Born On This Day, 1918: Leonard Bernstein

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2016

(d. 1990) When he died only five days after announcing his retirement in 1990, the New York Times lionized him as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.” He became instantly famous in 1943 when he stepped in at the last minute — unrehearsed — to conduct the New York Philharmonic when conductor Bruno Walter fell ill. That concert at Carnegie Hall was nationally broadcast, and it led to guest conductor engagements around the country. In 1947 he conducted a complete Boston Symphony concert in Carnegie Hall, the first time that orchestra had allowed a guest to do so in 22 years. In 1953 he became the first American-born conductor to conduct an opera at Milan’s famed La Scala. When he was named the New York Philharmonic’s musical director in 1958, he became the youngest person to fill that role in the orchestra’s history.

Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954, continuing until his death. Meanwhile, he also achieved popular success with his many compositions, including three symphonies, ballets and operas; his Mass; and music for such Broadway hits as Candide, On the Town, and most famously, West Side Story.

Bernstein conducting the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, 1970.

Bernstein was known for both his punishing schedule and his highly animated conducting style. One legendary story has it that at his first rehearsal as guest conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, his initial downbeat was so dramatic that the startled musicians simply stared in amazement and made no sound. In 1982 Bernstein fell off the podium while conducting the Houston Symphony, and he did it again in 1984 while leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Chicago.

Bernstein married Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn in 1951. and although they had three children, the marriage didn’t fool anyone. He certainly didn’t fool her. She knew he was gay from the very beginning, and agreed to look the other way. The reached an accommodation, and by all accounts he was a devoted father and husband. But when they separated in 1976 and he moved in with his boyfriend, she was furious, saying, “You’re going to die a bitter and lonely old man.” A short while later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. He begged her to let him move back in. She relented, and he took care of her until she died in 1978.

Bernstein’s homosexuality, often rumored throughout his life, became public knowledge with the 1987 publication of Joan Peyser’s Bernstein: A Biography. Arthur Laurents, Bernstein’s collaborator in West Side Story, said simply that Bernstein was “a gay man who got married. He wasn’t conflicted about it at all. He was just gay.”

Texas Leads A Five-State Lawsuit Over Obamacare Transgender Rules

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

From Buzfeed’s Chris Geidner:

Five states, led by Texas, and several nonprofit medical groups, all of which are religiously affiliated, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure health care coverage to transgender people under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“On pain of significant financial liability, the [Health and Human Services Department’s] Regulation forces doctors to perform controversial and sometimes harmful medical procedures ostensibly designed to permanently change an individual’s sex—including the sex of children,” the complaint in the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also contains claims challenging abortion-relation coverage protections in the same regulation, specifically highlighting the lack of a religious exemption in the regulation or underlying ACA provision.

The lawsuit was filed in Northern District of Texas, the same district where Texas filed its thirteen-state lawsuit seeking to block the Obama Administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to extend discrimination protections for transgender people under the law’s provisions based on sex. This latest lawsuit was assigned to Federal District Judge Reed O’Connor, the same judge who last week issued a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s Title IX efforts.

The four other states joining Texas are Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The lawsuit also is filed on behalf of several religiously-affiliated nonprofits, which are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Wikileaks Outs Saudi Gay Men, Male Rape Victims, People With HIV

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

WikiLeaks has always bragged that it was on a mission to expose government secrets in the quest for open government. It’s own operations and agendas aren’t nearly so transparent, especially with its recent cooperation with Russian hackers to influence the U.S. presidential elections in favor of Donald Trump. Now Wikileaks is releasing private medical and other files affecting ordinary citizens which have nothing to do with government secrecy:

In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web. In two particularly egregious cases, WikiLeaks named teenage rape victims. In a third case, the site published the name of a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay, an extraordinary move given that homosexuality is punishable by death in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

They published everything: my phone, address, name, details,” said a Saudi man who told AP he was bewildered that WikiLeaks had revealed the details of a paternity dispute with a former partner. “If the family of my wife saw this… Publishing personal stuff like that could destroy people.”

….The AP independently found three dozen records pertaining to family issues in the cables — including messages about marriages, divorces, missing children, elopements and custody battles. Many are very personal, like the marital certificates which reveal whether the bride was a virgin. Others deal with Saudis who are deeply in debt, including one man who says his wife stole his money. One divorce document details a male partner’s infertility. Others identify the partners of women suffering from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C.

…Three Saudi cables published by the WikiLeaks identified domestic workers who’d been tortured or sexually abused by their employers, giving the women’s full names and passport numbers. One cable named a male teenager who was raped by a man while abroad; a second identified another male teenager who was so violently raped his legs were broken; a third outlined the details of a Saudi man detained for “sexual deviation” – a derogatory term for homosexuality.

Scott Long, an LGBT rights activist who has worked in the Middle East, said the names of rape victims were off-limits. And he worried that releasing the names of people persecuted for their sexuality only risked magnifying the harm caused by oppressive officials.

“You’re legitimizing their surveillance, not combating it,” Long said.

Is Australia’s Marriage Equality Plebiscite Doomed?

