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The Daily Agenda for Friday, November 28

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2014

Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Pride, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia; Skellefteå Snow Pride, Skellefteå, Sweden.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by: 

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 3. (Source.)

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 3. (Source.)

Today’s Agenda is an all-Dallas edition. From Our Community of Dallas, October 1971:

Co CoaCO COA is her name, and she’s tan, talented, and terrific! She, sings and strips–heaven only knows she has the voice and the body. This unique personality was born and raised in Florida. But her story reads like that of countless young boys and girls allover the nation: when she was eight, she slowly became aware that she was “somehow different” from other little girls her age. She was drawn, with deep affection towards other girls, something she wasn’t go “outgrow.” Her parents (meaning well) encouraged her to marry. Needless to say, this didn’t make her straight. Next her parents (again meaning well) sent her to a psychiatrist. Needless to say, this didn’t work either. Eventually she was to tell her psychiatrist, “Look, I’m me!” Now she, her parents and her psychiatrist accept her for what she is — not for what somebody wants her to be.

Still in her mid-twenties, she’s been a professional singer and stripper for ten years. Most of her experience has been in straight bars, where she was unhappy as she was required to “push champaign.” She considers herself a serious artist, does not drink champaign, nor does she want to push it.

Her ambition is to someday own her own bar, where she will produce and direct shows. In he meantime Co Coa will be playing the Cotton Club Review at the State Fair of Texas this October. Then she will return to the Chip Inn on Wednesday nights where she gives a show around 9 pm and again at midnight. On other nights she will entertain (grandly) at the Neptune.

You just never know what you’ll find as you leaf through these old newspapers. Just after preparing the Today in History item below, I went looking around for a Dallas “sponsor” in some old Dallas papers. That’s where I found the above information and, in the same paper, where I also found this highly appropriate article that closely ties to today’s Today in History story. It just goes to show that some things never change:

BeatingI have just returned from the Emergency Room at Parkland Hospital, where 40 stiches [sic] were sewn into my chest to close a two inch deep knife wound. There are four stiches [sic] in my chin, and eight in the back of my head, the result of being kicked and stomped while on the ground. My jaw is fractured, and it is extremely painful for me to talk, swallow, move or even breathe. Fortunately my jaw will not have to be wired, but the left side of my face is swollen, and there are multiple bruises all over my body. Painful as it is to write this, I feel I must, as a warning to others of the dangers of Lee Park.

Early Sunday morning, around 2 am, September 12, I left friends and was walking home. I did not enter Lee Park, but was walking on the sidewalk, on the right-hand side of Hall street, going south of Turtle Creek. A man stepped from the shadows of a tree and asked me for a light. When I replied that I had none, three other men jumped me. One man placed a gun at my throat and I was forced into the park. They beat me to the ground, kicked, and stomped me. They ripped off my shirt and demanded my wallet and boots. Finding only one dollar, one of my attackers cooly said, “You’re not going to like what I’m going to do to you.” I was then stabbed in the chest. Desperately trying to shield myself from the slashing knife, I was cut on the chin, hand, and neck. Fighting for my life, I somehow was able to break away and run to my apartment nearby.

…A similar incident happened near Lee Park on Labor Day. About 8:30 that night, I was driving home and passed the same area. Two men, one of whom I knew, ran out of the park into the street. I quickly stopped and asked the matter, and was told that a companion was being beaten by two men in the bushes nearby. Hurriedly I grabbed a lead pipe from the back of my car, ran into the darkness, and found two men beating a blond youth — one man held the youth’s arms behind him, while the other beat him. I clubbed one of the men on the head with the pipe, knocking him to the ground unconscious; the other man ran a way. I grabbed the dazed youth and told him to get the hell out of there. I did not know the youth, and have not seen him since.

I am not asking you, the readers of my story, to stay out of the parks; everyone has a right to unmolested use of the parks. But I do want to warn everyone in our community of the possible danger, and to suggest that none go to the parks alone or unwarily.

– Unsigned. “Beatings and stabbings continue at Lee Park.” Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, pp 1-2. (Source.)

Lee and Reverchon Parks are part of a chain of parks alongside Dallas’s Turtle Creek, which, then as now, is part of the gayborhood of Oak Lawn. Also, then as now, they are well-known cruising areas as well as scenes of unknown numbers of gay bashings.

Dallas Judge Gives Light Sentence In Double Murder: 1988. It was a common sport among Dallas-area high school students throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s: drive into the Oak Lawn gayborhood on a weekend night and spend the evening “gay bashing” — their term for it. (One of my friends was stabbed in the chest and spent days in intensive care in one such attack while walking along Throckmorton Street with his boyfriend. His assailants were never found.) In one case, nine guys from North Mesquite High School drove to Oak Lawn one night in May to “pester the homosexuals.” According to the New York Times’s description of the event:

Witnesses who were in that group said the boys were standing on a street corner and shouting at passers-by, and then Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, drove up and invited the boys into their car. [Richard Lee] Bednarski was said to have persuaded one more friend in his group to get in the car. After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Mr. Bednarski is said to have ordered Mr. Trimble and Mr. Griffin to remove their clothes. On their refusal, a witness said, Mr. Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing. Mr. Trimble died immediately. Mr. Griffin died five days later.

At first, the crime was thought to be a botched robbery. Former Dallas Gay Alliance president William Waybourn later remembered, “Reverchon Park was a notorious mugging point. We don’t even know they would gay at first.” But as details unfolded, it became clear that there was more going on. Bednarski, the son of a police officer, began bragging about the shootings, then he became worried that Griffin might live to identify against him.

Bednarski was found guilty of two counts of murder, but Texas law allows the defendant to decide whether the judge or jury would determine the sentence. Bednarksi’s defense lawyer sensed that Judge Jack Hampton was sympathetic and chose him. Prosecutors demanded the maximum: life in prison. But Hampton announced that he considered, among other things, that Bednarski has no prior criminal record, was attending college, and was raised n a “good home.” He then handed down the sentence: 30 years in prison instead of life.

Judge Jack Hampton

Judge Jack Hampton

The sentence was considered light. Hampton explained his reasoning two days later to the Dallas Times Herald: “The two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the street picking up teenage boys. I don’t care for queers cruising the streets picking up teenage boys. I’ve got a teenage boy.” He also said that he would have handed down a much harsher sentence if the victims had been “a couple of housewives out shopping, not hurting anybody. I put prostitutes and gays at about the same levee, and I’d be hard pressed to give someone life for killing a prostitute.”

Those remarks touched off a furor in the gay community. Paul Varnell of the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up the reaction and said, “It appears that we do have one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals.” John Wiley Price, the outspoken African-American activist and Dallas County Commissioner, said, “The only difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Judge Hampton is that one wears a white robe and the other a black robe.” On December 19, 200 people attended a rally outside the county courthouse. The next day, Sen. Edward Kennedy joined another protest at City Hall Plaza, where he described Hampton’s comments as “bigotry at its worst.”

Hampton had his supporters though. Two days later, fifty of them demonstrated outside the courthouse. The Rev. Donald Skelton of Victory Tabernacle Church said that his reason for demonstrating had less to do with supporting Hampton as it was to “protest sodomy.” He explained, “Our sole thrust is against sodomy. I feel sorry for them [homosexuals].” That same day, Hampton called a press conference and apologized for his “poor choice of words,” although he also protested that the Time Herald reporter had “distorted” his remarks. “I did not intend to state that any victim of crime was entitled to less fair treatment.”

The gay community wasn’t satisfied. Waybourn responded that Hampton had “raised the question of his judicial fitness and ability to be impartial.  This question cannot be answered with a simple apology.”

LGBT leaders filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which publicly censured Hampton for making “irresponsible statements” that “created an additional burden for the entire judiciary.” But it fell short of condemning his prejudice or removing him from the bench. Hampton, who had been first elected judge in 1981 and would be up for re-election in 1990, remained unconcerned. “Just spell my name right,” he told the Times-Herald. “If it makes anybody mad, they’ll forget by 1990.” He was right. He was re-elected in 1990, but his judicial career finally ended when he ran for an appellate court seat in 1992 and lost.

Bednarski was released in 2007 after serving less than nineteen years in Huntsville.

[Additional Source: Arnold Wayne Jones. “Jack Hampton’s Injustice.” The Dallas Voice (October 17, 2008): 1, 12-13, 16. Available online herehere, here and here.]

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

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Happy Thanksgiving

Timothy Kincaid

November 27th, 2014

layendecker thanksgiving 19

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving Day is filled with joy, family, and friends and that you have much to be thankful for this year.

Federal judge tosses Mississippi’s anti-gay marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

November 27th, 2014

marriage 2014

Dark Purple – marriage equality states
Light Purple – marriage equality ruling but only some localities are granting marriage licenses
Red – federal judges have ruled for equality but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled
Pink – favorable rulings are stayed for appeal
Baby-puke – unfavorable ruling on appeal

Same-sex couples in Mississippi have something to be thankful for this year; by Christmas they might be married. (Geidner)

A federal judge in Mississippi on Tuesday night ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional — but the decision has been put on hold for two weeks.

“Today’s decision may cause uneasiness and concern about the change it will bring,” U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote. “Mississippi continues to change in ways its people could not anticipate even 10 years ago. Allowing same-sex couples to marry, however, presents no harm to anyone. At the very least, it has the potential to support families and provide stability for children.”

