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Understanding the probate judges in Alabama – UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2015

Same-sex marriages are being conducted today in Alabama. But about half of the state’s counties have probate judges (an elected position which administers marriage licenses) who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses. They state that neither Alabama law nor any judicial ruling requires that they do so.

They are technically correct.

A very similar situation nearly occurred in Florida. There some county clerks were either uncertain as to their obligations or were playing games. And so Judge Hinkle issued a clarification in which he laid out the difference between the results of a lawsuit and the consequences of a constitutional ruling.

He noted that no clerk who has not been a party to a lawsuit is compelled to act as the result of a ruling. His order did not name them and so failing to act accordingly was not contempt of court.

However, he pointed out that something larger and greater than his ruling did compel them to act: the Constitution of the United States. And those who wanted to continue to act in defiance of the Constitution could be held liable for both the civil and financial consequences of doing so.

At that point, the Florida clerks took his direction and issued marriage licenses irrespective of gender.

Judge Grenade, in Alabama, used Judge Hinkle’s same wording in response to the same question. She noted that it was not her ruling but the Constitution that compelled equality.

But, unlike in Florida, probate judges have decided that (in the words of Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams) they “aren’t worried about following the U.S. Constitution.”

So they are playing the “my name isn’t on that order” game. Being elected politicians in a state that does not value the Equal Protections clause of the Constitution, they are seeking to gain election value by defying the nation’s guiding document. And damn the cost (or inconvenience to them homosexuals)!

Equality advocates have been caught flat-footed. Some have tried to sue for contempt, failing to note that they have to have a ruling in their favor against that particular probate judge. Proper legal procedure is not a terribly difficult process, but it has to be followed.

My presumption is that eventually the correct paperwork will be filed. Federal judges – either Judge Grenade or others – will rule against a few specific probate judges in a few specific counties and slap their wrist with legal fees. And then all the others will fall in line.

Should any probate judge fail to do so, I suspect that they will be hit with very large penalties for defying the authority of the federal judiciary.

It may take a few days or weeks, but it’s a done deal.

UPDATE

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis has now been sued. This time the proper request appears to have been included:

Plaintiffs hereby respectfully requests [sic] that this Court enter an Emergency Injunction commanding the Defendants to issue the marriage licenses guaranteed by the Constitution as interpreted by this court.

Alabama Gov will not go after judges who follow Fed ruling

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2015

Last night, Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a pronouncement instructing the state’s probate judges to ignore the Federal Court ruling, the Eleventh Circuit’s response, and the refusal of stay by the Supreme Court of the United States and to instead follow his demands.

After four and a half pages of “whereas” statements, Moore declared the following:

NOW THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED AND DIRECTED THAT:

To ensure the orderly administration of justice within the State of Alabama, to alleviate a situation adversely affecting the administration of justice within the State, and to harmonize the administration of justice between the Alabama judicial branch and the federal courts in Alabama:

Effective immediately, no Probate Judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama Probate Judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975.

Should any Probate Judge of this state fail to follow the Constitution and statutes of Alabama as stated, it would be the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley, in whom the Constitution vests “the supreme executive power of this state,” Art. V, § 113, Ala. Const. 1901, to ensure the execution of the law. “The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Art. V, § 120, Ala. Const. 1901. “‘If the governor’s “supreme executive power” means anything, it means that when the governor makes a determination that the laws are not being faithfully executed, he can act using the legal means that are at his disposal.'” Tyson v. Jones, 60 So. 3d 831, 850 (Ala. 2010) (quoting Riley v. Cornerstone, 57 So. 3d 704, 733 (Ala. 2010)).

In other words, if you issue marriage license in accordance with the Federal ruling, the Governor’s gunna gitcha. He’s going to, well we’re not sure what, but he’ll gitcha.

And then Moore began posting on his Facebook page encouraging people to call the Governor and request that he go get those law-breaking Federal-court-ruling-followers.

To which Governor Bentley has now responded, “I may be a bigot, but I’m not as bat-poop crazy as that lunatic Roy Moore.” Well, not exactly in those words, of course:

I am disappointed that a single Federal court judge disregarded the vote of the Alabama people to define marriage as between a man and woman. I agree with the dissenting opinion from U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia when they stated, ‘Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds.’ This issue has created confusion with conflicting direction for Probate Judges in Alabama. Probate Judges have a unique responsibility in our state, and I support them. I will not take any action against Probate Judges, which would only serve to further complicate this issue. We will follow the rule of law in Alabama, and allow the issue of same sex marriage to be worked out through the proper legal channels.

Poor, poor Pat

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2015

Pat Fancher is having a horrible day.

You see, despite her last minute desperate efforts, the state of Alabama has just recognized the marriage between her son David and Dr. Paul Hard.

And now poor, poor Pat is not going to get the total sum of the settlement for her son’s wrongful death. Instead that immoral homosexual will receive what is legally his share. She’s lost her fight and she’s shown herself to be an evil woman, all for nothing.

Marriage map

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2015

marriage 2015

dark purple – marriage equality states
light purple – marriage equality in some counties in the state
pink – marriage equality ruling on stay
yellow – federal judge ruled against equality
red – circuit court ruled against equality

Anti-gays anemically protest at Alabama Capitol

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2015

alabamaprotest

There are about 4.9 million people in Alabama. And, in honesty, most of them probably do not support civil and legal equality for gay people.

