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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
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300 marriages recognized by Michigan

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2015

In March of last year, Federal Judge Bernard Friedman found that the State of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the US Constitution. And couples rushed to marry.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on the ruling a few days later. And in November that court overturned the ruling by Judge Friedman, in a decision that differed from all other circuit courts which had ruled on the subject. The decision of the Sixth Circuit will be considered by the Supreme Court this Spring.

But what of the couples who married?

Governor Rick Snyder (R) tried to stake out a middle ground in his response. He recognized that the marriages were legal when performed, which allowed the couples to be recognized by the Federal Government. However, he argued that state laws disallowed recognition of those legal marriages by the state of Michigan.

Last month U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith found that the state had the obligation to recognize those more than 300 marriages on the same terms as any other marriage. He stayed his ruling for three weeks for the state to appeal to the Sixth Circuit, should they choose.

Today, Governor Snyder announced that his administration would not appeal that decision. (abc)

“The judge has determined that same-sex couples were legally married on that day, and we will follow the law and extend state marriage benefits to those couples,” Snyder said in a statement.

Eighth Circuit expedites marriage cases

Timothy Kincaid

February 3rd, 2015

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to combine the marriage ban cases from Arkansas, Missouri, and South Dakota. The court will also expedite the case, with the first round of briefs due on February 27, 2015. Oral arguments will be heard during the week of May 11-15, 2015 in Omaha, NE.

Eleventh Circuit denies stay in Alabama marriage case

Timothy Kincaid

February 3rd, 2015

On January 23, Judge Callie Grenade found that Alabama’s anti-gay marriage ban violated the Equal Protections and Due Process provisions of the US Constitution. However, she placed her ruling on hold until February 8, so as to allow the Attorney General an opportunity to request a longer stay from a higher court.

Today the Eleventh Circuit responded.

The Attorney General of the State of Alabama’s motions for a stay pending appeal are DENIED.

It is anticipated that the plaintiffs will request that Judge Grenade revoke her stay, based on the higher court ruling. If so, marriages will start immediately. If she declines to do so, they will start on Monday.

UPDATE: Judge Grenade has denied the request to lift the stay, as the state is petitioning the Supreme Court for a stay. Should the Supreme Court deny Alabama’s request, the stay will be lifted at that time. If they don’t respond by Monday, that is the day the stay is lifted.

Glorious news for Andrew Shirvell

Timothy Kincaid

February 2nd, 2015

Andrew Shirvell, the former Michigan Assistant Attorney General who lost his job after cyber-bullying Chris Armstrong, the Student Body President of the University of Michigan, has finally had some good news.

Well, it’s a mixed bag, really. He also got some news he wasn’t wanting to hear.

Shirvell had been hoping to get another trial on the defamation case he lost to Armstrong. The first one didn’t go so well, you see. Shirvell’s attorney on the case (himself) was extremely incompetent and the result was a jury award far far greater than Armstrong had requested.

But the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not grant Shirvell a do-over. I guess they had reached their public circus budget for the year. Too bad.

But now to the good news. The court cut the amount that Shirvell owes Armstrong. By a million dollars. A million freaking dollars. Who wouldn’t want their debt cut by a million bucks?

Now Shirvell only owes $3.5 million. And what a relief that must be.

Florida will, gasp, not issue an amicus brief in favor of discrimination

Timothy Kincaid

January 31st, 2015

bondiI’ve been amused and amazed about the level to which our community and our allies have convinced ourselves that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is Enemy Number One in the battle for marriage equality.

With every step, we’ve railed against the evil evil Bondi and her (half-hearted) defense of Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban. We’ve decried the “bigotry” in her language such as “We want uniformity” and gasped at the blatant animus of “It’s my job to defend the (state) constitution whether I not I agree with it”.

We’ve reported with baited breath that she’s “been filing briefs at a furious pace” in response to eight marriage cases filed against the state. And though other attorneys general (some of them Democrats) have also taken the position that defending the bans are part of their job (with little response), we’ve been stunned at Bondi’s identical stance.

When Bondi’s filings said that federal interference in state marriage laws would “impose significant public harm”, newspapers pulled those few words from the brief and announced that Bondi had said “harm”, ohmigod, she said “harm”, she must think that gay marriages cause HARM!

Yesterday, the media again was shocked, shocked I say, and breathlessly marveled that Bondi was continuing to fight against gay marriage. As evidence, they pointed to her response to inquiries about whether Florida would be filing an amicus brief in marriage cases before the Supreme Court. She, gasp, said that her office hadn’t yet decided! She just won’t give up!!

So today it’s news, NEWS, NEWS!! that Bondi backed down. The state of Florida is not filing a brief with the court. (Herald Tribune)

Friday evening, Bondi’s office said the attorney general would not be filing an amicus brief as the nation’s highest court in April hears a group of cases from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal that has upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Which is simply shocking!

Unless, of course, you’ve noticed all along that Bondi’s defense of Florida’s marriage ban has been half-assed, perfunctory, and accompanied by a refusal to demean the plaintiffs or their families.

GracePointe Church endorses equality

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2015

gracepointe

GracePointe church in Franklin, TN, (a Nashville suburb) is an evangelical church with most of the beliefs of a typical evangelical in the South. It has a healthy sized congregation of 800 to 1,000 on Sundays and is best known as the church Carrie Underwood and her family attend.

They have long been somewhat supportive of gay congregants, but after three years of reflection the pastor has decided that “somewhat supportive” is not enough. (Time)

“Our position that these siblings of ours, other than heterosexual, our position that these our siblings cannot have the full privileges of membership, but only partial membership, has changed,” he said, as many in the congregation stood to their feet in applause, and other sat in silence. “Full privileges are extended now to you with the same expectations of faithfulness, sobriety, holiness, wholeness, fidelity, godliness, skill, and willingness. That is expected of all. Full membership means being able to serve in leadership and give all of your gifts and to receive all the sacraments; not only communion and baptism, but child dedication and marriage.”

This may be one of the first evangelical megachurch – at least in the South – that has taken this stand.

It can’t have been an easy decision and Pastor Stan Mitchell has to be aware that this is a divisional issue and attendance will drop. But hopefully others will be attracted by a message of inclusiveness.

Headline of the Day

Jim Burroway

January 30th, 2015

From the New York Daily News:Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 7.26.06 AM

I’m just a girl who cain’t say no….

Featured Reports
Main Stories

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, February 5

Jim Burroway

February 5th, 2015

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 5, 1981, pages 16, 17 of the classifieds section.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Toronto Police Conduct Massive Bathhouse Raids: 1981. Operation Soap was a meticulously planned police action, six months in the making. It’s genesis is believed to have been the result of a successful anti-gay political campaign that drove a pro-gay administration from City Hall. At precisely 11:00 p.m. More than 160 police, using an unusual interpretation of an anti-prostitution law banning “bawdyhouses,” conducted a massive, simultaneous raid on four bathhouses: the Club Baths, Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, the Barracks, and the Richmond Street Health Emporium. Peter Bochove, co-owner of the Richmond Street Health Emporium remembered:

They leapt the counter and grabbed the cashier and bust the door open. And the first fifty arrived in the first wave. They spread out and very quickly began running around and rounding people up. … The other fifty officers arrived fairly quickly, I guess they must have had them standing by. And then they went out to their police cars and came in with their tools. They came in carting incredible numbers of crowbars and sledgehammers. At that point they were offered the keys to the lockers and the room. They held up a crowbar to me and said, “We brought out own.”

(Photo: Body Politic)

Armed with crowbars and sledgehammers, police herded patrons into the lobbies, with many of them dressed only in towels, and marked numbers on their arms. At one bathhouse, towel-clad patrons were lined up in the snow on the street for questioning. One patron at the Barracks had a different experience:

I was in a room with someone and I heard a noise. I got up to open the door but it burst open and a guy in plain clothes pushed in and shoved me up against the wall, my face pushed hard into the wall. My nose was lacerated and bloodied. The cop kept punching me in the lower back and pulling my hair and saying “You ‘re disgusting, faggot. Look at this dirty place.”