(sorry folks, it looks like I forgot to click “publish” on this – so here it is late)

The Daily Agenda for Thanksgiving Day

Jim Burroway

November 27th, 2014



When Chris and I were in Britain in 2003, we discovered that they have a lot of different words and expressions. Lorries, lifts, rubbers, aubergines, trollies, chips (which should not be confused with crisps), pants (which are quite different from trousers), getting pissed, sauce, bangers, fags, pavement, carriageway take-away — we knew about those. And we learned some new ones as well. For example, we learned that they call Thanksgiving day “Thursday.” Our Thanksgiving dinner was Thai food in Ely. Massaman curry, to be exact. We’re not having anything nearly that exotic this year. Hope your Thanksgiving is brilliant. Cheers!

Other Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; White Party, Miami, FL; Pride, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia; Skellefteå Snow Pride, Skellefteå, Sweden.


Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted — a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.

— Rabbi Harold Kushner

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:,

From Arizona Gay News, November 17, 1978, page 2.

From Arizona Gay News, November 17, 1978, page 2.

Pennsylvania Outlaws Sodomy: 1700. The Pennsylvania assembly passed a new sodomy law to replace the old one which had been abrogated in 1693. The new law read:

…whoever shall be legally convicted of sodomy or bestiality, shall suffer imprisonment during life, and be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates, once every three months during the first year after conviction. And if he be a married man, he shall also suffer castration, and the injured wife shall hae a divorce if required.

In keeping with the pacifist nature of the Quakers who dominated the political structures in Pennsylvania, the colony’s law against sodomy was quite lenient: it was the only colonial law which didn’t call for the death penalty. That relative pacifism however didn’t extend to those of African descent. Another law, “An Act for the Trial of Negroes,” added this:

…”if any negro or negroes within this government shall commit a rape or ravishment upon any white woman or maid, or shall commit murder, buggery or burglary, they shall be …. punished by death.”

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 122-123.]

Harvey Milk Assassinated: 1978. Harvey Milk finally succeeded in winning political office as a gay man for two reasons. One, he refused to hide who he was; and two, he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. Among those alliances, initially, was with the most conservative member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There couldn’t have been two politicians from more opposite ends of the political spectrum. White, a former cop, was a conservative Catholic representing a blue-collar neighborhood, while Milk, a gay Jew from New York, represented the growing gay districts surrounding the Castro. Milk and White made several media appearances in which they spoke warmly of each other, and Milk began telling friends that he thought White was “educable.” That began to change however when Milk changed his mind about White’s opposition to a proposed psychiatric treatment center in White’s district. Harvey initially supported White, which would have given White the 6-5 majority he needed to block the facility. But as Harvey learned more about the center, he discovered that San Francisco children would be sent instead far away to a state hospital where they would be cut off from their families. He concluded that “they’ve got to be next to somebody’s house,” and switched his vote.

The loss stunned White, and for several months he refused to speak to Milk or his aides. He also tried to retaliate by switching his vote on Harvey’s gay rights bill, but the bill passed anyway 10-1. White became increasingly disillusioned with politics, and abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. He quickly regretted his decision, and asked Mayor George Moscone to re-appoint him as Supervisor. Instead of complying with the request immediately, Moscone said he would think it over and announce his decision on November 27.

The night before the scheduled announcement, White learned through a reporter that he would not get the reappointment. The next morning White went to City Hall with his loaded .38 Smith & Wesson. He went to Moscone’s office and asked for a meeting. Moscone agreed and invited him into the mayor’s office. There, White shot Moscone twice in the abdomen and twice in the head. He then went down the hall to Milk’s office. When Milk got up out of his seat to greet White, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back, and twice more in the head.

News of the two assassinations sent the city reeling. To make matters worse, San Franciscans were still grappling with the shocking news of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre and mass suicide the week before, which had been led by San Francisco-based preacher Jim Jones and resulted in 918 deaths. That night, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.

John Aravosis: 1963. An attorney, Democratic political consultant, gay activist and blogger, Aravosis is the founder of Americablog. His first major success as a gay activist came in 1998 when he defended U.S. sailor Timothy R. McVeigh (not to be confused with the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh), who was being kicked out of the Navy after he was outed by America Online. The internet provider had released the identity behind McVeigh’s email account even though the Navy never bothered to get a court order or warrant, in direct violation of AOL’s terms of service. McVeigh was days from being discharged when Aravosis embarked on a massive publicity campaign that caught the attention of ABC News, Time and Newsweek. It also got the attention of another lawyer, who took McVeigh’s case pro bono. McVeigh not only won an honorable discharge from the Navy, but also a large settlement from AOL.

Aravosis founded AmericaBlog in 2004. AmericaBlog first received widespread media attention in 2005 after it outed “Jeff Gannon” (real name: Jeff Guckert), a member of the White House press corps who had a reputation for fielding softball questions during news conferences.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 26

Jim Burroway

November 26th, 2014


MemorialIt was Jem’s turn to cry. “It ain’t right,” he muttered, all the way to the corner of the square where we found Atticus waiting. Atticus was standing under the street light looking as though nothing had happened.

“It ain’t right, Atticus,” said Jem.

“No son, it’s not right.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

Shelly’s Midway later became known as Gus’ Midway. One imagines that its location a block away from the Jesuit-run St. Louis University was rather convenient for at least a few of its patrons. Today, the location is occupied by a newer building of the expanded university.

British Parliament Shelves Wolfenden Report Recommendations: 1958. More than a year had passed since the Wolfenden committee issued its groundbreaking report urging Parliament to decriminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults (see Sep 4). The Wolfenden committee, named for chairman Lord John Wolfenden, had spent the previous three years combing through studies and soliciting testimony from experts in medicine, science, theology, ethics, and the law. The first print run of 5,000 copies of the Wolfenden Committee’s 155-page “Report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution” sold out within hours of its publication. In it, the committee recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence… It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour.”

When Parliament finally got around to considering the report on November 25, 1958, Conservative Home Secretary Rab Butler opened the debate by announcing that the government was not prepared to alter the country’s laws with regard to homosexual relationships. He explained the reasons, in part, in terms of what he believed the effect the law’s removal would have on those who were not particularly religious:

Home Secretary Rab Butler

Many people outside the influence of religion found no other basis for their notions of right and wrong but in the criminal law. Could we be sure that if the support of the criminal law were removed from these people they would find any other support?

What is clear to me is that there is at present a large section of the population which strongly repudiates homosexual conduct and whose moral sense would be offended by an alteration ot the law seeming to imply approval or tolerance of what they regard as a great social evil. Therefore the considerations I have indicated satisfy the Government that it would not be justified, on the basis of opinions expressed so far, in proposing legislation to carry out the recommendations of the Committee.

Opposition MP Anthony Greenwood (Lab-Rossendale) spoke in favor of the Wolfenden Committee’s recomendations, although he stressed that his position was not an official Labour position. He said that he hoped that during the debate, Members would “extend tolerance to each other and compassion to minorities in our midst who are denied the happiness and fulfilment which is the lot of most of us.” He then added:

MP Anthony Greenwood

What we have to decide is whether men who, for some reason we do not understand, are practising homosexuals should live their lives under the shadow of the law and at the mercy of the blackmail. I believe that life is harsh enough for these people without society adding to their burdens. The fact that the law is largely unenforced, and indeed largely unenforceable, is certainly no reason for retaining it. I am fortified in my view by the fact that it is shared by many of the great religious leaders of the country. … I believe that ultimately this reform will come. I am saddened by the fact that it should only come after a still greater toll of human misery has been extracted by society.

Arguments for and against the Wolfenden recommendations cut across party lines. Labor MP Frederick Bellenger (Lab-Bassetlaw) opposed any change in the law. He described those in the “cult” as “a malignant canker in the comminuty. If this were allowed to grow, it would eventually kill what is known as normal life.” But Conservative MP High Linstead (C-Putney) argued that because homosexuality was “fixed in people at an early age,” the law would make “no difference to a man’s tendencies.” Labour MP Jean Mann (Lab-Coatbridge and Airdrie) opposed any changes to the law, but the feminist in her couldn’t let one point pass without comment. On observing that lesbian relationships had never been criminalized under British law, Mann wryly remarked that this time it was “the male (who) was now demanding equality with the female.”

The greater consensus on both sides of the House was against scrapping the laws criminalizing consensual homosexual relationships. The House approved, without dissent, a motion put forward by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government which said, simply, “That this House takes note of the report.”

[Source: “No Action on Homosexuals Yet: Mr. Butler Sets Out the Problems.” Daily Telegraph (November 27, 1958). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review 5, no. 1 (January 1959): 4-12.]

ABC Airs “A Question of Love”: 1978. Six years earlier, ABC broke ground in providing a positive portrayal of a gay relationship with the broadcast of “That Certain Summer” in 1972 (see Nov 1) depicting a divorced father’s relationship with another man. But portrayals of lesbians remained limited to criminals, prisoners and sexual abusers (see, for example, Nov 8). In response to pressure from LGBT activists, ABC opted to produce a docu-drama based on a true-life custody battle by a Texas lesbian mother for her two sons. Gena Rowlands played the mother, with Jane Alexander as her partner, as they contended with the mother’s abusive ex-husband who discovers their relationship and sues for custody. In the end, the jury sided with the father, despite his history of violence and infidelity. The made-for-TV movie aired on Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend following a warning that the program may not be suitable for young people. It was greeted with a few smarmy reviews, but surprisingly for being in the year of Anita Bryant, the telecast prompted very little protest or controversy.