But they aren’t exactly in an uproar about the fact that same-sex marriages are starting tomorrow morning. (WSFA)

The Sanctity of Marriage Alabama group held a rally on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol Building on Saturday. Group leaders say that nearly 175 individuals showed up to show their support for the group.

Nearly 175 individuals showed up. Wow. More than that showed up at the West Hollywood gym on Tuesday night to play dodgeball. Seriously.

Slovakian voters reject anti-gay referendum

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2015

In Slovakia, a group called Alliance for the Family collected over 400,000 signatures, enough to put a referendum on the ballot. The referendum contained three provisions: banning any recognition of same-sex couples (the Slovakian constitution already defines marriage as a man and a woman); barring same-sex couples from adoption; and barring education about sexuality and euthanasia, unless parents agree.

Last week Pope Francis blessed the effort, and the Catholic Church used his image in a media campaign. In this majority Catholic country, this was assumed to be a major advantage.

This vote had connotations other than merely anti-gay attitudes; it was also seen as a rejection of the culture of Western Europe and its values.

For a referendum in Slovakia to be valid, it must not only have a majority of voters, but at least half of those eligible to vote must do so.Opponents of the effort were encouraging voters to stay home, in hopes that the referendum would fail to reach validity.

And now it appears that the opponents of the referendum, along with those who do not reject Western values, those who didn’t care much one way or the other, and those who had no idea that there was a vote, were together enough to cause the effort to fail. Only 21.4% of eligible voters turned up at the polls.

Pat Fancher desperate for rushed ruling

Timothy Kincaid

February 6th, 2015

Remember Pat Fancher, the Alabama mother-in-law from Hell whose response to her son’s tragic accident was to sue his husband? Because if the state recognizes her son’s legal Massachusetts marriage, then Pat will lose out on half of the wrongful death settlement.

She’s the lovely soul who filed an amicus brief in the Utah marriage case complaining that “homosexual conduct is immoral”.

Well now she’s desperate.

You see, come Monday – unless SCOTUS intervenes – marriage equality is coming to Alabama. And, if that doesn’t give her terrors enough, Fancher’s son-in-law is prepared to force the state to recognize his legal marriage.

So she’s filed a brief desperately asking a federal court to uphold Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage and give all the glorious beautiful money to her, and not to that immoral homosexual!

Plaintiff Paul Hard has publicly stated that on Monday, February 9, 2015, he intends to take action to amend David Fancher’s death certificate to reflect that at the time of his death Paul Hard was his spouse, which action if successful would greatly upset Defendant Pat Fancher’s status in the matter before this Court. He may also take action to require the executor of David Fancher’s estate to pay to Paul Hard his spousal share of the estate, which would diminish the share to which Defendant Pat Fancher is entitled.

Respectful grief has many stages and love comes in many form. None of which include the behavior of this vile woman.

Montana committee narrowly defeats removal of marriage ban language

Timothy Kincaid

February 5th, 2015

In November 2014, federal courts ruled that Montana’s ten year old constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution. Marriage equality has been in place since.

Montana’s constitutional ban (along with statutory bans) on same-sex marriage remains on the books. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules in June, it is possible (though unlikely) that the marriage ban could be reinstated.

However, some Montana legislators decided to preempt the Supreme Court, and remove the ban from the civil code. This likely has no legal impact on the state constitution, but could serve as a symbolic gesture of support for equality.

House Bill 282 was authored by Bryce Bennett (D – Missoula) and today the Judiciary Committee voted on whether to bring it to the full floor. By a tied vote of ten to ten, the Judiciary Committee tabled the bill. It will not go to the full house at this time.

I do not yet have the vote breakdown. However, there were six Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and fourteen Republicans, which indicates that there was significant bipartisan support.

House GOP won’t be involved in SCOTUS marriage hearing

Timothy Kincaid

February 5th, 2015

boehner

In Spring of 2011, President Obama and Attorney General Holder announced that the US Justice Department would no longer provide legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (Section 3) in federal court challenges, as they found it to violate the provisions of the US Constitution. The US Senate also declined to present a defense of the law.

The US House of Representatives, under the leadership of Speaker of the House John Boehner, hired legal representation and provided defense of the law. After several battles, the case came before the Supreme Court of the United States, and in June 2013 Section 3 of DOMA was held to be unconstitutional.

At that time, Republican leadership in Washington relinquished defense of DOMA and declared the matter settled. Boehner indicated that his body would not be engaging in efforts to argue the merits of other statutes or laws in regards to marriage but would act under the presumption that the Supreme Court had made its intent known.

And, for all practical purposes, the issue of same-sex marriage has been a settled one in the Nation’s Capital. It took a while for the administration to identify all areas in which discrimination continued, but the remedies did not face organized opposition.

Continuing in that state of mind, Boehner has now determined that the House will not interfere in the marriage ban appeal now before the Supreme Court nor will the GOP leadership seek to influence its decision. His language also suggests that he will not entertain notions about the invalidity of the court’s ultimate decision. (Blade)

“I don’t expect that we’re going to weigh in on this,” Boehner said. “The court will make its decision and that’s why they’re there, to be the highest court in the land.”

Of course individual GOP members are likely to file an amicus brief supporting discrimination, and some may do so jointly. But they will not do so under the authority of the House of Representatives.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, February 10

Jim Burroway

February 10th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

SwingerDallas-OurCommunity1971.05p10

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), May 1971, page 10.

