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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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Guerrero legalizes same-sex marriage

Timothy Kincaid

June 25th, 2015

guerrero

The state of Guerrero (Acapulco) in Mexico has announced that it will no longer enforce its ban on same-sex marriages.

In real terms, this means that Guerrero will not enforce the ampero process which requires the first five couples in a state to hire a lawyer, go to court, and get official permission to marry.

No Marriage Decision Today

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2015

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, won today, as did all of us who depend on it for our health care. The remaining decision days for the marriage case are tomorrow and Monday.

NSW parliament calls for free vote on marriage in Australia

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2015

The Parliament in New South Wales is controlled by the same coalition of political parties as the nation’s Parliament, the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia. It has just voted to encourage the federal Parliament to have “a respectful debate that is tolerant of all views”, or in other words, to allow a free vote.

The vote was unanimous and was supported by Premier Mike Baird. (Sydney Morning Herald)

[Independent Sydney MP Alex ] Greenwich called on the federal government to “stop delaying the inevitable”.

“The Liberal Party claims to be the party of “individual freedom” and a free vote should be its default position on this issue,” he said.

This move increases the pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow a free vote on the issue.

And it undoubtedly pisses off Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher. I wonder if more letters are forthcoming.

Sydney Catholic diocese writes businesses about marriage

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2015

aussie ads

A number of Australian and global businesses have been putting pressure on the Australian government to support marriage equality. Representing some of the biggest players in the Australian economy, they have been jointly running advertisements in papers announcing their support and asking other businesses to join them.

This obviously concerns the Catholic Church, which opposes equality. But its response is baffling. (ABC)

The Catholic Church in Sydney is sending letters to companies that publicly support same-sex marriage, expressing its “grave concern” about their stance.

The Archdiocese of Sydney has targeted some of the 150 businesses that put their names and logos to recent newspaper advertisements supporting gay marriage.

While it’s a bit odd that they write the letters at all, it’s the language and tone that are perplexing.

“It is… with grave concern that I write to you about the Marriage Equality for Australians campaign,” it reads.

“You are publically supporting a strategic, political and well-funded campaign designed to pressure the Federal Government into changing the Marriage Act.

“For corporations to speak on such issues… is indeed overstepping their purpose and it is to be strongly resisted.”

I can’t imagine that anyone opening a letter from the Catholic Church informing them that they are “overstepping their purpose” is going to receive that news without objection. And after the Church has been yowling about marriage for months, to tell someone else that they should not express an opinion reveals a level of arrogance that is astounding.

The Church then includes a not-so-subtle threat

“You may be aware that the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is a significant user of goods and services from many corporations, both local and international,” it reads.

Needless to say, the company providing ABC with the story was not amused. Nor were they inclined to back away from their support.

Maurice Blackburn principal Liberty Sanger said she was not sure what the intention of the letter was, but either way the law firm would not be intimidated.

“Now it may well be that their intention was to try and frighten us into not participating in the debate,” she said.

“If that was the objective, well it’s had… obviously had the opposite effect.

This heavy-handed tone deaf missive might have been effecting in the 1500’s. But I very much suspect that it has only earned ill will from the businesses in Australia, along with the Australian people.

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Admit it. All You Really Want To Do Is Read Scalia’s Dissent.

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2015

You know you want to. Where else will you find a Supreme Court decision compared to “the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie?” So here it is. But before we dive in, let’s look at Scalia’s classic dissent from Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down sodomy laws nation wide exactly twelve years ago today:

One of the most revealing statements in today’s opinion is the Court’s grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.”  Ante, at 14. It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.

Twelve years ago today, Scalia had no compunction against reveling in the blatant bigotry that propped up those laws. Twelve years later, the entire country has changed, with large majorities now supporting same-sex marriage. Scalia hasn’t moved that far, but even he can now no longer write about gay people as he once did:

The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance. Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage.

What’s important to Scalia? He continues, with words that will certainly repeated in NOM’s fundraising emails for weeks to come:

It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of theCourt’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Scalia writes that he believes the proper way to change marriage laws was through the ballot box or the legislatures:

(p1): Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate oversame-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views. Americans considered the arguments and put the question to a vote. The electorates of 11 States, either directly or through their representatives, chose to expand the traditional definition of marriage. Many more decided not to. Win or lose, advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.

 

(p4, 5): But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lackingeven a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its “reasoned judgment,” thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect. …

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

Scalia may not write with the open bigotry he employed twelve years ago, but he nevertheless hasn’t lost his ability to write an entertaining blog post. Scalia describes the decision as a “judicial Putsch” and launches into the kind of mockery that he’s become famous for:

(p7):  They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every personalive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone elsein the time since. They see what lesser legal minds—minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly—could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power toremove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago,21 cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies,stands against the Constitution.

The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentiousas its content is egotistic. It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so.22 

His sneering even extended to footnote 22:

22If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to allwithin its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of theUnited States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning ofJohn Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

Scalia ends:

Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall. The Judiciary is the“least dangerous” of the federal branches because it has“neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and mustultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm” and the States, “even for the efficacy of its judgments.”26 With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer tobeing reminded of our impotence.

Supreme Court Strike Down Marriage Bans Nationwide

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2015

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 5-4 decision striking down bans against marriage equality across the nation. Gay and Lesbian couples now stand as equals before the law with their heterosexual friends and relatives in every respect. In the lead case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding marriage bans in four states. From the syllabus:

(p1): Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

(p4): …The right of same-sex couples to marry is also derived fromthe Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way. Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always coextensive, yet each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. This dynamic is reflected in Loving, where the Court invoked both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause;and in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, where the Court invalidated a law barring fathers delinquent on child-support payments frommarrying.

“Traditional marriage” is both timeless and constantly changing, as are attitudes towards gay people. From the majority opinion:

(p6): The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time. For example, marriage was once viewed as an arrangement by the couple’s parents based on political, religious, and financial concerns; but by the time of the Nation’s founding it was understood to be a voluntary contract between a man and a woman. See N. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation 9–17 (2000); S. Coontz, Marriage, A History 15–16 (2005). As the role and status of women changed, the institution further evolved. Under the centuries-old doctrine of coverture, a married man and woman were treated by the State as a single, male-dominated legal entity. See 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 430 (1765). As women gained legal, political, and property rights, and as society began to understand that women have their own equal dignity, the law of coverture was abandoned. See Brief for Historians of Marriage et al. as Amici Curiae 16–19. These and other developments in the institution of marriage overthe past centuries were not mere superficial changes. Rather, they worked deep transformations in its structure, affecting aspects of marriage long viewed by many as essential. See generally N. Cott, Public Vows; S. Coontz, Marriage; H. Hartog, Man & Wife in America: A History (2000).

These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process.

This dynamic can be seen in the Nation’s experiences with the rights of gays and lesbians. Until the mid-20th century, same-sex intimacy long had been condemned as immoral by the state itself in most Western nations, a belief often embodied in the criminal law. For this reason, among others, many persons did not deem homosexuals to have dignity in their own distinct identity. A truthful declaration by same-sex couples of what was in their hearts had to remain unspoken. Even when a greater awareness of the humanity and integrity of homosexual persons came in the period after World War II, the argument that gays and lesbians had a just claim to dignity was in conflict with both law and widespread social conventions. Same-sex intimacy remained a crime in many States. Gays and lesbians were prohibited from most government employment, barred from military service, excluded under immigration laws, targeted by police, and burdened in their rights to associate.

…This Court first gave detailed consideration to the legal status of homosexuals in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U. S. 186 (1986). There it upheld the constitutionality of aGeorgia law deemed to criminalize certain homosexual acts. Ten years later, in Romer v. Evans, 517 U. S. 620 (1996), the Court invalidated an amendment to Colorado’sConstitution that sought to foreclose any branch or political subdivision of the State from protecting persons against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Then, in 2003, the Court overruled Bowers, holding that lawsmaking same-sex intimacy a crime “demea[n] the lives of homosexual persons.” Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 575

In discussing the Due Process aspects of the case, Kennedy tackles Scalia’s beloved “original intent” arguments:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as welearn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

Kennedy reaffirmed the court’s finding in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down bans on interracial marriage, that marriage is a fundamental right. He also reaffirmed his eloquent statement in Windsor about the profound meaning marriage has for the children of same-sex marriages:

(p15): Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing theirfamilies are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents,relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue herethus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. See Windsor, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 23).

 

(p17): There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue oftheir exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to aninstability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriageall the more precious by the significance it attaches to it,exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching thatgays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them outof a central institution of the Nation’s society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes ofmarriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.

The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right tomarry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples fromthe marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.

(p18): The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era. Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based ondecent and honorable religious or philosophical premises,and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes en- acted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sexcouples, and it would disparage their choices and diminishtheir personhood to deny them this right.

Kennedy also gave a nod to some of the fear-mongering among marriage quality opponents, who have falsely claimed that churches will be “forced” to marry same-sex couples:

(p27): Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to theirlives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on thesame terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.

He concludes:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they dorespect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, June 26

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
same-sex-marriage-supporters-scotus-580Another Chance for Marriage Equality. I gave you my prediction yesterday. I went out on a limb and predicted a 6-3 decision for marriage equality, and I predicted that the decision would come out today. I’ll hedge a bit on the second part. Given the funerals scheduled to take place today in Charleston, S.C., the Supreme Court may reconsider whatever plans it may have had to release the its decision today for Obergefell v. Hodges, the lead lawsuit for a slew of marriage equality cases before the Court. The Court has been sensitive to news cycles in the past, and I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised if if decided to hold Obergefell until Monday — despite what I think would otherwise be compelling reasons to issue the ruling today. June 26 is already a red letter day for gay rights, with the Lawrence decision< striking down sodomy laws in 2003 and the Windsor case striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

But like I said, I’ll hedge my bets for my second prediction, but not the first. I do think it’ll be a 6-3 decision, even though it means that Chief Justice will have to change sides in the two years since Windsor. Some of his questions during oral arguments were encouraging, where he wondered allowed whether the case could be decided on gender discrimination issues. “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t,” Roberts he asked, “why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?” We’ll soon find out, either today or Monday.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Bangor, MEBarcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Lavender Baedeker Guide, 1963, page 23.

From the Lavender Baedeker Guide, 1963, page 23.

In the 1950s, San Francisco’s leathermen mostly hung out at the waterfront bars along with the sailors, dockworkers and day laborers. The first dedicated gay leather bar in San Francisco was the Why Not, which opened briefly in the Tenderloin in 1962. Later that same year, the Tool Box opened on the corner of Fourth Street and Harrison, which set the area known as South of Market on the path toward becoming the heart of San Francisco’s leather scene.

