So It’s Come To This: Ted Cruz Is the GOP’s Conscience

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2016

I guess it takes a narcissist to take on a narcissist. As William Saletan wrote back in January, the Republican Party is a failed state, and Trump is its warlord.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 21

From the Souvenir Program of the Michelle International contest held in San Francisco, 1962. (Source.)

From the Souvenir Program of the Michelle International contest held in San Francisco, 1962. (Source.)

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1957), and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) introduced Americans to the “Beat Generation,” a group, and then a movement, which began in New York’s Greenwhich Village and ended up relocating, for the most part, to San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, nurtured by City Lights bookstore, Cafe Trieste, and the Six Gallery. San Francisco columnist Herbert Caen dubbed them “Beatniks,” riffing on Sputnik which was orbiting overhead and the subject of considerable American angst. Others, filled with considerable American angst, picked up that term which seemed to suggest not only that the Beats were as far out of that product of Communism, but that they themselves were a product of that same ideology. The Beats probably reached their peak awareness among middle-Americans with the archetypal Beatnik character of Maynard G. Krebs (played by future Gilligan, Bob Denver) in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963. Goatees, berets, black sweaters, bongo drums, roll-your-own cigarettes (often with substances other than tobacco) and a general, overall rebellion against the straight-laced norms of the McCarthy-dominated fifties marked the Beats as both a dangerous and fascinating phenomenon.

Thanks to the Beats’ non-conformist attitudes, a number of gay artists were associated with the subculture. In addition to Ginsberg (Jun 3) and Burroughs (Feb 5), there were the poets Robert Duncan (who had a brief affair with abstract impressionist painter Robert De Niro, Sr.), Robin Blaser, and Jack Spicer, (along with his partner, the abstract-impressionist artist Jess Collins). It’s not surprising that gay people would be fascinated by this movement, given its embrace of nonconformity.

In 1959, ONE magazine, the nation’s first nationally-distributed gay-themed publication, capitalized with that fascination with a cover story on “The Homosexual and the Beat Generation.” The author, Wallace de Ortega Maxey, was himself the embodiment of counter-culturalism. He was former priest and Archbishop of the American Old Catholic Church (an independent breakaway church) who seemed to collect consecrations from a bewildering number of pseudo-Catholic churches and the Episcopal Church, before abandoning independent Catholicism in 1954 and establishing the Liberal Universalist Church, first in Los Angeles in 1954, and then in Fresno. He was also an early Mattachine member and author of Man Is A Sexual Being (1958). By the time Maxey wrote his article for ONE, San Francisco’s Beats found themselves being gawked at by tourists and bedeviled by wannabe weekend Beatniks. Maxey began his article by describing the difference between what he called the real Beats and these poseurs:

The Homosexual and the Beat Generation.This gang of “kix” hoodlums consist of heterosexuals in the larger number. They are those who like to “cash-in” on the daring and non-conforming Beats. Having money in their pockets, they think they can out-buy, out-bid and out-sex the Beats. The few homos in this tribe of week-enders are of the timid sort who can’t make it in their own everyday world and in despair hope to find “satisfaction” in the world of the beat generation. …

There is a distinction to be made between the beat-homo and the nonbeat. The beat-homo has no inhibitions. Within his own consciousness he has accepted himself and is completely integrated. He is not fighting himself, much less the rest of the world. This applies to the male as well as the female of the species. He doesn’t give one god damn what the world thinks about him. Like the rest of the beat generation he simply wants to be left alone. He has closed his mental door to the rat-race. He has cut himself off from the shams and shamans of the competitive world. He is usually of the aesthetic type, psychologically, not necessarily so physically.

I have seen some gangling seamen and longshoremen, truck drivers, woodsmen and cement-construction workers, that would surprise all hell out of you when you listen to their conversation. In their particular fields of interest and study they are extraordinarily well informed. There is one chap I am thinking of who has been a seaman all his life, who can keep you spell-bound when telling about the “history of erotica”. Another, a female, could write a book about the world’s historic prostitutes and how they have influenced political thought. Still another homo-beat has been in several mental institutions under observation, but can reel off anything you want to know about the religions of the Orient. Of course, I am speaking of the real Beats, the ones who have severed all ties with the square world, as far as it is humanly possible to do, and still live.

It has been said that Allen Ginsberg is the St. Peter of the beat generation. He has been quoted in the New York Post (3-13-59) as saying: “I sleep, with men and with women. I am neither queer nor not queer, nor am I bi-sexual. My name is Allen Ginsberg and I sleep with whoever I want.” It has been my experience in discussing life in general with a considerable number of Beats, that these words of Allen Ginsberg voice quite accurately the opinions of the majority of the real Beats.