Dallas’s gay newspaper Our Community had this brief write-up:

If a stranger steps into the SWINGER, he want be a stranger long.’ I’d never been in a butch bar before, so I was a little apprehensive when I opened the door: I mean all those butch cowboy types. What if one of those handsome brutes lassod (sic) me, threw me down and “had his way” with me! Of course I’d try to defend myself (but I’m not very strong)”! This didn’t happen, but I’d been there only a few moments before I meet several friendly studs. They said: “If you go once, you’ll return often.” I’did. So will you. It’s friendly, like home.

The Swinger burned five months later. The site is now a Chevron station.

Post cards by J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 95 YEARS AGO: A New Homosexual Trait?: 1920. Dr. Walter Courtenay Rivers raised in the February, 1920 issue of Medical Review of Reviews:

A sexuological brochure published in 1913 brought me some correspondence both home and foreign. Among the writers of these letters was an English public school ‘coach,’ whom later I met. I then found that altho he had written he was glad my book had appeared, he was an invert himself; not only that, but a member of a homosexual coterie; and besides, one who physically indulged his abnormality. Upon which I felt that his acquaintance and correspondence were too potentially compromising for my as yet extremely slight scientific name. I asked him to send his ‘case’ to Dr HAVELOCK ELLIS (to whom I wrote about him also), and declined further communication with regret, for of course clinical experience is the only road to discovery. However, one clue I did get. He kept a large cat of which he seemed very fond, and he remarked that many of his friends had the same taste in pets.

The “brochure” that Rivers mentioned was a booklet published in 1913, titled Walt Whitman’s Anomaly, which explores exactly what its title implied: that Walt Whitman was a sexual invert or, in the still-newfangled terminology of the medical literature, a homosexual. Rivers was undoubtedly surprised by his “coach’s” interest in the book, as its sale was “restricted to members of the legal and medical professions. This was quite common at a time when anything which might be remotely construed as non-condemning of the “abominable vice” was routinely banned as obscene. Havelock Ellis’s early works were not immune from such official attentions (see Feb 2). And so Rivers’s nervousness over merely maintaining a correspondence with an invert was neither out of the ordinary nor out of line.

And yet, Rivers’s articles and writings were among a growing body of literature which was just beginning to  try to figure out who these homosexuals were that they kept encountering. Given how little was really known about gay people, coupled with reluctance of the overwhelming majority of gay people to make themselves known, every tiny clue took in a huge significance. Including cats.

Since [Magnus] HIRSCHFELD’S (see  May 14) exhaustive work does not mention such a trait, the matter seemed worth inquiry, and it is attacked here in the following way: First I have taken HIRSCFIELD’S list of eminent men who were of inverted disposition, and looked for record of their affection’ for cats as pets; secondly I have taken eminent persons who are stated to have been cat lovers, and looked for evidence of inversion in them.

Rivers encountered several difficulties in the first approach; Hirschfeld’s list went back into antiquity; Hirschfeld didn’t see pet ownership as an important detail to record, some names on Hirshfeld’s list weren’t prominent enough for such details to survive. But Rivers did find four worth mentioning: the 18th-century art historian and Member of Parliament Horace Walpole, the English poet Edward Fitzgerald, the French poet Charles Baudelaire, and the English essayist Walter Pater, for whom Rivers provided the following evidence of homosexuality:

The evidence of PATER’S inverted disposition might first be briefly given. He never smoked and never married; he was entirely averse to outdoor games altho not physically weak; he wore always a green tie; his works show passim a special sensibility to young male beauty.

But about their cats:

Four out of thirty-one is a proportion of one in eight. Is one out of every eight men, or, for the matter of that, one out  of every eight distinguished men, devoted to cats? I imagine most people would say no. Some men, and particularly distinguished men, have notoriously a horror of them. These four, by the way, were all writers, and HAVELOCK ELLIS states that inversion is particularly frequent amongst authors. They were also pretty exclusively homosexual; there is no evidence of a bisexual disposition

Rivers then compiled his list of known cat-lovers in history “taking only those who have been dead some time” — undoubtedly to avoid impugning the reputation of a living person and opening himself up to charges of libel. Rivers then lists them:

Pope GREGORY the GREAT, HOKUSAI, TASSO, A. DE MUSSET, PAUL DE KOCK, PETRARCH, COWPER, WORDSWORTH, LISTON the SURGEON, RICHELIEU, CIIATEAUBRIAND, T. GAUTIER, DR. JOHNSON, SIR WALTER SCOTT, DUMAS the ELDER, SHELLEY, JEREMY BENTHAM.

Of how many of these may inversion be deemed a likely characteristic?

The quest now is much more difficult. To begin with, of none can we expect the trait looked for to be recorded outright. It will be a matter of inferring its presence from other, and commonly associated, characteristics, such as friendship enthusiasm, feminine tastes, aversion to women, physical stigmata of degeneration, and so forth; while even these may easily escape biographical mention. Again, bisexuality, physical attraction to men and women both, may mask inversion. Perhaps for these reasons, none of these cat lovers figure in HIRSCHFELD’S list of eminent inverts already spoken of.