75 YEARS AGO: Wayland Flowers: 1939-1988. The thing about puppets is that they get to say and do things that ordinary people aren’t allowed to do. Maybe that’s why Georgia-native Wayland Flowers took up puppetry and created “Madame,” which Hofstra University’s Patricia Jukliana Smith aptly described as “a grotesquely ugly and flamboyantly ribald old crone festooned in outrageous evening gowns, tiaras, and rhinestones.” In other words, an outrageously campy drag queen in wood and wire, a hideous hag who thought herself glamorous and who spoke in double entendres and bitchy take-downs.

Flowers developed Madame in night clubs and gay bars throughout the 1960s before landing frequent appearances on Laugh-In. The act then appeared as a recurring comedy skit on Solid Gold before eventually replacing Paul Lynde as Center Square on Hollywood Squares. In 1982, Madame was star of her own sitcom, Madame’s Place, a half-hour syndicated program that ran five days a week for one season. Madame’s talk show within the series drew Debbie Reynolds, Foster Brooks and William Shatner as guests. Flowers died on October 11, 1988, five weeks after collapsng during a performance at Harra’s resort in Lake Tahoe. The family attributed his death to cancer, and asked that no other details about his AIDS-releated death be released to the public.

Simon Tseko Nkoli: 1957-1998. Born in Soweto, Nkoli became a youth activist against apartheid with the Congress of South African Students and with the United Democratic Front. He also became a gay rights activist when he joined the mainly white Gay Association of South African in 1983 and later formed the Saturday Group, the first black gay group in Africa. Nkoli’s anti-apartheid activism led to his arrest in 1984, when he faced the death penalty for treason with twenty-one others who became collectively known as the Delmas 22. While prisoner, he came out as gay. Fearing that the state would use his homosexuality against the entire group, the others of the Delmas 22 demanded a separate trial. But in the end he won them over and they stood trial together because, as they all realized, they were in the same struggle together. As Nkoli later wrote in the anthology, Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, “If you are black in South Africa, the inhuman laws of apartheid closet you. If you are gay in South Africa, the homophobic customs and laws of this society closet you. If you are black and gay in South Africa, well, then it really is all the same closet, the same wardrobe. Inside is darkness and oppression. Outside is freedom. It is as simple as that.”

By coming out as gay while a prisoner against apartheid, he is credited with helping to change the attitude of the African National Congress toward gay rights. Patrick “Terror” Lekota, who later became chairman of the ANC, remarked, “all of us acknowledged that [Nkoli’s coming out] was an important learning experience . . . His presence made it possible for more information to be discussed, and it broadened our vision, helping us to see that society is composed of so many people whose orientations are not the same, and that one must be able to live with it.” And so, when it came to writing the Constitution, “how could we say that men and women like Simon, who had put their shoulders to the wheel to end apartheid, how could we say that they should now be discriminated against?”

After his acquittal and release from prison in 1988, he founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), which organized South Africa’s first Gay Pride march in 1990. He also was among the first African gay men to come out publicly as HIV-positive and founded Positive African Men in Johannesburg. He was among the first gay activists to meet with President Nelson Mandela in 1994, and he campaigned successfully for anti-discrimination measures on the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution. Nkoli lived long enough to see South African repeal its sodomy law in 1998, shortly before he died on November 30.

John Amaechi: 1970. The Boston-born son of a Nigerian father and English mother grew up in England and didn’t take up basketball he was seventeen, when he moved to Toledo and played hoops at St. John’s Jesuit High School. His college career began at Vanderbilt, then he transferred to Penn state, where he was named to First Team Academic All-American twice. He also when he began his career as a motivational speaker and youth mentor. After college, he played one season with Cleveland (1995-6), then played a few years in Europe before returning to the Orlando Magic in 1999. He was so grateful to Orlando for hiring him when no other NBA team would that the next year he turned down a $17 million contract from the Lakers so he could remain in Orlando for $600,000 per year. “There are many people who are asked what their word is worth,” he later explained, “and when people ask me that I can say, ‘At least $17 million.'” After Orlando, Amaechi was traded to the Utah Jazz, where he played for two years. He then went to the Houston Rockets for a season before retiring from the New York Knicks.

Since then, Amaechi has launched his second career as NBA broadcaster for UK’s Channel Five and he provided broadcast commentary for the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympics. He also returned to school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. In 2007, Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player after coming out in his memoir, Man in the Middle. In 2011, Amaechi was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to sports and for his voluntary work after retiring.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Fed judge tosses Arkansas marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

November 25th, 2014

In May, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ laws and constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal judge has concurred.

Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker ruled that Arkansas’ ban violates the Constitution in two ways: by violating the fundamental right to marriage and by unconstitutionally discriminating on the basis of sex.

Baker ruled against the plaintiffs in the case on their claim that the ban unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, citing a 2006 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals — where federal appeals out of Arkansas are heard — as limiting her consideration of that claim.

The ruling is stayed pending appeal. Also stayed pending circuit court appeal are Texas and Florida.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, November 25

Jim Burroway

November 25th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 3, 1983, page 56.

From The Advocate, March 3, 1983, page 56.

Two weeks ago, Chris and I took Mom and Gus to the Monterey Aquarium. This is a little of what we saw:

Wendy Chandler

Wendy Chandler

Judge Rules Utah Teacher’s Rights Were Violated: 1998. Wendy Weaver taught psychology and physical education, and coached the girls’ volleyball team at Spanish Fork High School in Utah. In 1997 after an acrimonious divorce, from her ex-husband Gary Weaver went to the district and told them the reason they divorced was because she was a lesbian. Rumors quickly began to swirl around the high school, and that summer students began asking her if she was gay. She answered truthfully, and a few of the girls dropped out of the girl’s volleyball team.

On July 14, the school district removed her as volleyball coach and banned her from mentioning her “lifestyle” or partner to students, parents or staff. If she mentioned a word about her sexuality to anyone, she would be fired. A letter to that effect was placed in her employee record. She was also relieved of her duties as coach of the volelyball team, despite having led the team to four state championships.

When word got out, an overflow crowd showed up to denounce Weaver at a Nebo Board of Education meeting on November 14, 1997, where parents demanded the right to pull their children out of any class she taught. A group, calling themselves the Nebo Citizens for Moral and Legal Values presented a petition signed by 2,700 parents demanding her removal. After Weaver filed suit in Federal Court alleging that her First Amendment Rights were being violated, the parents’ group filed a suit of their own, with the backing of the Utah County chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, demanding that Weaver’s teaching certification be revoked because, according to the complaint, Defendant Weaver engages in sodomy as defined under Utah criminal law.”

On November 25, 1998, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins issued a sweeping 25-page ruling finding that Weaver’s constitutional rights of free speech and equal protection were violated. The judge ordered the school district to remove its threat to fire her from their files, restore her to the girl’s volleyball coaching job, and to pay her the $1,5000 stipend that she would have been entitled to as coach. He found the limits on Weaver’s speech to be overly broad. “Indeed,” wrote Judge Jenkins, “these restrictions limit Ms. Weaver’s ability to speak on her sexuality outside of the school, as, for example, when meeting a parent of a student in the supermarket, or when speaking at dinner with a friend who may be a staff member at the school, or even when speaking with her own children, who are students in the school district.” All of this was a gross violation of Weaver’s constitutional rights. “Simple as it may sound, as a matter of fairness and evenhandedness, homosexuals should not be sanctioned or restricted for (speech) where heterosexuals are not likewise sanctioned or restricted.”

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, November 24

Jim Burroway

November 24th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Village Voice, July 7, 1970, page 8. (Source.)

Berkeley’s KPFA Broadcasts Two-Hour Program on Homosexuality: 1958. On a Monday before Thanksgiving, several people gathered at Pacifica Radio’s studios at KPFA in Berkeley, California, for what appears to have been the first broadcast discussion on homosexuality in the Bay area. The broadcast consisted of two separate panel discussions in two consecutive hours, which represented quite an investment of airtime for the non-profit, noncommercial station.

Participants for first hour of the historic broadcast were Mattachine president Hal Call (see Sep 20); Dr. Blanche Baker, a bay area psychologist and straight ally who wrote a regular column for ONE magazine; and Leah Gailey, a mother of a gay son. The first hour’s topic was “The Role of the Homosexual as an Individual and as a Member of Society.” Del Martin’s (see May 5)  summary of the broadcast for the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder the following January indicates the kinds of the questions that ordinary people had about gay people:

…According to Dr. Blanche Baker, San Francisco psychiatrist, there is much controversy on the subject, “even in the medical profession.” There are those who feel it is a neurotic problem and others who call it glandular, or even a hereditary problem.

“For myself, from many years of work, I consider the homosexual first of all a human being,” she stated. “I believe in individual adjustment of each particular case. Factors leading to homosexuality lie deep in the individual nature. It is a psychological problem in which early childhood has its effect. All people have a certain amount of maleness and femaleness in their constitution, and child experiences tend to throw us to one side of the scale or the other.”

When questioned by Elsa Knight Thompson, moderator, Mrs. Leah Gailey, housewife and mother, replied, “My first reaction was a universal one — shock. There was ostracism to face for me and my son. It was clearly — shock. But basically I loved my son, so I decided I would try to understand. Fear is based on the unknown, and much fear disappears as one learns to understand.