Maxey went on to describe two “Beat-homos” that he had been counseling. The first was “Tom Doe,” who had been kicked out of the Army when they found out he was gay. Saddled with a less-than-honorable discharge, he had trouble finding steady work. He lost his home, turned to alcohol, and “ended up three months later on a pad in Beatnik-land.” After discovering Maxey’s book, Doe underwent counseling with Maxey, with some considerable success:

When finally he was able to stop his self·deception and admit to himself he was what he was, all other matters took their proper place. When this bug-a-boo was disposed of and he could see his “whole self”, not just the phantom side, it was not long before he had re-established himself. However, he still thinks of himself as a Beatnik and has never moved away from Beatnik-land. At present, after much struggling and hardship he owns and operates a “shop” making a moderate living off the “squares” that come to stare at the Beats.

The second example, that of “Jim Doe,” is probably a better portrayal of a true San Francisco “Beat-homo”:

As stated previously he contended homosexuality was not his problem. He freely and frankly admitted to such tendency. When we met he was quite outspoken and wasted no words in getting to the situation that was disturbing him. He lived with a man and a girl in Beatnik-land; was contemplating going to art school and was quite talented in music and painting. He had been successful to the extent of having sold two of his compositions and one oil painting for a quite tidy sum of money. He claimed that his social relations were excellent with the other Beatniks and that generally speaking they liked him. What was his problem? Doubt. Underneath all the social relationships there was ever present a constant fear of someone betraying him. Of misplaced confidence. He never completely trusted anyone. Basically, when he got right down to the subject he was so damn lonesome, at nights after social events he usually went home alone, locked himself in his room and cried.

Doubt was his problem. First, I learned that he really doubted himself. After considerable discussion with Jim, I came to the conclusion his acceptance of his homosexuality was not as he made it appear. From his reading of abnormal phychology he wondered about his sex. As he said to me, “Am I a man or a woman?” “Who really was my father?” (He had never been able to find a birth record.) “Have I ever loved anyone?” “Does anything have any real meaning — or is life just an illusion?” “Dare I really trust anyone, completely?” “Must I go through all my life in doubt?” “The only reason I’m a Beatnik is that none of them try to pry into my personal life … I can get along with the other Beatniks because they don’t ask ‘personal questions’ “.

Naturally it took considerable time and effort to bring about a change in his outlook on life. After exploring the various psychological “excuses” he presented for his condition, we assumed none were satisfactory by way of explanation. He had experienced a rotten home life in his youth. So have thousands of people. Examples were cited of heroic characters who began in pot-sheds. Switching to the existentialist treatment, in a few words I made it clear to him quoting from Jean-Paul Sartre: “Whereas the existentialist says that the coward makes himself cowardly, the hero makes himself heroic; and that there is always the possibility for the coward to give up cowardice and for the hero to stop being a hero. What counts is the total commitment, and it is not by a particular case or particular action that you are committed altogether.”

…The final outcome in Jim Doe’s story is interesting. He met a girl named Dora, a confirmed Lesbian. They got married and now have two children, a boy and a girl. Jim still says he is an homosexual and Dora affirms she is still a Lesbian, and they both live in Beatnik-land.

Maxey found similarities between the Beat Generation and the so-called “Lost Generation,” the group of artists of the inter-war years which included Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But…

I think the Lost Generation placed more emphasis on the social and civil liberties interests than the Beats are doing. I think the beat generation is more nude than the Lost Generation was. There is little to discover among the Beatniks. As a matter of fact, they have a certain amount of juvenile crudeness in their art work and writing, with exceptions of course. They, the Beats, are not forced to starve while many · of the Lost Generation were, during the long siege of the depression.

However, with all their vices and virtues if they can teach the world by example the evils of social conformity, I feel they will go down in history as having made a worthwhile contribution.

[Source: Wallace de Ortega Maxey. “The Homosexual and the Beat Generation” ONE 7, no. 7 (July 1959): 5-9. ]

Protesters Confront Rubio In Orlando

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

rubioThings got ugly in a city where nerves are still very raw. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was in Orlando at a press event just blocks away from the site of the Pulse gay night club massacre which killed 49 and injured 53 a little over a month ago. The framing of Rubio’s visit probably didn’t help any. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it was “focused on how Rubio was trying to help businesses affected by slow traffic around the mass shooting scene.” It’s a legitimate concern. Those businesses are struggling and some have had to lay off employees. But given Rubio’s anti-gay record, it was very unrealistic for Rubio to expect a warm reception that close to Pulse and this close in time to the massacre:

Instead, about 30 protesters shouted so loudly outside that Rubio could hardly be heard at some points. The goal of the protest was to highlight Rubio’s lack of support for such things as gun control measures.