I was choked, and something was jabbed into my neck. Before they took us out of the room, they used a pen to gouge the room number into the backs of our hands.

I was naked. They herded me into the shower room with about 8 other men and we had to stand against the wall with both hands up against the wall. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear a guy choking, and then a cop said, “If you’re having trouble breathing we can give you trouble with your spleen or kidneys.”

I could hear them moving around, kicking things, overturning things. Someone said “Too bad the place doesn’t catch fire, we ‘d have to catch them escaping custody.” Somebody else said, ‘Too bad the showers aren’t hooked up to gas.”

The Richmond Street Health Emporium was so badly damaged by police that it never reopened. Many of those arrested were pressured to reveal the names of their wives and employers. All told, 286 men were charged as “found-ins” and twenty owners were charged with “keeping a common bawdyhouse.”

The mass arrest was Canada’s largest in more than a decade.  The following night, 3,000 protesters staged a mass demonstration that the intersection of Yonge and Wellesly, at the heart of the gayborhood, that descended into a riot, with fires and smashed car windows. When police responded, many of them removed their badges so they couldn’t be identified. The crowd made its way to the Division 52 stationhouse, where they were met with 195 officers surrounding the building. The crowd then moved on to Queen’s Park and the Ontario Legislature, where a phalanx of police dove into the crowd and attacked protesters. The entire confrontation quickly drew comparisons to New York’s Stonewall rebellion twelve years earlier.

The following week, gay community attended a police commission meeting and demanded an independent investigation into the raid, while protesters gathered outside the station. According to the Body Politic, Toronto’s gay newspaper:

Protesters gather outside while community leaders meet with police commissioners.

Protesters gather outside while community leaders meet with police commissioners. (Photo: Body Politic)

During many of the presentations, Commissioner Winfield McKay smirked, or conspicuously yawned. Other commissioners talked among themselves, or stared impassively as (MCC pastor) Brent Hawkes referred them to a Toronto Star story that day revealing that the police operating budget for 1981 is requesting a total of $7.5 million for the intelligence and morality bureaus together, while asking for a scant $1 million for homicide investigation. … The meeting finally dissolved in hoots and jeers as (Police Commission Chairman Paul) Givens told the crowd, “We deny any allegations of police harassment,” and said there was no need for an inquiry and there would be no inquiry.

Globe and Mail editorial called the police raid “ugly” and said it was “more like the bully-boy tactics of a Latin American republic … than of anything that has a place in Canada.” Hawkes went on a hunger strike demanding that police be held accountable. Two Toronto aldermen called for an investigation by the Ontario Attorney General, who adamantly refused the request.  But McKay held firm, telling a local television station that the gay community “squealed like a collection of stuck pigs,” and that the cost of am inquiry couldn’t be justified.

February 20 demonstration (Photo: Body Politic.)

February 20 demonstration (Photo: Body Politic.)

Meanwhile, the gay community organized like never before, with 1,400 people joining the Right to Privacy Committee to set up a defense fund for those charged. They also organized a second demonstration on February 20, where 4,000 protesters marched in a peaceful demonstration from Queen’s Park to the 52 Division headquarters. Thirty-five undercover police tried to disrupt that march by trying to provoke fights in the crowd. Several of them were seen helping to carry the front banner. Their actions were later revealed by the Body Politic and the Toronto Clarion, both of which published photos of the undercover officers. Two weeks later on March 6, a “Gay Freedom Rally” was held, which became, in effect, Toronto’s first Gay Pride event.

Court cases stemming from the raid dragged on throughout the next two years. By 1983, 87% of the “found-ins” were acquitted. Thirty-six were found guilty but received absolute or conditional charges. Many owners however were found guilty and fined. Smaller scale raids continued over the next several years. But the raids, which were meant to silence an emerging gay community, had the opposite effect of galvanizing the gay community to organize and become politically involved in the city’s political life and, ultimately, in national politics.

[Sources: “Taking It To The Streets.” The Body Politic (March 1981): 9-12, 16.

“Who Is the Next? Me?” The Body Politic (April 1981): 9-11.

“Brent Hawkes: Hungry for Rights.” The Body Politic (April 1981): 11.

“Uncovering the Enemy Within.” The Body Politic (April 1981): 12.

“Exposing the Big Lie: The Camera vs the Cops As the Plainclothes Caper Unfolds.” The Body Politic (May 1981): 10-11.]

Rep. Jon Hinson Arrested on Sodomy Charge: 1981. The closet can be a crazy place. When Rep. Jon Hinson (R-MS) was running for re-election to a second term in 1980, he admitted that in 1976, while he was working as a Congressional aide, he had been arrested for exposing himself to an undercover policeman at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. At that same news conference, Hinson also revealed that he was one of the survivors of a 1977 fire that broke out at Cinema Follies, a gay theater in Washington’s seedy Southeast (see Oct 24). That fire killed nine people. “I must be totally frank and tell you that both of these incidents were in areas frequented by some of Washington’s homosexual community,” he told reporters. But he vowed to stay with his wife and denied that he was gay, blaming those incidents on heavy drinking, which he said that he had now gotten under control. Mississippi’s Republican party rallied around the Congressman and he was elected to a second term.

But just barely a month into that second term, Hinson was in trouble again. Hinson was arrested, along with another man, for having sex in a public men’s room in the Longworth House Office building. Hinson and the other man were arrested on charges of sodomy, a felony which carried a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. The charge was reduced to attempted sodomy, a misdemeanor — then a standard practice in D.C. —  to which Hinson entered a plea of not guilty and promptly checked himself into a hospital for “mental and physical fatigue.” He finally yielded to calls for his resignation in April and later changed his plea to no contest, for which he was given a 30-day suspended sentence and one year’s probation.

Soon after, Hinson finally came out as gay. He helped organize Virginians for Justice — by then he decided to remain in Fairfax, Virginia rather than return to Mississippi — and became something of a local gay rights activist as a founding member of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association. Hinson died in 1995 from complications of AIDS.

Boulevard Albert 1er, Leopoldville, 1950s.

Boulevard Albert 1er, Leopoldville, 1950s.

AIDS Traced to 1959: 1998. The journal Nature published a short report by a team led by Tuofu Zhu of Rockefeller University. That team examined the genome of an HIV-positive blood sample taken in 1959 from an unidentified man in Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo (today’s Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire). By looking at how the virus has mutated over the past 40 years, and by projecting the mutation of that particular virus (dubbed ZR59) back further, they were able to estimate when the various HIV virus groups evolved from a common ancestor. Zhu and colleagues concluded:

Our results … indicate that the major-group viruses that dominate the global AIDS pandemic at present shared a common ancestor in the 1940s or the early 1950s. Given their ‘starburst’ phylogeny, HIV-1 was probably introduced into humans shortly before that time frame, about a decade or two earlier than previously estimated. …The factors that propelled the initial spread of HIV-1 in central Africa remain unknown: the role of large-scale vaccination campaigns, perhaps with multiple uses of non-sterilized needles, should be carefully examined, although social changes such as easier access to transportation, increasing population density and more frequent sexual contacts may have been more important.

Leopoldville,1952

Leopoldville, 1952.