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Two recent developments have revived the debate over whether the Australian government should proceed with its stated intention to hold a promised national plebiscite over same-sex marriage this year, next year. Of course, the first development was the announcement that the plebiscite won’t happen until February at the earliest, despite promises by the ruling Liberal Party (which is actually Australia’s conservative party) and its coalition partners over the past two years to hold the plebiscite in 2016. The announced delay has been roundly denounced for breaking a major, oft-repeated campaign pledge. That row prompted former High Court justice Michael Kirby, who is openly gay, to publicly denounce the very idea of a plebiscite:

He said Australian voters had rarely supported referendum questions and there was no reason a plebiscite would be any different.

“It will mean any time that there is something that is controversial, that’s difficult for the parliamentarians to address or they don’t want to address, they’ll send it out to a plebiscite.

…”This is going to be, if it goes ahead … running out the old issues of hatreds and animosities, abominations and all the old arguments against gay people. We didn’t do this for the Aboriginal people when we moved to give equality in law to them, we didn’t do it when we dismantled the White Australia policy … we didn’t do it in advances on women’s equality, we didn’t do it most recently on disability equality. Why are we now picking out the LGBT, the gay community? It’s simply an instance of hate and dislike, hostility to a small minority in our population. It’s unAustralian.”

Kirby’s sentiments aren’t new. Others have said the same thing. They also note that when the Liberal government explicitly banned same-sex marriage in 2004, they didn’t hold a plebiscite to do it. And besides that, there is no provision in Australia’s constitution that would make a plebiscite binding. The Government would be free to ignore it regardless of its outcome. These and other similar reactions coming from many other quarters of Australian society seems to have stiffened the spines of opposition leaders in Parliament:

Bill Shorten has prepared the ground for Labor to block the government’s proposed marriage equality plebiscite after he launched a stinging attack on the plan.

Speaking to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the opposition leader said he and many of his colleagues were “on the record as opposing” the plebiscite.

“I am gravely concerned about the merits of the plebiscite,” he said.

With senators Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch indicating this week that they would vote against legislation to enable the plebiscite, a parliamentary bloc is emerging consisting of Labor, the Greens, Xenophon and Hinch that would be sufficient to block it.

Shorten is repeating the demand that Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull allow a free vote in Parliament. (A free vote occurs when party members are permitted to vote their conscience instead of being bound to support the party’s position.) Shorten noted that before Turnbull became Prime Minister, when his predecessor and fellow Liberal Tony Abbott held the job and opposed a free vote on marriage equality, Turnbull supported a free vote in Parliament. Other opposition parties also say they will oppose a plebiscite:

A plebiscite on same-sex marriage is looking less likely, with the Federal Opposition determined to have a parliamentary vote to change marriage laws instead.

The Government has promised to have a national vote — or plebiscite — to determine whether same sex marriage should be allowed. But the Greens, Labor and the three Senators from the Nick Xenophon Team are all firm that a plebiscite is unnecessary. That would make it impossible for the Government to pass a law to have a national vote.

…Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Parliament could agree to same-sex marriage when it meets for the first time next Tuesday, “but instead, the Liberals want to run a costly and divisive public vote that may be ignored by many of their so-called representatives anyway”.

“The plebiscite is pointless,” Senator Di Natale said.

“We already know there’s overwhelming support for marriage equality in the community and in the parliament so it can’t be seen as anything but a delay tactic.”

Polling shows that upwards of 70% of Australians support marriage equality, while support for conducting a national plebiscite is quickly losing ground.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

From Arizona Gay News, August 18, 1978, page 3.

From Arizona Gay News, August 18, 1978, page 3.

Homosexuality was very much in the news in 1978, thanks to the numerous Anita Bryant-inspired political hate campaigns taking place in several cities across America and the contentious Briggs Amendment that was being hotly debated in California. A number of cities, like Phoenix, saw a terrible spike in anti-gay violence. On August 7, Tucson-based Arizona Gay News reported on three separate incidents in late July:

The most serious of the three occurred late last Thursday night, July 27. Blain Henderson, 22, was leaving the 3-0-7 Bar by the side door when he was accosted by three people who took his wallet and demanded his automobile keys. Henderson refused to give up his keys and, while two of the men ran away, the third produced a small caliber revolver and shot Henderson. The bullet entered through the cheek bone, into the left eye, and lodged in the right eye with some splinters lodging in the brain. At presstime, Henderson was in critical condition in intensive care. Hospital spokespersons contacted late Tuesday appeared optimistic concerning Henderson’s recovery, although it is anticipated that, because of the eye damage, he will be permanently blinded. It is two early to speculate about possible brain damage.

On August 18, Arizona Gay News followed up with news of the fundraiser:

As reported in the August 7 issue of AGN, a member of the Phoenix gay community was assaulted, robbed and shot in the parking lot of a local Phoenix bar. Still under a doctor’s car and with almost positive loss of sight in both eyes, Blaine Henderson is recovering at the home of his brother and sister-in-law.

…Mr. Henderson is able to converse and visit with friends, but from all indications, he will require “lifetime care,” according to Phyllis Nest, who helped stage a benefit for Henderson and two other men injured the same week. … The Connection and the Doug Cooper Show will be holding a benefit dance and show for Blaine Henderson, Thursday, August 24 beginning at 8:00 p.m. and lasting until midnight. These benefits are being held to help defray the astronomical medical costs that are being accrued by Blaine. Dale Williams, popular owner of the Connection, is making the first donation of $100.