“I’m really angry at you,” Moran said. “I don’t feel you’re doing anything to support the LGBTQ people. I need to know what is your relationship is with the NRA. Why are you talking with transphobes and homophobes like John Stemberger… all of you have blood on your hands,” Moran said.

Rubio responded, “I disagree with your assessment… Homophobia means you’re scared of people, I’m not scared of people. Quite frankly I respect all people. We probably have a disagreement on the definition of marriage.”

Moran interrupted again, “Your policies kill people. Your policies enable people to be murdered. You have to protect us. You’re not protecting us. We’re going to be gunned down.”

John Stemberger and Marco Rubio

John Stemberger and Marco Rubio

John Stemberger is Florida’s leading and best-known anti-LGBT activist as head of Florida Family Action. Stemberger recently endorsed Rubio’s re-entry into the race to retain his Senate seat. Rubio responded with a Facebook post saying, “I’m honored to receive John Stemberger’s endorsement and I look forward to working alongside Florida’s faith leaders to uphold our conservative values.”

The Sentinel has video of the confrontation.

Report: Trump To Seek New Powers To Purge the Civil Service

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2016

There are a whole range of policy-making positions in the federal government occupied by people who serve at the President’s pleasure. Cabinet secretaries are the obvious ones, but the range of positions extend several layers down from there. But there is a point in the hierarchy where jobs are shielded from political patronage by Civil Service laws. The President doesn’t get to fire those people based on the color of their shoes or the party ID on their registration cards. Trump surrogate Chris Christie is telling donors that they aim to change that if Trump is elected:

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

…Trump’s transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said

…”One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people,” Christie said. He said firing civil servants was “cumbersome” and “time-consuming.”

They fear that “Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants” because every president before them did the same thing. And to be clear, this practice, called “burrowing,” is not simply declaring, say, an assistant to a deputy cabinet secretary as a a protected civil service job. Rather, it’s the practice of moving a political appointee from a policy-making position outside the purview of civil service laws and finding them non-political positions jobs in the government, with the hope that they might somehow still be able to wield some kind of influence. Every president has done this: Bush did it before he left office, as did Clinton, elder Bush, Reagan, and so on.

But this kind of proposed change to the Civil Service laws would go beyond endangering just former political appointees who are now in non-political positions. It would, in by Christie’s own admission, make it easy for Trump to fire whomever he pleases, just like he does on his TV show. It would open the gates to the kind of nineteenth century-style political patronage that the civil service laws were intended to abolish, when political litmus tests were standard for every government job from mail clerk to Postmaster General.

In fact, it was this kind of patronage that contributed to the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 by Charles Guiteau, a mentally unstable man who was furious that Garfield didn’t give him a government job in return for guaranteeing Garfield’s election thanks to a speech that Guiteau gave that nobody remembered. Garfield’s assassination was the last straw for a populace already outraged over the “spoils system” which saw the wholesale replacement of federal employees every time the government changed hands.

So imagine now a scenario where a new law goes through allowing those protections to be eliminated if the president or one of his minions doesn’t like the politics of some federal workers. There is precedent for that, from 1950 to 1953, when thousands were fired from government jobs because the were supposedly “subversives.” A particular kind of “subversive” sought during those times were gay people, a witch hunt that was codified in a 1953 Executive Order signed by Eisenhower. For the next twenty-two years, it was the official written policy to prohibit hiring and employing gay people by federal employment, and for the next twenty-two years, thousands of gay people, or simply people accused of being gay, were fired. One such firing turned Frank Kameny into an aggressive gay rights pioneer and a perennial thorn in the Civil Service Commission’s side until 1975, when the Commission finally modified its policy following a string of defeats in the courts.

So Trump now wants to replace a system designed to protect government employees from being fired for political purposes and replace it with a system specially designed to specifically allow employees from being fired for political purposes. Purges like what he has in mind are dangerous territory, especially in the hands of someone who already sees no constitutional problem with instituting a religious test banning Muslims from entering the U.S. So why stop with Democrats? Why wouldn’t he purge civil service employees based on religion? Or, given Trump’s famously thin skin and fondness for vendettas, just someone — anyone — he doesn’t like?