“There is much literature on the layman level for anyone to read,” she pointed out. “It is just a matter of understanding and accepting.”

Mr. Call declared that the problem of homosexuality is very often closer to all of us than many realize — a member of the family, a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend.

“Approximately every tenth adult may be predominantly homosexual in orientation,” he stated. “This covers the entire strata of society, every intellectual and economic Ieve1.”

Mr. Call said that there had not necessarily been an increase in homosexuality in recent years, as some have supposed, but rather a greater awareness of the subject.

Moderator Thompson posed the problem of “hostility” in the homosexual. Does it stem from the individual because of his fear of being “different”? Or is it a result of society’s attitude?

Mr. Call said that the homosexual adopts attitudes as result of the society in which he lives. He may effect certain mannerisms of hostility toward society because of its attitudes and also because of his inability to accept himself.

According to Mrs. Gailey, the homosexual’s hostility is based on fear from society and guilt from self. The homosexual has both problems to face, she said.

Dr. Baker pointed out that in her field she works on self acceptance so that the individual can relax and be more comfortable in the world he lives in.

When asked if her clients wished to rid themselves of their homosexuality or if they sought acceptance, Dr. Baker said, “Most of those who come to me want to get rid of this approach to life. If the heterosexual component potential is large enough to function with, fine. But many cases just don’t have the potential.”

Dr. Baker said she had no statistics on the subject, that she herself worked with small numbers of people, “But the ones who come to me are artists — versatile, gifted people, not just bread, meat and potatoes people.”

Mr. Call did not consider this a just evaluation. He said that homosexuals are no more gifted or talented than any other group, but that perhaps the homosexual has more opportunity to develop creative and artistic talents since he doesn’t have the economic pressure of providing for a wife and family.

Elsa Knight Thompson suggested that, as in the  case of any other minority group, there is more concentration to excel in order to counteract criticism.

“This is true job-wise,” Mrs. Gailey declared. “Because of his fear of detection, the homosexual puts forth an utmost effort to do his best.”

On consideration of the short duration of most homosexual relationships, Dr. Baker asserted, “The friction between homosexual couples is due to the hate in themselves and an unhappy adjustment to life. The over-emphasis on a sexual level would keep them from adjusting on other levels.”

Mr. Call pointed out that there were many lasting homosexual relationships that are not known or recognized, and Dr. Baker admitted, “We are all too conscious of those who do not get along together and don’t know about those who do.”

The second hour was given over to the professionals: Dr. Karl Bowman, a at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco; Dr. Frank Beach Jr., anthropologist and professor of psychology at the UC Berkeley; Morris Lowenthal, a San Francisco attorney who worked on a number of gay rights cases on behalf of local bars targeted by the state alcohol control board; and Dr. David Wilson, attorney and psychiatrist of the UC Berkeley’s School of Criminology.

Bowman, like Baker and Lowenthal (and Beach, as you will see), was something of an ally for the Bay area gay community, having given several talks for local Mattachine and DoB meetings in the bay area. He opened the second hour with brief discussion of the state’s anti-gay laws which “largely traced back to ancient Hebrew laws.”  He added, ” it is my contention,” Dr. Bowman added, “it is time to re-examine our laws in the light of present knowledge and recommend modifications.” Del Martin picks of the narrative from there:

Dr. Frank Beach Jr. …recounted the varying degrees of homosexual behavior: the latent individual who has tendencies but who manifests no overt behavior, the individual who has one or two experiences in his life time, those who find satisfaction in both homosexual and heterosexual behavior, and those with exclusive homosexual experience.

Dr. Bowman pointed out that in the armed forces mere diagnosis of latent homosexuality makes an individual unsuitable and subject to an undesirable discharge which interferes seriously with the individual’s ability to secure a position. Some one who has never violated any law and who has never had a homosexual experience thus becomes a victim, he said.

Relative to the problem of who is a homosexual, Morris Lowenthal, San Francisco attorney, spoke of the 1955 law passed by the California state legislature that any bar or restaurant becoming a “resort for sexual perverts” may have its license revoked. The problem of the proprietor is two-fold, he said, since the 1951 California Supreme Court decision in the Stoumen vs. Reilly case upheld the civil right of the homosexual to meet and eat or drink in any public bar or restaurant, while the new law in direct conflict prohibits the use of these premises as a gathering place for homosexuals. Mr. Lowenthal also posed the issue as to how the bartender or owner can determine the homosexual tendencies of his patrons.

The subject then moved to the question of what “causes” homosexuality. Beach and Bowman argued that homosexuality may be hereditary, although Bowman also believed that ” physical condition and psychological conditioning” played a role. It’s interesting that those arguments were as lively then as they are now, with the underlying assumption that if homosexuality was biological in origin, then laws forbidding it were profoundly unjust:

“The crux of the matter,” asserted Dr. David Wilson, attorney and psychiatrist of the University of California School of Criminology at Berkeley, “is the law making something a crime. Society passes a law because it feels threatened, but it doesn’t work and in no way affects the amount of homosexuality. If the law doesn’t work, it should be reappraised and handled in a realistic manner.

“The propensity is there or it could not develop. We can not change basic individual factors. Unless we know why, we can’t pass laws to curb the incidence of homosexuality.”

Mr. Lowenthal advanced the theory that homosexuals have been discouraged in cultures when an increase in population was needed for survival and encouraged when it was necessary to curb the population.

“Naive assumption!” Dr. Wilson interjected. “Homosexuals are not going to be the productive members of society in any case.”

Dr. Beach also rejected the idea, “Human beings don’t behave this rationally.” Prohibitions appear in many societies, he added.

Dr. Bowman considered the population theory a rationalization. “Cultures that allow homosexuality freely have in many cases had a higher increase in population than those who have not.”

“Rejection of the homosexual is purely on an emotional basis and tied up with our general repressive attitude toward all sex behavior,” he added.

In our criminal laws, many of which are not enforced, it was pointed out by Attorney Lowenthal that no reference is made to homosexuals specifically. Vague and ambiguous laws are used and abused against the homosexual resulting in his subjection to blackmail.

Dr. Bowman pointed out that the California law reads, “Anyone guilty of the infamous crime against nature…” The use of such wording has led to long controversies, he stated.

Dr. Beach took exception to the “crime against nature.” The capacity for homosexual activity is inherent in nature — in man’s biological constitution — and there is therefore nothing “unnatural” in homosexual activity, he said.

“It would appear then that the law is vague, open to loose interpretation and capable of injustice to the individual where invoked against him, bearing no fruit from the social standpoint,” Elsa Knight Thompson, the moderator, put in.

“Laws to prevent crimes of Violence and violation of children would satisfy my requirements of a fair law,” Dr. Wilson asserted. “Homosexuality is a medical and social problem, not a legal one.”

Mr. Lowenthal declared that a strange situation existed where it has been granted by the California Appellate Court that the homosexual is no menace to society and has no particular propensity toward crime, yet at the level of police and certain legislators he is declared a menace and attempts are made to whittle away the civil rights of the individual.

“The mere existence of a law can be a threat to an individual even though it may not be enforced or can be overturned at a higher court level,” Dr. Wilson said. However, he did not hold out much hope for immediate action. The legislators won’t change the law until they understand more. It will take a great deal of time and education, of which this program is a step.

The KPFA broadcast was an enormous shot in the arm for the gay movement. Tapes of the broadcast were circulated and played at gay conferences and meetings, and the Mattachine Review reprinted the broadcast transcripts in July and August of 1960. The program was rebroadcast a month later on KPFA, and Los Angeles’s KPFB and New York’s WBAI picked it up for 1959. KPFA also published a printed transcript as a booklet.

You can listed to the program’s first hour via the Internet Archive here.

[Sources: Del Martin. “Two-Hour Broadcast on Homophile Problem.” The Ladder 3, no. 4 (January 1959): 7-14.

“The Homosexual In Society.” Mattachine Review 6, no. 7 (July 1960): 12-28.

“The Homosexual In Society (Part II).” Mattachine Review 6, no. 8 (August 1960): 9-25.]

First Gay Bookstore In the U.S. Opens: 1967. Craig Rodwell had been a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, and he grew increasingly frustrated with the New York Mattachine Society’s timidity. In 1964, he formed the Mattachine Young Adults in an attempt to gain greater visibility for gay people, and he helped to organize the nation’s first gay rights picket  at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center, in protest over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential (see Sep 19). In 1966, Rodwell joined three other activists to stage a “sip-in” to challenge a New York Liquor Authority regulation against serving customers who were “disorderly,” a term that was invariably used against anyone who was gay (see Apr 21).

But perhaps his most important contribution to the gay community came in 1967, when he opened the doors to the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop at 291 Mercer Street near Washington Park. It has been described as “the first legal business (i.e. not a bar) opened explicitly for gay people.” Despite the severely limited quantity of materials on homosexuality, Rodwell decided to focus his offerings on literature by gay and lesbian authors. Selections were slim at first, reportedly “three copies apiece of the 25 most positive books about homosexual behavior he could find.” He refused to sell pornography in a bid to avoid negative publicity. It didn’t work. A New York Post columnist compared his modest bookstore to see-through dresses and topless flicks. That decision also wasn’t particularly popular with his male gay customers. Consequently, money was tight, with Rodwell putting in 70-hour work weeks as the store’s sole employee for its first eighteen months.