You will notice Rivers’s referring to “physical stigmata of degeneration,” a reference to Degeneration Theory that I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these historical notes (see, for example, Sep 9Jan 25Feb 7). It was a medical axiom in those days that homosexuality, along with many other physical and mental ailments, were the result of evolution gone wrong. Before the industrial era, natural selection meant that the fittest survived. But modern society was now allowing all sorts of lesser-fit people to survive and breed, resulting in a kind of reversal of evolution — they called it “de-generation” — in which mankind was de-evolving or “degenerating” to a more primitive, less advanced state. The theory further held that degeneracy was not only imprinted on the brain, but  the “physical stigmata” or signs of the degeneracy could also be found on the body as well, whether it was a physical abnormality, or the shape of the head, the cut of the brow, the width of the nose, the tone of the skin — you can see where this went racially, can’t you?

At any rate, River’s struck two individuals from his list immediately as not being gay, and concluded that only three were definitely gay. Three of seventeen now brings the ratio to somewhere closer to one in five. Clearly, he thought, he was onto something. But why cats?

And there is something else relevant to cats which is also relevant to our subject, and that is the close association in the human mind of cats with femininity. One always associates cats with the woman’s world, and of course male inverts are very often of feminine tastes. The former proposition seems the truer and profounder the more one tests it…

A good many readers, perhaps, will agree that fondness for cats does, on the whole, seem entitled to a place among male homosexual characteristics. If it be, then the reason is that it is a woman’s taste. My subject aforesaid, the public school coach, had his cat beside him when pouring out tea; which he did, if not, like COMPTON MACKENZIE’S inverted author WILMOT dispensing similar hospitality. See Sinister Street Vol 1. ‘with a myriad mincing gestures,’ still with quite unmasculine competence, gusto and deliberation; he sucked sweets, smoked only cigarettes. Indeed the tale of male homosexual traits has probably not yet been given anywhere with anything like completeness. For the heart of the inverted man seems always reaching out after something womanish in order to adopt it; or else recoiling from something that reminds him he is bodily a man. Of that unfortunate being it might almost be said:

Femina est: nihil feminitatis a se alienum putat.

[Source: W.C. Rivers. “A new male homosexual trait?” Medical Review of Reviews 26, no. 2 (February 1920): 55-60. Available online via Google Books here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Yang: 1958. The Chillicothe, Ohio native rose quickly though the journalism ranks, beginning with the Boston Globe in 198o, then Time in 1986 and the Wall Street Journal in 1986. In 1990, he moved to the Washington Post and remained there for the next ten years as a political reporter. In 1999, he made the move to television as the D.C. correspondent for ABC News, where he earned a Peabody for his coverage of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. He then became a Middle East correspondent from 2002 to 2004. Yang recalled the phone conversation with Peter Jennings when he got that gig:

“I was extremely flattered because at ABC News, Peter Jennings had veto power over foreign correspondents. And this was an area that Peter cared deeply about. And actually Peter got on the phone …  It’s actually something that Peter said to me,” Yang recalled. “It’s that he thought that — and looking back, you can take what he said a couple of different ways, whether he meant [me] being Asian or being gay — but that he thought that what I would bring to that reporting was an understanding or an insight into … people who are marginalized.”

In 2007, he was once again in Washington, D.C., this time as White House correspondent for NBC News. He is currently based in Chicago.

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

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

Gay Couples Begin Marrying in Alabama as US Supreme Court Denies Stay

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 8.24.07 AM

Marriages of same-sex couples are now underway in parts of Alabama this morning. AL.com is providing live updates from around the state. Late last night, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice issued an order prohibiting probate judges from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. You may remember Moore from a decade ago when he was removed as Alabama Chief Justice for refusing to comply with a federal court order requiring the removal of a monument to the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. State Supreme Court justices are elected to office, and Alabama voters returned Moore to the high court in 2013. Probate Court judges are also elected positions, and between Moore’s order and popular politics in a state which approved its marriage ban in 2006 by more than 80%, these judges are now in quite a bind. Bibb County Probate Judge Jerry Pow is one of those judges not issuing licenses this morning, telling AL.com, “I don’t know whether I want to defy the Chief justice of the state Supreme Court or a federal judge.” Moore’s stand at the courthouse door is drawing obvious comparisons to another Alabama politician who stood in a doorway to block a federal court order. From an editorial in the Birmingham News:

Almost 52 years ago Gov. George Wallace made his infamous stand in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama to block two black students from registering for classes.

It was really all for show. Wallace knew he had no authority to stop the students. The federal courts had ruled that the time had come to integrate UA and to back up that order President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard to make sure the law was enforced and the peace maintained.

Still Wallace continued. He got his moment. Cameras captured it for front pages across the nation. TV broadcast it around the world painting Alabama as an intolerant place.

It is still an image we fight.

AL.com/Birmingham News is getting rather cheeky in its opinion section. One columnist asked whether Moore was “protesting too much.” Meanwhile, marriages are taking place this morning in the state capital of Montgomery and in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 8.25.13 AM

Shortly after those marriages began, the U.S. Supreme Court finally announced that it was refusing to issue a stay on Alabama marriages. The decision was made by the full court after Justice Clarence Thomas referred the matter to the full court. Thomas has oversight over the Eleventh Circuit. Thomas wrote a three-page dissent (PDF: 58KB/3 pages) from the Court’s decision, with Scalia joining. Noting that the Court granted a stay over a year ago in Herbert v. Kitchen which overturned Utah’s marriage ban, Thomas wrote:

This application should have been treated no differently.That the Court more recently denied several stay applications in this context is of no moment. Those denials followed this Court’s decision in October not to review seven petitions seeking further review of lower court judgmentsinvalidating state marriage laws. Although I disagreed with the decisions to deny those applications, I acknowledge that there was at least an argument that the October decision justified an inference that the Court would be less likely to grant a writ of certiorari to consider subsequent petitions. That argument is no longer credible. The Court has now granted a writ of certiorari to review these important issues and will do so by the end of the Term. The Attorney General of Alabama is thus in an even better position than the applicant to whom we granted a stay in Herbert v. Kitchen.