In better times, The Connection was known for hosting its County Fair in the parking lot over Memorial Day weekend. They also hosted an annual summer Luau, with the entire parking lot filled with sand to create a kind of a beach scene. Grace Jones reportedly performed at one of the Luaus. The levi/leather bar later opened a leather disco next door called Der Druck, with a Kenworth cab next to the dance floor. The owner died of AIDS in 1988, and the businesses closed soon after. The whole thing today is now a parking lot across the street from the VA hospital.

Today In History, 1970: New York Times Looks At “Homosexuals In Revolt”

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Homosexuals are fit to print.

On June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn erupted in revolt when New York City police tried to raid the bar. The New York Times, the city’s newspaper of record, barely covered the story, burying a few paragraphs on page 33 with the headline “4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid” (Jun 29). More than a year later, the Grey Lady finally found that the explosion of new gay organizations, along with the successful Gay Pride march and a large gathering in Central Park marking the one-year anniversary of Stonewall a few months earlier (Jun 28), was all too much to ignore. And so on August 24, 1970, the Times printed an exhaustive and (for 1970) relatively balanced exploration of the shifts that had just occurred within the gay community over the past year, namely its new-found pride and emerging sense of self worth. Of course, not everyone thought those developments were positive:

This new attitude has its critics, both among “straights” and among homosexuals. Many doctors believe that, while homosexuals have full legal rights, “gay” is not necessarily “good.” Dr. Lionel Ovesey, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “Homosexuality is a psychiatric or emotional illness. I think it’s a good thing if someone can be cured of it because it’s so difficult for a homosexual to find happiness in our society. It’s possible that this movement could consolidate the illness in some people, especially among young people who are still teetering on the brink.”

Having gotten that out of the way, the rest of the Times article focused mainly on the the emergence of a new attitude and commitment to equality among younger people, in contrast to the timidity that was still common among the older generation. The youth, who were organizing gay advocacy and social groups at an astonishing pace across the country, were inspired particularly by the African-American civil rights movement as well as the women’s movement:

“We are all fighting for equal rights as human beings,” explained (New York Mattachine Society president Michael) Kotis, who had a picture of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. above his desk in the society’s cramped offices on West End Avenue. “The philosophical ideals on which this country was founded have yet to be realized. We owe a great debt to the blacks — they were the pioneers.”


But gays and lesbians were up against a lot of history. They were also up against a lot of internalized shame and guilt — even among some of the brave new activists:

“The first job we have to do is to decondition ourselves, to undo that self-contempt we have,” said Don Kilhefner, a graduate student who started a Gay Liberation branch at the University of California at Los Angeles. “We’ve gone through the same kind of conditioning blacks have gone through. We believe the myth society tells about us, consciously or unconsciously.”

“Homosexuality is not an illness; it’s a way of expressing love for someone of the same sex, and any form of love is beautiful and valid,” said Karla, a leader of the Lavender Menace, a lesbian organization in New York, who would not give her full name.

The article went on to discuss some of the discrimination that gay people face, particularly in employment where they were routinely fired if their employers found out they were gay:

As a result, people like Karla, despite her devotion to the movement, are still afraid. “I still face the possibility that I might have to make it in the ‘straight’ world,” she said, in explaining why she would not give her full name. “And there are a lot of things you still can’t do if they know you’re ‘gay’.” In answer to these problems, “gay” organizations provide legal counsel, offer advice on job hunting, and lobby for legislative reforms.

There is much that feels antiquated about this article more than forty years later, but there is also much that feels familiar, particularly the tensions between the more established gay rights groups who feared pushing too hard and provoking a backlash (and who, quite visibly in this article, called themselves “homosexuals”), and the younger, more active members of the community who were impatient for change and were more willing to take their complaints to the street — and to proclaim themselves gay:

There are sharp disagreements within the homosexual community. People such as Michael Brown of Gay Liberation in New York identify with a broader radical movement. “The older groups are oriented toward getting accepted by the Establishment,” he said, “but what the Establishment has to offer is not worth my time. …”

On the other side are organizations such as the Tangent Group in Los Angeles, headed by a brisk, middle aged man named Don Slater (Aug 21). He agreed that homosexuals should have pride in themselves, but he added: “People should stop thinking of homosexuals as a class. They’re not. We have spent 20 years convincing people that homosexuals are no different than anyone else, and here these kids come along and reinforce what society’s thought all along — that they’re ‘queer.’ ‘Gay’ is good! To hell with that. Individuals are good.”

The parameters of the argument have changed quite a bit in the past forty years, but the fundamental discussion continues: assimilation vs. queer identity, the establishment vs. the grassroots, Gay, Inc. vs. Act-Up. Some things may never change.

Today In History, 1977: “The Advocate” Reports Another FBI Document Dump On Gay Rights Groups

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 5.50.49 PMJust two days after The Advocate published its exposé on decades of FBI surveillance of thousands of gay men and gay rights groups (Jul 8), the FBI responded to another Freedom of Information Act request by releasing another twenty-four pages from its files on the Gay Liberation Movement. The documents span the period from August 22, 1969 to April 22, 1972, and report on gay rights groups in San Antonio, Austin, Ann Arbor and New York City.