That single serendipidous 1959 blood sample from a man whose name and fate is lost to history provided an important part of our understanding of where the virus came from. Simon Wain-Hobson wrote a commentary in the same issue of Nature explaining its implications:

What else is the position of ZR59 among HIVs telling us? First, it probably means that the global epidemic was indeed founded by a single HIV although, in this respect, it is no different from the annual ’flu strain.’ Second, the centre of the radiation and ZR59 are a considerable stretch from any simian counterpart, suggesting that HIV had a human history before it went global. Third, the Big Bang seems to have occurred around, or just after, the Second World War. Emerging microbial infections often result from adaptation to changing ecological niches and habits. And, of course, the post-war era saw the collapse of European colonialism and attendant changes in urban and technological traits. As usual, when data are limited we’re in the realm of speculation, meaning that the story is not over. …

In 1959, the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine was awarded to Severo Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg for their work on nucleicacid polymerases, while the world rocked around to Elvis and Chuck Berry. There was fog in the English Channel.

And in 1959, a blood sample was drawn from an unknown HIV-positive man in the Belgian Congo. What he must have gone through afterwards…

[Sources: Zhu, Tuofu; Korber, Bette E.; Mahmias, Andre J.; Hooper, Edward; Sharp, Paul M.; Ho, David D. ” An African HIV-1 sequence from 1959 and implications for the origin of the epidemic.” Nature 391, no. 6667 (February 5, 1998): 594-597.

Wain-Hobson, Simon. “Immunodeficiency viruses, 1959 and all that.” Nature 391, no. 6667 (February 5, 1998): 531-532.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
William S. Burroughs: 1914-1997. A canonical figure of the Beat Generation, the novelist, poet, and spoken word performer’s best-known work is his third novel, Naked Lunch. Published in 1959, it was immediately controversial for its obscene language, unabashed portrayal of Burroughs’s heroin addiction and frank descriptions of sex, including his own homosexuality. Naked Lunch was banned in Los Angeles and Boston, where it became last the work of literature to be prosecuted for being obscene in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court lifted the ban in 1966, following a series of trials that included testimony by Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer in support of Burroughs.

If there was a secret to Burroughs’s art, it was this: He simply put his chaotic life to paper. A longtime heroin addict, he and his wife fled to Mexico in 1950 after Louisiana police discovered letters between himself and Allen Ginsberg discussing a drug delivery. While there, he shot and killed his wife while playing “William Tell” at a party. He was eventually able to avoid imprisonment after witnesses testified that the gun went off accidentally. For the several decades, he was in and out of drug rehab and financially destitute much of the time before finally kicking the habit, temporarily, in the mid-1970s. It was at about that time when friends hit on the idea of booking him to read from his works in bookstores and other small performance spaces. His career as a performance artist was launched, which also revived his literary career. He went on to collaborate with Laurie Anderson, Throbbing Gristle, Kurt Cobain, Ministry, and Sonic Youth. He also appeared in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy. He died in 1997 following a heart attack.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, February 4

Jim Burroway

February 4th, 2015

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 56.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 56.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Florida Strikes Ban on Gay Groups on Campus: 1982. It marked a rare victory for LGBT rights in Florida when all seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court declared a state law banning gay college groups from campuses was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

The law had been sponsored by state Sen. Alan Trask and Rep. Tom Bush, and would deny state money to a state university or college which allowed its facilities be used by groups “advocating sex between unmarried persons.” While the law was broadly written, the sponsors said that it was aimed directly at LGBT groups. Their goal was to prevent the state spending money to “promote trash.”

But the state justices countered, “If it were to be held that freedom of expression applies only to views that the national, state or local community find to be within the range of reasonable discourse, the First Amendment would have little meaning or purpose.” The court added that the state, “may not make the privilege of attending (a public university) contingent upon the surrender of constitutional rights.”

The suit was instigated by John Wall, who was only seventeen years old when his community college denied him permission to form a gay student group. Now eighteen, Wall was delighted by the ruling. “I knew the court had no other choice but to do that,” he said. “Is it all over with? No, with Sen. Trask I can’t know. I’m sure there will be more battles to come for everybody. For Florida, it ‘s just one step further we’ve gotten. There’s always going to be someone trying to do something against us.”

In fact, Sen. Task had already announced that he would try to appeal the “tragic and dangerous interpretation of the U.S. Constitution” to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also filed bills in the state legislature to get around the state Supreme Court ruling, as well as to clarify Florida’s law on “fornication” — extramarital sex, under which gays and lesbians (and straight people) were liable to prosecution — as a second-degree misdemeanor.

[Source: “Florida Court Strikes Down State Law Aimed at Gays.” The Advocate, issue 338 (March 18, 1982): 9.]

The Congo River, north of the provincial capital of Mbandaka, Équateur province.

AIDS Cases Discovered from 1976: 1988. Common wisdom today, even with all that we know about the history of the epidemic, often still sets the start of AIDS with the June 1981 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing five gay men who had died of a mysterious disease in Los Angeles (see Jun 5). When the HIV virus was isolated in 1984 and a test for the virus became available in 1985, several avenues of research opened up to try to figure out where this virus came from. Doctors in Paris and Brussels, who had long been treating wealthy African patients from their former colonies bearing all of the hallmarks of the new disease, pointed to Africa as a possible source for the virus. On February 4, 1988, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report by Dr. Nzila Nzilambi from Kinshasa, Zaire and other doctors from Belgium and the CDC which strongly suggested an African source for the virus, and revealed that AIDS had been a persistent health problem in rural Zaire as early as the mid 1970s.

Commercial center of Mbandaka, Équateur province.

In 1976, there had been an outbreak of Ebola in the northeastern Zaire province of Équateur along the Congo river. In the course of the medical investigations, hundreds of serum samples were collected from people throughout the area. Those samples remained preserved Zaire and were flown to Atlanta for testing. Investigators then went back out to Équateur in 1986 and collected more samples from as many people as possible, 388 in all. Ninety of them had also been among the 659 samples collected in 1976. Five of the samples from 1976 tested positive for HIV. Two were still alive ten years later; one was healthy, but the other was already showing signs of a suppressed immune system. Three were dead. One woman tested positive in 1976 was confirmed dead, “after a prolonged illness characterized by weight loss, fever, cough, and diarrhea” — all common symptoms of diseases associated with AIDS. Another woman, the wife of one of the two HIV-positive men still alive, “died in 1981 after a long illness associated with fever, weight loss, skin rash, and oral lesions.” Again an apparent death from AIDS. The third was a child who was seven years old in 1976, who “died of pneumonia and weight loss at the age of 16.”

The doctors concluded: “The results of our study showed that HIV infection was already present in an isolated area of the Équateur province of Zaire in 1976 and that the prevalence of infection in the general population there did not change significantly over the 10-year observation period.”

[Source: Nzila Nzilambi, Kevin M. De Cock, Donald N. Forthal, et al. “The prevalence of infection with human immunodeficiency virus over a 10-year period in rural Zaire.” New England Journal of Medicine 318, no. 5 (February 4, 1988): 276-279.]

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, February 3

Jim Burroway

February 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, page 21.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Paterson, New Jersey Censors Mae West’s “The Drag”: 1927. Before going to Hollywood and becoming a major screen star, Mae West sought to make her mark on Broadway. In 1926, she staged the highly controversial play Sex, which was a sensation and played to packed houses for a year before the police finally shut it down and arrested her for ” lewdness and the corrupting of youth,” a charge that got her a ten day jail sentence. Undaunted, her follow-up play, The Drag was inspired by the gay men that she knew at the time. When her plans to bring it to Broadway were thwarted by objections from the Society for the Prevention of Vice, she opened it to great financial success in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and to critical and official disgust. On February 1, police arrested Mae West’s sister, Beverly, and the play’s director, Edward Elsner, and charged them with breach of peace. When The Drag went to Paterson, New Jersey, two days later, the following item appeared in several papers across the country:

Order Censoring “Drag” Enforced by Police Squad

Paterson, N.J., February 3. — A squad of police was on hand Thursday night to see that “the drag,” a homosexual play which caused a furore when it opened this week in Connecticut, was presented in the form in which an impromptu board of local censors left it after deleting objectionable lines.