…This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question. This is not the proper way to discharge our Article III responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is.

Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s increasingly cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds. It has similarly declined to grant certiorari to review such judgments without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them. In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, February 9

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Marriage Equality Arrives in Alabamarainbow_albama. Today will be a big day for LGBT couples in Alabama, although the arrival of marriage equality will likely not be uniform across the state. At least two probate judges will be standing at the proverbial schoolhouse door in refusing to allow same-sex couples to marry by announcing they will get out of the marriage business altogether. Three others have said that said they will refuse to honor a Federal Court order to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel — which has a history of flouting court orders and encouraging lawbreaking — says that he will represent them in what he calls “a significant clash of judicial power.

Federal District Judge Callie Granade, who had originally found Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, has already warned that probate judges that refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples will be subject to sanctions, including contempt of court and being on the hook for attorneys’ fees those couples accumulate. But Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore late last night issued an order prohibiting probate judges from issuing licenses to same-sex couples, setting up a classic showdown between state and federal courts. Moore, you may remember, was removed as Alabama Chief Justice in 2003 after refusing to comply with a federal court order requiring the removal of a monument to the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. As the Montgomery Advertiser reported:

How the order will be enforced is unclear. The chief justice’s letter said that Gov. Robert Bentley should use “the legal means that are at his disposal” to carry the orders in the letter out. Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Bentley’s office would have a comment on Moore’s letter on Monday.

It’s also unclear how many probate judges will follow Moore’s order. Jefferson County (Birmingham) probate judge Alan L. King told the New York Times, “With all due respect to Chief Justice Moore, he’s on the Alabama Supreme Court, and he’s not a federal judge.” Judge Steven L. Reed of Montgomery County, recalled Alabama’s history of ignoring federal court orders in discrimination cases, said, “I don’t want to see judges make the same mistakes that I think were made in this state 50 years ago, where you have state officials not abiding by federal orders. The legacy always hangs over us until we show that we’re beyond it.” But how this will play out today is anybody’s guess: probate judges, like state Supreme Court justices, are popularly elected, and opposing Federal orders is still popular politics in many quarters in Alabama.

Meanwhile, AL.com, the web site for the Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times, has a brief profile of twenty-one couples planning on tying the not today. And one Baptist pastor is prepared officiate one of those first marriages in Huntsville.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, pages 12-13.

The Park Theater opened in Los Angeles in 1911 as the Alvarado Theatre on its namesake street just off MacArthur Park. In the 1960s, it was renamed the Park Theatre when it switched to porn. In 1968, the theater switched to gay-themed movies (including porn as well as art house movies). That switch was announced in June when the theater announced “A Most Unusual Male Film Festival,” which is believed to be the first gay film festival in a regular public theater. The Park continued to show gay films until 1971, when it was renovated into a twin theater and returned to mainstream films. The theater closed in 1986. The building is still there, although its glory days are long gone.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
AIDS Employment Discrimination Declared Illegal in California: 1987. In the first such case in the nation, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission unanimously ordered that the defense contractor Raytheon pay damages of about $6,000 to a Santa Barbara employee who was denied reinstatement to work following hospitalization due to an AIDS-related illness. John Chadbourne was given medical leave in December 19983 when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was diagnosed with AIDS one month later. He recovered from pneumonia and his doctor said he healthy enough to return to work, but his employer would not reinstate him without assurances that other employees would not be endangered. Instead, Raytheon kept him on medical leave, which meant that he retained his benefits (including medical insurance), but was living on significantly reduced income from his disability insurance. The Commission ruled that AIDS is a disability under the law and employers may not discriminate against people with AIDS who are able to work. With that ruling, Chadbourne was vindicated — or at least his estate was. Chadbourne died in January 1985, two years before the Commission’s ruling.

Raytheon went on to significantly improve its policies toward LGBT people and people with AIDS, becoming the first defense contractor to earn a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2005.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY’S:
Amy Lowell: 1874-1925. Her pedigree was impeccable: her family were those Lowells, of Brookline, Massachusetts. Her brother, Lawrence, was president of Harvard; another brother, Percival, was a renowned mathematician and astronomer, founder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and who began the effort which led to the discovery of Pluto fourteen years after his death. Amy, born and reared at Seveneies, the ten-acre family estate, was the baby of the family. Befitting a daughter of a fine Episcopalian family of New England, she was first tutored at home, then attended the best private schools in Boston when she was not touring Europe with her family. At seventeen, her family decided that attending college was not a proper activity for a young woman, so she ensconced herself in the family’s 7,000-volume library at Seveneis and taught herself literature.

In 1902, on one of her many tours of Europe, she was inspired to take up poetry. In 1910, her work began appearing in Atlantic Monthly, and her first published collection, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, was published two years later. At about that time, she and actress Ada Dwyer Russell entered what was then known as a “Boston Marriage,” and they remained together for the rest of Lowell’s life. It is believed that Russell is the subject of Lowell’s love poems in  ‘Two Speak Together’, from Pictures of the Floating World.

