by a 71% 29% margin, with every county voting to support it except for the independent city of St. Louis. Louisiana voters had also done the same with a 78% to 22% vote.

What a difference a decade makes. Today, marriage equality is the law of the land in Oregon, Utah and Oklahoma, and they may soon become legal in Montana, which is under the Ninth Circuit Court’s precedent of allowing same-sex marriages elsewhere. Courts have also struck down bans in Michigan, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Those cases are now winding their way through the appeal process. Today, 63% of all Americans are now living in marriage equality states, up from 34% percent just last year.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Helen Sandoz: 1920-1987. She went by “Sandy,” and she was born of hardy stock. She grew up on an Oregon farm, and after earning a bachelor’s degree she moved to Alaska for a time before moving back to Washington and Oregon where she held supervisory position in several department stores. One morning as she was driving to a bank, she rear-ended a farmer’s truck. The accident seemed minor, so she continued on to the bank. The teller saw her and asked “Miss Sandoz, did you know that there is blood trickling down your chin?” Turned out she had broken her neck and had to spend the a year in a full-body cast. She was never again able to sit still in a chair or remain mobile for any length of time, so she changed her career to one which allowed her to keep moving: she became a sign printer.

When Sandoz moved to San Francisco a few years later, she learned that a new organization for lesbians was being organized called the Daughters of Bilitis (see Oct 19). As DoB co-founder Phyllis Lyon recalled, “Sandy was one of the only lesbians we knew in San Francisco when we moved here from Seattle in 1953. Del (Martin, Lyon’s partner) knew Sandy beforehand, when she was with a woman everyone called ‘Bridge.’ We visited them and Sandy’s partner wanted nothing to do with DOB. When they broke up in 1957, we got Sandy.” When the DoB filed for a state charter in 1957, Sandoz was among the those who signed her real name. She did use a pseudonym for her public DoB work however: as “Helen Sanders” she became DoB president in 1957. That year, she represented the Daughters at the ONE Midwinter Institute in Los Angeles, where she met Stella Rush, who was reporting on the Institute for ONE Magazine. The two hit it off, and later that year Sandoz moved to L.A. As The Ladder said when she announced her move, San Francisco’s loss was Los Angeles’s gain, and Sandoz quickly set about the work of establishing an L.A. chapter for the Daughters.

She also continued to work with the DoB’s groundbreaking magazine The Ladder, contributing articles as “Helen Sanders” and as “Ben Cat,” a persona she used to explore a wider range of topics from the perspective of a house cat that she shared with Rush. Sandoz put her artistic skills to use in designing several covers, and she served as editor from 1966 through 1968.

By 1968, the DoB was being split along several lines: Between those who wanted a more activist political organization verses those who wanted the DoB to be a social club, between those who wanted a strong national organization versus those who sought greater autonomy for local chapters, and between those who saw the DoB as primarily a gay rights organization for women and those who believed that the Daughters should throw its weight behind other feminist groups like the National Organization for Women. While Sandoz believed in NOW’s goals, she was put off by some of the anti-male rhetoric. She and Rush had spent their entire lives working with male (and female) members of ONE and the Mattachine Society, and they regarded the fight for gay and lesbian rights as being one fight. Consequently, Sandoz and Rush withdrew from the Daughters after a disastrous 1968 convention in order to concentrate on advocacy for both gay men and women. Sandoz died in 1987 in Anaheim of lung cancer at the age of 66.

[Sources: Stella Rush. “Helen Sandoz a.k.a. Helen Sanders a.k.a Ben Cat (1920-1987).” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 145-147.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement(Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007).]

k.d. lang: 1961. Growing up on Canada’s western prairie in Alberta, she became fascinated with the life and music of country music star Patsy Cline. She formed a tribute band called the Reclines in Cline’s honor in 1983, but when her debut album, A Truly Western Experience was released in 1984, the ReClines became a more conventional back-up band for a most unconventional Country and Western singer. Her career was taking off in Canada when, in 1987, Roy Orbison tapped her to record a duet of his hit “Crying.” That collaboration won them a Grammy in 1989.

That award coincided with her American breakout with the Grammy Award-winning Absolute Torch and Twang, which featured such standout songs as “Full Moon of Love,” “Big Boned Gal,” and my favorite, “Pulling Back the Reins.” In 1992, she shifted gears with Ingénue an adult contemporary album shorn of her country influences, which included her most popular song “Constant Craving,” giving her yet another Grammy Award. That coincided with her coming out as a lesbian in The Advocate. That, coupled with her veganism and animal rights advocacy — her “Meat Stinks” raised a huge stink in her cattle-ranching hometown in Alberta — put her country music career in deep freeze.

But it has done little to slow down her career. If anything, it gave her the freedom to become a vocalist — not a singer, but a vocalist of the highest caliber — whose range is utterly unbounded by the petty distinctions of genre and styles. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote, “Few singers command such perfection of pitch. Her voice, at once beautiful and unadorned and softened with a veil of smoke, invariably hits the middle of a note and remains there. She discreetly flaunted her technique, drawing out notes and shading them from sustained cries into softer, vibrato-laden murmurs. She balanced her commitment to the material with humor, projecting a twinkling merriment behind it all.”