The Advocate found the documents “unrevealing, except as indicators of FBI thinking during the period,” namely, that the FBI “did not consider the gay movement particularly worthy of its attention.” This was in sharp contrasts to earlier files from the 1940s to the 1960s which demonstrated the FBI’s pre-occupation that gay people might be blackmailed into becoming Soviet informants. Those earlier files also revealed that the FBI, in turn, also sought to coerce gay people into becoming informants for the FBI. The latest release, on the other hand, revealed that whatever worries the FBI may have had about homosexuals in previous decades, radical “New Left” civil rights and anti-war movements on the nation’s campuses and major cities were now the focus of FBI surveillance.

If the latest release wasn’t particularly revealing in its details, the process the Advocate had to go through to get those files under the Freedom of Information Act was:

A bout a year and a half ago, The ADVOCATE mailed out a flurry of FOIA requests to nearly two dozen federal spy agencies, seeking proof of a gay informant’s claims that files were kept on the publication and its employees. After a year-long wait, most of the agencies replied that the publication was not on file. The Military Intelligence group of the U.S. Army, however, reported that at one time it had a file titled “Advocate,” but didn’t know if it referred to this publication or another Advocate because the file, it said, had been destroyed.

We followed these turn-downs with detailed appeals and were again told we just weren’t listed. Additionally, we requested the files of two ADVOCATE employees who, the government agencies finally said, also were not on file.

Taking inspiration from the success of the Los Angeles Times in locating some 1,500 pages of flies in a request for material on the”Women’s Liberation Movement,” we then filed for information on the “Gay Liberation Movement,”

The FBI indicated in its cover letter that all it had on “GLM” was what it had sent. Deletions, so common in most FOIA-processed documents, were few, generally involving only the names of “sources” or its information.

Apparently, to get the full story of what the FBI or other agencies actually have on file about the gay rights movement, it will be necessary to file numerous requests, specifically naming a variety of organizations and individuals. The agency wilt not release files on specific people to us because this would be an invasion of those persons’ privacy. Additionally. there is some doubt that it will release information about organizations to anyone except representatives (past or present) of those organizations.

The Advocate suggested that the best avenue for future FOIA requests would be for those organizations aligned with the so-called “New Left.”

"Fag Liberation Movement"

“Fag Liberation Movement”

As for the documents in this latest release, only one was derogatory. “Whether in jest or from prejudice,” one memo described the New York Gay Liberation Front as a “Fag Liberation Movement.” The memo went on to described two GLF protests before concluding: “In view of the nature of subject organization, it is recommended that no further investigation be conducted, and that this case be placed in a closed status.”

The FBI’s interest in the Ann Arbor GLF stemmed mainly in that group’s connections to other campus leftist groups which, the FBI Detroit field office said, “use the GLM (gay liberation movement) as a device to further ‘New Left’ agitation.” A later 1970 memo pointed out the the University of Michigan had enjoyed “an unusually quiet summer,” and by October, the Detroit office reported that the GLF was “small in number and ineffectual as an independent group… They, as a group, have not taken any independent aggressive action on a New Left project or activity. They have no regular membership, dues or meetings, and it is felt that their purpose remains social rather than political.” By 1971, the Detroit office placed the GLF “in a closed status to be re-opened at such a time when the group again becomes active in New Left matters.”

The last two documents mentioned, in passing, the participation of the San Antonio and Austin gay rights groups in anti-war demonstrations. Overall, the tone of the documents released to the Advocate seemed to indicate an overall disinterest on the FBI’s part in gay rights groups and movements. In fact, later FOIA releases would show that the FBI maintained a watchful vigilance on the Gay Activists Alliance and on GLFs around the country through the early 1970s, with the main focus being on discovering any ties they may have had with other leftist groups.

[Source: Sasha Gregory-Lewis. “Gay Liberation Movement FBI Files Released to ADVOCATE.” The Advocate issue 222 (August 24, 1977): 36-38.]

Today In History, 1977: Houston Klan: “We Endorse and Seek the Execution of All Homosexuals”

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Site of the Klan's bookstore in Pasadena, TX. (via Flicker)

Site of the Klan’s bookstore in Pasadena, TX. (via Flicker)

The Star, a gay paper in Houston, reported that the phone answering machine message for the Klan’s bookstore in the Houston suburb of Pasadena said, in part:

The Ku Klux Klan is not embarrassed to admit that we endorse and seek the execution of all homosexuals. While many church people are duped by their brain-washed, pinky-panty preachers into believing that we should merely pray for the homosexuals, we find that we must endorse and support the law of God, which calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. … Not only have we seen the establishment of homosexual churches in our once unblemished land, but at least two major denominations have actually ordained homosexuals into the ministry.

The Ku Klux Klan does not have to rely on the feelings or thoughts of man, nor do we need to experience a dialogue with some Jewish Psychiacrist or rabbi who is mentally warped anyway. We rely on the age-proven and reliable law of God. …The law on homosexuality states: “That if a man also lie with mankind as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, and shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). … It is not our intention to but this matter up to a discussion or debate the matter or start a dialogue with a committee of queers as to their rights of sexual freedom. The law of God states the death penalty for homosexuals, and when God’s laws are again enforced, the death penalty is what it will be.”

[Source: The Star, as quoted in “‘We endorse and seek the execution of all homosexuals’ — KKK.” Arizona Gay News (September 16, 1977): 2.]