During one of the couple’s European tours, they met the Imagist poet Ezra Pound. Lowell embraced the Imagist style, so named by the precise use of visual images to convey a clarity of expression. It was also marked by free verse, where, according to Lowell, “one must abandon all desire to find in it the even rhythm of metrical feet. One must allow the lines to flow as they will when read aloud by an intelligent reader.” Then an Anglo-American movement, Lowell’s contribution to the style was in what she called “polyphonic prose,” in which the very written structure of the poetry was broken down and rendered as prose, which was then sometimes intermixed with structured verse. Her embrace and promotion of Imagist Poetry was so intense that it actually had the effect of driving a wedge between Pound and the Imagists, who he began derisively calling “Amygists.” His criticism of Lowell became pointedly personal. Referring to her short stature, her glandular-induced weight problems (and, undoubtedly, put off by her habit of smoking cigars), Pound referred to her as the “hippo-poetess” among his friends and accused her of hijacking the movement.

While Lowell remained dedicated to modern poetry, she was also a fan of historical poets as well. In Fir-Flower Tablets, she produced prose-poetry re-workings of the literal translations of ancient Chinese poetry, and she wrote several critical works about French literature. When she died in 1925 of a brain hemorrhage at Seveneies, she left behind an uncompleted two-volume biography of John Keats, with whom she undoubtedly felt a kinship. “The stigma of oddness,” she wrote of him, “is the price a myopic world always exacts of genius.” Her own genius was recognized posthumously with a 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for What’s O’Clock.

PatRocco

Pat Rocco: 1934. Pasquale Vincent Serrapica was born in Brooklyn and moved with his family to California in 1946, where he quickly got a twice weekly radio show on Pasadena’s KWKW while still a teen. He also completed his high school credits at home after refusing to deny his homosexuality in school. And so it might be surprising to learn that while in his twenties, he met with a local Youth for Christ director, who got him a singing gig for the religious group, a stint for which he even reacorded an album of devotional musice in 1954. By this time, Pasquale became Pat Rocco, and for the remainder of the 1050s he toured for musicals and appeared as a regular for the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.

RoccoDuring this time, Rocco became interested in photography and film and in 1967, he answered an ad to shoot stills of nude male models. Seeing the potential of a significant money-making enterprise, he created his own business, Bizarre Production, and began creating and selling photos and erotic movies by mail order. The films got the attention of the Park Theater in Los Angeles, which was interested in creating a special lineup of films for a gay audience. Rocco’s Love is Blue premiered on a bill with several other avant-garde gay films on June 26, 1968 as part of A Most Unusual Male Film Festival, in what it is believed to be the first gay film festival in a public theater.

Rocco’s films stood out for not falling into the typical blue movie formulas. His films focused on the beauty of the male form and featured storylines with positive depictions of male intimacy. As Jim Kepner (see Feb 14) wrote in his profile of Rocco for GAY in 1970:

His fair young actors approach love as if no one had ever labeled male love sick , sinful or seamy. These lyrical fantasies evoke love in a way that makes most gay viewers proud of themselves and glad to be alive. … In competition with tired physique photographers too long in the trade, Rocco’s sometimes clumsy work seemed fresh, creative, excitingly beautiful. Though some early shorts used any trivial excuse to get the youths undressed, even Rocco’s weakest short subjects were made with surprising care. And the lyrical quality of Love is Blue, A Matter of Life, Yahoo, The Performance and the unforgettable Yes left most viewers moved as few other flesh-films had done.

While his films were explicitly nude, they skirted the edges of soft porn to such a degree that many complained that his movies didn’t go far enough. But others appreciated Rocco’s approach. Several of Roccos fans formed the Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts, or SPREE, in 1968, which remained active for the next ten years publishing newsletters and mounting stage and film events.Meanwhile, Rocco’s films were a regular feature at the Park Theatre until 1971, when the Park decided to return to a more mainstream audience.

Rocco also performed an important service for the local gay community by creating short documentaries of gay rights protests and interviews of local figures. But as fictional gay films became more explicit during the 1970s, Rocco spurned the opportunity to go into hardcore porn. Instead, he turned his attention to photographing and documenting events in Southern California for gay publications. His first documentary, A Man and His Dream, chronicled the early years of Rev. Try Perry’s Metropolitcan Community Church. Rocco also became increasingly involved with gay rights advocacy. He campaigned for the resumption of the Christopher Street West Pride Parade, and he organized fundraising events for numerous organizaitons and gay rights causes. He developed a special interest in providing emergency housing in Los Angeles and established his own program, Hudson House, to provide housing, job training and meals for homeless LGBT youth. Hudson House soon spread to San Diego, San Francisco, and Hawaii. Rocco and his partner have retired to Hawaii, where they continue to be active in the local community.

Holly Johnson: 1960. When the Liverpool-based band Frankie Goes to Hollywood released its first single “Relax,” with Holly Johnson on vocals, in October 1983, it took a slow three months before it hit the top of the UK singles chart. It’s rise to number one was helped along, ironically, by BBC 1 disk jockey Mike Read, who happened to notice what he called the “overtly sexual” nature of record sleeve and the printed lyrics as the single was playing. He unceremoniously lifted the tonearm, live on air, and denounced it as “obscene.” The BBC followed that with an on-air ban on all of its radio and television outlets (with the narrow exception of its top-40 countdown show). Until then, “Relax” had been a middling top-40 dance hit, but within two weeks it hit number one and remained there for the next five. It became the seventh best selling single in UK single’s history, and the temporarily ubiquitous “Frankie Say” T-shirts became not just a musical statement but a political one as well. The Beeb finally relented and lifted its ban at the end if 1984, just as a re-worked version of “Relax” was enjoying a second bout of popularity with the release of the band’s album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

Johnson left Frankie in 1987 over differences in the group’s musical direction. After a bitter contract dispute, Johnson was finally able to start a solo career in 1989. His first album, Blast, met with some critical and commercial success, but his 1991 album Dream That Money Can’t Buy tanked. That year, he learned he was HIV-positive and withdrew from public life. Later that decade, he re-emerged as an occasional singer and, mainly, as a painter, with shows at the Tate Liverpool and the Royal Academy.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 8

Jim Burroway

February 8th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), special San Francisco travel section, page 27.