It’s hard to know whether this proposal would actually go anywhere, but with this Republican Congress, it’s hard to dismiss it outright. More importantly, though, this gives us a very clear view of the mindset inside the Trump campaign, which already has shown it has no concern about the nuts and bolts of the constitution or for laws, rules, norms, history, facts, etc. If you want to know what Trump’s American might look like, you might want to check out Turkey or Russia right about now. Especially Russia. He admires Putin.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 20

From Where It's At (New York, NY), July 24, 1978, page 31.

From Where It’s At (New York, NY), July 24, 1978, page 31.

Yogi Bera once complained that a favorite restaurant in St. Louis got so popular that “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” A reviewer for a New York newspaper Gay Times complained that  G.G’s Barnum Room had also become way too popular:

ggsbarnumroompage2_2G.G. Knickerbocker’s, the bar that was so notorious for the wild drag trade there, went disco in a big way with G.G.’s Barnum Room. But perhaps in too big a way. Now that they had a big write-up in New York Magazine, the place (with a wide-open admission policy), seems to be overrun with tourists in polyester suits. It’s the place to go if your idea of a good time is having straight people gawk at you! The management seems so intent on exploiting gays to the limit that I fully expect them to offer chartered guided tours of the place to New Jersey ladies’ clubs, as the next logical step.

ggbarnum-ny-exterior-bwYou can see that New York Magazine write-up here. The “G.G.” referred to the Gilded Grape, a mob-owned gay bar which operated at 719 8th Avenue until 1977. (By the way, Where It’s At, the bar guide that published the ad featured above, was also mob-owned.) It became G.G. Knickerbocker’s when it moved into the ground floor of the Knickerbocker Hotel. G.G.’s Barnum Room, located just off of Times Square, was one of the most extravagant discos in Manhattan. Named for the circus master P.T. Barnum, the Barnum Room featured what they called their Jungle Gym in the Sky: scantily-clad  scantily-clad trapeze artists swinging above the dancers’ heads. It also featured a cabaret room for drag shows. One such show inspired Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers to pen the Diana Ross anthem “I’m Coming Out” after seeing three different drag queens dressed as Ross one night. The Barnum Room lasted until November of 1980. The front entrance to the Barnum Room is now a parking ramp next to a Bobby Van’s Steak House.

Mattachine Missions and Purposes

65 YEARS AGO: In 1950, a group of seven men met at the home of Harry Hay (Apr 7) in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles to found a new society for gay people they tentatively called “The Society of Fools” (Nov 11). The following April, the group followed Hay’s suggestion to change its name to the Mattachine Society, after the medieval French secret societies of masked men whose anonymity empowered them to mock and criticize kings and other nobility. That same month, one of the newer members suggested that the group’s ideals be put down in writing. They began drafting the Mattachine’s “Missions and Purposes,” and marked it “confidential” out of fear of attracting the attention of the police. Jim Gruber (Aug 21), one of the founders, described the whole effort as “a dare” with serious potential consequences, as they saw it. Given the tenor of the times amid the McCarthy-inspired Lavender Scare, their fears weren’t out of line.  The members ratified the document on July 20. It read:


of the

Mattachine Society.

TO UNIFY: While there are undoubtedly individual homosexuals who number many of their own people among their friends, thousands of homosexuals live out their lives bewildered, unhappy, alone, isolated from their own kind and unable to adjust to the dominant culture. Even those who have many homosexual friends are still cut off from the deep satisfactions man’s gregarious nature can achieve only when he is consciously part of a large, unified whole. A major purpose of the Mattachine Society is to provide a consensus of principle around which all of our people can rally and from which they can deprive a feeling of “belonging.”

TO EDUCATE: The total of information available on the subject of homosexuality is woefully meagre and utterly inconclusive. The Society organizes all available material and conducts extensive research itself — psychological, physiological, anthropological, and sociological — for the purpose of informing all interested homosexuals and for the purpose of informing and enlightening the public at large.

The Mattachine Soeity holds it as possible and desirable that a highly ethical, homosexual culture emerge as a consequence of its work, parallelling sic the emerging cultures of our fellow-minorities — the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples. The Society believes homosexuals can lead well-adjusted, wholesome and socially productive lives once ignorance and prejudice against them is successfully combatted and once homosexuals themselves feel they have a dignified and useful role to play in society. The Society, to these ends, is in the process of developing a homosexual ethic — disciplined, moral and socially responsible.

TO LEAD: It is not sufficient for an oppressed minority like the homosexuals merely to be conscious of belonging to a minority collective when, as is the situation at the present time, that collective is neither socially organic nor objective in its directions and activities — although this minimum is, in itself, a great step forward. It is necessary that the more far-seeing and socially conscious homosexuals provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviants if the first two missions (the unification and the education of the homosexual minority) are to be accomplished. Further, once unification and education have progressed it becomes imperative (to consolidate these gains) for the Society to push forward into the realm of political action to erase from our law books the discriminatory and oppressive legislation presently directed against the homosexual minority.