The Tool Box was known for its giant black and white mural on the back wall, painted by Chuck Arnett, depicting a variety of very masculine-looking men. The mural achieved a measure of national fame when Life Magazine featured a photograph taken inside the Tool Box for its feature story on “the Homosexuality In America” in 1964 (see below). When Life asked Mattachine Society president Hal Call for help in finding a gay bar they could photograph, he saw an opportunity to break straight America’s stereotypes of gay men and took the photographer to the Tool Box. Mike Caffee, a local artist, remembered that photo shoot. “My mother actually recognized me,” he said. “We chose the people in the picture on the grounds that they were people who like, were self-employed or worked for gay organizations, so that they could not be blackmailed.”

That photo signaled to straight Americans that there was more to the gay stereotype than the limp-wristed lisping swish. It also became a beacon for thousands of gay men who saw San Francisco as, in Life’s words, America’s “gay capital.” Paul Boneberg, of San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society, remarked, “In fact, people have come to me and said, ‘This is the first time I saw a photograph of people like me’.”

ToolBoxMuralDespite the Tool Box’s important place in American history, its popularity was short lived. The influx of gay men into SOMA led to more bars and more competition, and the Tool Box quickly lost its niche position and its dominance of the leather scene. It finally closed in 1971. But when it was being demolished for redevelopment, the wall containing the mural against the building next door remained intact for the next two years, now as an outdoor mural rather than an indoor one. It finally came down in 1973 as the block underwent further redevelopment. The spot where the Tool Box once stood is now occupied by a Whole Foods supermarket.

Life Magazine: Homosexuality In America

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Life Magazine’s “Homosexuality In America”: 1964.

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

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

Over the next fourteen pages, Life magazine explored that so-called “sordid world”: in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, “which rates as the ‘gay capital’ [with] 30 bars that cater exclusively to a homosexual clientele.” The articles provide interesting vignettes and photos of gay life in the pre-Stonewall era, but reading through them today probably tells us more about society’s revulsion towards gay people than it does about gay people themselves. At one point, author Paul Welch accompanies a Los Angeles police officer acting as a decoy to try entrap a gay man into propositioning him. Even if the proposition involves going to a private home for the evening — the same type of invitation being made in straight bars all across Los Angeles that very same night — it would end badly with an arrest and possible lifetime registration as a sex offender. LGBT activist Dale Jennings’s 1952 arrest in the privacy of his own home and the city’s embarrassing failure to secure a conviction in a well-publicized case (see Jun 23) had still done nothing to stem police harassment twelve years later.

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

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

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

50 YEARS AGO: Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. Pickets the Civil Service Commission: 1965. Picketing was a new and controversial tactic for East Coast gay rights activists, but the year 1965 saw them finally shedding their reservations and, in keeping with the times, assuming a more confrontational posture in their demands for equal treatment. To test the waters for picketing, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. held their first gay rights protest in front of the White House earlier that year (see Apr 17). They had decided not to publicize the hour-long protest ahead of time because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent an excuse to block their demonstration. They were so excited over how well that protest went that they decided to do it again a month later, and this time they invited the press to cover it (see May 29).

But it was the federal government’s ban on employment of gay people that really stuck in the Mattachine Society’s president and co-founder Frank Kameny’s crawl. Eight years earlier, Kameny had been fired from his civilian job by the U.S. Army map service over his homosexuality (see Dec 20), and after he exhausted his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kameny turned his attention to organizing local activists to confront the Civil Service Commission over its discriminatory ban. Their earlier efforts to sit down with the Commission to discuss the matter were curtly rebuffed (see Sep 28: “It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.”), and all further requests for meetings were stonewalled.

So the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. decided to take it to the streets once again, as eighteen men and seven women, all conservatively dressed — “If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”, Kameny ordered — carried picket signs demanding and end to the employment ban. The two-hour protest in front of the Civil Service Commission headquarters generated just enough publicity for the CSC to request a meeting in September. Nothing much came from that meeting, but for the first time in history, federal officials were forced to justify their policies directly to the very group that was most affected by them. That meeting was followed by another ten years of letters, phone calls, lawsuits and meetings before the CSC finally capitulated, in a phone call to Kameny personally, in 1975 (see Jul 3). Times continued to change, and in 2009, Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.

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

John Lawrence  (left) and Tyron Garner, 1988.

John Lawrence (left) and Tyron Garner, 1988.

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Nation’s Sodomy Laws: 2003. One of the most important gay rights cases to reach the Supreme Court had its beginnings under very unusual circumstances. In 1998, Houston police were called to the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence over what was supposed to be some kind of a “weapons disturbance” (see Nov 20). As the story went, police arrived and caught Lawrence and Tyron Garner having oral sex, or anal sex, or no sex at all, depending on which eyewitness you want to believe. But if they were having sex, then that meant that they were breaking Texas’s anti-sodomy law. They were held overnight in jail and charged with violating Chapter 21, Sec. 21.06 of the Texas Penal code, a class C misdemeanor, for engaging “in deviate sexual intercourse with an individual of the same sex.”

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

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

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

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

U.S. Supreme Court Declares Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional: 2013. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer shared a modest Greenwich Village apartment for three decades before they finally decided to marry in Canada in 2007. The decided to formally marry after Spyer, already paralyzed with Multiple Sclerosis, was diagnosed with a heart condition. Spyer died at home in 2009, which sent the grieving Windsor to the hospital with a heart attack. When she came home, she found a $363,053 estate tax bill on the inheritance that Spyer had left her. Windsor filed for a refund from the IRS, but it was denied because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing their marriage. Windsor got a lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, and sued, arguing that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.

The lawsuit was filed in November of 2009, just three months before U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama Administration agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional and that the Attorney General’s office would no longer defend the law in court. This left the door open for the Republican-led House of Representatives to defend DOMA instead, but to no avail. On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision in October, which sent the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 26, 2013, the court issued its 5-4 decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, finding that Section 3 of DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” because the Federal Government was treating some state-sanctioned marriages differently from others. This federal action, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “demean[ed] the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” Kennedy also noted the broad reach of DOMA’s effects:

DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in person hood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. [Emphasis mine]

The Windsor decision had both immediate effects and far-reaching ones. Immediately, Edith Windsor got her estate taxes back from the IRS. Soon after, the Obama Administration began issuing instructions for granting federal recognition of same-sex marriages with regard to taxes, employment benefits, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, and other areas impacted by marital status.

Windsor has also had some very important legal effects which influenced 64 state and federal court rulings in favor of marriage equality. According to Freedom to Marry, forty-one marriage equality rulings have been issued in federal court, eighteen have been issued in state court, and five have been issued by a federal appellate court. Only five rulings have gone against marriage quality, including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Marriage equality is now the law for 37 states (although Alabama and Kansas both have been recalcitrant), the District of Columbia and Guam. Those developments make the scathing Windsor dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia both entertaining and somewhat prescient:

In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion … is that DOMA is motivated by “bare… desire to harm” couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.

…As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listeni.ng and waiting for the other shoe. By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.

supreme_court_doma_prop_8

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of California’s Prop 8: 2013. On the same day that the U.S Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the court also issued another ruling that was near and dear to Californians. In a 5-4 decision, the court declined to review the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision which upheld a lower court’s finding that Proposition 8, the 2008 Constitutional Amendment that banned same-sex marriage, was unconstituional. The Supreme Court ruled that because the state of California declined to defend Prop 8, the ban’s supporters did not have standing to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. And because they didn’t have standing to bring the case to the highest court, the Court ruled that they also lacked standing to appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court instructed the Ninth to vacate its rulling, which sent the case all the way back to the orignal district court ruling.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out when high-powered lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies made their bold announcement in 2009 that they would challenge Prop 8 in federal court. It was a controversial move. Lambda Legal and the ACLU oppposed the suit, fearing that a federal challenge at that time might do more harm than good if there was an adverse rulling. But Olson and Boies insisted that not only could they win marriage equality for California, but that they could also leapfrog the long-held state-by-state strategy favored by other gay rights organizations and win marriage equality for everyone at the Supreme Court. In the end, they only achieved the first half of their objectives, and Hollingsworth v. Perry has been legally inconsequential in the two score federal and state court rulings since then overturning marriage bans in other states. But by restoring same-sex marriage rights for Californians, this Supreme Court decision doubled the number of Americans living in marriage equality states in one fell swoop. Another accomplishment is perhaps less tangible, but no less important: the discussions about marriage equality prompted by Hollingsworth as it made its way through the court system undoubtedly contributed to Americans’ growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lance Loud: 1951-2001. PBS aired the groundbreaking documentary series An American Family in 1973 which would become the first reality television series in history. Millions of Americans were glued to their television sets watching the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California, go about their daily lives with film cameras in tow. Lance Loud, the family’s eldest twenty-year-old son who was living in New York City, quickly became the star of the program. He came out to America in the second episode when his mother went to visit him at the Chelsea Hotel, and his daring nonconformity became an inspiration for young Americans, gay and straight.

Loud had returned to California by the time the series aired, so he decided to move back to New York City to take advantage of his new-found fame. He formed a band called the Mumps, which played New York’s famed CBGB and Mix, and toured with the Talking Heads, Television, Ramones, Cheap Trick and Van Halen. But after five years and a loyal following, they failed to attract a major recording contract. After the band broke up, Loud returned to Los Angeles and became a writer. His articles were published in Interview, Details, Vanity Fair, among others. He also had a regular column, “Out Loud,” in The Advocate.

Loud found the fame he earned from An American Family to be hollow. Americans had watched as his parents’ relationship careened toward divorce, leading Loud to say, “Television ate my family.” Loud himself went through years of substance abuse. When he was diagnosed with AIDS and hepatitis C, Loud agreed to appear in one final cinema verité documentary for PBS. But this time he chose to perform as an example of what not to do with one’s life. Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family aired in 2003, two years after he died of liver failure.

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?

I Predict … (With an update)

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2015

Chief Justice John Roberts: Yes.
Antonin Scalia: No.
Anthony Kennedy: Yes.
Clarence Thomas: No.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Yes.
Stephen Breyer: Yes.
Samuel Alito: No.
Sonia Sotomayor: Yes.
Elena Kagan: Yes.