But when it comes right down to it, words cannot express the artistry of lang’s voice. And so at this point, all I can do is to shut up and listen as she sings Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during Canada’s 2005 Juno Awards in Winnipeg. If you know nothing else about her, then the only thing you really need to know is that she can do this:

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

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 1

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 15.

From The Advocate, May 31, 1979, classifieds section, page 15.

The Colony Baths was destroyed by a fire on Halloween, 1980.

Charleston’s News and Courier, November 2, 1958. (Click to enlarge.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Charleston Man Bludgeoned to Death in “The Candlestick Murder”: 1958. The front page of Sunday News and Courier bore shocking news to Charleston, South Carolina readers: “A 30-year-old Charleston chemical company executive was clubbed to death with a heavy brass candlestick in his Queen Street house sometime yesterday morning.” A maid found Jack Dobbins’s bloody and nude body on his living room sofa when she arrived for work. A housemate, a young student at the Medical College of South Carolina was sound asleep upstairs. The paper described the scene:

Dobbins’ body lay on his side fully outstretched on the sofa, the candlestick cradled between his crossed arms. The wall and sofa, in addition to the candlestick, showed bloodstains. A matching candleholder was in Dobbins’ bedroom. The victim’s underclothing lay on a nearby coffeetable and the remainder of his clothing was on an upstairs bedroom dresser. Also on the coffeetable were two highball classes nearly full of bourbon, a package of cigarettes and lighter. On a disk across the room stood a nearly empty bourbon bottle

14 Queen Street: the Candlestick Murder site is little changed today. (via Google Street View.)

The coroner said that Dobbins had been struck nine times with the candlestick, which fractured his scull in three places. He also said there was no signs that Dobbins resisted the attack and the room showed no signs of a violent struggle taking place, and suggested that Dobbins may have been taken by surprise while laying on the sofa. The housemate had heard nothing downstairs, and neither had the neighbors.

The next day, an airman at Charleston Air Force Base, Airman 3rd Class John Joseph Mahon, was arrested and held pending further investigation. According to Mahon’s lawyer, Mahon surrendered “upon having read of Dobbins’ death.” Mahon was charged on November 3 with murder and held without bail, just as Dobbins was being laid to rest in Spartanburg.

Dobbins, a Korean War veteran who was continuing his education through the Army, was well-liked in the neighborhood and well-regarded by his employer. These factors seemed to have influenced the way The News and Courier handled their reporting. “’Affable,’, ‘pleasant,’ ‘personable’ — these were the adjectives to describe the slain Dobbins,” the paper said. Nowhere in the initial reports did the News and Courier explicitly identify Dobbins as homosexual.

But they hardly had to. That Dobbins’ nude body was found on the sofa while his male housemate slumbered upstairs only began to set the stage. The brass candlestick was obviously not something that would be commonly found in a typical bachelor pad, but since it was the murder weapon, its presence could hardly be ignored. And so the candlestick loomed large in the story: two-feet tall, with relief carvings on its blood-caked base depicting the Virgin Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The paper initially labeled the case the Halloween Murder or the Queen Street Murder, but before long, it was the Candlestick Murder in the minds of Charleston residents.

But reports carefully placing Dobbins among “his kind” appeared on November 3, which said, “Ironically, Dobbins was very proud of the candlestick used to kill him. An acquaintance said Dobbins purchased a pair of antique holders at a candle shop last fall.” That’s hardly typical of heterosexual bachelors. A second article said he was “an admirer of fine paintings with a flair for artistic home furnishings. …The tastefully appointed rooms in his quaint Queen Street house bear out his reported appreciation for artful furnishings.”

Airman 3rd Class John Mahon

And while the News and Courier was busy placing Dobbins in his element, the same paper was also describing Mohan as a an “18-year-old, boyish-looking airman,” a “clean-cut youth” who stood five feet six and weighted about 135 pounds and was the very picture of innocence. That set up morality play nicely, as Mahon’s lawyer told reporters, “The youth’s actions were completely justifiable and in self defense. A complete statement will be given at the proper time.”

When the trial began on December 9, the defense attorney set the stage by asking Dobbins’s housemate whether Dobbins ever had a girlfriend. Dobbins hadn’t, as far as the roommate knew. The maid was asked what color Dobbins’s sheets were. They were lavender. And what about visitors? Almost exclusively men, as far as she knew. What relevance any of that had with the murder, nobody bothered to explain. Then the trial turned to what happened in the house that night. Two Air Force buddies testified that when Mahon returned to the base, he gave them two different stories:

One version is that the young airman struck Dobbins with the candlestick after Dobbins made improper advances. The airman at that stage, according to the testimony, became frightened and ran out the door.

Another story… is that the airman obtained the candlestick from Dobbins’ room to protect himself and that while he was upstairs Dobbins put out the lights in the living room and then made advances toward the airman.