Three months after founding Oscar Wilde, he founded a bookshop-based youth group, Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN) which published the New York Hymnal, a monthly newsletter that called for ending Mafia ownership of gay bars and police harassment of bar patrons.

In 1973, Rodwell moved the Oscar Wilde to 15 Christopher St, just a block away from the Stonewall Inn. At some point, Rodwell relented on the pornography ban. Bills had to be paid, but the operation always remained a struggling, hand-to-mouth existence. But for the next four decades, Oscar Wilde became a more than a bookstore; it was also something of a community center for its LGBT patrons.

When Rodwell developed stomach cancer in 1993, he sold the store to one of his managers, Bill Offenbaker, who ran it until 1996, when Larry Lingle took it over. The store was never much of a money maker, and in 2003, Lingle announced that he would have to close the doors. At the last minute, the owner of Washington, D.C.’s Lambda Rising bookstore bought it and saved it from closure. Three years later, manager Kim Brinster took over, but with the down economy and the pressure that all booksellers were experiencing from and big box chain bookstores, the store couldn’t survive, despite its drastically bel0w-market rent. The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop closed for good on March 29, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. In a fitting coda just a few weeks later,’s software accidentally reclassified all LGBT-themed books in its inventory as pornography.

[Additional source: Martha E. Stone. “After Many a Season Dies the Oscar Wilde.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 16, no. 4 (July-August 2009): 9.]

Candy Darling

70 YEARS AGO: Candy Darling: 1944-1974. The Andy Warhol star was born James Lawrence Slattery in Queens to a violently alcoholic father and smart, supporting mother. After her parents divorced, Jimmy and her mother moved to Long Island, where she spent much of her childhood watching old Hollywood movies on TV and impersonating her favorite actresses. In the mid-1960s, her mother confronted her about rumors that she was dressing as a girl and hanging out at a rough gay bar known as The Hayloft. In response Jimmy left the room and came back a few minutes later dressed as Candy. Her mother later said, “”I knew then… that I couldn’t stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented.”

By then, Candy had been going into Manhattan and hanging out in Greenwich Village quite regularly. She first adopted the name of Hope SLattery after she began taking hormone injections. Her name then evolved to Hope Dahl to Candy Dahl and Candy Cane, but so many people called her “darling” that it stuck. By then, she was a fixture of Greenwich Village’s arts scene. Lou Reed used her for inspiration for the Velvet Underground’s song “Candy Says,” and he gave a tiny bio of her in the second stanza of “Walk on the Wild Side”:

Candy came from out on the Island
In the back room she was everybody’s darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, “Hey, babe,
Take a walk on the wild side.”

In 1967, Candy Darling starred in a way-off Broadway play called Glamour, Glory and Gold, with Robert De Niro (who played six parts in the play). Andy Warhol saw the play one night and met with Darling after the play was over. He cast Darling for a short scene in Flesh with Joe Dallesandro (see Dec 31). She was then cast in Warhol’s Women in Revolt (1971), where she played a Long Island socialite who joined a women’s lib group PIGS (Politically Involved Girls). She went on to appear in several other films, including in Klute (1971) with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, and Lady Liberty (1971) with Sophia Loren. She also appeared in several off-Broadway plays, including a revival of Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings.

Candy Darling died of leukemia on March 21, 1974. Shortly before she died, she wrote a letter for Warhol and members of the Factory. It read:

"Candy Darling on her Deathbed" by Peter Hujar. This photo was used for the cover of Antony and the Johnson's 2005 album, I Am A Bird Now.

“Candy Darling on her Deathbed” by Peter Hujar. This photo was used for the cover of Antony and the Johnson’s 2005 album, I Am A Bird Now.

To whom it may concern

By the time you read this I will be gone. Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life. Even with all my friends and my career on the upswing I felt too empty to go on in this unreal existence. I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. It may sound ridiculous but is true. I have arranged my own funeral arrangements with a guest list and it is paid for. I would like to say goodbye to Jackie Curtis, I think you’re fabulous. Holly, Sam Green a true friend and noble person, Ron Link I’ll never forget you, Andy Warhol what can I say, Paul Morrissey, Lennie you know I loved you, Andy you too, Jeremiah don’t take it too badly just remember what a bitch I was, Geraldine I guess you saw it coming. Richard Turley & Richard Golub I know I could’ve been a star but I decided I didn’t want it. Manuel, I’m better off now. Terry I love you. Susan I am sorry, did you know I couldn’t last I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.

Goodbye for Now
Love Always

Candy Darling

Her funeral was attended by a high crowd. Julie Newmar read the eulogy, and Gloria Swanson famously saluted her coffin.

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The Tragic Operatic Life of Marion Barry, In Seven Acts

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2014
From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), June 1978, page 4.

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), June 1978, page 4.

Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry died very early this morning of cardiac arrest. F. Scott Fitzgerald is often misquoted as saying that there are no second acts in American life. Barry had at least seven acts in his American life, depending on how you count them. I’ll count them this way:

Downtown Itta Bena, Mississippi. (Source.)

Downtown Itta Bena, Mississippi. (Source.)

Act 1: He born in 1936 in Itta Bena, Mississippi, the third child of ten. Early jobs included picking cotton, bagging groceries, and selling newspapers in Memphis, where the family moved after his father died when he was four.

Marion Barry as a teenager. (Source.)

Marion Barry as a teenager. (Source.)

Act 2: He became an activist while he was still in  high school selling newspapers. He entered a contest for the newspaper which awarded a trip to New Orleans to anyone who added fifteen new customers to their route. He and a couple other black paperboys reached their goal, but they weren’t allowed to go on the trip. The paper said that New Orleans was segregated and it couldn’t afford two busses. When Barry organized a boycott, the paper offered a compromise: a trip to St. Louis, which was not segregated. Barry accepted the deal and the boycott was called off.

Act 3. Barry attended LeMoyne College in Memphis, where he became president of the campus NAACP. He earned a Masters in organic chemistry from Fisk University in Nashville. He had been accepted at the University of Kansas for a doctoral degree in 1960, but he quit the program when he was elected the first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1965, he moved to Washington, D.C. to open a SNCC chapter there. The District was more than half black, but they had no political representation. In 1967, he quit SNCC and co-founded Pride, a program to provide job training for unemployed African-Americans, and which provided relief services to neighborhoods devastated by the 1968 riots following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Marion Barry in a hospital bed after being shot by Nation of Islam extremists. (Source.)

Marion Barry in a hospital bed after being shot by Nation of Islam extremists. (Source.)

Act 4. Barry entered politics when he won a seat for the D.C. school board in 1971. The board unanimously elected Barry president in 1972. When the District was given Home Rule in 1974, Barry was elected to the District’s first Home Rule city council. In 1977, he was shot near the heart while defending the District Building from radical breakaway terrorists from the Nation of Islam. His fame as an activist, legislator, and now hero of a hostage crisis catapulted him to the mayor’s race in 1978 with the campaign slogan, “Take A Stand.”

Barry won an upset victory in a three-way Democratic primary race — the de facto race for mayor — with the strong backing of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. During his first term, he appointed more than twenty openly-gay people to city government and other positions, including a gay activist to the first District Police Citizens Advisory Board. In 1980, Barry established the Civilian Complaint Review Board to monitor police activity, partly in response to a call from the GAA. In 1981, the D.C. City Council unanimously votes to decriminalize sodomy, but Congress overturned the action under pressure from the Moral Majority.

mayor-marion-barryThat brief synopsis of the Barry Years through 1978 obviously is written with gay blinders on. He worked tirelessly, particularly in his first term, to address the needs of the disenfranchised throughout the city. He also became vigorously pro-business and is credited with planting the seeds for what would become a downtown renaissance. His first term in office was characterized by increasing efficiency in city services, making great strides in straightening out the city’s chaotic finances, and instituting an expansive summer jobs program. Barry was also criticized for a series of financial scandals, minor scandals in his first term which grew to major and explosive scandals in his second and third term. Increased patronage, racial divisiveness, and an exploding crime rate also marked his second and third terms. By 1990, Washington. D.C was the nation’s murder capital. But Barry’s growing drug addiction left him unable to see the problems beyond his nose. “Outside of the killings, D.C. has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,” he said.


Act 5: Rumors of Barry’s cocaine use began circulating as far back as his first term. They came to the forefront in 1990 when he was arrested with a former girlfriend at the Vista Hotel after being captured on video and audio smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting operation. The arrest gave late night comedians one of the most enduring lines in comedy: “Bitch set me up.” He was charged with eleven counts but was convicted of only one, a misdemeanor possession charge. He was acquitted on one count and hung on the remaining nine. He served six months in prison.

Barry being sworn in as Mayor in 1994. (Source.)

Barry being sworn in as Mayor in 1994. (Source.)

Act 6: When he was released in 1992, he immediately declared his re-entry in politics. He won the Ward 8 seat under the slogan, “He May Not Be Perfect, But He’s Perfect for D.C.” When he won the mayoral election in 1994, the Washington Post dubbed him “Mayor for Life.” By then, the city’s finances were a basket case. Much of the problems could be traced to his own mismanagement in the 1980s, but not all of them. After all, the District has to not only function as a city, but also as a state: minting license plates, running a Medicaid program and other “state” health services, operating prisons and a complete judiciary, and so forth. Barry proposed the Federal government taking over the “state” services, but the newly elected Republican Congress created a Financial Control Board which took several of the city’s operations out of the Mayor’s hands. Barry was left with nothing but oversight of Parks and Recreation, libraries and the tourism board.