Carson as CarnacThat’s one of my two predictions for how the Supreme Court will rule on Obergefell v. Hodges, the lead lawsuit for a slew of marriage equality cases before the Court. My second prediction is that the ruling will come down tomorrow. (Note: I’m not so sure about tomorrow as I was earlier this morning. See below.) Here’s my thinking:

6-3: Chief Justice Roberts joins the five-person majority. If the Chief Justice is in the majority, then he has the prerogative to write the ruling or assign it to someone else in the majority. If the Chief Justice is not in the majority, then the task falls to the most senior justice in the majority to either write it himself/herself or assign another justice in the majority to write the opinion.

In my mind, this is critical. Roberts didn’t join the majority in Windsor v. US, so Kennedy ended up writing the opinion declaring that the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act which barred the Federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. It didn’t address the constitutionality of marriage bans, but look what happened anyway: courts all over the country began using Windsor to strike down those marriage bans right and left. Some of those courts took Windsor to mean that heightened scrutiny applies, or at least was allowed. There is the similar potential, depending on how Obergefell is written, for its effects to reach far beyond the question of marriage itself. It may enshrine, eliminate, or clarify the applicability of heightened scrutiny for LGBT people in other cases, as just one example. Or it may have other follow-on effects, depending on how it’s written. If Roberts has an interest in limiting Obergefell’s effects on other cases, then he may well want to keep the majority opinion out of Kennedy’s hands. Otherwise, the Court goes 5-4 and Kennedy gets to write the opinion — or pass it along to one of the even more liberal Justices.

Now of course Roberts may have other reasons for joining the majority. In today’s Obamacare ruling, he apparently did so in order to write an expansive ruling rather than a narrower one. A narrower ruling, for example, might have left Obamacare intact but the interpretation of the contested phrase “established by the states” up to the IRS. That would allow a future Republican President to order the IRS to interpret the clause differently. But Roberts took that possibility out of the hands of future Presidents by ruling that the intent of Congress when it passed Obamacare was for the subsidies to apply to all states. It’s possible that Roberts may want to take the opportunity to ensure Obergefell is similarly expansive, although I haven’t seen anything to suggest that he would be inclined to do this. But even if he doesn’t, if he sees this marriage equality case as one of the defining rulings of the Roberts Court — as were the two Obamacare cases that he wrote the opinions for — then he may well want to take this opportunity to be a part of that legacy.

So that’s how I get to 6-3.

And I get to 6-3 for both questions: whether gay marriage bans are unconstitutional (yes, 6-3) and whether states must recognize same-sex marriages from other states (yes, the same 6-3, although I guess it might be mooted by the first question). I don’t see a split decision here. If the Court rules against the first question while upholding the second, then it really doesn’t solve anything. In fact, chaos will reign because of the decision. By my count, marriage decisions in about 23 states (I could be off here) and Guam would be rolled back, leaving the status of thousands of marriage licenses in limbo and scores more lawsuits in the making. And that means that the Supreme Court would almost certainly have to address this issue all over again. I just don’t see the Court going against the overwhelming majority of Federal judges while inviting more headaches for itself. Besides, to arrive at this kind of a split decision, they’d more or less have to say that at least a portion of Windsor was “wrongly decided.” I just don’t see them borrowing a phrase like that from Lawrence, which struck down sodomy laws nationwide in 2003, to do something like this.

Friday: Why Friday? Well, Obamacare was today, and since the Court tries to keep each decision day limited to one major decision (and whatever relatively minor decisions which happen to be ready), then there’s no way the marriage case was going to happen today. I actually think that if they were going to strike Obamacare down, they probably would have waited until Monday because of the tremendous fallout. But since it was being upheld, it was a pretty safe move for the court to put it up today. But that necessarily meant that Obergefell would get pushed off.

So why tomorrow and not Monday? Well, the Court doesn’t operate in a hermetically-sealed chamber, unaware of what’s going on around it. June 26 has been a very auspicious day for pro-gay rulings: Lawrence on June 26, 2003, and Windsor on June 26, 2013. Also, Pride is this weekend for a huge number of cities around the world. Considering that the court could have just as easily selected Tuesday, June 30 as an extra decision day, June 26 just seems to be the most likely. That way, everybody gets to talk about it over the weekend and the Court can cleanly dispose of the three or four remaining cases on Monday (depending on how many other cases they release tomorrow) and go home for the summer.

Update: There’s a strong argument against a Friday ruling: the Charleston funerals take place tomorrow. I hadn’t thought of that when I wrote this. I suspect that Friday was chosen as a decision day with Obergefell in mind, but now I’m not so sure it’ll happen.

Grounds?. Equal protection? Due Process? Both? Something else? On that question, I’m on much shakier ground. I don’t really have a prediction here. But you have the rest: 6-3, tomorrow (tentatively). What’s yours?

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, June 25

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
SCOTUSWill The Supreme Court Rule On Marriage Equality Today? Mondays and Thursdays are traditionally the days that the Supreme Court hands down decisions, but the timing for when a particular decision will be released depends on a number of factors. Once the justices decide that all of the opinions in the case have been written, passed back and forth, and then finalized and printed — don’t forget the printers — the Chief Justice then decides when to issue the ruling. But the timing of a given ruling is not entirely based on when things are completed. There’s a kind of media strategizing that takes place when there are a number of high profile cases competing for just a few decision days.

And there are quite a number if high-profile cases awaiting a ruling: the fate of Obamacare, the constitutionality of marriage equality bans, whether EPA Clean Air regulates should be subject to cost considerations, whether lethal injections using the unreliable drug Midazolam constitute cruel punishment, and whether independent state redistricting commissions are allowed to act in the place of state legislature in fixing the boundaries of Congressional districts. When there are a number of eagerly-awaited cases stacked up for the end of June, the Court often adds additional decision days so they can space out the high-profile cases rather than having them dump all on one day. The Court prefers to have each major decision given its own decision day, knowing that the news media really isn’t capable of carrying on more than one major conversation at a time.

Traditionally, the Supreme Court issues all its ruling for a given term by the end of June, although legally they have until the following October to wind up their work. But if they stuck to a strict Monday/Thursday schedule, there wouldn’t be enough days to spread out the rulings over before month’s end. So instead of sticking to today and Monday as the only remaining decision days for their remaining caseload, the Court has announced an additional decision day for tomorrow. Conceivably, they could also add another day for next Tuesday, or even the first few days of July, although that seems unlikely. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a celebration.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Bangor, MEBarcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector magazine (San Francisco, CA), September 1968, page 32.

From Vector magazine (San Francisco, CA), September 1968, page 32.

Seal of the New Netherland Colony

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Execution in New Netherlands Colony 1646. The New Netherlands Colony court, located in present-day New York City, sentenced “Jan Creoli, a negro,” for a second “sodomy” offense. The record stated: “this crime being condemned of God…as an abomination, the prisoner is sentenced to be conveyed to the place of public execution, and there choked to death, and then burnt to ashes….” The court justified the sentence by citing Genesis chapter 19 and Leviticus 18:22, 29. The margin of the court record states: “he was executed at New Haven.”

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 90.]

An Early Ex-Gay Testimony: 1741. Joseph Bean, a twenty-two year old highly religious Bostonian kept a spiritual diary in which he details his battles his “unchaste and immodest thoughts.” In April of 1741, he experienced a spiritual crisis when his friend married. Bean described going “upstairs by myself all alone” and pleading with God that “this Night be the Wedding Night between Christ and my Soul.” That night he dreamed that Satan brought him a beautiful young man who Satan laid on and crushed his bones. But the handsome young man “looked on me very Steadily Smiling and his Countenance even Shined; in short he Looked the beautifulest that ever I saw in all my Life, which made me sometimes for to think it was the Son of God.” Two months later, Bean wrote out a covenant in which he joined himself to that beautifulest young man

and do hereby Solemnly Join myself in marriage Covenant to him… But since such is thine unparalleled love: I do here with all my power accept thee and do take thee for my head husband for bitter [the mistake is in the original], for worse, for richer, for poorer, for all times and Conditions to love, honor and obey thee before all others, and this to the death: I Embrace thee in all thy offices. I Renounce my own worthiness and do here avow thee to be the Lord of my Righteousness: I Renounce mine own wisdom and do here take thee for my only guide: I renounce mine own will and take thy will for my Law.

Supreme Court Declares Physique Magazines Non-Pornographic: 1962. In the 1950s, Herman L. Womack published three beefcake magazines: MANual, Trim and Grecian Guild Pictorial. Although the magazines were marketed to gay men, they made no mention whatsoever of homosexuality, instead presenting themselves as bodybuilding and physique magazines. In 1960, the postmaster in Arlington Virginia seized a shipment of the three magazines and declared that because the magazines were marketed to gay men, they were obscene and therefore “nonmailable,” even though the magazines contained no actual nudity. (Models wore “posing pouches” to conceal their genitalia.) In other words, it wasn’t that the photos themselves were pornographic, but that the gay audience made the photos pornographic and therefore illegal. Womack sued in federal court, but after the court granted the government’s move for summary judgment, he appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

On June 25, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in MANual Enterprises v. Day that the materials in question were not pornographic. Writing for the majority, Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote that the photos themselves were not “patently offensive” or “indecent.”  “[We] need go no further in the present case than to hold that the magazines in question, taken as a whole, cannot, under any permissible constitutional standard, be deemed to be beyond the pale of contemporary notions of rudimentary decency.” And since the magazines didn’t reach that level of indecency, it didn’t matter who the materials were being marketed to. The mere portrayal of the male nude — even if it happens to be the portrayal of the gay male nude — “cannot fairly be regarded as more objectionable than many portrayals of the female nude that society tolerates.” If nude or semi-nude photos marketed to straight men weren’t pornographic (Playboy had already been around since 1953), then similar photos marketed to gay men couldn’t be pornographic either.

William Johnson

United Church of Christ Ordains First Gay Minister: 1972. History was made when William Johnson, 25 and an “avowed homosexual,” became the first gay person to be ordained into the ministry of a major mainline denomination. His ordination took place at the Community United Church of Christ in San Carlos, California, two months after the Ecclesiastical Council of the Golden Gate Association voted 62 to 34 in favor of his ordination.

Before that vote took place, delegates grilled Johnson over his theology and how he planned to practice his ministry. One delegate asked whether he would marry gay people. “I will celebrate their marriage, homosexual or heterosexual,” he responded. “Love between two people is beautiful.” Another asked if he would “forego the pleasures of practicing homosexuality in order to fulfill your calling as a minister?” He responded candidly that he wouldn’t, saying “I don’t believe in compulsory celibacy.” He then added, “I am not calling on the United Church of Christ to affirm my homosexuality, only my ordination. Another asked whether he would ordain a prostitute who was otherwise qualified. Johnson answered that it wasn’t his “privilege” to judge; that was up to God.