The group of censors included a girls’ advisory committee, a welfare organization, an citizens’ committee, and Police Chief John Tracy.

“Paterson will have clean entertainment if it takes the entire police force to make it clean, Chief of Police John Tracy said, after the censors had struck out all the lines they found objectionable.

The play was next slated to go to Bayonne, but was banned on February 10, despite some 800 people already packing the Bayonne Opera House for the opening matinee.

Justice Department Announces It Will No Longer Defend DOMA: 2011. In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Attorney General Eric Holder announced his determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing legal marriages of same-sex couples, was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Holder explained that the Administration had defended Section 3 in the past where courts had already held that the law was subject to rational basis review. But, in responding to two newer cases:

These new lawsuits, by contrast, will require the Department to take an affirmative position on the level of scrutiny that should be applied to DOMA Section 3 in a circuit without binding precedent on the issue.   As described more fully below, the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

One of those lawsuits, United States v Windsor, would ultimately make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the House Bipartisan Advisory Group, under the direction of Speaker Boehner, intervening in the Justice Department’s stead. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Almost immediately the Obama Administration began issuing a stream of updated regulations and policies to extend federal rights, privileges, benefits and obligations to married same-sex couple wherever the law allowed it. (Some areas, such as Social Security benefits, require Congressional action.) More significantly, state courts, federal district courts and appeals courts across the U.S. cited Windsor to strike down same-sex marriage bans in dozens of states, bringing the number of marriage equality states from fourteen at the time of Windsor decision to thirty-five (assuming Alabama’s stay expires on schedule next week).

Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Gertrude Stein: 1874-1946. Her legacy is, well, complicated. On the one hand, she was undeniably the embodiment of a life of art, and the art of life. The novelist, poet, and art collector literally defined — and named — the “Lost Generation” of illuminati who frequented the Parisian salons of the early twentieth century. Her art collection was particularly bold, including works by Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and many other notable impressionists, post-impressionists and other contemporary artists. In 1903, she wrote one of the first personal coming-out stories in her autobiography, Q.E.D., although it wasn’t published until 1950, four years after her death. Her longtime relationship with Alice Toklas (see Apr 30) however was nobody’s secret. They met in 1907 and remained together for the rest of Stein’s life. Ernest Hemingway, who himself was among the glitterati at Stein and Toklas’s salons, wrote of Toklas as Stein’s wife, and remarked that when Hemingway and his wife visited, Stein and Hemmingway would visit together and leave the “wives” to chat with each other.

But if the pre-war year brought out the best of Stein’s contributions to the arts, her politics during World War II brought out the worst. Her politics always included progressive feminism and anti-patriarchal ideals, but she was also, simultaneously, stridently conservative and reactionary. She hated F.D.R. and publicly supported Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. In 1934, she told the New Yorker that Hitler deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. When Hitler invaded France, she became a supporter of the Vichy leader Philippe Pétain. She agreed to translate Pétain’s speeches into English, and she wrote an introduction comparing him to George Washington. All this, despite Stein’s Jewish parentage. Some have defended her support for Vichy France as a tactic to preserve her own life, yet Stein continued to praise Pétain after the war.

That praise however didn’t last long. Stein died in 1946 from stomach cancer at the age of 72. Toklas survived her by another twenty-one years. They are buried next to each other in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Randolfe Wicker: 1938. Charles Gervin Hayden, Sr., read Charles Gervin Hayden, Jr.’s diary one day during his son’s freshman year in college, and discovered that his only son was gay. “Fortunately,” the son later recalled, “he went to a decent psychiatrist who told him I would probably be gay all my life.” When the father later confronted his son, the father gave his assurances that all he wanted was for his son to be the best-adjusted homosexual he could be. And when the son told his father about his intention to become a gay activist, the father only asked for one favor: “Just don’t involve my good name.” As Randolfe Hayden Wicker recalled, “How could I refuse such a ‘reasonable’ small request from a father who, while not close emotionally, was someone who put the needs of his wife and his child ahead of his own?”

Wicker was outspoken from the beginning. While attending the University of Texas at Austin, he came across a copy of ONE magazine, where he learned about the New York City chapter of the Mattachine Society. In 1958, he moved to New York and set to work drumming up publicity for the group, when he took it upon himself to print up fliers and plastering them all over Greenwich Village announcing a Mattachine talk called “Homosexuality and the Law.” Even though a record-breaking 300 people showed up, neither the lawyer giving the talk nor the Mattachine leadership appreciated Wicker’s publicity stunt. Arthur Maule, the Mattachine’s president, later recalled, “We didn’t know what to make of Randy Wicker. …He was, let’s say, a disturbing acquisition for the movement.”

Wicker’s arrival on the scene marked an important transition from the more conservative approach to gay rights among the older generation and the more direct tactics of the emerging younger generation of “radicals.” To get out from under Mattachine’s reticence, he founded a one-man group he called the “Homosexual League of New York,” which gave him the credibility to approach media outlets and create the kind of publicity that the Mattachine Society was reluctant to do. His 1962 appearance on a ninety-minute program on radio station WBAI with several other gay men to talk about what it was like to be gay (see Jul 15) soon drew the attention of The New York Times, the Herald Tribune, Newsweek, and Variety to Wicker’s “League” and to Wicker himself.

Thanks to that publicity, Wicker became one of the most visible gay personalities in New York, a visibility that was extended in 1964 when he appeared in WABC’s The Les Crane Show (see Jan 31). Later that year, Wicker’s “League” organized the very first gay rights picket in the United States when he and his League protested in front of the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential (see Sep 19). And where the New York Mattachine Society was still hesitant to take on psychiatry’s indictment of gay people as mentally ill (many argued that they should “wait until more research had been done before we decide to take a stand”), gay rights activist Jack Nichols remembered that Wicker challenged the mental health establishment head on and was “adept at making the statures of shrinks shrink noticeably.”

Wicker’s activism went far beyond media appearances and protests. He made his day-to-day living as “the Button King” of the hippie era. As he later wrote: “By 1964, I’d become a passionate opponent to the War in Vietnam. My best friend’s girlfriend nearly died terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Other friends “turned me on to pot” and I’d become naively enamored by it. I joined the anti-war, sex freedom and legalize pot movements. Publishing “issue buttons” was my hobby. “Equality for Homosexuals” was my first big success. By 1967, my hobby had become a lucrative business. I became the ‘Button King’ of the hippie era.”

He sold his buttons out of his East Village head shop, the Underground Uplift Unlimited, and through mail order from ads placed in magazines nationwide. His activism spread accordingly, to civil rights, marijuana decriminalization, censorship, anti-war sentiment, abortion rights, and sexual freedom. His entrepreneurialship was above all else however. By the late 1960s, he identified as a moderate Republican, much to the dismay of the more left-leaning gay activists, and despite his most popular button of 1968 reading “Lick Dick.”

Wicker continued to make waves all his life. He became a regular contributor for Gay magazine, and then for Screw, where he wrote a memorable article giving detailed instructions on “how to get maximum satisfaction out of sodomy” in an article titled, “Up The Ass Is A Gas”. After scientists announced the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, Wicker became a cloning rights activist, arguing that every person’s DNA is his or her personal property and that the right to bear one’s “later-born identical twin” was a human right. Has no problem if people regard him as a gadfly. He long ago recognized that it was what he was best at:

Anyone who really thinks and speaks for himself makes waves. I’ve always liked challenging stereotypical thinking. I would have preferred to be a beloved popular political leader. However, I found that required being two-faced and duplicitous. At the minimum being a beloved political leader requires compromising away most of what you believe in to achieve popularity.

Here is a television appearance by Randolfe Wicker on a local Pittsburgh talk show from 1972:

[Additional source: Jack Nichols. “Randolfe Wicker (1938-).” In Vern L. Bullough’s Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 273-281.]