From the Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), special San Francisco travel section, page 27.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Modesto Police Round Up Gay Men: 1957. The headline in the local paper read “Modesto Sex Gang Smashed.” That “gang” consisted of a group of local gay men, and the paper played it up for all it was worth while probably ruining a few lives in the process:

A police crackdown on an alleged homosexual ring known as the “Lavender Gang” was revealed today with the arrest of two Modestoans, including a former department store manager.

Police Chief James Neel announced 15 to 20 persons, including some bay area, Salinas and Merced residents, are believed to be members of the ring. He said more arrests were planned.

Charged with lewd and lascivious conduct is Elmer J. Kreuger, 55, who resigned from his managerial post Saturday after being employed by the chain store for 24 years.

Accused of sodomy as well as lewd and lascivious conduct is William Howard Moore, 26, office worker for a diary products distribution firm. … The chief reported Moore admitted he had associated with known homosexuals in Modesto and the bay area and had hosted all male parties.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, February 7

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: NGLTF’s Creating Change Conference, Denver, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Alienist and Neurologist, 1904.

From Alienist and Neurologist, 1904.

Dr. Charles H. Hughes

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Man Seeks Castration To Cure His Homosexuality: 1904. “How often is there delivered from the womb of some noble and grand woman — some little soul, scarred in such manner that stigmatizes its after life and brings a stain so deeply colored as to stamp it in the eyes of the world a ‘social outcast and criminal.'” So begins Dr. Charles H. Hughes’s article in the February 1904 edition of the journal Alienist and Neurologist. (An “alienist” is an archaic nineteenth century term for what today we would call a psychologist or psychiatrist.) Medical journals at the turn of the last century had a very different editorial tone than they do today, with morality holding as much or greater sway over scientific evidence the vast majority of the articles published, particularly where sexual matters were concerned. The scientific method, clearly, had yet to make may inroads into the mental health professions.

Those lines, which opened an article by Hughes of a “homosexualist’s self-description,” were actually penned by the “homosexualist” himself. This particular person, “a gentleman degenerate” of thirty-nine years of age, was an American of Irish ancestry whose father graduated “from one of the old world’s best colleges” before fighting on the losing side in the 1848 Irish rebellion, fleeing to the U.S., marrying, starting a family, and dying young of either “epilepsy or apoplexy.” That the man’s father had epilepsy was considered significant, as Hughes saw it as evidence of inherited degeneracy. That diagnosis was based on Degeneration Theory, a sort of a theory of evolution in reverse which postulated that, thanks to the conveniences of modern society and its advances in medicine and hygiene, modern man was increasingly immune from the natural “culling of the herd.” And because modern man was no longer being culled by natural forces, the human race was actually experiencing a devolution — or “de-generation” — into a more primitive state. Because the letter writer’s father had epilepsy, Hughes concluded that the son’s homosexuality was an expression of a congenital degeneracy inherited from his father.

With the father’s early demise, his mother was left to raise an unspecified number of children. One of those boys, the letter writer, wrote of himself in the third person to Dr. Hughes, and described himself as:

“a regular ‘girl boy’ as he was called, always afraid to tell a fib — never using bad language, never smoking nor chewing, thoroughly honest, shunning the girls and always having some boy friend he fancied for his good looks and endeavoring to show him some kindness in the way of making him presents — never cared for an ugly boy — in fact did not know why he particularly cared for any, always studious, receiving high honors at school for thoroughness in his studies and exemplary deportment. The child mind not understanding the features of certain matters recalls his desire to bunk with any gentleman who might be the guest of his father, and to them, no doubt revelations were made, but naturally ascribed to childish innocence. I felt myself growing stronger in this way. In other words showing a preference for such society and ignoring girls — yet being timid in the presence of both male and female — was frequently twitted about it.”

As the writer grew older, his attractions toward other men grew, along with the horror of knowing that he would never be able to fit in with society as a homosexual. He also lamented the loneliness that being gay brought him in a society with few social opportunities for people like him:

“Haunting the parks, seaside resorts and other localities, a lonely man afflicted, no hope of cure as intimated by physicians and neurologists, this being repeated to me in all localities, large cities and small towns. …

“Twenty-five years of this misery is a long time for such torture, yet the struggle goes on. If the wishes of this lonely man were realized, and he trusts it may not be long before he may find the surroundings illumined and he be enabled to step into the sunlight — a clean and wholesome man — or in the absence of such bliss — his mother’s arm be extended down from the region beyond into which he may be embraced and find that rest which may be emblemized as eternal.”