Johnson told reporters that he was looking forward to pastoring his own parish church. But that was not to be. He never received a call to pastor a local church. Instead, he formed what would become the Coalition for LGBT Concerns. He later described that coalition’s work:

“The Coalition challenged the United Church of Christ to honor our baptisms,” he says, “to recognize that we all are called into the church by God and welcomed through baptism. Many people don’t understand that the affirmation that the Coalition’s Open and Affirming Church Program is asking them to give to gay and lesbian people is preceded by God’s affirmation through baptism.”

In 1983, the Coalition introduced a proposal for an Open and Affirming Church Program, which the General Synod adopted in 1985. He also served on the UCC’s national staff working on education, advocacy and AIDS. He retired from active ministry in 2013.

Rainbow Flag Debuts: 1978. The original rainbow flag, hand-dyed by Gilbert Baker, first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade on June 25, 1978. The original 1978 flag consisted of eight stripes, with each stripe assigned a specific meaning. From top to bottom, the stripes were:

  • hot pink: sexuality
  • red: life
  • orange: healing
  • yellow: sunlight
  • green: nature
  • turquoise: magic
  • indigo: serenity
  • violet: spirit

After Harvey Milk’s assassination on November 27, 1978, demand for the flag went up sharply. But since Gilbert had hand-dyed his flag and hot pink fabric wasn’t available as a commercially available color, the top stripe was removed and the flag became a seven stripe flag. Then, the story goes, organizers planned to hang rainbow flags vertically from lamp posts for San Francisco’s 1979 pride celebration and they noticed that the lamp post would obscure the middle stripe. Another version of the story had it that it was cheaper to produce a six-stripe flag because flag makers could sew two stripes together, and then sew together three two-stripe blocks. Whatever the explanation, the turquoise stripe was dropped, the indigo was changed to royal blue, and the rainbow flag became the familiar six-stripe flag we’ve come to know ever since.

The rainbow flag is now a world-wide symbol for LGBT communities everywhere, and it has come to mean many things to many different people. For some, it’s a gesture of visibility, a way of saying we’re here. For others, its a reminder of all that we’ve gone through as a community. And some in the LGBT community consider it a silly expression of separatism and self-segregation from society. In 2007, Gilbert Baker penned an essay to explain what the flag meant to him. He describes growing up gay in Middle America and being harassed while serving in Viet Nam. He was sent stateside to work as a nurse in San Francisco, where he met Harvey Milk:

Stationed in San Francisco as a nurse, I cared for the wounded. I also met my closet [sic] friend and mentor, Harvey Milk. Harvey had an aggressive charm that attracted the wicked and the wise. His charisma and fearlessness are at the heart of all I hold dear.

Harvey was a pioneer, a trailblazer, and with the community by his side, he became a San Francisco Supervisor. One day he said to me that we needed a logo, a symbol. We needed a positive image that could unite us. I sewed my own dresses, so why not a flag? At Harvey’s behest, I went about creating our Rainbow Flag. I had never felt so empowered, so free.

My liberation came at a painful cost. In the ultimate act of anti-gay violence, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. The bullets were meant for Harvey, to silence him, and, by extension, every one of us. Uniting a community cost him his life.

I remember when I was still coming out how reassuring it was for me to see it and know that it marked a place of safety and refuge. And even now, when I go to a strange town and I see a small sticker on a doorway or a car’s bumper, I know that I’m among friends.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 80 YEARS AGO: Larry Kramer: 1935. He is probably the most pissed-off gay man in America. His defenders will say that has has as many reasons to be pissed off as anyone. Kramer’s crotchety reputation goes way back, to his 1978 novel Faggots, which was widely denounced, by gay people anyway, for his critical portrayal of promiscuity in the gay community.

Two years later, he would find himself in the middle of another whirlwind, but this one wasn’t of his making: a strange new set of diseases began claiming the lives of close friends. In 1982, Kramer convened a meeting in his apartment that led to the founding of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Three years later, he would be forced out of GHMC due to controversy over his confrontational style. At another meeting in 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York, Kramer asked two-thirds in the room to stand up, told them in five years they would be dead. “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”

The fight back found its voice in the founding of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP). Their first target was the Food and Drug Administration, which was accused of moving slowly to approve badly needed AIDS medications that had already been made available in Europe. While controversial at the time, ACT-UP’s confrontational tactics made people with AIDS visible and impossible to ignore. They were no longer faceless patients of victims, but people fighting for life. That visibility is credited by many within the FDA and the National Institutes of Health with effecting real changes in national health policy.

Meanwhile, Kramer kept writing. In 1985, he wrote the mostly-autobiographical play The Normal Heart, which portrays his reaction to the rise of AIDS in New York City as portrayed through the character of writer/activist Ned Weeks. Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times review, “The playwright starts off angry, soon gets furious and then skyrockets into sheer rage.” Liz Smith at the New York Daily News called it, “a damning indictment of a nation in the middle of an epidemic with its head in the sand.”

In 1989, he published a collection of essays in Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist, which was revised and expanded in 1994. In 1992, he wrote the play The Destiny of Me as a sequel to The Normal Heart. It became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2004, he gave a controversial speech at the Cooper Union five days after the re-election of President George W. Bush that became the book, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays. In his usual hyperbolic fashion, he characterized the election as the death knell for gay rights:

George Bush won his Presidency of our country by selling our futures. Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day think we are immoral. “Moral values” was top of many lists of why people supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. “Moral values.” In case you need a translation that means us. …he new Supreme Court, due any moment now, will erase us from the slate of everything possible in no time at all. Gay marriage? Forget it. Gay anything, forget it. Civil rights for gays? Equal protection for gays. Adoption rights? The only thing we are going to get from now on is years of increasing and escalating hate.

Which goes to show that he’s not always a prophet in the wilderness. Sometimes he’s just plain wrong. But he has used his Cassandra complex to great effect in lighting a fire under an often-complacent gay community. In 2011, he told Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner that anger is “a wonderfully healthy emotion.” In 2011, The Normal Heart was revived on Broadway and brought to a whole new generation of theater-goers. Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey won Tony Awards for Best Performance by a Featured Actress and Actor, and the production won Best Revival of a Play. A film version for HBO premiered last may with a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, and Julia Roberts. It is expected to be released on DVD and Blu-ray in August.

George Michael: 1963. He may be a talented performer, but he’s propably better known this past decade for being one hot mess. He started out as half of Wham!, which he formed with his school chum Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The first album Fantastic reached number 1 on the U.K. charts, and their second album Make It Big hit number one in the U.S. Wham!’s 1985 tour of China was the first by a major Western music group, generating worldwide attention. Two Wham! singles, 1984’s “Careless Whisper” and 1986’s “A Different Corner,” both featured Michael as a solo singer, and were sufficiently successful to guarantee a promising solo career.

Wham! came to an end in 1986, and the following year, Michael’s album Faith featured his sexy voice and his sexy butt to propel the singles “Faith” and “I Want Your Sex” to the top of the charts. But his recording output was sporadic: Listen Without Prejudice came out in 1990, and he waited until 1996 to release Older. Songs from the Last Century came out in 1999 and Patience in 2004. As far as solo albums go, that’s about it.

It was a few years after the release of Older when his personal problems started to become public ones. In 1998, he was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, a charge which effectively outed him as gay. He was arrested again on similar charges in London’s Hampstead Heath in 2006. In 2007, he was arrested  in Northwest London when police found his car blocking traffic and him behind the wheel zonked out on drugs. He’s had several other drug arrests since then.

In 2011, he began his Symphonica tour when his health took a severe turn. He was admitted to a hospital in Vienna on  November 21 complaining of chest pains. A few days later he was put in intensive care for over a week after developing pneumonia. After emerging from intensive care, he remained in the hospital for three more weeks, and was finally discharged on December 21. Two days later, he publicly acknowledged that doctors there had saved his life and that he had undergone a tracheotomy. His attraction to drama wasn’t over with yet. In May 2013, he somehow managed to fall out of a passenger seat of a Range Rover and onto the M1 motorway, requiring his airlift to a hospital with minor head injuries. His latest solo album, Symphonica, came out in March 2014.

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 Wednesday, June 24

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Contact (Houston), March 1974. Ad from page 4, photo from page 8.

From Contact (Houston), March 1974. Ad from page 4, photo from page 8.

In 1974, there was a rather impressive cluster of gay and lesbian bars along the western edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter, a number of which are still in business today. Most of them were concentrated just a couple of blocks on Bourbon Street and North Rampart, between St. Peter and St. Phillips, although a few could be found scattered elsewhere in the Quarter. Travis’ on North Ramparts is no more, but the building is still a gay bar. The sign on front said Michael’s On the Park when the Google camera car last passed by in 2013, but the bar is now called Grand Pre’s.

UpStairs Lounge FireTODAY IN HISTORY:
32 Killed in Arson Fire At New Orleans Gay Bar: 1973. It was a Sunday. The UpStairs Lounge, a second floor gay bar in New Orleans’s French Quarter, had hosted members of the local Metropolitan Community Church who attended a beer bust following church services. Most of the bar’s patrons had gone home, but those who remained, about sixty or so, gathered around a piano to sing tunes, as they often did that time of night. The evening was still early, not quite eight o’clock when the bartender heard the door buzzer downstairs ring, a sound that usually meant that a cab was outside the take a patron home. What he didn’t know was that someone had thrown a molotov cocktail into the staircase that led up to the bar’s door on the second floor. And so when another bar employee went to open the door, a massive backdraft drew the flames into the lounge like a flamethrower.

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The bartender, Buddy Rasmussen, led about twenty or thirty people through an unmarked exit which led to the roof, and they were able to hop onto other buildings and make their escape. But more than thirty others in the lounge ran to the windows instead, only to discover they were barred. By the time one of the patrons managed to squeeze through the bars, his body was already in flames and he died right after landing in the street below. Another patron escaped, but when he realized his boyfriend didn’t make it out, he went back in to find him. Fire crews later discovered their burned bodies holding each other. MCC pastor Rev. Bill Larson clung to the bars at a window where he died, his body melted into the window frame. His charred body remained visible from the street below all the next day as the fire department conducted its investigation and couldn’t be bothered with the simple decency of covering his body. Twenty-nine people died that night, and three more died later from their injuries.

UpStairs Lounge patrons during happier times.