Nathan Lane: 1956. When Lane came out to his mother at age 21, she responded, “I’d rather you were dead.” Lane replied, “I knew you’d understand.” When a reporter asked if he was gay, Lane said, “I’m 40, single and work a lot in the musical theater. You do the math.” While he’s been in a few films and television shows, his award-winning work on Broadway is his main calling card, with roles in The Producers, Guys and Dolls, Love! Valour! Compassion!, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His big break in film came when he played opposite Robin Williams in The Birdcage. He also reprised his Broadway role for the film version of The Producers.

Lane’s successful runs on Broadway have continued with nary a break. Last year, he starred in the title role of The Nance, which is set in a burlesque house in the 1930s. The role earned him Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, and he won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Monday, February 2

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE, August 1960, page 21.

Selling books on sexuality was always fraught with peril. If a book became too popular, its popularity might bring it to the attention of censorious authorities, whether they be the local vice squad, an ambitious district attorney or the Post Office. Many publishers tried to inoculate themselves against charges of peddling obscenity by placing notices on the title pages of their publications that the sale of the book was restricted to the medical or legal professions, regardless of whether the book itself had any medical or legal value whatsoever. But those messages also meant that the typical popular bookseller wouldn’t bother to stock these books. So with the opening of the first gay bookstore still several years away (see Nov 24), mail order from “medical book departments” was perhaps the most reliable way of obtaining such hard to find titles. This ad, appearing as it does in the nation’s first nationally distributed gay magazine, has all of the winks and nods needed to pass muster with the authorities while still getting its message across to “the serious reader.”

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Why Should It Be a Crime To Dress As You Please?: 1884. The following letter to the editor appeared in the February 1884 edition of the journal Alienist and Neurologist (an alienist is an archaic term for a psychiatrist). The letter was notable for two reasons. Nearly all letters to the editor were routinely signed, but this one is kept anonymous. And it is also a very rare early example of an American writer, apparently a professional, asking whether those who don’t conform to the rigid gender roles of the day should be left alone (or at least relatively alone) and not treated as a criminal:

MR. EDITOR: — Will you kindly permit me to say a few words about Sexual Perversion, in reply to Dr. Rice’s paper. The latter says that it has but little forensic interest in this country, and I beg to differ with him. In the first place, it is quite generally admitted that lunatics and maniacs are not responsible, and irresponsible people are not to be punished for a thing that they cannot help doing.

When a man dons female attire, or vice versa, he either has an object or he has none. If he has an object, it may be good, bad or indifferent. If it is to conceal past crime, or as an aid to future crime, it is bad, and deserves punishment. If he seeks the disguise to enable him to ferret out a crime, the object is praiseworthy, — detectives are allowed it. In the third case, it must be said that the sole object is pleasure or satisfaction of some sort. Crime may be a pleasure to some, but if we exclude all evil intent, is it not harmless? Another case that resembles, sometimes one and sometimes another of the above, is when it is done for a livelihood; women give this as an excuse, a plea to be allowed men’s dress; men rarely.

Quite a large number of cases are occurring in all large cities, of persons arrested for dressing like the opposite sex. But few are criminals; many are highly respectable and honorable. Should they be punished as criminals? If the object is good, No! If bad, Yes! If neither, what then?

It is self-evident that no sane man will take the pains and go to the expense of obtaining a full set of female attire, and persist in the practice of wearing it until he becomes expert in its uses, initiating himself into all the mysteries of a lady’s toilet, submitting voluntarily to the tortures of tight corsets and high-heeled boots and false hair, hoops, pull-backs and frizzes, unless impelled thereto by some motive stronger than mere mischief. There can be no doubt in my mind that such a miserable being deserves pity rather than punishment. There have been several arrests in this city within five or six years for wearing female attire, and I believe nearly all the victims belonged to that innocent class, since no other object or purpose was ever proved against them.

Why should it be a crime, to dress as you please? The dress itself inflicts punishment enough on its wearer. No one but the wearer is injured, nor need others be any the wiser for it. Certain it is that many of these poor people have suffered severe punishment at the hands of our judges, and with no one bold enough to defend them.

Is it not sad enough that they must suffer daily between two fires — love of this dress, and fear of punishment, which they have known to be swift and certain? Would the world be any the worse for allowing them this little modicum of comfort, the only pleasure they have in life, under proper restrictions? What these restrictions should be I am not prepared to say. Perhaps an asylum or retreat might be provided, where they could resort when these paroxysms came on, and there enjoy (?) in seclusion from the public eye, where the law could not reach them, such indulgences as might be deemed proper, or compelled to follow these practices until they were thoroughly cured of such desires. I know of one case, at least, that would be benefited, perhaps cured, by suitable treatment of this sort. I should be glad to hear the opinion of those of greater experience than myself.

E.J.H.

[Source: E.J.H. (Anonymous) “Correspondence.” Alienist and Neurologist 5 no. 2 (February 1884): 351-352. All italics and parentheticals in the original.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Havelock Ellis: 1859-1939.When it came time to choose a career, he chose an unorthodox one for a Victorian Englishman: that of a sexologist. To prepare, he studied to be a physician, since medical science was considered to be essential in understanding all matters sexual. Then he joined the Fellowship of the New Life, a social group influenced by Emerson and Thoreau, where he met Edward Carpenter (see Aug 29), whose unabashed homosexuality must surely have been a great influence on him. Another influence: his wife, women’s rights activist Edith Lees, who was openly lesbian, and who insisted on an open marriage, an arrangement to which he readily agreed although he himself was impotent until the age of 60.

When in 1896 he co-authored (with JohnAddington Symonds, see Oct 5) the first installment of his six-volume Studies on the Psychology of Sex, that volume, titled Sexual Inversion go on to become the first English medical textbook on homosexuality. But first, he published it in German, and then translated it into English in 1897 in a bid to avoid British censors. German scholars, by then, had already written several influential works on homosexuality, making German the de facto language of sexology. It was thought that by translating a German work, censors might look the other way as they had for other publications of continental origin. They didn’t. A bookseller was prosecuted for stocking Sexual Inversion, although the charges were eventually thrown out.

Ellis can claim several firsts. He was the first to study what we today recognize as transgender identities as a distinct phenomenon from homosexuality. He is also credited for creating the ideas of narcissism and autoeroticism, concepts which were later adopted by psychoanalysis. He is also often credited for introducing the word “homosexual” into the English language, although in fact he hated the word’s made-up mixture of Greek and Latin roots: “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it.” He wrote instead about “sexual inversion,” and in ways that no major English writer had done before: as an objective field of study without characterizing it as a disease, immorality or a crime.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 1

Jim Burroway

February 1st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GAY, October 25, 1971, page 13.

From GAY, October 25, 1971, page 13.

Gay rights advocate Jack Nicols (see Mar 16) and his parter Lige Clarke founded GAY in New York in 1969 as the first weekly newspaper for LGBT people sold on newsstands, with aspirations to become a nationally-distributed publication. In 1971, GAY gave its readers a rundown on gay establishments in New York and the West Coast, including these three bars in Hollywood:

OLIVER, 365 N. La Clenega Blvd . Delightful room serving cocktails and dinner from 4pm to 2am seven days a week. Menu is extensive and prices are stunningly below any other restaurant of its calibre in town. Atmosphere is that of quiet elegance.

SPOTLITE ROOM, 1601 N , Cahuenga Blvd. What can you say about a tradition? In this one’s case, it certainly is NOT dull! Don’t be deceived by its initial impression that it’s strictly a rough type bar! There is absolutely no telling who you’re liable to run into there. It is unique in Los Angeles.

LEMON TWIST LOUNGE, 6423 Yucca. This quiet place halted the trend that had gays deserting the downtown Hollywood area for the nicer, more sophisticated bistros of West Hollywood or the Valley. It has a pleasant decor and personable staff. It’s neither an entertainment center nor a sardine can, but a cozy, intimate place to socialize without all the gimmickry that seems so fashionable these days. GM, GF.