Today In History, 1988: Canada’s Largest Protestant Church Accepts Gay Ordination

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

The governing council of the United Church of Canada voted at a meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, to allow gay men and women to be ordained into the clergy. The church, which was formed in 1925 from a merger of Canada’s Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches, decreed: “All persons regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become members of the United Church. All members of the church are eligible to be considered for the ministry. All Christian people are called to a lifestyle patterned on Jesus Christ. All congregations, presbyteries and conference covenant to work out the implications of sexual orientation and lifestyles in the light of Holy Scriptures.”

The final report approved by the governing council added: “we confess before God that as a Christian community we have participated in a history of injustice and persecution against gay and lesbian persons in violation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It also acknowledged “our continued confusion and struggle to understand homosexuality.”

The 205-160 vote followed months of heated debate, during which a quarter of the church’s ministers and 30,000 of its 860,000 members signed a declaration opposing the move. Over the next four years, membership fell by 78,000 as some congregations split and a few others left the denomination altogether.

Born On This Day, 1917: Chuck Rowland

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

(d. 1990) His tiny hometown of Gary, South Dakota, straddling the state line with Minnesota, may have been off the beaten path, but the town’s only newsstand was located in his father’s drugstore, providing young Chuck with a window to a much larger world. He vividly remembered that day when he snatched a copy of Sexology magazine, a small quasi-scientific magazine about the size of a Reader’s Digest, and read “that if one was homosexual, he shouldn’t feel strange or odd, that there were millions of us, that there was nothing wrong with it.” Rowland knew from the time he was ten years old that he was gay, when he fell in love with another boy. “As soon as I read that there were millions of us, I said to myself, well, it’s perfectly obvious that what we have to do is organize, and why don’t we identify with other minorities, such as the blacks and the Jews? I had never known a black, but I did know one Jew in our town. Obviously, it had to be an organization that worked with other minorities, so we would wield tremendous strength.” Organizing would become Rowland’s greatest contribution to the early gay rights movement.

In the late 1930s, Rowland went to the University of Minnesota where he met Bob Hull (May 31), and the two became lovers, briefly, and then lifelong friends. Rowland was drafted into the Army, but thanks to a severe injury he stayed stateside and, “frankly, I had a ball.” After his discharge in 1946, he became an organizer for the New York-based American Veterans Committee, a liberal veterans group. Rowland also became friends with a young man whose parents had been Communists. Rowland decided to join the Communist Party and became head of a youth group called the American Youth for Democracy in the Dakotas and Minnesota. He left in 1948, “not because I disagreed with anything, but because I just wanted out. Joining the Communist Party is very much like joining a monastery or becoming a priest. It is total dedication, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.”

That year, Rowland moved to Los Angeles to start a new life. Hull soon followed and the two of them met Harry Hay (Apr 7), who was already kicking around with the idea of starting an organization for homosexuals. Rowland and Hull, along with Dale Jennings (Oct 21), met with Hay and Hay’s lover, Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), and in November of 1950 they formed what would become the Mattachine Foundation (Nov 11). Rowland’s organizational skills to be an important asset to the fledgling group. Given the fearful political climate of the McCarthy era, Mattachine meetings were held in secret, with members using aliases and the leadership known only as “The Fifth Order.” Taking a cue from the Communist party, each discussion group or chapter was operated autonomously with loose coordination, so that if police were to raid and arrest the members of one chapter, it wouldn’t endanger the others.

An exceptionally rare photo of early members of the Mattachine Society. Pictured are Harry Hay (upper left, Apr 7), then (l-r) Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings (Oct 21), Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), Stan Witt, Bob Hull (May 31), Chuck Rowland (in glasses), Paul Bernard. Photo by James Gruber (Aug 21). (Click to enlarge.)

That worked for a while. But by 1953, Mattachine had grown to over 2,000 members, thanks in part to the publicity over Dale Jennings’s acquittal of trumped up charges for soliciting a police officer (Jun 23). Mattachine raised its profile during the trial: raising money, hiring a lawyer, and generating quite a bit of publicity along the way. But the flood of new members brought pressure to change the Foundation. In particular, they demanded the secrecy surrounding the leadership’s identities be abandoned and the organization cleared of Communists. Many of them also demanded that the Foundation become less “activist,” an ironic stance given that Mattachine’s activism in the Jennings case was what made the newer members aware of the organization in the first place.

The group also split over a far more fundamental disagreement: over the nature of homosexuality itself. Were they a distinct cultural minority seeking recognition, or were they exactly like heterosexuals in every way except one? The latter “integrationist” model was sought by many (though certainly not all) of the more “conservative” members, who also demanded transparency, the ejection of former Communists, and a non-confrontational approach to public activism. A Constitutional Convention was called to try to reconcile the many emerging fault lines and come up with a new organizational structure that everyone could agree on (Apr 11). Rowland gave a speech which blasted through the wall of secrecy of the group’s leadership. “You will want to know something about the beginnings of the Mattachine Society, how the Fifth Order happened to be. … I think it is reasonable that you should ask this and important that you understand it,” he said. He then introduced the leadership to the rank-and-file. That satisfied one of the conservatives’ demands. But he also declared his unwavering belief that homosexuals were a unique, valuable segment of society, and if they could only see themselves as such, and with pride, only then could they effect change in society. “The time will come when we will march arm in arm, ten abreast down Hollywood Boulevard proclaiming our pride in our homosexuality.” The newer members found that idea far too radical and confrontational — and downright “communistic.”