UpStairs Lounge patrons during happier times.

The UpStairs Lounge fire was the deadliest in New Orleans’ history, and may very well have been the worst mass murder of gay people in American history. But aside from the first day’s coverage, New Orleans could barely muster a yawn. Newspaper photos of Rev. Larson’s charred body against the window frame came to symbolize the city’s apathy t0ward the tragedy. Talk radio hosts told jokes (“What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars.”), and a cab driver callously quipped, “I hope the fire burned their dresses off.” Not only did the New Orleans Police Department barely investigate the crime, they could hardly be bothered to identify the victims. Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the New Orleans Police Department said, “We don’t even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.” Churches refused to allow families to hold funerals on their premises. Other families refused to claim their dead sons’ bodies. Four unidentified bodies ended up being dumped in a mass grave. Although there was a firm suspect in the case, no one was ever charged.

Here are two news reports of the fire, a lengthy film report from CBS news, and a shorter one from NBC:

You can read the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s original coverage of the fire here (PDF: 4.4MB/2 pages), and its 20th anniversary coverage here (PDF:5.9MB/2 pages). In 2014, MacFarland Press released Clayton Delery-Edwards’s heavily-researched account of The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar.

The first Sydney Gay Mardi Gras march

Sydney Police Block Pride Parade: 1978. This was supposed to be Sydney’s first Gay Pride Parade, known locally as Mardi Gras, and was planned as a night-time celebration after a morning march and commemoration of the Stonewall riots. (You can see film of the morning march taken with a super-8 camera here.) While homosexuality was still against the law in New South Wales, organizers had obtained all the necessary permits for the celebration beforehand. The evening celebration began simply, with a small crowd walking down Oxford Street on a chilly Australian winter day. The idea was to encourage people to come out from the bars and join the fun. But the crowd aroused suspicions of the police, which had gathered around the group.

Sydney police arresting Mardi Gras marchers.

By the time the small crowd, estimated at between five hundred and a thousand, reached the end of the street, the police confiscated the sound system, removed their identification badges and turned on the crowd. One participant recalled, “There was, you know, pretty serious bashing and kicking and all sort of things going on. It was a real riot.” Fifty-three marchers were arrested. One marcher recalled that while in police custody, he was beaten so badly he began to convulse on the floor.

“They took me along a long corridor in the police station through a U-shaped route into a room and then just beat the hell out of me. There were two police officers who did that – one in particular – bashing me with their fists in the head and saying ‘you’re not so smart now are you’.” Mr Murphy said he was beaten solidly until a blow to the solar plexus floored him. He was thrown into a solitary cell where he could hear protesters gathered outside chanting his name. “They tried to break my leg but fortunately the bones didn’t snap,” he said. “I was (literally) pissing my pants.”

Although most of the charges were dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the full names of everyone who was arrested, outing many to their family, friends and employers. Many lost their jobs. Thirty-five years later, surviving marchers are still waiting for an official police apology.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 23

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, July 27, 1979, page 3.

From The Advocate, July 27, 1979, page 3.

Two Honolulu bars were targets of tear gas attacks on Saturday night, June 23.

A tear gas canister released in Hula’s disco caused a total evacuation of the premises. The gas spread to Hamburger Mary’s next door. Choking and tearful patrons poured from both establishments, but there were no injuries.

Arriving promptly, Honolulu police could find no evidence of saboteurs. It is speculated that the gassing came in reaction to a Gay Pride celebration at Queen Surf Beach earlier the same day.

[Source: “Dispatch, Honolulu.” The Advocate 274 (August 23, 1979): 10.]

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“5 Beastly Sodomiticall boyes”: 1629. The Puritans were having a particularly rough time of it in Old England in the early seventeenth century, leading to the first batch of them to board the Mayflower and establish the colony of Plymouth in New England in 1620. For those who remained behind, things only got worse when Charles I became King in 1623. The Rev. Francis Higginson, a preacher with a Puritan bent in the Church of England, left his parish and, in 1628, accepted an offer to join the Massachusetts Bay Company. In 1629, the Company was granted a Royal Charter to establish a “plantation” in New England, and Higginson and several of his Puritan followers were given permission to establish a colony — and in the process, remove their troublesome lot from England.

Higginson obtained six ships, each armed with cannons to protect against pirates. The fleet set sail on May 1, 1629, with 350 Puritan settlers, 115 head of cattle, 41 goats and, apparently, five “beastly Sodomiticall boys.” An entry in his diary for June 23, 1629, reads:

Tewsday the wind n:E: a fayre gale. This day we examined 5 beastly Sodomiticall boyes, which confessed their wickedness not to bee named. The fact was so fowl we reserved them to bee punished by the governor when we came to new England, who afterward sent them backe to the company to bee punished in old England, as the crime deserved.

The laws of England held that the crime deserved death by hanging. We don’t know the fate of the “beastly boyes” after they arrived in old England.

Dale Jennings

Dale Jennings Cleared of Morals Charge: 1952. The nightmare began as many such nightmares did in Los Angeles in the 1950s. In February of 1952, Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) was in a public men’s room at Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park) when a man walked up to him with his hand on his crotch. Jennings wasn’t interested. “Having done nothing that the city architect didn’t have in mind when he designed the place, I left,” Jennings later explained. The man, however, insisted on striking up a conversation and following Jennings home. When they arrived at Jennings’s house, Jennings said good-bye and went inside, but the man decided to invite himself inside. The stranger continued to make sexual advance to Jennings — in Jennings’s own home — but Jennings refused. “At last he grabbed my hand and tried to force it down the front of his trousers. I jumped up and away. Then there was the badge and he was snapping the handcuffs on with the remark, ‘Maybe you’ll talk better with my partner outside’.”

As Jennings continued the story:

“I was forced to sit in the rear of a car on a dark street for almost an hour while three officers questioned me. It was a particularly effective type of grilling. They laughed a lot among themselves. Then, in a sudden silence, one would ask, ‘How long have you been this way?’ I sat on my hands and wondered what would happen each time I refused to answer. Yes, I was scared stiff. … At last the driver started the car up. Having expected the usual beating before, now I was positive it was coming–out in the country somewhere. They drove over a mile past the suburb of Lincoln Heights, then slowly doubled back. During this time they repeatedly made jokes about police brutality, and each of the three instructed me to plead guilty and everything would be all right.”

Jennings was formally arrested and charged with solicitation. While in jail, he called his friend Harry Hay. The two of them, along with several others, had founded the Mattachine Foundation two years earlier. Jennings’s troubles would soon become the fledgling organization’s first gay rights victory. Hay bailed Jennings out and the two set about devising a strategy for Jennings’s trial. Jennings would admit to being gay, but he would refuse to plead guilty and would forcefully defend himself against police witnesses. Meanwhile, Mattachine would support Jennings’s legal fight through its Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, which raised money for Jennings’s defense. They hired George Shibley, an Arab-American lawyer who was well known for taking on controversial civil rights and union causes in the 1930s and ’40s. As Jennings later wrote:

The attorney, engaged by the Mattachine Foundation, made a brilliant opening statement to the jury in which he pointed out that homosexuality and lasciviousness are not identical after stating that his client was admittedly homosexual, that no fine line separates the variations of sexual inclinations and the only true pervert in the courtroom was the arresting officer. …

…The Jury deliberated for forty hours and asked to be dismissed when one of their number said he’d hold out for guilty till hell froze over. The rest voted straight acquittal. Later the city moved for dismissal of the case and it was granted.

News of that victory spread throughout the Mattachine Foundation, leading not only to its rapid growth, but also to unforeseen growing pains which, ironically, resulted in the collapse of the Mattachine Foundation and the birth of the much more timid Mattachine Society (see Apr 11). By then, Jennings had already left to become the first managing editor of ONE magazine, the first nationally distributed publication for a gay audience. His account of his arrest and trial appeared in the magazine’s first issue, which helped to spread the news further. The case didn’t bring an end to official harassment of gay men by the Los Angeles police. That would continue for more than two more decades. But it did signal to the nation’s fearful gay community that false charges could be fought and defeated. Sixty years ago, that was big news indeed.

[Source: Dale Jennings. “To be accused is to be guilty.” ONE 1, no. 1 (January 1953): 10-13.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Alan Turing: 1912-1954. It’s hard to imagine what the 21st century would have looked like without him. The English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst practically invented computer science when he formalized the idea of “algorithm” and “computation” with the what became known as the Turing machine. It was a conceptual device, imagined to consist of an infinitely long tape which would be capable of write, read and changing arbitrary symbols, much as a hard drive can do so today. With that concept defined, he proved that relatively simple Turing machines would be capable of making computations — hence the very term computer that we use today.

A working replica of a Turing Bombe on display at Bletchley Park (Click to enlarge)

Turing became a Fellow at the University of Cambridge just four years after entering as an undergrad. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in just two years, just in time to head home to Britain before World War II. After a brief stint at Cambridge, he joined the famous Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, where he headed the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, the most important of which was the BOMBE, an electromechanical machine that could determine the settings for Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma machine. Turing’s Bombes were instrumental in Germany’s ultimate defeat when the Enigma code was cracked.

Following the war, Turing worked at the National Physical Lab (NPL) in London on the design of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). In 1946, he presented the design for the first stored-program computer. But because his work at Bletchley Park was classified, he found it difficult to translate what he invented there to the NPL. He left NPL in frustration and returned to academia at the University of Manchester, where he devised what is now known as the Turing Test. The Turing Test still serves as a standard for whether a computer could be considered “intelligent.” The test was simple: a computer could be considered a “thinking machine” if a human, through ordinary conversation, could not tell its responses apart from those of another human being. He then set about writing a program to play chess, but he was frustrated by the fact that there was no computer powerful enough to execute it.

It was in Manchester where, in 1952, he met Arnold Murray outside a theater and asked him for a lunch date. After a few weeks, the man spent the night at Turing’s house. Sometime later, Murray stole a gold watch and some other items from Turing’s home. Turing reported the crime to police. When police investigated, they asked Turing how he knew Murray. Turing, who had become relatively open about his homosexuality by that time, acknowledged the sexual relationship.