The image of his mother’s arms extending from “the region beyond” refers to the fact that she died fifteen years earlier, when the letter writer was twenty-four years old. In other words, it was an expression of the writer’s own yearning for death, as perhaps the only way out of his predicament. Hughes tried surgery:

In this case an operation was performed on the filaments of the pudic nerve supplying to testes, but the morbid inclination still persists, notwithstanding the operation and a course of chologogues, antiseptic intestinal treatment and full bromism.

Damaging the pudic nerve would have resulted in blocking the sensations of orgasm. In animals, it was known that this type of operation would have also resulted in a loss of erections. But as Hughes discovered, this operation did little to alter his patient’s sexual attractions. “The case appears to be in the head and not in the genitals,” Hughes concluded, and urged his patient to “do as other men have to do and do do, keep his passionate impulses in abeyance to the higher purposes of his nature and the nobler ambitions of life.” The patient wrote back:

“What you claim to be accomplished through efforts on my part is impossible — of course you will dispute this. Were our positions reversed for a month, you could understand. If the difficulty is with the head, all I have to say is that it has centered there with such vigor and tenacity that it would appear to me that the elimination of the trouble in one center has been doubly concentrated in another.”

By this point, the writer was getting desperate. His employer found out about his condition and fired him. “I will be upon the streets next week — to go where — the Lord only knows.” He against asked Hughes again whether he thought castration would help. “If so,” he wrote,” I will go into a charity hospital and have it done.” Several months later, in January of 1904, the patient wrote again, this time announcing that he decided to commit himself to a sanitarium, although he was still, in his desperation, weighing the option of a full castration:

“I am now convinced that from an experience in St. Louis during my last visit (an experience without consummation) that there is absolutely no avenue of escape from my trouble but to be placed under restraint, and if I can get back to St. Louis it is my intention to place myself in the hands of the authorities irrespective of the consequences, as I am certain to get into trouble, and I can not stand this thing any longer. I know just what Dr. —— and yourself would suggest, yet from the statement of other physicians — the trouble is of the head and there would be no certainty that the operation in question (castration) would be successful. You well know the debilitating experiences through which I passed after the first surgical work. I jumped on a train in St. Louis last night and followed a party clean through to South McAlester. I was expected back at the hospital that night. I spent all my money…

“I came very near getting in serious trouble on the trip. If I am compelled to pass through another surgical operation it will have to be at the city hospital. … I fell terribly over this, as I promised Dr. —— I would conduct myself with decorum. If the remedy he suggested is a sure cure, then I will have to accept it.”

[Source: Charles H. Hughes. “The gentleman degenerate: A homosexualist’s self-description and self-applied title. Pudic nerve section fails therapeutically.” Alienist and Neurologist 25, no. 1 (February 1904): 62-70. Available online via Google Books here.]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, February 6

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: NGLTF’s Creating Change Conference, Denver, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 62.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 62.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Reagan Orders AIDS Report: 1986. Reagan’s first mention of AIDS was during a news conference five months earlier (see Sep 17). In a message sent to Congress two days after the State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan made his second public mention of AIDS:

We will continue, as a high priority, the fight against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An unprecedented research effort is underway to deal with this major epidemic public health threat. The number of AIDS cases is expected to increase. While there are hopes for drugs and vaccines against AIDS, none is immediately at hand. Consequently, efforts should focus on prevention, to inform and to lower risks of further transmission of the AIDS virus. To this end, I am asking the Surgeon General to prepare a report to the American people on AIDS.

That last sentence in this report to Congress came as a surprise to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. As he wrote in Koop: The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor, the White House had worked keep him out of the loop during the AIDS crisis. So when Reagan made the public announcement, Koop jumped at the tasks, working feverishly to complete the report, and to thwart administration official’s attempts to delay or shelve it. The Surgeon General’s Report, which sought to dispel many of the misconceptions about HIV and AIDS and called on schools and parents to have “frank, open discussions” with very young children and teens, was finally released later that year (see Oct 22).

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Ramón Novarro: 1899-1968. The Mexican leading man was hailed as the next male sex symbol after Rudolph Valentino died. His first major success was in the 1923 silent film Scaramouche, but his greatest fame came with 1925’s Ben-Hur. His transition to talkies was mildly successful — he was a talented singer, but he was often miscast. By 1935, MGM decided against renewing his contract. Besides, MGM feared trouble: Novarro had already rejected Louis B. Mayer’s demand that he enter into a “lavender marriage.” From then on, Novarro worked only sporadically in films and television. Fortunately for him, Navaro made some wise investments in real estate early in his career.

Paul and Tom Ferguson during their trial.

Tom, 17 (left) and Paul Ferguson, 21 (right) during their trial.

He was murdered in 1968 by two brothers, Paul and Tom Ferguson, who Navaro had solicited for sex, but who beat him mercilessly for several hours in an attempt to get him to reveal where he kept his money. They scrawled the message Us girls are better than those fagits” on a bathroom mirror, then left with $20, leaving Novarro to choke to death on his own blood. The brothers were convicted of murder in a trial in which Novarro was more on trial than the defendants. “Back in the days of Valentino,” a defense attorney told the jury, “this man who set female hearts aflutter, was nothing but a queer. There’s no way of calculating how many felonies this man committed over the years, for all his piety.” He also played the gay panic defense. The brother were sentenced to life in prison for their crimes, but they released on parole in the mid-1970s after serving less than a decade. Tom was later convicted of rape in 1987, paroled in 1990, and committed suicide in a Motel 6 in Palm Springs in 2005. Paul, at last report, was serving a thirty year sentence for rape in Missouri.

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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