The Society, founded upon the highest ethical and social principles, serves as an example for homosexuals to follow and provides a dignified standard upon which the rest of society can base a more intelligent and accurate picture of the nature of homosexuality than currently obtains in the public mind. The Society provides the instrument necessary to work with civic-minded and socially valuable organizations and supplies the means for the assistance of our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression. Only a Society, providing an enlightened leadership, can rouse the homosexuals — one of the largest minorities in America today — to take the actions necessary to elevate themselves from the social ostracism an unsympathetic culture has perpetrated upon them.

[Sources: Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 (Los Angeles: ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, 2011): 38-39.

Stuart Timmons. The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement Centenary edition (Brooklyn: White Crane Books, 2012): 170-172.]


KTLA’s Crime Story was one of those very serious, topical panel discussion programs airing in the graveyard time slot of 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights just before station sign-off — back in the days when televisions would go off the air sometime around midnight. The program picked a topic each week, and moderator Sandy Howard would assemble a panel of “experts,” which were typically from among the KTLA staff, since real experts weren’t often eager to schlep to the studio late at night for a low-rated program. Topics for discussion included drugs, law enforcement, prison reform, international crime, and, on this night, homosexuality, which itself was a crime under California law.

In previous episodes where the subject was homosexuality, the tone was almost entirely negative and the opinions offered were ill-informed. But on this night, things were different. Sitting in for Howard was Bill Bradley, who this time brought into the studio someone who actually knew something about the topic: Herbert Selwyn, attorney for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Mattachine Society. Selwyn wasn’t gay, but at least he was in regular contact with the gay community and could speak as an ally. Also on the panel were two psychiatrists (both of them working for state penal systems), and a private detective and former L.A. policeman who also free-lanced for the scandal magazine Confidential — so you can imaging what his contribution would be.

After the announcer made clear that the opinions expressed on the program were not those of KTLA, Bradley asked the panel to define “sex crime.” Right off the bat, one of the two psychiatrists, Dr. Isidore Ziferstein of the Iowa State Penitentiary, declared that he didn’t consider sex acts between consenting adults to be criminal because no one was harmed — a radical idea in 1958. Fred Otash, the private detective, began explaining that California’s penal code defined “sex perversion” as including, more specifically, “copulation by mouth.” Ziferstein responded, “Yes, the penal code regarding sex acts would make nearly every American citizen a sex criminal.” The other psychiatrist, Dr. William Graves of San Quentin, agreed.

Bradley then asked whether all homosexual men — lesbians were never mentioned during the entire program — were sex criminals. Otash jumped in and said yes, according to the letter of the law, and rightly so, contending that homosexuals bred other homosexuals simply by contact. Because homosexuals could not keep to themselves, they “preyed on normal men” and made them gay. He then got tired of saying the word “homosexual,” over and over. “You may call them homosexuals, I call them ‘fags’,” he declared. That, for the most part, was the extent of his “expertise.”

Selwyn, confident that the two psychiatrists would answer the question of whether “normal men” could be turned so easily, turned the topic instead to the problem of police entrapment, which was rampant in Los Angeles. If a policeman could strike up a conversation with a gay man in a bar and get the man to suggest that they retire to his apartment, he was liable to find himself in handcuffs and facing a fifteen year sentence.

The program ended with the two psychiatrists agreeing that homosexuality should not be against the law, but they debated whether homosexuality was a neurosis or not. Ziferstien said that society wasn’t just anti-gay, but anti-sex, and that this produced an abundance of “sex deviates,” including homosexuals. Graves pushed back, and pointed out that because society was so anti-gay, it would be surprising if some gay people didn’t become in some way disturbed or distressed over the situation. In other words, Graves was explaining the concept of homophobia some ten years before the word itself was invented. By this point in the program, the panelists were regularly ignoring Otash as they lamented the way the law and society treated gay people. A review published in ONE magazine, the nation’s first gay magazine, commented that viewers “may have been gratified, if surprised, by the unexpectedly friendly attitudes toward homosexuality expressed on the program. … The members of the qualified panel made effective, intelligent observations, and many positive and constructive points.”

[Sources: “Sten Russell” (Stella Rush) “TV: Crime Story.” ONE 6, no. 8 (September 1958): 26-28.

“Sten Russell” (Stella Rush). “Crime Story.” The Ladder 2, no 12. (September 1958): 11-14.]