But with homosexuality being illegal in England, Turing was charged with gross indecency, the same crime for which Oscar Wilde was convicted more than half a century earlier. Turing was given a choice between imprisonment or probation on the condition he underwent chemical castration via estrogen hormone injections. Turing chose the latter, but his conviction led to his security clearance being revoked, which seriously damage both his career and reputation. And as the Red Scare rose its ugly head in the early 1950s, and with gay men coming under growing suspicion for being a danger to national security, Turing found himself under increasing surveillance. His estrogen injections themselves may have added to his feelings of hopelessness; one of the side effects of the synthetic estrogen he was prescribed was depression. Finally on June 7, 1954, Turing’s cleaning woman found him dead in his bedroom with a half-eaten apple laying beside his bed. An autopsy revealed that he died of cyanide poisoning. That apple was never tested for cyanide, but it is believed that this was how he ingested the fatal dose.

After the secrets of Bletchley Park were declassified, Turing’s posthumous reputation as a war hero only added to growing recognition of his impressive contributions to computer science. In 1966, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) began awarding the Turing Prize for outstanding technical contributions to computing. His childhood home in London has been designated a English Heritage site with an official Blue Plaque. Another Blue Plaque was placed at his home in Wilmslow where he died, and today a third will be unveiled in front of King’s College at Cambridge. In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologized: “On behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

A petition to have Turing formally pardoned was circulated 2012 as part of the observance of Turing’s centenary. But the request was denied by Justice Minister Lord McNally who said: “A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.” McNally added that the best response would be to “ensure instead that we never again return to those times.” Turing finally got a Royal pardon on Christmas eve of 2013 after a request from Justice Minister Chris Grayling. Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Turing in the 2014 biopic The Imitation Game, has joined Stephen Fry, producer Harvey Weinstein, and Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes in a campaign to pardon the 49,000 who had been convicted under the anti-gay law.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 22

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 18, 1982, page 23.

Before the rainbow flag became the ubiquitous symbol for the LGBT community, the greek letter Lambda (λ) was the common symbol to identify all things gay. One writer of the day explained the significance:

Lambda is commonly known as the eleventh lower case letter of the Greek alphabet. Originally the letter was a picture symbol for the scales, the figure of justice. In time, the Lambda became more abstract in the resemblance to the scales of justice. It is represented as a concept of qualities if balance. Greeks believed that balance was a reconciliation between two opposites and as such was not a stable state, but one needing continuous adjustment.

Ancient Spartans wore their Lambda asa symbol of their unity. Many times it was worn as a logo on their shields as it signified the special balance which they felt must exist between an individual and the state. They believed that the demands of society should never interfere with each person’s right to be totally free and independent. Each Spartan recognized that only in a common bond could they hope to preserve their existence as a free and equal people. As Rome rose to power, the Lambda was borrowed since it’s overall shape was suggestive of a flame. It was used as a symbol for “Lampas”; their latin word for torch.

In the 1960’s, when the quest for Gay liberation began to emerge as an organized movement after the famous Stonewall riots, the lambda was selected asa Gay symbol due to its famous historical associations. The Lambda symbolizes justice, balance and the conciliation of opposites, unity, and the relationship of man and his society; freedom, equality and independence of the individual, and light. Gay people feel that the Lambda has those qualities which best represent their objectives.

As a symbol of freedom for Gay people, the Lambda has come to represent the “light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance.” It promises hope for a new future with dignity, for Gay men and women everywhere. Today, the Lambda is recognized as a unique international symbol for Gay rights, for sexual liberation, for justice and enlightenment; as well as for a needed balance in the acceptance of differences by and with all humanity.

[Source: “What’s A Lambda?” Arizona Gay News 2, no. 40 (October 7, 1977): 13.]

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Robert Hillsborough Murdered: 1977. A brutal murder nearly four decades ago in San Francisco has been largely forgotten today, but at the time it was credited for catalyzing that city’s gay community and awakening the Bay Area to the growing violence against gay people. On the night of June 21, 1977, Robert Hillsborough, 33, and his roommate, Jerry Taylor, 27, went out to a disco for a night of dancing. They left sometime after midnight and stopped for a bite to eat at the Whiz Burger a few blocks from their apartment in the Mission District.

When they left the burger joint, they were accosted by a gang of young men shouting epithets at the two. Hillsborough and Taylor ran into Hillsborough’s car as several of the attackers climbed onto the car’s roof and hood. Hillsborough drove off, and thought that he left his troubles behind him. What he didn’t know was that others were following in another car. They parked just four blocks away near their  apartment, and had gotten out of the car at 12:45 a.m. four men jumped out of another car and attacked them. Taylor was beaten, but he managed to escape and flee to a friend’s apartment. Robert wasn’t so lucky. He was brutally beaten and stabbed 15 times by 19-year-old John Cordova who was yelling, “Faggot! Faggot!” Some witnesses also reported that Cordoba yelled, “This one’s for Anita!” Neighbors were awakened by the commotion, and one woman screamed that she was calling the police, which prompted the four attackers to flee. Neighbors rushed to Hillsborough’s aid, but it was too late. Hillsborough died 45 minutes later at Mission Emergency Hospital. Cordoba and the three other assailants were arrested later that morning.

Because Hillsborough was employed as a city gardner, Mayor George Moscone followed longstanding practice and ordered flags at City Hall and other city properties to be lowered to half-stalf. He also directed his anger to Anita Bryant and California State Sen. John Briggs, who was running for governor on an anti-gay platform. Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in Miami, which resulted in the defeat of a gay rights ordinance three weeks earlier (See Jun 7), had inspired Briggs to hold a new conference in front of city hall the week before Hillsborough’s death to announce a campaign to remove gays and lesbians from teaching. Moscone called Briggs an anti-homosexual “demagogue” and held him responsible for “inciting trouble by walking right into San Francisco, knowing the emotional state of his community. He stirred people into action. He will have to live with his conscience.”

Impromptu shrine to Robert Hillsborough at City Hall.

Hillsborough’s death also struck a deep nerve in the gay community. “We live in a paranoid state,” said Harvey Milk, who was preparing his run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, “and the death of Robert is only the culmination of a lot of violence that’s been directed at us.” San Francisco’s Pride celebration, which took place just a few days later, attracted a record-breaking 300,000 people, and it became an impromptu memorial march as participants erected a makeshift shrine at City Hall.

Cordova was charged with a single count of murder, along with Thomas J. Spooner, 21. The other two passengers in the car were not charged. Charges were later dropped against Spooner. Cordova was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Jimmy Somerville: 1961. The Scottish pop singer had his moment in the sun in the 1980s as lead singer with the synth pop group Bronski Beat.  Those of us of a certain age might remember “Smalltown Boy,” which dealt with homophobia, family rejection, bullying and the loneliness that comes with growing up in a homophobic society. That song became a gay anthem in 1984 and peaked in the top five throughout much of Western Europe, and hit number one on the U.S. dance charts.  In 1985, Somerville left Bronski Beat and formed the Communards, which scored a dance hit with a cover of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” After the Communards split in 1988, he embarked on an off-again on-again solo career. His 2009 album Suddenly Last Summer, contained acoustic versions of songs from his iPod. In 2011 Somerville released a dance EP, Bright Thing.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 21

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Biarritz, France; Bisbee, AZ; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Huntsville, AL; Iowa City, IA; Juneau, AK; Las Cruces, NM;New Orleans, LA; Oklahoma City, OK; Olympia, WA; Portland, ME; Regina, SK; Riga, Latvia (EuroPride); Shanghai, China; Springfield, MO; Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland.

Other Events This Weekend: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest, Berlin, Germany; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Folsom East, New York, NY; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Cedar Point Gay Days, Sandusky, OH; Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend, Sonoma, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 31.

One regular of Seattle’s Silver Slipper remembered that the clientele watched out for each other:

The Slipper was a women’s bar. It was a lesbian bar. Occasionally a man would come in, but he would be a gay man. He was kind of an oddity, you know? He was there because maybe he knew one of the bartenders, or maybe he was a friend or a brother of a customer there that night, or whatever. He had a legitimate tie, and nobody really minded that. But every once in a while mixed couple would come in. And you could pretty well tell, after a while, whether the men had a legitimate reason for being there, or whether he was with a woman friend or wife — and they were there looking for a lesbian to go home with them for perverse three-way kinds of [sex ?].

So when you would see a mixed couple zeroing in on a woman who was by herself and started buying her drinks, you knew what was going on. And other lesbians would move in to protect her, or they would try to intervene and either get her out — if she was too drunk to get out — somebody would take her either to her home or to their home, or to somewhere for the night. Or they would try to get the het couple to leave peaceably.

Or they would distract them, or as a last resort — and I saw this happen more than once. Some lesbian would go to the bar and get a beer, and come back and stumble and go, “Whoops!” and dump a beer on the guy. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Oh — spill over here! Somebody bring a rag!” And they would all pitch in and clean up, and then they would pack up and leave. And I saw that happen two or three times.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Meredith Baxter: 1947. Her first big break on television was in 1972, when she stared as Bridget in the short-lived CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. After the series was cancelled, she married her co-star, David Birney, which made her Meridith Baxter-Birney. A few years later, she landed a part in the painfully earnest drama Family (the show is credited for inventing what has become the bane of too-self-important television, the “very special episodes”) before lightening things up again as Alex P. Keaton’s mom on Family Ties. In between and afterwards, she starred in a number of made-for-TV movies and various television episodes.

Baxter divorced Birney in 1989, and she went back to using Meredith Baxter professionally. She married again in 1995, but divorced five years later. The National Enquirer reported in 2009 that Baxter was spotted on a lesbian cruise with a female friend. The ensuing speculation finally led to her coming out as a lesbian during an interview with Matt Lauer on Today. “I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening,” she said. “I never fought it because it was like, oh, I understand why I had the issues I had early in life. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships.” Her memoir, Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering, came out un 2011. She married her partner, Nancy Locke, in December 2013.

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, June 20

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Biarritz, France; Bisbee, AZ; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Cumbria, UK; Denver, CO; Edinburgh, UK; Grand Rapids, MI; Guadalajara, JAL; Huntsville, AL; Iowa City, IA; Juneau, AK; Knoxville, TN; Lancaster, PA; Las Cruces, NM; Louisville, KY; Lyon, France; Nanaimo, BC; New Orleans, LA; Oldenburg, Germany; Oklahoma City, OK; Olympia, WA; Portland, ME; Providence, RI; Regina, SK; Riga, Latvia (EuroPride); Salem, MA; Salisbury, NC; Schenectady, NY; Shanghai, China; Sioux Falls, SD; Sitges, Spain; Springfield, MO; Syracuse, NY; Thessaloniki, Greece; Vienna, Austria; Wilton Manors, FL; York, UK; Zurich, Switzerland.

Other Events This Weekend: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest, Berlin, Germany; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Folsom East, New York, NY; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Cedar Point Gay Days, Sandusky, OH; Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend, Sonoma, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), June 12, 1987, page 4.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), June 12, 1987, page 4.