At this point… Mahon struck Dobbins with the candlestick and Dobbins fell back on the couch, but bounded to his feet and the two struggled. Dobbins — 5 feet 10 and weighing an estimated 170 — struck the airman two blows, according to the testimony, when the airman — weighing an estimated 130 points — punched Dobbins in the stomach and “he got a funny look in his face and went down.” Mahon, according to that version, rifled the trouser pockets.

The two witnesses said that Mahon had returned to the base with money, a money clip, a cigarette lighter, a silver fingernail file, and other personal items. But when Mahon took the stand, it was now Dobbins who was on trial. Mahon described meeting Dobbins in a bar and accompanying him to several other clubs around town. They then went to Dobbins’s apartment, where Mahon said Dobbins offered him a drink and “made improper advances at him.” Mahon said excused himself to go to the bathroom, which was upstairs behind Dobbins’s bedroom. He came back down stairs, he said, to find the lights out and Dobbins unclothed (even though earlier reports said that Dobbins’ clothing was upstairs except for his underwear). Mahon said he ran back upstairs, found the candlestick, and came back down stairs. He then claimed that he hit Dobbins three or four times. Dobbins fell down on the couch, and Mahon tossed the candlestick down and fled the house.

Mahon, after the verdict was reached.

Little of this made any sense. Nobody bothered to explain why Mahon didn’t just walk out the front door. Nothing in Mahon’s testimony explained how Dobbins received his fatal injuries or how the blood got on the candlestick. Given the testimony, the stolen items and the bloody candlestick, it ought to have been an open and shut case. The prosecution asked for the death penalty, the defense asked for acquittal. The jury got the case at 8:00 p.m. and was still deliberating after midnight, when the judge lost patience and called the jury into the court room. “If the state is entitled to a verdict in this case, it is entitled to it tonight,” he told the jury. “If the defendant is entitled to a verdict in this case, he is entitled to it tonight.” The jury went back to the jury room and emerged eight minutes later with its verdict: not guilty. ONE magazine, the nation’s first pro-gay magazine, summed it up all up this this way:

A bright and merry Christmas was in prospect for all-all, that is, except Jack Dobbins who would spend his Christmas six feet under the sod with a shattered skull. But then, of course, Jack used lavender sheets!

[Sources: Unsigned (“A Charleston Reporter”). “The Hallowe’en Party.” ONE 7, no. 5 (May 1959): 17-19.

William Chapman. “Queen St. Man Murder Victim: Candlestick Weapon in Halloween Killing.The News and Courier (November 2, 1958): 1

Otis Perkins. “Airman held in killing: Teen-ager Jailed After surrendering to Police.The News and Courier (November 3, 1958): 1.

William Chapman. “Queen Street Death: Jack Dobbins was Liked By Neighbors.The News and Courier (November 3, 1958): 13.

Halloween Murder: Young Airman Is Charged in Slaying.The News and Courier (November 4, 1958): 1.

Candlestick Murder Trial Gets Under Way: Five Witnesses Take the Stand.The News and Courier (December 10, 1958): 1B.

Conflicting Tales Told by 2 Trial Witnesses: Perjury Hinted in Halloween Murder.The News and Courier (December 11, 1958): 1B.

Glenn Robertson. “Murder Weapon: Candlestick Plays Big Role in Case.The News and Courier (December 11, 1958): 1B.

Dobbins Murder Case Given to Jury Here: Defense Declares Killing Justified.The News and Courier (December 12, 1958): 1B.

Otis Perkins. “Time Hung Heavy for 18-year-old: Jury Acquits Young Airman of Halloween Killing Here.The News and Courier (December 13, 1958): 1B.

Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen

ABC Broadcasts “That Certain Summer”: 1972. ABC television’s Wednesday night broadcast of the Movie of the Week broke refreshing new ground when it aired “That Certain Summer,” which marked the first sympathetic portrayal of gay people on television. The made-for-TV movie portrayed a  mid-40’s divorced man who must explain his homosexuality to his 14-year-old son, Nick, who is on a visit during summer vacation. The production was written and produced by Richard Levinson and William Link, and it had been pitched to NBC first, which rejected it. “It was perfectly acceptable for Bob Hope or Johnny Carson to mince about the screen doing broad parodies of homosexual behavior,” they later observed. “But anything else, anything not derisive or played for laughs, was out of the question.” ABC picked it up instead.

Scott Jacoby as Nick

“That Certain Summer” featured Hal Holbrook as Doug Slater, the teen’s father, Martin Sheen as Gary McClain, Slater’s partner, and Scott Jacoby as Nick. None of the characters fell into stereotype. In fact the two men were actually seen touching and neither of them died in the end. The New York Times’ John O’Connor said that the cast delivered “some of the most impressive and sensitive acting ever contributed ot television.” It would go on to receive seven Emmy nominations, with Scott Jacoby picking up the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama for his portrayal of Nick. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Movie Made for TV.

But not everyone thought the movie was so wonderful. Sacramento’s KOVR received 400 phone calls, including a bomb threat, in protest. The calls began as early as 10:00 a.m. on the morning before the film aired. But station manager Bill Lange said that most of the calls on Thursday were favorable. That seems to have been the pattern across the country. ABC  hired extra operators to handle an anticipated avalanche of angry phone calls, but the calls never materialized.

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

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