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Reps. Gerry Studds (D-MA) and Daniel Crane (R-IL), both of whom admitted to having sexual affairs with Congressional pages. Crane admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old female page three years earlier, while Studds acknowledged a relationship with a 17-year-old male page ten years earlier. (Both pages were above the age of consent.) In Studds’s case, the page himself defended the relationship as consensual and not intimidating.

When Studds returned home to his district following his censure, he was met with standing ovations at his first town meeting. He would continue to be re-elected to Congress where he fought for AIDS funding, gays in the military, and marriage equality, right up until his retirement in 1997. When Studds died in 2006, his legally married husband was denied Studd’s pension, the same pension which was provided to all other surviving spouses of former members of Congress.

Edith Shlain was born in Philadelphia to a Jewish immigrant family living above her father’s candy and ice cream store. When she was two years old, she and her brother were diagnosed with polio. Authorities quarantined her home and the store, which, during the great Depression, quickly put her father out of business. They wound up losing both their store and their home.

She dated boys in school, even though she also had crushes on girls. Homosexuality wasn’t something she was aware of as a concept, so she thought little about it. After she went to Temple University, she was assigned to write a paper on the 1948 Kinsey Report (Jan 5), which introduced her to the concept. She also fell in love with a female classmate while dating Saul Windsor. She broke up with Saul, but then reconciled after Edie decided she couldn’t live as a lesbian. They married, but divorced in 1952 after less than a year.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 6.34.02 PMEdie moved to New York, where she hoped to meet other lesbians. But the gay community was deeply underground in the early 1950s, which didn’t do much for her social life. She studied mathematics at New York University and learned to write software on a UNIVAC that the Atomic Energy Commission had installed at NYU. After graduating, she went to work at IBM in 1958 where she had a distinguished career in computer engineering. She was honored by the National Computing Conference in 1987 as a “pioneer in operating systems.”

In 1963, Edie met Thea Spyer, a psychologist from the Netherlands, and they fell in love immediately, although their relationship caused strains in Edie’s career at IBM, where she had to keep their relationship under wraps. Thea proposed to Edie in 1967, and gave Edie a diamond broach instead of a ring, which would have been too risky. Edie couldn’t share the good news with any of her co-workers. “I [thought], you know, I’m sitting here not saying anything, and the most important thing in my life has happened,” she said. The news also estranged Edie and Theo further from their respective families who were uncomfortable with their relationship. But they grew ever stronger together. “It was a love affair that just kept on and on and on,” Edie said. “It really was. Something like three weeks before Thea died she said: ‘Jesus we’re still in love, aren’t we’.”

Thea and Edie

Thea and Edie

Neither Edie nor Thea had been very active in the gay community, but that changed after Stonewall. The got involved with the East End Gay Organization on Long Island, and helped to support the LGBT Community Center. Edie volunteered for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the 1994 Gay Games in New York, and Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE).

In 1977, Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but she kept up her psychology practice. Edie left IBM to devote more time to travel and volunteering for the gay community. In 1993, they registered as domestic partners when it became an option in New York. In 2007, after Thea was diagnosed with a severe heart condition — multiple sclerosis had already made her a quadriplegic — they decided to go to Canada to get married. It was a very difficult ordeal. By then, Edie had been Thea’s full-time care-giver; it took an hour to get Thea ready for bed, and three or four hours in the morning to be ready to leave the house. “Many people ask me why get married,” she later said. “I was 77, Thea was 75, and maybe we were older than that at that point, but the fact is that everybody treated it as different. It turns out marriage is different. I’ve asked a number of long-range couples, gay couples who they’ve got married, I’ve asked them: ‘Was it different the next morning’ and the answer is always: ‘Yes’. It’s a huge difference.”

Edie+TheaThea died in 2009. Edie’s grief sent her to the hospital with a heart attack a month later. When she got home, the IRS had taken $363,053 in estate-taxes, a garnishment that no married couple would have been subjected to. Edie filed for a refund, but thanks to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that was signed into law in 1993 (Sep 20), the IRS denied the refund.