Act 7: Barry left the Mayor’s office in 1998, and worked at an investment banking firm. God help them. But in 2004 he returned to politics and was elected again to the Ward 8 seat on City Council. Again, his tenure on city council was plagued by drug charges, traffic stops, and failures to file tax returns. Despite Barry’s strong support for gay rights earlier in his career and a promise he made to the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club when he ran for re-election in 2008, he was the lone vote against a bill to provide marriage equality for D.C.’s same-sex couples in 2009. After the bill was passed, Berry told reporters, “All hell is going to break lose. We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this.” When the new law went into effect, same-ex couples celebrated while the rest of the city shrugged.

As I write this, it occurs to me that Barry’s life would make a great opera — a tragic opera of a man of unlimited promise who was brought down by powerful enemies. Almost all of those enemies were Marion Barry. A whole aria could be written around his surprise at being robbed at gunpoint in his kitchen in 2006: “There is a sort of an unwritten code in Washington, among the underworld and the hustlers and these other guys, that I am their friend.”

(Note: I can’t claim originality to the idea that Barry’s life was operatic. The seed for that idea was planted in my mind by a tweet a few weeks back by Randy R. Potts about Lyndon LaRouche.)

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, November 23

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2014

Events This Weekend: Florence Queer Film Festival, Florence, Italy; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, a Florida-based gay lifestyle and photography magazine, May, 1972, page 51.

From David, a Florida-based gay lifestyle and photography magazine, May, 1972, page 51.

Georgia Supreme Court building

Georgia Supreme Court Strikes Down State Sodomy Law: 1998. It took twelve years for the Georgia Supreme Court to do what the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s sodomy law as constitutional in Bowers v. Hardwick (see Jun 30), a ruling that deeply disappointed the gay community and set back the quest to get rid of the nation’s sodomy laws by nearly two decades. But in 1998, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down that state’s law, the very law that was in question in Bowers, as a violation to the right to privacy under Georgia’s constitution.

Unlike the 1986 case which involved a gay man who was in a consensual sexual relationship with another man, this case involved a heterosexual man who was accused of performing non-consensual oral sex on his niece. The jury acquitted him of the non-consensual portion of the charge due to lack of evidence, but convicted him of sodomy since Georgia, like many states, defined sodomy to include oral sex. But unlike many states, Georgia made it a crime regardless of whether it was heterosexual or homosexual. On appeal, the defense held that the statute was unconstitutional, but the state was confident. After all, the law had already been validated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the Georgia Supreme Court saw it differently. “While many believe that acts of sodomy, even those involving consenting adults, are morally reprehensible, this repugnance alone does not create a compelling justification for state regulation of the activity,” the court ruled in its 6-1 decision. Citing a 1905 state ruling, the state Supreme Court found that the defendant had “the right to be let alone,” a right that was more expansive under Georgia’s Constitution than the right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution. “We cannot think of any other activity that reasonable persons would rank as more private and more deserving of protection from governmental interference than consensual, private, adult sexual activity,” Chief Justice Robert Benham wrote in the decision. Because the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t involve itself in interpreting state constitutions, the Georgia Supreme Court had the final word.

Romain “Erté” de Tirtoff: 1892-1990. Born Roman Petrovich Tyrtov in St. Petersburg, Russia, and known the world over as Erté (the French pronunciation of his initials), the art deco designer and decorator was the very antithesis of his father, a Russian admiral who insisted that Romain follow in the family tradition and become a naval officer. Romain moved to Paris in 1910, adopted his French pseudonym, and quickly became an illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar, which opened the doors to commissions for theatrical costumes and stage sets. Between 1915 and 1937, Erté’s designs graced more than 200 covers for Harper’s Bazaar, along with other illustrations for Vogue, the Ladies Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan. He also created costumes and fashion designs for the era’s most fashionable celebrities, including Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, Sarah Bernhardt, Anna Pavlova, and Norma Shearer, and his set designs appeared in a number of Hollywood films. His extravagant designs were also regular fixtures in Radio City Music Hall, the Folies-Bergères, the Paris Opera, George White’s “Scandals” and Irving Berlin’s “Music Box.”

“La rose au pollen de diamantsn” from the 1928 French publication L’Illustration.

Erté’s graceful and elegant designs set the standard for glamor and sophistication for decades to come. His illustrations, designs, jewelry and sculptures became the very definition of the Art Deco movement, and he almost single-handedly revived Art Deco’s popularity in the 1970s and 1980 when he recreated many of his designs for a new generation. Erté was incredibly prolific, and he was never without work. He continued working right up until two weeks before he died, at the age of 97, in 1990. Always energetic, it would appear his death caught him by surprise: he was in the middle of building a new home in Majorca.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 22

Jim Burroway

November 22nd, 2014

Events This Weekend: Florence Queer Film Festival, Florence, Italy; Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.


Oblivious to the fact that he was being held in the hearts of Christian congregations across the country, 36-year-old gay man Andrew Fitzpatrick reportedly went about his grocery shopping Friday fully unaware that he was currently the focus of thousands of prayers. According to reports, Fitzpatrick made his way through the cereal aisle of his local Safeway without the slightest clue that, at that very moment, entire ministries of various Christian denominations were simultaneously bowing their heads, clasping their hands together, and asking God to release him from his sexual orientation. …

The Onion, of course.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Fifth Freedom (Buffalo, NY), February 17, 1974, page 2.

From The Fifth Freedom (Buffalo, NY), February 17, 1974, page 2.

Trying to operate a gay bar or night club in Buffalo in the early 1970s was a very dicey proposition:

The gay bar situation in Buffalo has never been good. Whenever a new bar opens, the first question in everyone’s mind is “How long will it stay open?” The Vice Squad and the S.L.A. have closed so many bars in the past several years that it seems like they’re playing a game of musical chairs.

Mattachine has, in the past, taken a “hands off” attitude toward the problems of the bars. However, it is now apparent that due to the backward policies of the Buffalo Police Vice Squad and the State Liquor Authority, an atmosphere has been created at the gay bar level that is clearly oppressive to any gay person that wishes to use the bars to give expression in to their social needs. Bar closings by Vice Squad/S.L.A. actions and subsequent overreaction by other bar owners to these closings, by instituting policies of “no touch-no slow dancing,” has created an intolerable situation for all of us.

– Don Michaels, on the gay bar problem in Buffalo, The Fifth Freedom, March 10, 1974.

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears

Benjamin Britten. 1913-1976. Fame came early to the English composer with his a cappella choral work, A Boy Was Born when he was just 21, and his 1945 opera Peter Grimes sealed his international reputation. His compositions were both prodigious and varied: working in orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and solo vocal. Much of his vocal work was written for tenor Peter Pears, who he met in 1937 and who became his musical inspiration and life partner. In 1939, Britten and Pears went to America, where his friendship with Aaron Copland inspired the development of Britten’s own work, notably his operetta Paul Bunyan.

Britten’s sexuality wasn’t the only thing controversial about him: he was also a pacifist during World War II. On returning to Britain in 1942, he fought a long battle for recongition as a conscientious objector. The resulting publicity led to a drop in commissions and performances in London both during and after the war. It also shaped his work. Many of his operas featured an “outside” character on the fringes of society, many of them at least suggestive of being gay. His 1973 opera, Death in Venice, based on a novel by Thomas Mann, is perhaps the first to feature an openly gay character. By then , Britten found that he was no longer an outsider, but an acclaimed 20th century composer. On July 2, 1976, he was awarded a life peerage as Baron Britten, just a few months before he died. Pears died ten years later, and was buried next to Britten at a churchyard in Aldeburgh.

Billie Jean King: 1943. Like all tennis greats, she started playing at a young age and won her first Wimbledon doubles title in 1962 at the age if eighteen. That was the first of 20 Wimbledon titles between 1961 and 1979. She also one 13 U.S. titles, four French and two Australian. Throughout her career, she fought for equal prize money for men and women players. When she won the U.S. Open in 1972 but received $15,000 less than the men’s champion, she announced that she would not play the next year if the prize money weren’t made equal. The following year, the U.S. Open became the first major tournament to equalize its prize money for men and women.

Bobby Riggs congratulates Billy Jean King after his defeat.

Her campaign for tennis equality took a particularly public turn in 1973 when Bobby Riggs, a champion mens player from the 1940s, claimed that women’s tennis was so inferior to men’s that even a fifty-five year old like himself could beat the top women’s players. King accepted the challenge, and the Battle of the Sexes was on. Before more than 30,000 spectators at Houston’s Astrodome and a worldwide audience of 50 million people in 27 countries, King beat Rigs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

In 1974, King became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association. In 1983, she retired from singles play, but continued to play doubles sporadically through 1990.

In 1981, King was sued for palimony by a former lover with whom she had had a relationship since 1971. The lawsuit effectively outed King, making her the first prominent professional female athlete to be openly gay. This came about despite her having been married to her husband since 1965. They divorced in 1987. Since then, she has been very involved with the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barrack Obama for her advocacy work for women and the LGBT community.

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 Friday, November 21

Jim Burroway

November 21st, 2014

Events This Weekend: Florence Queer Film Festival, Florence, Italy; Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 38.

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 38.