EMPHASIS MINE:

Cafe: 3 a.m.

Detectives from the vice squad
with weary sadistic eyes
spotting fairies.
Degenerates,
some folks say.

But God, Nature,
or somebody
made them that way.

Police lady or Lesbian
over there?
Where?

– Langston Hughes, inspired by a police raid on an African-American gay bar.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
95 YEARS AGO: Los Angeles Police “Purity Squad” Raids Private Party: 1920. Angelinos awoke to an odd story in that day’s Los Angeles Times:

Twenty Los Angeles men, some said the be prominent in social and business circles, were arrested last night by the police at a stag party in the home of Former Mayor Harper and were booked on the charge of social vagrancy.

Seven of the men, including the host, Joseph Harper, 24 years old, are alleged by the officers making the raid to have been gowned in feminine apparel.

The house, at 1128 West Twenty-eighth street, was surrounded when the gaiety was at its height.

Just after the police had raided the residence, Ex-Mayor Harper and Mrs. Harper arrived home. They had returned, unexpectedly, from a trip to Bakersfield. Mrs. Harper was prostrated by the incident and became hysterical. Mr. Harper also was overcome with emotion.

…According to Police Sergeant Gifford and the officers of the “purity squad” who conducted the raid, a degenerate orgy was in progress when they entered the house.

Two naval petty officers and two unlisted sailors, whose names were withheld by the police were at the “party” in uniform, it is said.

The four naval personnel were the only ones accorded the courtesy of their names not being released to the press. For everyone else, The Times dutifully noted in the next two paragraphs party-goers’ names, addresses and occupations, with the first paragraph listing the six who were “all taking ‘female’ parts in the party,” and the second listing those who “remained in male attire.” The following day, The Times carried a much more lengthy account:

Two of the score of prisoners were released on bail yesterday, eight of them were ordered held without bail after they failed to pass the medical quarantine examination, and the other ten are being held in various tanks and cells, some still awaiting masculine clothes to take the place of the feminine finery which Purity Squad officers unceremoniously removed from them in the jail.

The ever-diligent Times then went on to list the names, addresses and occupations of everyone who “failed to pass the medical examination for infectious disease,” those who were released on bail, and those who remained in jail. Former Mayer Harper, whose son was released on a $500 bond, told reporters: “I believe absolutely in my son’s innocence. I wouldn’t say that the police are misrepresenting the facts, but I reserve for myself a few opinions along that line.” The Times, having gotten that quick statement out of the way, then went on to describe some of the more titillating details:

Central Police Station buzzed with activity all through the night and the day yesterday. Early in the morning, after Jailer Shand arrived, he and his assistants went upstairs to the big tank and began stripping eight of the “guests” of the female attire in which they had draped themselves.

The dresses, some of them very costly and elaborate, were unceremoniously packed into suit cases and marked as evidence. Some of the men were supplied with bathrobes and others had to content themselves with jail blankets.

The arresting officers yesterday related the details of the raid and the evidence they assert they have to substantiate their charges. News that the party was to take place Saturday night was received about two weeks ago, they stated. At that time, the officers say, there was another party at which some of the men arrested Saturday were present.

Arrangements were made to have some of the officers in the house. While the scheme of the operation was not disclosed, it was whispered yesterday that at least one of the purity squad’s experts was under a bed in one of the rooms, another one was among the original members of the party wearing a uniform, and a third member managed to get into the house at the last hour. The officers say liquor was served int he shape of punch, and that there was music and much hilarity.

In an odd turn two months later, the charges in the Harper raid were dropped due to “confusion” and the fact that an “important witness is said to have disappeared.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Langston Hughes: 1902-1967. He was one of the innovators of a new form of poetry: jazz poetry. Born in Joplin, Missouri, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia, but was more interested in the goings-on in Harlem. He traveled throughout the world, and while his writings reflect those travels, he remained rooted in the experience of the Harlem Renaissance. His 1934 collection of short stories, The Ways of White Folks, tells of the intersection of black and white, and his screen play for Way Down South came out in the same year as Gone With the Wind. He remained closeted for his entire life, although some say that if you ignore the pronouns you can see hints of homoeroticism in some of his poems. Other unpublished poems appear to have been written to a black male lover. Another short story, Blessed Assurance,” deals with a father’s anger over his son’s “queerness.” But his finances were always precarious, and he would not have been able to afford the fallout of openness about his sexuality. He died in 1967 after abdominal surgery, and his ashes are interred at the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, January 31

Jim Burroway

January 31st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Pride Film Festival, Bloomington, IN; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, July 1965, page 25.

Nob Hill opened in the late 1940s as a formal dinner club, but by the early 1950s, the club’s owner, James Jones, realized that the lack of a gay bar for African-Americans presented a golden business opportunity. Nob Hill soon joined the ranks of the Capital’s very few gay bars and the only one that was African-American owned. It developed a reputation for its spectacular drag shows and its Sunday night Gospel concerts, and became an essential refuge for gay African-Americans in Columbia Heights. Nob Hill had a good run for the next half century before finally closing in 2004.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Randolphe Wicker Appears on the Les Crane Show: 1964. Randolfe Wicker (see Feb 3) was never afraid of drawing attention to himself as an out and proud gay man. In fact, he relished it. And when he moved to New York City and became involved in the local Mattachine Society chapter, he pushed for the group to become more visible and to publicize its activities. Some of the more conservative members of the group feared that he was pushing too hard and too fast. So Wicker got around the problem by starting a one-man group he called Homosexual League of New York. That way, if Mattachine members became too uncomfortable with his planned actions, he could just switch and do them under the guise of the alternative “group.” In 1962, he had already talked WBAI,  a listener-supported radio station, to air a 90 minute program with gay people on a panel (see Jul 15). That appearance led to listener complaints to the FCC, which finally ruled in favor of the station in 1964 (see Jan 23).

Just one week after the FCC’s ruling, Wicker found a somewhat larger audience when he appeared in WABC’s Les Crane Show to answer questions about homosexuality. True, the program aired at 1:00 a.m., and it took place about eight months before Crane’s show went nationwide, but Wicker’s appearance remains an important landmark in gay activism on the East Coast.

50 YEARS AGO: Washington Post Publishes “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality”: 1965. We often talk about 1969,  the year of the Stonewall rebellion, as being the pivotal year in the history of the gay rights movement. We even divide our history into “pre-Stonewall” and “post-Stonewall” areas. But as I’ve been putting these posts together, I’ve come to the conclusion that if one had to pick just one single year in which things truly began to change for gay people, the year to really pay attention to would be 1965, as the events of that year laid the groundwork which allowed the transformation which took place after Stonewall possible. The year already started off with a bang when San Francisco police raided a New Years’ Day party attended by straight couples as well as gay (see Jan 1). For the first time, straight people witnessed first hand the police harassment that gay people experienced on a routine basis. That event would have a lasting impact on city politics. New York activist Randy Wicker had already organized America’s first public protest for gay rights in New York in 1964 (see Sep 29), and 1965 would usher in the first public protests for gay rights in front of Independence Hall (see Jul 4) in Philadelphia and in Washington, D.C., (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Aug 28, and Oct 23).

Another important development came early in 1965, beginning on a Sunday morning, January 31, when Jean M. White, a staff reporter for The Washington Post, was able to accomplish a most remarkable thing. She published the first installment of a five part series titled, “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality,” which was the first relatively judgment-free, balanced, mostly accurate and sympathetic overview in a major newspaper of what it meant to be gay in the 196os. The first installment began:

This series of articles would not have been written five years ago.

Then, a frank and open discussion of homosexuality would have been impossible. It was a topic not to be mentioned in polite society or public print because lit; could be distasteful, embarrassing and disturbing.