Edie decided to fight for her refund in court. But when she went to the gay-rights organizations that one would have expected to be eager to take on the fight, she was turned down. It was too soon, they said. The time wasn’t right, they said. The case wasn’t right, they said. She was too privileged, they said. She turned to a private lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, a lesbian who had been corporate litigator. They filed suit in 2010 challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. While they were waiting for the case to trial, the Obama Administration announced in 2011 that the Justice Department would not defend DOMA in court. The Republican-controlled Congress stepped in with a fistful of taxpayer dollars to keep up the fight. In 2012, the Federal District Judge ruled in Edie’s favor, and the Second Court of Appeals upheld that decision just four months later. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Edie’s case, and on June 26, 2013, it ruled in a 5-4 decision that DOMA violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Edith-WindsorThe decision didn’t make marriage equality available to all same-sex couples nationwide. But it did have two important effects. First, those couples who were married would now see their marriages recognized by the federal government. But also, the decision in Windsor v. U.S. would become the basis for a string of federal court decisions knocking down barriers to marriage equality in dozens of states over the next two years. That bow wave of decisions reached the Supreme Court again in 2015, when it finally knocked down the last remaining impediments to marriage equality nationwide.

Edie, who is now often called the Godmother of Gay Marriage, is still very active and engaged in a number of causes. Just last April, she successfully raised $107,000 via Kickstarter to provide scholarships for to send LBT women to the coding school or bootcamp of their choice.

Roberta Achtenberg

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) wasn’t about to let President Bill Clinton appoint her as Assistant Secretary for Housing and Urban Development if he had anything to say about it. “She’s not your garden-variety lesbian,” he complained. “She’s a militant-activist-mean lesbian, working her whole career to advance the homosexual agenda. Now you think I’m going to sit still and let her be confirmed by the Senate? … If you want to call me a bigot, go ahead.” Helms was a bigot, and, garden-variety lesbian or not, she nevertheless became the first openly gay person to receive a Senate confirmation for an administration position (May 7).

The daughter of immigrants grew up in Los Angeles and attended college at UCLA and UC Berkeley, before studying law at Hastings Law School in San Francisco and the University of Utah. She had married another male law student while at Berkeley, but the couple divorced amicably after Achtenberg figured out she was a lesbian.

Achtenberg quickly became concerned about the legal disadvantages that gays and lesbians experience, and as a member of the Anti-Sexism Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, she helped to write a manual to advise lawyers representing gay and lesbian clients. She also began working with the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, and then co-founded the Lesbian Rights Project, which later became the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In 1979, she met attorney Mary Morgan, who already had a well-established track record representing lesbian mothers in custody cases. By then, Achtenberg was out, and she was ready for politics. She ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat in the California State Assembly in 1988, and she succeeded in getting elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1989. When a little-known former Arkansas governor decided to run for president, Achtenberg joined the Clinton campaign and worked on the Democratic Party’s drafting committee.

When Clinton nominated Achtenberg for HUD Assistant Secretary, conservative Christians were outraged. They accused Achtenberg of launching a “personal vendetta” against the Boy Scouts because she was one of fifty — fifty! — members of the San Francisco United Way board of directors who voted unanimously to deny funding to the Scouts because of their discriminatory anti-gay policies. The Christian Action Network circulated a videotape of Achtenberg and Morgan, showing them hugging each other, ever so briefly, during the 1992 San Francisco Pride parade. Helms called that brief contact an “insane assault on family values.” Achtenberg was nevertheless confirmed in a 58-31 vote.

Achtenberg left HUD in 1995 to run for mayor of San Francisco, but lost. She served on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce until 2005, and she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Cal State in 2000, becoming chair in 2006. In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed her to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Yeah, I Needed This…

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

Plagarism Should Be the Very Least Of Our Worries Right Now

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

And her speechwriters’s plagiarizing didn’t stop there:

He will never, ever give up. And, most importantly, he will never, ever, let you down.

— Melania Trump (2016)

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down.

— Rick Astley (1987)

Sad! Pathetic! Weak!

Okay, the fun part of this post is over, because the bigger issue is that this silly controversy — and it is a silly one in the greater scheme of things — is overshadowing a much larger problem on display in last night’s convention speeches. If you had to pick one speech that wasn’t filled with gut-level bloodlust and hatred, Melania’s relatively optimistic and positive speech was the only one that stands out. Josh Marshall zooms back out:

In substantive terms, the much bigger story from last night was a hastily thrown together program focused on violence, bloodshed and betrayal by political enemies. We’ve become so inured to Trump’s brand of incitement that it’s barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants to tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain of these parents is unfathomable.

But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there’s no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people who’s children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn’t illustration; it’s incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it’s normal.

Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two – and I think more – actually led the crowd in chants of “lock her up!” There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton’s part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against Clinton for anything connected to her private email server

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that their opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

To be clear: I’m no Clinton fan. I loathe everything she (and he before her) stands for, especially the safe triangularizations that she and her husband have been famous for over the past three decades. But it’s one thing to cynically creep up to and blur the lines between what’s right and what’s wrong — something she’s guilty of in spades — and quite another to obliterate anything that remotely resembles the law, democratic values, citizenship, common decency or facts — things which are today derided as “political correctness.”