Michael Sandy

Michael Sandy’s Killers Sentenced. 2008. On October, 5, 2006, Michael Sandy, 29, was lured to a secluded beach in the New York area by three others who he met in an online chat room. When he arrived, he was pulled from his car and beaten. In trying to escape, he was chased onto a busy freeway where he was struck by an SUV. One of his attackers pulled him to the side of the road and went through his pockets before fleeing. Sandy was taken to the hospital, where he remained on life support for five days without regaining consciousness. His family removed him from life support one day before his 29th birthday.

The four men who were accused of planning the attack were arrested on hate crime charges. The police investigation showed that Sandy had been selected to be robbed because he was gay, believing a gay man would hesitate to resist the attack or report it to the police.

Michael’s death brought to the fore an ongoing debate over the intersection of race and sexuality in regards to community reactions to hate crimes. Los Angeles commentator Jasmyne Cannick noted:

Michael Sandy could have been anyone of us, and yet he was us. He was black. He was a black male and he was a black gay male. If Michael Sandy would have been heterosexual, would that have brought out the Reverend Jesse Jacksons and the Reverend Al Sharptons a black America? Would that have made it okay for the NAACP to get involved and for other black civil right groups to take notice? I’m beginning to think so.

…When Matthew Shepard was murdered, the world stopped. Why? Because whites across this country made that white gay boy’s death an issue for the media, politicians and community groups. Do we care enough to do the same? So again I ask, where’s the outrage?

Gary Timmins, 17, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery with a hate crime enhancement. As part of his plea agreement, he testified against his friends in exchange for a four-year prison sentence. John Fox, 20, who posed as a gay man in the internet chat room, was charged with manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes and was sentenced to between 13 and 21 years in prison. Anthony Fortunato, 21, tried to avoid the hate crime enhancement by claiming he was gay himself. He was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime and was sentenced to 7 to 21 years. Ilya Shurov, 21, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes and was sentenced to 17½ years. Before sentencing, Michael’s father, Zeke Sandy rose to address the court. “These hate crimes become a cancer; it’s a disease,” he said. “I don’t know why we have to go butcher one another because we don’t like what they are, who they are.”

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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Welcome Out Ty Herndon

Jim Burroway

November 20th, 2014

TyHerndonI don’t know much about Country and Western music, but I do know that whenever I see a picture of Ty Herndon, I always emit a silent gay gasp under my breath. So this comes as particularly exciting news:

During an Anthony Robbins seminar, I realized I had an incredible story that could possibly help someone’s son or daughter or grandchild’s life not be as difficult as mine has been,” he tells PEOPLE. “Maybe they wouldn’t have to go through as much pain and suffering. It’s time to tell my truth.”

That “truth” is about a part of himself he has kept secret for his entire career: “I’m an out, proud and happy gay man,” the Nashville artist revealed to PEOPLE during a sit-down in New York Tuesday.

The revelation was many years in the making for the 51-year-old singer, who first wondered if he was gay when he was about 10 years old and then began coming out to close family members at 20.

25d2ea2bb0e78a744de09934fc8a6486“My mother probably knew I was gay before I did. I remember sitting down with her and having the conversation,” recalls Herndon, noting his career path in country worried her. But, ultimately, “she was more concerned about me having a happy life. You have to be able to do that in your own skin, and [my family] has seen me struggle with being gay my whole career.”

My newest stalking target and future husband was dragged to that Anthony Robbins seminar by his partner, who he identifies only as Matt.

This is a pretty big deal. The Mississippi and Alabama native has charted seven top-ten country hits, including three number ones with “What Mattered Most” (1995), “Living In A Moment” (1996) and “It Must Be Love” (1998). His most recent album, Lies I Told Myself, was released in 2013. He is currently touring and plans to release another album next year.

And the purple grows

Timothy Kincaid

November 20th, 2014

marriage 2014

As Jim has let us know, we now can add Montana to the states in which one can legally marry their same-sex partner. Also, the Supreme Court has denied a stay in South Carolina and marriages there have begun.

We are now up to 36 states (plus the District of Columbia) in which there is marriage equality (purple).

There are four states in which federal courts have ruled for marriage equality but which are within the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the only appeals court in which the bans on same-sex marriage have been upheld (red).

The remaining states are in circuits in which an appellate court has not ruled and, in some cases, in which neither a federal nor state court has yet heard the marriage question.

In Texas and Arkansas, federal courts have ruled for equality but the ruling is stayed pending appeal. In Florida, a pro-equality ruling is stayed until January. In Louisiana, a federal judge ruled for exclusion and a state judge ruled for equality (but under the federal, not state constitution).

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, November 20

Jim Burroway

November 20th, 2014

tdor-remembrance01Transgender Day of Remembrance: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the brutal violence endured by the transgender community. TDoR began in reaction to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998. Her murder led to the creation of the Remembering Our Dead web site and a candlelight vigil in 1999. Observances for the Transgender Day of Remembrance typically consist of the reading of the names of those who have died because of their gender identity, expression, presentation or perception of gender variance. Observances are being held in cities all around the world. Click here to find an observance near you.

Events This Weekend: Florence Queer Film Festival, Florence, Italy; Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.


Another factor of success for marriage equality, he said, has been a “reboot” of messaging away from rights and benefits — a theme that persisted through the failed ballot battle against California’s Proposition 8 — and more talk of marriage as a symbol of love and commitment. Solomon recalled observing a poll, which he called “this huge ‘a-ha’ moment,” in which Oregon residents were asked why marriage is important, and they responded love and commitment.

“Then they were asked, ‘Why do you think gay people want to get married?,’” Solomon said. “And the answers were we don’t know, rights and benefits maybe. Love and commitment was much lower. There was like a 40-point gap. And that was this huge ‘a-ha’ moment for all of us. We had done a good job of selling rights and benefits, but that doesn’t get people all the way to marriage.

Marc Solomon, author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Montrose Star, November 19, page 6 (source)

From the Montrose Star (Houston, TX), November 19, page 6. (Source.)

Miami Beach Police Raid Beach, Arrest 21: 1953. The Miami News, the city’s afternoon daily, published an oddly influential column titled “Whirligig.” It was a rather tiny feature — typically occupying just a couple of inches of space on the paper’s editorial page. But it’s minuscule physical presence belied its political influence, as the nameless author passed along political gossip and other goings-on about town. A good indication of the column’s influence can be illustrated by this small item that appeared on November 19:

Femmics — The new administration in the Miami Beach police department might send an observer over to the 22nd Street public beach to watch the antics of a coterie of youths who make that beach a gathering spot. The girlish attitudes of the boys cause many a gaping mouth among tourists.

Those two small sentences were enough for Miami Beach Police Chief Romeo J. Shepard to swing into action. The next day, the Chief personally led a raid on the beach, rounding up twenty-one men and hauling them to the police station for questioning. But while the News’ Whirligig column appears to have prompted the action, it was the paper’s morning rival, The Miami Herald, which capitalized on the raid by plastering its coverage on the front page:

Angered by complaints that the beach at 22nd st. was becoming a “hangout for males with a feminine bent,” Miami Beach Police Chief Romeo J. Shepard made a personal inspect Friday — and then called for the wagon. As a result, 21 perverts were taken to Beach police headquarters and questioned before being released. But Chief Shepard said the raid served notice on “this questionable type of individual” that they’re not wanted on Miami Beach.”

The chief said that he has been “getting lots of complaints” that men with girlish-looking hair-dos and flimsy, Bikini-type tights “have been prancing around the 22nd st. public beach in droves.” The area, he explained, has been acquiring a reputation as a congregating place for males who try to look and act like women.

The chief said that the 21 who were arrested were taken to headquarters and questioned about their employment, but he complained that he had to let them go. “We had no charges we could book them on,” he admitted. “It’s just a question of cleaning up a bad situation and letting undesirables know they’re not wanted here.” Meanwhile, that afternoon’s Miami News, reported that the cleanup would continue. “We’re going to continue to keep a close watch on their actions and I have instructed my men to pick them up every time they get out of line,” said Shepard. The News also made sure their readers knew why the chief acted so swiftly. “The Whirligig item was very timely and it was the basis for the action taken by my department,” the chief acknowledged.

[Sources: “Miami’s Whirligig: News Behind the News.” The Miami News (November 19, 1953): 19-A. Available online via Google News here.

“Police Corral 21 Undesirables.” The Miami News (November 21, 1954): 8-A. Available online via Google News here.

Stephen J. Flynn. “Rounded Up for Quiz: Turn-About Not Fair Play, Say Beach Police.” The Miami Herald. (November 21, 1954): 1-A. As reproduced in Edward Alwood’s Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 2.]

45 YEARS AGO: California Supreme Court Restores Teacher’s Credentials: 1969. In the spring of 1963, Marc S. Morrison, a teacher in Whittier, California, became friends with a fellow teacher, Fred Schneringer, who was in the process of getting a divorce and was experiencing serious financial troubles. Morrison did what he could to help his friend out by providing advice and support. One night, that support extended to what court documents described as “a limited, non-criminal physical relationship which Morrison described as being of a homosexual nature.” The relationship lasted a week, and while the two remained friends, nothing further happened. There were no arrests and no convictions, just whatever that “non-criminal” activity happened to be. (The California Supreme Court ruling would only say “It would serve no useful purpose to describe or detail them except to note that they did not fall within the statutory offenses of sodomy or oral copulation.”) But for whatever reason, Schneringer reported the incident to the Lowell Joint School District a year later, and that led to Morrison’s resignation in May of 1964.