Rowland proposed a new constitution, organizing the Mattachine Foundation as a group of autonomous clubs governed by a committee and an annual convention. His draft constitution was rejected and the convention decided to suspend its meeting due to a lack of consensus. During a second meeting called for May, Rowland, Hull and Hay resigned their leadership positions, the remaining members declared the Mattachine Foundation disbanded, and announced the formation of the newly reconstituted Mattachine Society with a centralized organizational structure and a disavowal of activism.

Rowland tried to remain active in the new Society, in a chapter that was intended to take on legal cases. But an attorney for the new Society charged that “the very existence of a Legal Chapter, if publicized to society at large, would intimidate and anger heterosexual society.” At the next convention in November, Rowland’s chapter was shut down, Rowland himself was branded a Communist, his credentials were revoked and he was out of the group.

Meanwhile, a group of disaffected Mattachine members had founded ONE, Inc. (Oct 15), which was originally formed solely to publish ONE magazine, but which found itself fielding questions and requests for help from gay men and women who were showing up at its tiny Los Angeles office. Rowland became director of ONE’s social services division, providing job placement and counseling services for nearly 100 people in 1955 alone. The following year, Rowland decided to found a church, the Church of One Brotherhood, using the name he lifted from ONE. The church launched a burst of activity in social work, activism and advocacy before flaming out in 1958.

Soon after, Rowland began suffering from alcoholism, had a nervous breakdown, saw a business partnership go belly-up, went into debt, and was evicted from his home. When Hull committed suicide in 1962, Rowland decided it was time to start over. He moved to Iowa where he somehow managed to become a high school teacher. He then earned his master’s degree in theater in 1968 and chaired a theater arts department at a Minnesota college. On retiring in 1982, Rowland returned to Los Angeles to form Celebration Theatre, “the only theatre in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to productions of gay and lesbian plays.”

In March of 1990, Rowland was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He moved to Duluth, into an apartment donated by a former student, and spent the remainder of his days among students and relatives. He died on December 20, 1990.

Born On This Day, 1957: Stephen Fry

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Fry never really had an official coming out moment in his professional life. When he was asked when he first acknowledged his sexuality, Fry joked, “I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb. I looked back up at my mother and thought to myself: ‘That’s the last time I’m going up one of those.'” His early interests included being expelled from two schools and spending three months in prison for credit card fraud. But once he got that behind him, he earned a scholarship to Queen’s College at Cambridge where he was awarded a degree in English literature. While at Cambridge, he joined the Cambridge Footlights, an amateur theatrical club, where he met his best friend and comedy co-conspirator Hugh Laurie.

After a Cambridge Footlights Review in which Fry appeared was broadcast on television in 1982, Fry and Laurie were signed to two comedy series for Granada Television. In 1983, the duo moved to the BBC. Their first show, a science fiction mocumentary, flopped and was cancelled after only one episode. Their next project, the sketch comedy A Bit of Fry & Laurie, was considerably more successful, running for four seasons between 1986 and 1995. Fry also appeared in several episodes of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder series.

Beginning in 1992, Fry began appearing in several BBC dramas, and in in 2005 he added documentaries to his many projects. He explored his bipolar disorder in the Emmy Award-winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006, and that same year he delved into his genealogy in an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? His six part 2008 series Stephen Fry in America had him travelling through all fifty states, mostly in a London Cab. His film credits include portraying Oscar Wilde — a role he said he was born to play — in 1997’s critically acclaimed Wilde. He made his directorial debut in 2003’s Bright Young Things, and he provided the voice for the Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Fry’s interests seems to know no bounds. He’s appeared in London’s West End, published four novels and several non-fiction works, and sat on the board of directors of the Norwich City Football Club from 2010 to 2016. He flies his own biplane, and is a member of the Noel Coward Society, the Oscar Wilde Society, the Sherlock Holmes Society — and he was was voted pipe-smoker of the year in 2003.

He is also an advocate for mental health, based on his own struggles with bipolar disorder and thoughts of suicide. In 2013, he revealed that while filming abroad for a BBC documentary, “I took a huge number of pills and a huge [amount] of vodka.” The mixture made him convulse so much that he broke four ribs. “It was a close-run thing,” he said. “Fortunately, the producer I was filming with at the time came into the hotel room and I was found in a sort of unconscious state and taken back to England and looked after.” That documentary Fry was filming, “Stephen Fry: Out There” aired on BBC 2 in November 2013, and it featured him confronting anti-gay campaigners in Russia, Uganda and elsewhere around the world, as well as ex-gay movement leaders in the United States. He married comedian Elliot Spencer in 2015

Activists Urge Indonesian Court to Criminalize Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, so this development is disturbing:

A group of academics and activists urged the Constitutional Court of Indonesia to criminalize fornication and homosexuality on Tuesday in the latest hearing of a lawsuit that began earlier this year.

The suit, which has been brought by 12 academics and activists, has already had several hearings, but captured international attention earlier this month when it was reported that the petitioners sought the criminalization of homosexuality. But they are actually seeking a broader reform of the country’s criminal code, according to court filings, that would not only criminalize homosexuality but also make sex between unmarried people a crime.