I’ve been on the front lines of publicly confronting bigotry ever since I started this blog ten years ago. Some of that work has included going straight into the heart of some rather ugly conferences to hear, first hand, bigotry — there’s no other word for much of it — being spewed by some very angry people. My partner asked me again last night how could I just sit there and not run screaming out of those conferences. I don’t know. I guess I saw these people for what they seemed to be at the time: buffoons who were going against the tide and whose threat was diminishing, at least here in the U.S. (which is why many have been turning their attentions elsewhere in the world). They were on a sinking ship, and the really sad thing is that they knew it. Each year, their conferences were getting smaller and smaller, and they commiserated about the poor attendance in the hallways. Knowing that — keeping that long view — kept me sane and kept me sitting in that seat listening to their bigotry and lies. I wasn’t scared or angry, just attentive, shaking my head from time to time as I took notes on what they said.

And so I can’t say I’ve never seen anything like what we’re now seeing at the GOP convention before — of course I have, but it was always in miniature and never to this kind of a scale. It had its place, but it appeared to be contained to those specific places. Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush again, McCain, Romney — they were all anti-gay, but they were, to varying degrees, relatively nice about it. They were sometimes anti-other people too, though not always, not consistently so, and certainly not so publicly so. To the extent that they were, they were also, to varying degrees, relatively nice about them too. “Relatively” is the operative word here, of course. Also, because there was a whole range of motivations at play, from bigotry to cynicism to cold political calculations, they were always able to maintain a kind of a plausible deniability about whatever motivations they had that led to their policies. And by the way, Democratic candidates and Presidents during that period, I think, were just as guilty. And so whatever the motivation, the end result was nearly always the same, from marriage bans and AIDS neglect to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA.

But now it’s clear that the kind of bigotry I saw on display at those anti-gay conferences wasn’t as contained as I thought. My exclusive focus on anti-gay politics — what I now call my “gay blinders” — kept me from understanding that it was a symptom of something much larger. And that larger thing has now gone mainstream and expanded to include all kinds of those people. In the way they used to just blame gay people, they now blame all those people for all of our problems. Those people: gays, transgenders, blacks, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, Mexicans, Democrats, the media, public schools, unions, Supreme Court justices, academics, the Obamas, RINOs, #NeverTrumpers — does it even matter exactly who those people are anymore? They’re all — we’re all — enemies, according to a serious candidate for President of the United States and his supporters. That makes this a real and pressing threat to everything we know in our hearts to be true and right, even among those whose politics won’t let them say so out loud. And it’s because of that that I now have to admit that I am truly scared, in a way I was never scared before at those rather sad and poorly-attended anti-gay conferences. I know I’m not being temperate here, and I don’t take this as a point of pride. I’m afraid that recent events are causing me to lose that capacity. Or maybe, it’s a luxury I can no longer afford.

Log Cabin Republicans: “Losers! Morons! Sad!”

Jim Burroway

July 19th, 2016

LCR-Platform-Ad-USA-TodayThe Log Cabin Republicans have plagarized Donald Trump’s tweets (that’s a joke, people!) for a full-page ad in the Cleveland edition of USA Today in response to yesterday’s adoption by the Republican National Convention of the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history. They explain in a press-release:

“Response from allies to our reaction in the wake of the drafting of this vitriolic anti-LGBT platform has been nothing short of staggering,” Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo stated. “The email sent to our members last week propelled Log Cabin Republicans to the top trend on Facebook for more than two days, and now holds the record as the highest-grossing single fundraising appeal this organization has ever sent. But this was fundraising with a purpose—I’m pleased to share that every last cent donated to Log Cabin Republicans via last week’s email has been spent on this project. This unprecedented support is representative of the GOP I know, and this is the GOP our members want to see.”

The provocative advertisement reads, “LOSERS! MORONS! SAD! No, these aren’t tweets from Donald Trump. This is what common-sense conservatives are saying about the most anti-LGBT platform the Republican Party has ever had. GOP Platform Committee: Out of touch, out of line, and out of step with 61% of young Republicans who favor same-sex marriage.”

“It’s my hope this advertisement will be a wake-up call to the intransigent and ancient voices on the GOP Platform Committee that marriage equality is the law of the land, gay families are a part of the fabric of America, and LGBT Republicans have an important role to play in growing the Party,” Angelo concluded.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, July 19

From Where It's At (New York, NY), July 24, 1978, page 63.

From Where It’s At (New York, NY), July 24, 1978, page 63.

The building today houses half of a Colombian bakery.

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