So, like mental illness and venereal disease earlier, homosexuality was stored out of sight in society’s attic, carefully hidden under a blanket of silence — except for snide jokes or oblique allusions.
Now, there is a growing awareness and concern about the problem of homosexuality — brought about in part by a more open and liberal public attitude toward sex in general.

In recent years, the subject has been debated debated in the British Parliament, discussed in statements by doctors, lawyers and churchmen and examined, if somewhat gingerly, in the public media.
The conspiracy of silence of the past nurtured myths, misconceptions, false stereotypes and feelings of disgust and revulsion. They still cloud any discussion of homosexuality. But more and more, recognition has come of a need to reappraise our laws — and our attitudes.

This series was quite unlike another series of articles published by The New York Times just two year earlier (see Dec 17). This Post series focused mainly on male homosexuals “because female homosexuality poses less of a social problem. The Lesbian has been treated more tolerantly by society and seldom comes into conflict with the law.” The first article of the series included a broad overview of the gay community — its organizations, magazines, and the difficulties both of life in the closet and outside of it. It also included a few vignettes of some of the individuals in the D.C. area. Twenty-five year old “David” represented one who lived more or less in the gay community, attending parties and having been a patient at St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital “to try to change but ‘it didn’t take.” Another person described in the opening article was for some unknown reason unnamed, but an astute observer today would recognize him as Frank Kameny (see May 21), the late pioneering gay rights advocate:

The astronomer speaks articulately of civil rights and job discrimination and cites studies in anthropology and psychoanalytic theory. Seven years ago he lost his Government job because of a report that he was a homosexual.

“I decided then that I had run long enough,” ‘he recalls. “All of us have to make our own compromises in life. I decided not to hide any more.”

He fought his job dismissal in the courts. Since then he has appeared before a congressional subcommittee to speak for the local Mattachine Society and has defended homosexuality on radio and television programs.

After long months without work and then a temporary job as a technician, he finally was hired as a physicist a year ago by a private employer, who knows he is a homosexual.

This middle-class homosexual with college degrees deplores the perverts and -queens” and points out that heterosexuals also have their rapists, child molesters, sadists and neurotics. He sometimes drops in at a “gay” bar for conversation and a drink and attends the Mattachine meetings. He has sought a lasting relationship without success.

This is not the type of homosexual that the police generally meet. They know the homosexual as the predatory man who loiters in public men’s rooms. Or they see the man who compulsively seeks a quick partner in the park.

The opening installment of the article continued with a review of Kinsey’s 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and noted the early emerging debate about whether homosexuality was a mental illness. Four more installments in the series would be published over the next for days. Part two focused on the disagreements among psychologists about whether homosexuality can or ought to be “cured,” and it featured quotations from Sigmund Freud’s 1935 letter to an American mother discounting the possibility of changing her son’s sexuality (see Apr 9).  Part three introduced readers to the idea that gay people could be found throughout society and in all professions. Part four explored the legal difficulties that gay men experienced in a country where every state except Illinois and every territory and the District of Columbia criminalized gay relationships (including the North Carolina case where a man was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years — see Jan 8). Part five delved into the federal ban on hiring gay people for government jobs, and the efforts of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., to overturn that ban.

While the series was exceptionally balanced for 1965, it wasn’t entirely free of the typical hangups and prejudices of that era. For example, in Part 3, White wrote:

It is true, however, that homosexuals seem to cluster around certain “arty” professions —  the fashion industry, hairdressing, the theater and entertainment world. In fact, there seems to be some basis for the charge of “reverse discrimination” — that homosexuals hire their own kind and set up a “homosexual closed shop.”

But whatever faults may be found in the series by today’s standards, they pale when considering the abject invisibility that the gay community experienced in the 1960s. Which is why this series was so important. At that very moment, gay activists on the East Coast were already coming together to devising strategies for bringing the entire community out of the shadows.  Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), the Philadelphia-based gay rights advocate who edited the Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder, praised it as “the most astute, as well as most extensive, coverage so far in U. S. papers. …The POST’s survey of the conflicting ‘expert’ views of homosexuality is one of the most comprehensive run-downs in print anywhere.”

Not only did most of the series appear in the front page of The Washington Post, but abbreviated versions of it appeared in several other newspapers around the country, including The Providence Sun-Journal in Rhode Island and The Chicago Sun-Times. It would wind up providing a well-timed introduction of gay people to the general public, ahead of a series of protests that would take place later that year.

[Sources: Jean M. White. “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality.” Washington Post (February 1, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — II. Scientists Disagree on Basic Nature of Homosexuality, Chance of Cure.” Washington Post (February 1, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — III. Homosexuals Are in All Kinds of Jobs, Find Place in Many Levels of Society.” Washington Post (February 2, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — IV. 49 States and the District Punish Overt Homosexual Acts as Crimes.” Washington Post (February 3, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — V. Homosexuals’ Militancy Reflected in Attacks on Ouster in U.S. Jobs.” Washington Post (February 4, 1965): A1.

Barbara Gittings (as Gene Damon). “Cross-Currents.” The Ladder (April 1965): 19.]

10 YEARS AGO: “Suitcase Murderer” Found Guilty: 2005. Witnesses saw Josh Cottrell, 22, and Guinn “Ritchie” Phillips, 36, eating lunch at a restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on July 17, 2003. Seven days later, Phillips’s truck and other belongings were found abandoned in southern Indiana. The next day, two fishermen pulled a suitcase out of Rough River Lake, opened it, and found Phillips’s body inside. When police arrested Cottrell on June 27, they charged him with murder and announced they would seek the death penalty in the case. And by all rights he should have been convicted very easily: he confessed to bludgeoning Phillips to death and stuffing him into the suitcase. His own family members even testified that Cottrell planned to kill Philips because he was gay, and lured Phillips into his hotel room where the murder took place.

But in court, Cottrell deployed the gay panic defense. He testified that Phillips came to the motel room uninvited and tried to kiss him and force him into oral sex. Phillips panicked, he claimed, and bludgeoned him to death. His lawyers argued that Cottrell was within his rights to defend himself.

After deliberating for nine hours, the jury returned its verdict. They found Cottrell guilty. Of manslaughter, not murder. Phillips’s brother sized it up this way to a local newspaper: “I think they (the jury) were looking at my brother being a homosexual when they made their decision to pick the lesser charge.” The judge sentenced Cottrell to 20 years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
65 YEARS AGO: Fred Karger: 1950. The political consultant and gay rights activist was largely responsible for drawing attention to the massive Mormon funding of the fight to strip LGBT Californians of their right to marry. Before becoming a gay rights advocate, he was a Republican political consultant at the Dolphin Group, where he worked in the Presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. In 2012, he decided to return to presidential politics, launching his own bid for the GOP presidential nomination. His campaign may have seemed quixotic, but Karger was serious about his goal to “open up” the Republican party and to send a message to young people to “stand up and be proud in a tough atmosphere.” He also achieved a notable first by becoming the first openly gay presidential candidate from a major political party in American history.

Portia de Rossi: 1973. That’s her professional name. Another name she goes by is Portia Lee James DeGeneres. The Australian-born actress is best known for her roles as Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal and as Linsay Bluth Fünke on Arrested Development. She married Ellen DeGeneres in 2008, and on August 6, 2010 she field a petition to take Ellen’s name. She became a US citizen in 2012.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Friday, January 30

Jim Burroway

January 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Pride Film Festival, Bloomington, IN; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, October 1968, page 5.