I’m having a hard time trying to imagine how one could take “a comic” look at sexual expression in the AIDS era, although I guess gallows humor is not an altogether uncommon way of coping with such a crisis. Buck Harris traveled all the way from Cleveland to give the talk at San Antonio’s famed Bonham Exchange. The Cleveland Historical Society has a good writeup about Harris:

Looking back, it’s not surprising that the nation’s first gay and lesbian talk show was hosted by Cleveland native Buck Harris, a man at ease being the “first” in a number of public roles. In 1984, Governor Richard Celeste appointed Harris as the Ohio Department of Health’s gay health consultant, the first state in the nation to create such a position in response to the growing AIDS crisis. Shortly after his appointment, the Plain Dealer asked Harris for an interview regarding the crisis, insisting on referring to him as a “homosexual” (as opposed to gay) consultant, as was the newspaper’s policy at the time. Harris told the paper if they did not use his proper title, there would be no interview. The paper relented and, in 1985, for the first time used the word “gay” instead of the inflammatory alternative. A few short months later Harris made the P.D.’s 1986 “Happy New Year” list, the first openly gay person to make the cut. Later that year, Cleveland Magazine named Harris one of the 86 most interesting Clevelanders – again, a first for any openly gay Clevelander. And the bomb threat that greeted Harris and his staff that first radio broadcast? Not a first. As an outspoken and unapologetic AIDS activist, Harris was accustomed getting death threats. Escorted by police and armed with his brave “chin up” attitude, Harris and his crew aired the live broadcast as scheduled.

Harris’s appointment as the Ohio Department of Health’s gay health consultant became a campaign issue during the 1986 gubernatorial election. The powerful four-term former Gov. James Rhodes (R, of Kent State fame) was trying to mount a comeback against the Democratic incumbent:

Ad the Ohio Citizens for Decency and Health PAC, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 23, 1986, page 4-B. (Click to enlarge.)

Ad the Ohio Citizens for Decency and Health PAC, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 23, 1986, page 4-B. (Click to enlarge.)

Rhodes criticized Celeste for hiring gay activist Michael “Buck” Harris of Cleveland in 1984 as a consultant to educate gays about AIDS. Harris, who is not a doctor, crisscrossed the state, visiting gay bars and bathhouses and nightclubs to promote safe sex. He earned a reputation for his blunt messages. His work won national acclaim.

Rhodes saw Harris’ position as an example of Celeste’s gay-friendly agenda that was not good for the state. Rhodes urged the conservative group, Ohio Citizens for Decency and Health, to run newspaper ads exploiting the issue. In October 1986, the group placed in The Plain Dealer one of its ads titled, “Why Homosexuals Support Celeste.”

Rhodes and the group believed such a message would turn voters against Celeste.

“Under Governor Richard F. Celeste the gay and lesbian movement had made great progress,” the ad charged. The ad also misrepresented Harris’ work, and the efforts of the health department to educate Ohio students about AIDS.

“How can they instruct 8th grade students on the dangers of AIDS without revealing what homosexuals do to get AIDS?” the ad asked.

During the final days, Rhodes promised in a press release to make Harris the first person he fires. Rhodes said he would take the state’s AIDS education program “out of the hands of homosexual sympathizers.”

Rhodes was trounced in the election, 61% to 39%, which finally brought his political career to an end. Harris still resides in Cleveland where he operates a “buck naked” yoga studio.

Front and back covers of ONE magazine, June 1963.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage”: 1963. June is traditionally the month for weddings. This June may be a really auspicious one, especially, if as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the overwhelming majority of lower court decisions finding various state bans on same-sex marriage. More than fifty years ago, ONE magazine dared to imagine the possibility of “homophile marriage” in its June 1963 issue. Randy Lloyd, the article’s author, didn’t really touch on the legal or religious elements of same-sex marriage. Instead, he was writing about just the idea of two people forming a relationship and calling it marriage. That idea, limited as it was, was quite radical in the gay community. In fact, there was a very large contingent of gay men and women who felt that one of the only advantages of being gay was that you weren’t expected to settle down and get married. Lloyd didn’t see it that way:

There are many homophiles who, like me, find the homophile married life so much more preferable, ethically superior, enjoyable, exciting, less responsibility-ridden (contrary to a lot of propaganda from the single set), and just plain more fun — well, there’s no sense beating around the bush — the truth is, many of us married homophiles regard our way of life as much, much superior and as a consequence, mainly stick to ourselves and look down our noses at the trouble-causing, time-wasting, money-scattering, frantically promiscuous, bar-cruising, tearoom-peeping, street crotch-watching, bathhouse towel-witching, and moviehouse-nervous knee single set.

Now, before you scream “Snob!” I want to say that there are plenty of the single set who just as strongly and volubly look down on us. And it seems to me that lately in the pages of ONE their viewpoint has been way out of line in preponderance. And, frankly, I’m sick of it.

As you can see, Lloyd’s problem wasn’t so much in convincing straight people that gays should be allowed to marry. He had to begin first in convincing gay people that other gay people might have legitimate reasons to want to marry. One problem, Lloyd said, was that settled-down gay men and women just weren’t that visible in the gay community. But he also pointed out the larger problem of the heightened visibility from straight people that would befall couples who decided to set up house together:

I realize that much of the lack of publicity on the homophile married set, and the extent of it, is our own fault, or, if you prefer (depending on your point of view), the fault of circumstances. Marriage, it has been said, is a private affair. A homophile marriage is a very private affair.

In the first place. usually we’ve got more to lose — a house, two good jobs (often in the professions), and a happy personal relationship that has been tempered by the years. To find a married couple so endowed that would take their chances on, for instance, appearing as such in a TV show would be tremendously difficult. Not only jobs and material things are at stake but also personal relations with one’s relatives and in-laws. Instead of just one set of heterosexual parents and relatives, in a homophile marriage there are two sets. I have only siblings, all of whom accept my circumstances. But my lover has three aunts, very religious, who raised him through sacrifices, and he would not dream of causing them embarrassment and grief. It would be a very rare homophile marriage that did not have on one side or the other some good reason for shunning publicity.

Lloyd explored the various aspects of gay marriage, including marriage-like relationships in history as well as the practical problems which made those relationships so difficult in 1963. That difficulty included meeting others in an environment that forced everyone underground, finding someone who isn’t more damaged by the social pressures than yourself, and the lack of role models. To address that last concern, Lloyd provided several tips on how to navigate the difficult emotional and practical problems, things that straight people naturally absorb from their parents and peers. Some of the advice is common sense (“Cultivate the homophile married life,” “Expect to adjust,” If you hanker for a house, don’t ‘wait for marriage’ to buy one.”) and other advice that seems, well, dated (“If you don’t cook, look for somebody who can.”). And he closed by calling for the start of a new marriage movement:

There are many homosexuals, who neither desire nor are suited for homophile marriage, that ridicule what they call the “heterosexual” institution of marriage. This is only a clever twisting. Marriage is no more a strictly heterosexual social custom than are the social customs of birthday celebrations, funerals, house-warmings, or, for that matter, sleeping, eating, and the like. I participate in those, not because they are heterosexual or homosexual things, but because I am a human being. Being homosexual does not put one out of the human race. I am a human being, male and married to another male; not because I am aping heterosexuals, but because I have discovered that that is by far the most enjoyable way of life to me. And I think that’s also the reason heterosexual men and woman marry, though some people twist things around to make it appear they are merely following convention.

After all, there must be something to marriage, else what is the reason for its great popularity? Marriage is not anybody’s “convention”. It is a way of living and is equally good for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I think it is high time the modern homophile movement started paying more attention to homophile marriage. … Homophile marriage is not only a strictly modern idea that proves our movement today is something new in history, it is the most stable, sensible, and ethical way to live for homophiles. Our homophile movement is going to have to face, sooner or later, the problem of adopting a standard of ethics. We have got to start laying the groundwork. I can’t think of a better way to begin than by pushing homophile marriage.

ONE magazine, August 1953.

This wasn’t the first time ONE magazine tackled the issue of same-sex marriage. Ten years earlier in August of 1953, ONE published an article by E.B. Saunders titled, “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License,” where Saunders observed that the homophile movement was avoiding the topic of marriage (see Aug 20). “One would think that in demanding acceptance for this group, legalized marriage would be one of the primary issues,” Saunders wrote. “What a logical and convincing means of assuring society that they are sincere in wanting respect and dignity!” Saunders however argued the idea of gay marriage was preposterous because getting married would mean giving up freedoms, not gaining them. “We simply don’t join movements to limits ourselves! Rebels such as we, demand freedom! But actually we have a greater freedom now (sub rosa as it may be) than do heterosexuals, and any change will be to lose some of it in return for respectability.” And since he saw marriage as the primary avenue for “respectability,” he declared all of the efforts of the homophile movement doomed. “All of this energetic work merely produces a hole,” he concluded. “Any bomb can do that.”

But in 1963, Lloyd wasn’t as gloomy about marriage, or about the gay rights movement for that matter. And many others turned to the idea of same-sex marriage, either legally or extra-legally, through the years. In 1970, Jack Baker and James McConnell tried to get married in Minneapolis (see May 18) and sued in state and federal court when their request for a license was denied. That ended with the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Most gay rights groups at that time were caught up in the broader sexual revolution rhetoric, and had little interest in pushing for something as conventional as marriage. That attitude remained through the 1970s and the 1980s. But when AIDS hit the gay community in the 1980s and partners found themselves blocked by law and relatives from caring for and properly burying their partners and remaining in the homes that they shared together, it finally dawned on a lot of people that they really were married, regardless of whether they had thought of themselves and each other that way or not. And so here we are, a little more than half-century later, and marriage is now at the forefront of the gay rights movement. And in just a few short years, we’ve already seen it expand in ways that Randy Lloyd probably never could begin to imagine.

[Sources: Randy Lloyd. “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage.” ONE 9, no. 6 (June 1963): 5-10.

E.B. Saunders “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License.” ONE 1, no, 8 (August 1953): 10-12.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 60 YEARS AGO: E. Lynn Harris: 1955-2009. Raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, he attended the University of Arkansas where he became the first African-American editor of the university’s yearbook. After graduation, he worked in sales for IBM and Hewlett-Packard, but quit after thirteen hears to pursue his first love, writing. His first novel, Invisible Life, followed an African-American man’s journey of self-discovery as gay man, and themes of the struggle between acceptance and shame among African-American men on the “down low” would become a recurring theme in Harris’s oeuvre. Invisible Life first failed to find a publisher, so Harris he published it himself in 1991 and sold it out of the trunk of his car before he was finally discovered by Anchor Books in 1994.