Tuesday’s hearing, which was attended by a large group of activists from an Islamic women’s organization, was the second in which the petitioners were able to present witnesses in support of their case. They argued that not only was the country on the verge of a crisis of sexual morality, but it was at risk of having its core Muslim values overridden by international human rights claims that embrace LGBT rights.

The usual tropes are being trotted out here as we’ve seen elsewhere, including the charge that gay people are a risk to children. The chairman of the National Child Protection Commission is calling for five years imprisonment for homosexuality. Another activist representing the Family Love Alliance is calling for the expansion of an existing law mandating fifteen years’ imprisonment for sex between adults and minors to include consensual same-sex relationships between adults:

Rita Hendrawaty, chairwoman of the group, said Wednesday it was not trying to criminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“The real reason is so that we have much clearer norms,” she said.

“We are not intending to criminalize those who have a deviant sexual orientation. That is not the point. They can be free to live but not show their lifestyle.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia. The Indonesian government opposes the lawsuit, although that appears to be mainly due to its inclusion of a call to criminalize “fornication” between any two unmarried adults. But the same government has, over the past year, issued calls to ban gay groups from university campuses, prohibit positive or neutral portrayal of gay people in the media, and even the removal of LGBT-supportive emojis from smart phone apps. The defense minister likened gay rights groups to a “type of modern warefare.” Two weeks ago, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s president said that there was “no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement.” The Indonesia Psychiatric Association classifies homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism as mental disorders, leading so-called “experts” to promote conversion therapy.

The LGBT movement has been forced to set up safe houses and deploy other security measures in response.

And many LGBT Indonesians are combing through their social media to “unfriend” anyone who might disapprove of them.

“Normally I just share everything gay about me,” said Safir Soeparna, who works for Apcom, a Bangkok-based group focusing on HIV in gay men. “Now I’m a bit like … will somebody use this to blackmail me? So I rechecked my ‘friend’ list and deleted people I can’t trust 100 percent.”

Several activists have also adopted new security strategies.

“My guys don’t even go to the office any more. It’s too dangerous. We’ve never really experienced this,” Oetomo said.

The staff of Arus Pelangi, which provides legal assistance for LGBT people, set up a buddy system in January because police could not guarantee their security, and started a hotline for people needing help, Chairwoman Yuli Rustinawati said.

Mat Staver Calls for “Civil Disobedience” Over SCOTUS Marriage Decision

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

Right Wing Watch caught up with Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver who was speaking to a Pennsylvania anti-abortion group last April:

We are coming to a place, ladies and gentleman, where we have to make a decision. Where we have to make a decision like Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a decision, like Martin Niemoller made a decision. We are coming to the position where we are in the same place that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had to make a decision, where the founders of this country had to make a decision that we will either obey God or we will obey man. And when those two directly, inherently, irrevocably collide with one another. We are in a position like Daniel in the lions’ den, like the three Hebrews that would not bow down, like Esther, who offered her life on the line and engaged in civil resistance against the most powerful king on the planet. We are coming to that moment in time.

When we have five lawyers on the Supreme Court — and I’ve had the opportunity to argue there, I’ve written lots of briefs, I’ve been a dean of a law school, I’ve been a tenured law school professor, I’ve taught constitutional law, I know all of that issue. But when we have five lawyers on the Supreme Court that not only contradict themselves in a two years period because, you know in 2013 they said the states had a right to define marriage, and in June 2015 they said states don’t have the right to define marriage. Frankly, states don’t have the right to define marriage to begin with any more than they have the right to redefine gravity. It is what it is. It’s part of natural creation. But they contradict themselves in a period of two years, and as Chief Justice John Roberts said, the five lawyers — that’s his term, not mine — they impose their will on a legal judgment not based on the Constitution, not based on the Court’s precedent.

That’s a lawless opinion. When are we going to stop playing charades and pretend that whatever those five people say, whoever they might be, whatever they say, no matter how devoid of the Constitution it may be, that it becomes the law of the land? It doesn’t! If that’s your belief system, if you have gotten so brainwashed to think that whatever those five people in Washington, D.C., say, we now have to march to it like toy soldiers because if they say so, irrespective of the fact that they have no authority under the Constitution to do it, then you would support Dred Scott, you would support Buck v. Bell, because those decisions came down from the United States Supreme Court as well.

And those decisions, the Dred Scott by the Supreme Court, they said that Blacks were not entitled to citizenship and therefore you cannot bring your case in court. We had a civil war to overturn that nonsense.

Staver gets his history just about as wrong as he does the law. Whenever anyone disagrees with a Supreme Court decision, they often point to Dred Scott as an example as a truly awful decision. We all know it was morally repugnant and a dark stain on our nation’s history. But that dark stain came about because the Constitution at the time — remember, it counted Black slaves like Dred Scott as only three-fifths of a person — made it pretty clear that he and others in his situation were not full citizens, not according to that pre-Thirteenth Amendment Constitution anyway. Pointing out that awful fact of history and the sorry state of the Constitution that our forefathers had foisted on this country is in now way the same as saying you support Dred Scott. No decent person can support what that decision did to Mr. Scott and million others like him. But since justices can’t declare constitutions unconstitutional, it seems to me that a decision like Dred Scott, as odious as it was, was also inevitable under the version of the Constitution they were stuck with in 1857. And that’s why we had a civil war and two critical constitutional amendments to ensure that black people would be full citizens rather than three-fifths of a person.