Thanks to ongoing bar raids, entrapment operations and general police harassment, the risk of arrest was an ever-present worry in the gay community, making ads for bail bond agencies a not altogether uncommon feature in gay publications of the 1960s.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Gay Man Falsely Arrested for “Sex Crime”: 1957. In 1955, a horrific crime took place, with the “sex slaying” of three teenage boys in Chicago.  Fourteen-year-old Robert Peterson and two of his friends, John Schuessler, 13, and John’s brother Anton, 11, had left the Peterson home on their bikes to see a move at a nearby theater one Sunday afternoon. They never returned home. Two days later, on October 18, 1955, police found their bodies on a horse bridal path in a forest preserve, nude and strangled. The Peterson-Schuessler murders sparked a media frenzy, and in the ensuing panic Chicago police conducted thousands of interviews of possible suspects. One suspect was Anton Schuesslelr, Sr., who was questioned by police, then put into a psychiatric institution and given electroshock therapy. He died of a heart attack just one month after his sons’ murders.

Fifteen months later, Chicago police had another suspect, a “good-looking, mild-mannered” thirty-nine year old engineer, William Rexroad Brooke, who was working in Iran with an oil company. On January 30, a bewildered Brooke was arrested by eighteen police and detectives, with a swarm of reporters looking on, as he walked off a KLM airliner from Amsterdam. Brooke asked detective why he was being arrested. Told that he was wanted by Chicago police, reporters heard him say, “I don’t know what for.” He then asked reporters, “What is this all about?”

Newspapers blared the story the next day under huge headlines, along with details on the Chicago Police Department’s suspicions: Brooke had worked at a metal products firm near where the boys were found, his storage shed contained newspapers which included stories about the well-publicized murder, and his apartment was in “the general area” where they boys disappeared. More to the point, they found evidence that Brooke was gay, and that was enough to clinch the deal, despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever connecting him to the crime. Brooke was indicted in absentia by a Cook County grand jury and a warrant was issued for his arrest. When Brooke made his trip back from Iran, his name showed up on the passenger list and police were notified. And soon, everyone around the country knew about Brooke’s story, thanks to front page headlines that were impossible to miss.

Easier to miss was a tiny, one-paragraph Associated Press report that appeared four days later buried in the inside pages of the few papers that cared to carry it:

Suspect Cleared in Boy Killings

CHICAGO, Feb 3 (AP) — Lie detector tests have cleared a 39-year-old efficiency expert of any connection in the 1955 sex slaying of an Evanston, Ill., Boy Scout, police say William Rexroad Brooke was absolved for the killing of Peter Gorham, 12, who was found shot to death Aug 14, 1955 near Muskegon, Mich., and he also has been cleared in the strangling of three boys found Oct 18, 1955, in Robinson Woods, northwest of Chicago.

Nearly forty years later, information from an FBI informant connected to the Chicago mob ultimately led to the trial and conviction of  Kenneth Hansen, a horse livery stable worker for a Chicago mobster, for the boys’ murders. Hansen was sentenced to between 200 and 300 years.

[Source: “Seized on Plane from Europe in ’55 Deaths of 3 Chicago Boys.” Mattachine Review 3, no. 3 (March 1957): 12-13.]

 Oregon Doctors Claim Gay Cure Breakthrough: 1958. The San Francisco Examiner provided the following report:

Doctors Claim Cure for Sex Criminals

CARMEL, JAN 30. — A medical team claimed here today that homosexuals and sex fiends can be tamed down into useful, law-abiding citizens by daily doses of simple synthetic hormones. The report came from Drs. William M. Laidlaw, Donald J. Moore and Carl G. Heller of the University of Oregon Medical School.

Doctor Heller told the annual meeting of the Western Section of the American Federation for Clinical Research that he and his colleagues experimented with 55 volunteer convicts serving terms in Oregon State Penitentiary for sex crimes.

After six to nine weeks of daily treatment with progesterone, a female sex hormone, or synthetic versions of it, every convict in the group was infertile, impotent and lost all sexual desire. They stayed that way as long as they got their daily hormone pills.

Doctor Heller said the convicts were happy about the results. He reported the Oregon State parole board is deeply interested in the experiment.

The suggestion has been made that many sexual deviants and sexual psychopaths could be released from prisons if continuing daily doses of the hormones were made a condition of parole.

Of course, the article itself clamed no such cure, only that “homosexuals and sex fiends” could be “tamed down.” They were simply “de-sexed,” as one critic of the procedure put it in a letter to the Mattachine Review. But a de-sexed homosexual was good enough as far as these doctors were concerned, given that they apparently couldn’t imagine a homosexual who was already a useful, law-abiding citizen rather than a “sex fiend.” As to whether the prisoners undergoing the experiment were truly happy with the result, their happiness was likely tied to their prospects for parole.

[Source: “Doctors Claim Cure for Sex Criminals.” San Francisco Examiner (January 31, 1958). As reprinted in the Mattachine Review, 4, no. 3 (March 1958): 13-14.]

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

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

Bryan Fischer “Fired” While Republican Party Leaders Travel To Israel on Hate Group’s Tab

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2015

While news outlets in America are discussing Speaker John Boehner’s irresponsible invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress as part of Netanyahu’s re-election campaign back home, the Israeli daily Haaretz is filling its Israeli readers in on a trip being made by some sixty members of the Republican National Committee, with all expenses paid by the American Family Association. In the process Haaretz is giving its readers a good glimpse of what the AFA’s Bryan Fischer has said on behalf of the organization footing the bill for the Republican junket:

Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issue analysis, has said that black people “rut like rabbits.” Moreover, in a September essay, he wrote: “We are a Christian nation and not a Jewish or Muslim one.” On a video segment on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” last Friday, Fischer was seen blasting gay activists as “jack-booted homo-fascist thugs,” and depicting Islam as “an Ebola virus that is lethal and deadly.”

…For his part, AFA’s Fischer, in a 2010 essay slamming the end of the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay soldiers, blamed homosexuals for the Holocaust: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”

The AFA has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. GOP Chairman Reince Priebus sent out the invitation for the trip to all 168 RNC members in November. About sixty accepted and are going on the trip, including Priebus. Altogether 98 people are going on the nine-day trip that begins on Saturday. David Lane, who heads the American Renewal Project, is organizing the trip. The American Renewal Project is funded by the AFA, and is housed at AFA headquarters in Tupelo, Mississippi. Haaretz also gave its readers a small dose of some of Lane’s past statements as well:

His American Renewal Project is working to persuade 1,000 evangelical pastors to run for public office in 2016. “The Lord gave me this model of mobilizing pastors to try and engage the culture. Somebody’s values are going to rein supreme,” Lane told Haaretz, adding, “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.”

…We were established as a Christian nation in the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith. It’s my position that we’ve lost that,” Lane explained, in an appearance on conservative political commentator Glenn Beck’s television show “The Blaze.” “Restoring America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establishing a Christian culture is the only way that we get out of where we are.”

No one from the RNC, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Anti-Defamation League would respond to a week’s worth of telephone messages from Haaretz for comment.

So far, this has been little noted in the American press, although it’s gotten to be a really big deal in Israel. Debra Nussbaum Cohen, the Haaretz reporter, appeared on Rachel Maddow last night to talk about the story. Maddow also reported that the AFA has responded by announcing that Fischer has been “fired” as a spokesperson and Director of Issues Analysis for the AFA. Tim Wildmon, the AFA’s president, told MSNBC that Fischer was now “just a radio host,” and that he was “fired” because of “the soundbite quotes, you know, the Hitler and the homosexuality one…” Maddow noted that even though Fischer has a long history of consistently making these same remarks over and over, Wildmon said simply, “we reject that.” For now, at least, while the Israeli public’s eyes are on them.

I’m still putting Fischer’s “firing” in quotes, because he apparently still has his radio program, carried throughout the AFA’s radio network of more than 200 stations. He may no longer have the title, but he still has the same national platform that he always had, courtesy of the AFA:

Meanwhile, more than a third of the entire Republican National Committee and its chairman will depart Saturday in the company of several Christian Reconstructionists on the AFA’s $400,000 tab. So for now, nothing’s really changed.

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