Nineteen months later, Morrison found himself at a State Board of Education hearing fighting to retain his two lifetime teaching diplomas. He told the board that, aside from “a homosexual problem” at the age of 13, his contact with Schneringer was the only time he “experienced the slightest homosexual urge or inclination for more than a dozen years.” An investigator backed him up, and assured the board that this was “was the only time that [Morrison] ever engaged in a homosexual act with anyone.” Furthermore, Morrison’s record was clean and there was no evidence that he had engaged in any misconduct while teaching.

Nevertheless, the Board decided that the lone, solitary incident constituted immoral and unprofessional conduct involving “moral turpitude,” and stripped Morrison of his lifetime teaching diplomas. Morrison went to court, but the Los Angeles Superior Court sided with the Board and called Morrison “unfit for service as a teacher in the California public school system.” Morrison then appealed to the California State Supreme Court, which ruled 4-3 that an individual cannot be denied his teaching credentials unless evidence shows that homosexual behavior affected his fitness as an instructor. The Court criticized the Board for failing to uncover any such evidence:

The board called no medical, psychological, or psychiatric experts to testify as to whether a man who had had a single, isolated, and limited homosexual contact would be likely to repeat such conduct in the future. The board offered no evidence that a man of petitioner’s background was any more likely than the average adult male to engage in any untoward conduct with a student. The board produced no testimony from school officials or others to indicate whether a man such as petitioner might publicly advocate improper conduct. The board did not attempt to invoke the provisions of the Government Code authorizing official notice of matters within the special competence of the board. This lack of evidence is particularly significant because the board failed to show that petitioner’s conduct in any manner affected his performance as a teacher.

The ruling was a narrow one, both in the vote and in the ruling’s reach:

Our conclusion affords no guarantee that petitoner’s life diplomas cannot be revoked. If the Board of Education believes that petitioner is unfit to teach, it can reopen its inquiry into the circumstances surrounding and the implications of the 1963 incident with Mr. Schneringer. The board also has at its disposal ample means to discipline petitioner for future misconduct.

Finally, we do not, of course, hold that homosexuals must be permitted to teach in the public schools of California. As we have explained, the relevant statutes, as well as the applicable principles of constitutional law, require only that the board properly find, pursuant to the precepts set forth in this opinion, that an individual is not fit to teach. Whenever disciplinary action rests upon such grounds and has been confirmed by the judgment of a superior court following an independent review of the evidence, this court will uphold the result.

John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner

John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner Fined $200: 1998. One of the biggest steps toward gay equality, the end of America’s sodomy laws, began on November 17, 1998 when a 911 operator received a call about “a black male going crazy with a gun” at John Geddes Lawrence’s home in the Houston suburbs. Harris County sheriff’s deputies responded and entered Lawrence’s unlocked apartment. There, they purportedly found Lawrence and Tyron Garner engaging in consensual sex. What they actually found is a matter of debate. Lawrence and Garner weren’t lovers — in fact, that false report had been phoned in by Garner’s actual lover, Robert Eubanks, who suspected Garner and Lawrence were having an affair. One deputy wrote in his report that he saw Garner on the bed “on all fours” on the receiving end of anal sex with Lawrence, and that both were completely naked. Another said that he saw them on the floor, and that Garner wasn’t naked. He wasn’t sure whether he saw them having anal sex or oral sex — two completely different acts which would be very difficult to confuse. “The black guy was giving him head or they was [sic] doing each other from behind. I don’t remember.”

Lawrence and Garner were arrested, held in jail overnight, and charged with violating Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code. That law, otherwise known as the Texas Homosexual Conduct law, prohibited engaging “in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” They both denied having sex that night, but their lawyers, sensing that the case might have the makings of a landmark case, advised them to plead no contest, neither admitting guilt nor protesting innocence. Because they didn’t actually have sex, the lawyers didn’t want to make the case about their innocence. After all, it’s hard to argue that two consenting adults of the same sex have the right to have sexual relations in the privacy of their home when the two adults in question hadn’t actually had sex. And so on November 20, 1998, Lawrence and Garner were convicted of the Class C misdemeanor by a Justice of the Peace in Houston, and were fined $200 each.

And with that, the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas began to make its way through the court system: to the Texas Criminal Court (which rejected the defense’s request to dismiss the charges), a three-judge panel of the Texas 14th Court of Appeals (which ruled the law unconstitutional), and the full nine-judge panel of the 14th Court of Appeals (which reversed the three-judge panel). The appeal then reached the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which serves as the state’s supreme court for criminal cases. That court refused to hear the case, which left the lower court’s decision standing. Lawrence vs. Texas was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law in a 6-3 ruling, along with similar laws in twelve other states. But it wasn’t until 2011, when Dale Carpenter published Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, that we learned the ironic fact that the case about two men having sex was based on a case in which it appears that neither man had ever had sex with the other, before that fateful night or since.

Chuck Colson speaking at a press conference announcing the Manhattan Declaration.

Chuck Colson speaking at a press conference announcing the Manhattan Declaration.

 5 YEARS AGO: Manhattan Declaration Released: 2009. That was an interesting year for marriage equality. The year before, voters in California, Arizona and Florida had approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage (see Nov 4). The slap was particularly strong in California, where same-sex couples had been able to marry during a four-month window after California’s Supreme Court found that Prop 22, an initiative (and not a constitutional amendment) which banned same-sex marriage, violated the state’s constitution (see Jun 16). Then on November 3, 2009, Maine voters repealed that state’s newly-minted law allowing same-sex couples to marry. (That law hadn’t gone into effect yet.) But also that year, voters in Washington state elected to affirm the legislature’s decision to provide domestic partner benefits equal to marriage to same-sex couples. Also, legislators in New Hampshire and Vermont approved bills allowing same-sex couples to marry, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that that state must begin offering same-sex marriages, and Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin also began offering domestic partner benefits.

It may have been difficult to see at the time, especially given the stinging defeats at the ballot box, but 2009 may well have marked the start of a turning point in the fight for marriage equality. According to opinion polls, a majority of Americans still opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry, but the gap was closing very rapidly. That was thanks largely to a growing crop of younger voters who, as an age group, overwhelmingly supported same-sex marriage. As trends continued, it would only be a few more years before majorities overall would support same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, and despite the setbacks in California and Maine, the number of Americans living in marriage equality states doubled from 2007 to 2009, and nearly a quarter of Americans were now living in states that either provided full marriage equality or a lower form of civil union/domestic partnership recognition. While marriage equality opponents could still point to ongoing victories, they worried that the long-term trend didn’t look good.

On October 20, 2009, when polls still showed that efforts in main to block that state’s marriage equality law might go down in defeat, three anti-gay extremists got together to begin drafting what they hoped would be a stirring manifesto to rally their side. Princeton University Law Professor Robert George, Beeson Divinity School dean Timothy George, and evangelical leader and convicted Watergate felon Chuck Colson spent a month drafting what they called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,” which called for a rededication to the fight for “the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.”

When the document was released a month later, it carried the signatures of more than 150 American religious and political activists (and one African one: Anglican archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria, who had led the effort to induce American Anglican congregations to split with over ordination of gay clergy). Notable signatories included Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, anti-gay political activist Gary Bauer, Family “Research” Council’s Tony Perkins, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, marriage equality opponents Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown and Frank Schubert, and anti-gay pastors Ken Hutcherson and Harry Jackson, and other assorted activists and extremists, including William Donahue, Jim Daly, Richard Land and Allan Sears. Nine Catholic Archbishops also signed the declaration.

The Manhattan declaration sought to address a rather large host of issues — abortion, single parenting, divorce, promiscuity — but it a good deal of its energy for the arguments against marriage equality:

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life.

…We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being “married.” It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? … No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage.

The document also called for what it termed “civil disobedience”:

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.

The call for civil disobedience got a lot of attention. In fact, The Washington Times’ story led with that call in its headline. ALos Angeles Times editorial called the declaration’s “apocalyptic argument for lawbreaking” both disingenuous and dangerous. “We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that,” Robert George said during the news conference announcing the declaration. “When the limits of conscience are reached and you cannot comply, it’s better to suffer a wrong than to do it.” When pressed, the three writers remained mum over what sort of civil disobedience they were contemplating.

The document purported to represent the Christian position on marriage and family as “heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.” But missing from the original signatories were representatives from large swaths of mainstream Christianity, including Seventh-Day Adventists and Episcopalians. Presbyterians, United Methodists and Pentecostals were also notably under-represented among the signers. Several signers spoke of the document as a moral one rather than a political manifesto. During the news conference, Colson incredibly claimed, “this document is a clarion call to reach out to the poor and the suffering.” BTB’s Timothy Kincaid wasn’t buying it:

While this alliance is one that does not reflect the face of Christianity, it also is not a declaration of a new-found position of agreement based on shared Christian teaching and ideology. There is no mention of shared faith in creeds or teachings, no virgin birth, no resurrection, no divine redemption.

Rather, this is a statement of political purpose by an alliance of socially conservative activist who oppose abortion and marriage equality. Indeed, although the document speaks in lofty terms of Christian tradition and religious freedom, the only commitments it makes are to oppose legal abortion (some day down the road) and the immediate attack on the ability of gay people to avail themselves of civil equality.

This is, in short a political alliance. It is a pact and a threat.

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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