Staver’s respect for the law is just about as slippery as his grasp of history. As the law school dean at Liberty University, which he bragged about in this clip, he taught his law students that they should counsel their clients to break the law in favor of “God’s Law” if they perceive a conflict. And according to a RICO lawsuit that is currently pending in court connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school apparently practices what he taught.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

From GAY (New York, NY), August 8, 1970, page 15.

From GAY (New York, NY), August 8, 1970, page 15.

Twenty-nine year old Morris Levy used his fortune from Roulette Records, which he had founded in 1956, to buy Roundtable two year later when the previous owners racked up a $750,000 tax bill. Before Levy bought, renovated and renamed it, the club had been the Versailles, which for the previous twenty-two years was regarded as one of the finest restaurant/cabarets in the world. Levy turned the Roundtable into a restaurant and jazz club featuring several major acts. It was also a rather convivial place, with Steve Allen stopping in to take a spin at the piano and Jackie Cooper joining him on drums from time to time. By about 1970, jazz had departed the Roundtable, and the stage and dance floor area was given over to the gays, and a few years after that the Roundtable jumped on the disco bandwagon. GAY, the nation’s first weekly gay newspaper, said in 1971 that the Roundtable was “like dying and going to heaven.

Today In History, 1971: Newsweek’s “The Militant Homosexual”

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2016

We’re here…

In the two years following the seminal Stonewall Rebellion, a new wave of gay advocacy and visibility broke over the landscape, going far beyond anything that had gone before. Straight America was scratching its collective head: where did all of these homosexuals come from? They seemed to be everywhere — holding hands in Greenwich Village, running for student presidents at major universities, and marching in the streets shouting something about “gay pride.” Newsweek devoted four pages trying to explain it all to its readers:

To supporters of gay liberation, marching in the streets and holding hands in public are only minor gestures of assertion. They are picketing the Pentagon, testifying at government hearings on discrimination, appearing on TV talk shows, lecturing to Rotary Clubs, organizing their own churches and social organizations and, perhaps most important of all, using their real names. “Two or three years ago, a homosexual who tried to explain what he and the gay movement were all about would have been ridiculed,” says Troy Perry, a homosexual minister who established Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 and has been a movement hero ever since.

…What seemed then it relatively minor clash is now enshrined in gay-lib lore as the “Stonewall Rebellion.” Within weeks, the first of scores of militant homosexual groups, the Gay Liberation Front, was formed in New York. The new mood quickly crossed the continent, leading to the creation of similar organizations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. By the first anniversary of the Stonewall incident, the militants were on the march in a dozen cities. By the second anniversary, they were celebrating Gay Pride Week with an elaborate panoply of parades and protests. The movement already has a book-length history in print and some of its more imaginative propagandists have even begun to speak of a “Stonewall Nation.”

Virtually the entire four-page article dealt with the sudden visibility of the gay community — a visibility which had personal, psychological, familial and political aspects, according to Newsweek. As one measure of the surprise this new openness must have engendered, the word “militant” appeared in the four-page article fifteen times. And what the authors regarded “militant” is revealing: they described “militants” coming out to their friends, families and employers; “militants” wanting acceptance; “militants” refusing to accept the APA’s verdict that they were mentally ill (the APA would set aside that verdict two years later); “militants” demanding an end to the ban on federal employment; “militants” starting gay churches and “militants” getting married in them, and “militants” saying it’s great to be gay. And that last thing, according to Newsweek was especially dangerous:

What all this suggests is a central problem that gay liberation usually chooses to ignore: if the movement succeeds in creating an image of “normality” for homosexuals in the society at large, would it encourage more homosexually inclined people — particularly young people — to follow their urges without hesitation? No one really knows for certain. Dr. Paul Gebhard, the distinguished anthropologist who directs the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, believes that gay lib “will not convert heterosexuals into homosexuals but might encourage those who are going in a homosexual direction to feel less guilty about it.” New York sociologist Edward Sagarin takes an even dimmer view. “If the militants didn’t say that it is great to be gay,” Sagarin insists, “more adolescents with homosexual tendencies might seek to change instead of resolving their confusion by accepting the immediate warm security that tells them they are normal.”

A sharp-eyed reader may recognize Edward Sagarin’s name. A decade earlier, he used to be a regarded as the influential “Father of the Homophile Movement,” writing under the pseudonym of Donald Webster Corey. Sagarin might have been a towering gay rights figure if he hadn’t turned against the very movement he inspired (Sep 18). Three weeks later, gay rights advocate Frank Kameny (May 21), who undoubtedly felt a personal responsibility to respond to the man who had once inspired him to advocate for gay rights, challenged that paragraph with this letter to the editor:

The gay liberation movement has been formulating its positions for some twenty years, has quite “come to grips with all the implications of its own positions” and does not at all “choose to ignore” the “problem” of “more homosexually inclined people — particularly young people — [following] their urges without hesitation.” Not only do we consider this neither a problem nor a danger; we consider it an eminently desirable goal to be worked toward and achieved as soon and as fully as possible. It is the very essence of liberation.

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