After Invisible Life’s publication as a paperback, his career was set. He went on to author ten consecutive books which landed on The New York Times’s Best Seller List, making him simultaneously among the most successful African-American authors and gay authors for the past two decades. LGBT advocate Keith Boykin observed that Harris’s books encouraged the black community to talk openly about homosexuality. “It was hard to go on a subway in places in New York or D.C. and not see some black woman reading an E. Lynn Harris novel,” Boykin said. Harris died in 2009 in Los Angeles of heart disease. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times posthumously named Invisible Life as one of the top 20 classic works of gay literature.

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, June 19

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Biarritz, France; Bisbee, AZ; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Cumbria, UK; Denver, CO; Edinburgh, UK; Grand Rapids, MI; Guadalajara, JAL; Huntsville, AL; Iowa City, IA; Juneau, AK; Knoxville, TN; Lancaster, PA; Las Cruces, NM; Louisville, KY; Lyon, France; Nanaimo, BC; New Orleans, LA; Oldenburg, Germany; Oklahoma City, OK; Olympia, WA; Portland, ME; Providence, RI; Regina, SK; Riga, Latvia (EuroPride); Salem, MA; Salisbury, NC; Schenectady, NY; Shanghai, China; Sioux Falls, SD; Sitges, Spain; Springfield, MO; Syracuse, NY; Thessaloniki, Greece; Vienna, Austria; Wilton Manors, FL; York, UK; Zurich, Switzerland.

Other Events This Weekend: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest, Berlin, Germany; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Folsom East, New York, NY; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Cedar Point Gay Days, Sandusky, OH; Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend, Sonoma, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), June 1, 1981, page 9.

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), June 1, 1981, page 9.

Sen. Lester Hunt, Sr. (D-WY)

Sen. Lester Hunt, Sr. (D-WY)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Lavender Scare Claims A Life: 1954. Sen. Lester Hunt, Sr. (D-WY) had an illustrious career. He served as governor of Wyoming from 1943 to 1949, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was popular enough to defeat the incumbent Republican Senator by a landslide, but he only served one term. He became a bitter enemy of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and was a harsh critic of McCarthy’s slanderous Red and Lavender Scares.

McCarthy and his cronies got their revenge however when Hunt’s twenty-year-old son and namesake, Lester Hunt, Jr., was arrested in June of 1953 for soliciting a male undercover vice cop in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square. Ordinarily, with this being a first offender and all, this would have been handled quietly. But word of the arrest reached Sen. Styles Bridges (R-NH), who was chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee, which was locked in a battle to maintain the GOP’s razor-slim majority in both houses. Bridges and Sen. Herman Welker (R-ID) approached Hunt and threatened to expose his son if Hunt didn’t immediately retire from the Senate and withdraw from the 1954 campaign. Hunt refused, knowing that his resignation would allow Wyoming’s Republican governor to appoint his replacement and that Senator would be able to run in 1954 with all of the advantages of being an incumbent.

The Republican Senators apparently made good on their threat. On July 4, the conservative Washington Times-Herald published the details of the arrest. GOP Senators threatened to fire the DCPD’s vice head Roy Blick if he didn’t prosecute the arrest. They also began circulating rumors that Hunt had bribed Blick to drop the case. The case was re-assigned to another officer and that autumn, Hunt Jr., stood trial and was fined for soliciting “for lewd and immoral purposes.”

The following April, Hunt Sr. announced his run for re-election and early polling looked like smooth sailing. But after Sen. Bridges renewed his threat to make Hunt’s son a campaign issue, Hunt announced on June 8, 1954 that he was withdrawing from the race. Citing health concerns, he said, “I shall never again be a candidate for elective office.”

Ten days later, Sen. Joseph McCarthy announced on the Senate floor that he would open an investigation into an unnamed Senator who he claimed was bribing police. He didn’t name Hunt, but it was pretty obvious that McCarthy’s nemesis was in his crosshairs.  The next morning, Hunt brought his hunting rifle to his Senate office and shot himself at his desk. He died two hours later in the hospital.

News reports had it that Hunt killed himself because he was despondent over his health. But privately, Senate colleagues new differently. On June 21, Sen. Edwin Johnson (D-CO) rose on the Senate floor to speak of his colleague:

Lester Hunt was a warm-hearted friendly soul…Politics to him…was based on warm friendship, courtesy, kindness, gentleness and good will toward all men. He was ill-prepared for the cruel, brutal, rough aspect of national partisan politics. He thought evil of no one, and his gentle nature was shocked into panic, that persons whom he liked and respected would destroy him in the cause of national partisan politics, when he was wholly without guilt. Perhaps his devoted friends in the Senate took too much for granted his capacity to accept barbaric treatment…To have such a lovable person die of a broken heart in our midst is indeed a tragedy.

The details of Hunt’s blackmail and suicide had circulated through Washington’s political class and became just one more factor, albeit an unspoken one, in the Senate’s vote to censure McCarthy in December. But that vote was taken too late to save the GOP’s majority. The November mid-terms swung both the House and Senate into Democratic hands. The GOP-controlled lame duck Senate nevertheless had some more business to attend to, including a memorial for members who had died recently. Sens. Bridges and Welker among those eulogizing Hunt. Hunt’s cousin, William Spencer, learned of their eulogies and was outraged. He wrote to Welker:

I was shocked when I read this. It recalled to my mind so vividly the conversation with Senator Hunt a few weeks before he died, wherein he recited in great detail the diabolical part you played following the unfortunate and widely publicized episode in which his son was involved. Senator Hunt, a close personal friend of mine, told me without reservation the details of the tactics you used in endeavoring to induce him to withdraw from the Senate, or at least not to be a candidate again. It seems apparent that you took every advantage of the misery which the poor fellow was suffering at the time in your endeavor to turn it to political advantage. Such procedure is as low a blow as could be conceived. I understood, too, from Senator Hunt, that Senator Bridges had been consulted by you and approved of your action in the matter.

Hunt’s blackmail and suicide served as the basis for Allen Drury’s 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Advise and Consent.

 Exodus International Announces Its Closure: 2013. In a dramatic and emotional plenary talk during the opening night of the Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, California, Exodus International President Alan Chambers announced that the 37-year-old organization would no longer continue.

The day began with a far-reaching apology for the “trauma … shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope” that former clients and members of Exodus-affiliated ministries had experienced. But more than a corporate apology, it was also a very personal one for Chambers:

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

The formal apology ended with a note of more announcements later that night at the conference, which we later learned was the close of Exodus’s final chapter. That chapter opened eighteen months earlier when Chambers appeared at a conference of the Gay Christian Network in Orlando and acknowledged that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” He also acknowledged that he, too, was still attracted to other men (while also remaining in love with and devoted to his wife). Later that month, Chambers withdrew his organization’s support for the particular form of conversion therapy known as Reparative Therapy. In May, when Exodus board member Dennis Jernigan went to Jamaica — where homosexuality is a felony punishable with ten years’ imprisonment — to speak in support of its anti-gay laws. Chambers swiftly responded with a statement opposing criminalization of homosexuality and Jernigan resigned. Also that year, Chambers condemned the Family Research Council for honoring a pastor who called gay people “worse than maggots” and that God had an “urban renewal plan for Sodom and Gomorrah,” and he declined to oppose a California law that bans sexual orientation change therapies for minors.

All of this together has resulted in a general exodus of several member ministries from Exodus, with many of them forming a much more hard-core Restored Hope Network. The Exodus Conference in 2012 went ahead much as before although there were a number of differences in message and tone from before. But by the time the 2013 conference came around, it was obvious that what remained of Exodus was now much smaller. The conference schedule was significantly scaled back, and attendance was down to about three hundred, versus the thousand or more that was typical for previous conferences.

Chambers opened the conference by recalling the “scandal” of the previous eighteen months. “The scandal has been about finally sharing things about myself and about this ministry and about these issues that I’ve learned along the way,” he said. “Never in a million years did I dream that some of the things that I’ve shared would become the controversies that they are today, or the scandals that they are today, or would have ripped our ministry apart in the way that it has ripped our ministry apart. I tell people all the time I’m not smart enough to create a scandal like that. And therefore I’m convinced that the scandal is of God’s making.”

And what were those scandals? Saying that almost nobody changed their sexual attractions, and admitting that he also continued to “experience same-sex attractions.” Another scandal was a theological one: proclaiming that “that no matter what we do, no matter where we go, no matter how we behave, when we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we have an irrevocable relationship with Jesus Christ. And what that means is what I just said.” He continued:

We in the church have been motivated by fear. It is our fear that keeps us straight, it is our fear that keeps us off of all sorts of chemicals, it’s our fear that keeps us looking a certain way, and acting a certain way, and living a certain way, and treating anybody who doesn’t live and act in those ways like sinners in the hands of an angry God. It is fear that is the biggest motivator for people in the Body of Christ to act in the religious way that they do. My true story is I spent the majority of my life pretending that I was something I’m not because I was afraid of the Church. And I was afraid that they might be right, that that’s how God felt too.

And it has been the most amazing journey for me to come to the realization that my Father in Heaven will never abandon me. He will never turn his back on me. He won’t turn his back on me even if I turn my back on him. … And you know what that means? All sorts of people will live in all sorts of ways that you might not endorse or condone. But let me let you in on a secret: you’re not God and it doesn’t matter what you think anyway.

He also listed as another scandal the fact that they had acknowledged the damage that they had done to  many of those who had been involved with Exodus. He described meeting a number of ex-gay survivors, an experience he described as “excruciating,” as “they told stories of abuse and pain, missed opportunities, awful words were spoken to them, stories of abuse and pain from the Church and even from Exodus.” Turning back to the apology that had been released earlier that day, he said that he heard from a number of people who were angry that he apologized:

“There is a concerted effort in parts of the Church to disqualify me from my rightful place as a son, simply because we dared to say we were sorry to people who deserved an apology. …We’re not going to control people anymore. We’re not going to tell then how they should live. We’re not going to be responsible for what they’re doing. It’s not our job. You are not the Holy Spirit.”

And finally, he acknowledged that Exodus had become a rules-based religious institution, “focused on behavior and sin management, and short on grace. … and it is for these reasons, and for other reasons, that we the International Board of Directors for Exodus and many within our leadership believe it is time for Exodus to close.”

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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