Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda
The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 27
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, 27 years old.
A native of Puerto Rico, Jean bought his first home a month and a half ago because he wanted his mother to live somewhere nice. He had a long history of taking responsibility for his family. He started working at a McDonalds when he was fifteen, and he became a general manager within a few short years. More recently, he had become a manager at a check cashing store. One friend said, “He wanted to be the best at what he did, and he would work very hard to achieve that. So if he had to put in the long hours to get it right, he’d do it. If he had to stay to work a double [shift], he did it. That’s why whatever job he went to, he became a manager.”
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old.
Enrique worked as a social worker for the elderly in east Brooklyn while attending nursing school. He had gone to Orlando to spend the weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday. He was due to return home later that Sunday and was getting a last hour of dancing in at Pulse when the gunman opened fire. His mother, a janitor, told reporters before leaving for Olrando to bring her son home, “There’s always room for forgiveness, I’m not angry at the gunman, I’m not angry about the situation. I’m forever going to miss my son but I’ve been taught to believe that my son knew the Lord Jesus Christ and so I still have the hope that I’m going to see him again one day.”
Gerardo Ortiz-Jiminez, 25 years old.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, he had graduated high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and was studying law at the Universidad del Éste in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He took jobs as an actor, dancer, and server at a cafe in San Juan. Friends described him as funny, humble, charismatic, and a huge Selina Gomez fan. Drake, as family and friends called him, had flown to Orlando from Puerto Rico to see Gomez in concert on Friday night. Just hours before going to Pulse, he went to a gym and posted photo of himself on Instagram.
When Congress passed a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, it did so with an eye toward protecting the country from alleged hordes of communists and fellow travelers invading the country. The McCarran-Walter Act, as it was known, removed the previous quotas which excluded immigrants based on the country of origin, and replaced them with a provision barring those who were deemed unlawful, immoral, diseased, or politically suspect.
The two lawmakers for which the bill was named were well-known anti-Communist crusaders. Rep. Francis E. Walter (D-PA) was a prominent member of the House Un-American-Activities Committee from 1951 until his death in 1963, service as committee chair for the last nine of those years. He was also a director of the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi organization which sought to promote the encouragement of the propagation of those “descend predominately from white persons who settle the original thirteen states.” It promoted eugenics and “scientific” studies purporting to demonstrate that heredity resulted in significant variations of IQ among the races. Sen. Pat McCarran (D-NV) was little better. His xenophobia was legendary, and his open admiration for Spain’s fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco gave rise to his nickname, “the Senator from Madrid.”
With politicians looking for communists and homosexuals under ever bed and in every closet, few Senators and Representatives dared to vote against the bill, despite a promised veto by President Harry Truman. After Congress defied Truman and passed the bill, Truman kept his word and vetoed it on June 26, calling it “un-American” and an “absurdity.” The very next day, the House overrode his veto in a 278 to 113 vote, and the Senate followed suit on June 27 with a 57 to 26 vote. The bill became law that very day.
For the next four decades, the U.S. government used the McCarran-Walter Act to prevent hundreds of people each year from visiting the U.S solely because of their political beliefs and associations. Political beliefs however weren’t the only litmus test the government applied. One provision prohibited entry to “aliens afflicted with psychopathic personality, epilepsy, or a mental defect.” Since the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental defect, the Immigration and Naturalization Service took that to mean that gays and lesbians were to be barred from entry into the United States. Even after the APA removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders 1973 (Dec 15), the INS continued to bar openly gay people from immigrating. As the years wore on, the ban was enforced haphazardly, but gay immigrants remained subject to deportation at the whim of an immigration judge.
That remained the state of affairs until the 1990 Immigration Act finally removed homosexuality as grounds for exclusion (Nov 29). But three years earlier, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) pushed through a provision to an appropriations bill prohibiting anyone with HIV from entering the country. That ban went beyond prohibiting immigration, and included visits by HIV-positive tourists, health care advocates, business people, or anyone else entering the U.S. for so much as a single day. That ban remained in place until 2010.
The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old.
As soon as people in Orlando understood the magnitude of what happened that night, thousands rushed to donate blood for the victims. OneBlood, the state’s largest blood bank, put out a call for all of its employees to come in to work. One employee however didn’t answer that call.
A native of San Germán, Puerto Rico, Rody had been working at OneBlood since 2011 as a biologics assistant, and had recently been promoted to supervisor of a platelet products team. In the past year, he had bought a car and a house in Kissimmee. Adam Colon, a member of Ayala-Ayala’s team, said he was “a prankster” and “a kind, warm-hearted soul.” “Rody would not hurt a fly, he continued. “He was gentle and sweet and charismatic. He had an infectious smile. If you were having a bad day, he would come in the room with his smile and he would brighten up the whole room.”
He also had a unique sense of style: “He could rock a bowtie,” said Colin. “He was famous for the bowtie. He wore very vibrant colors. Suspenders. A full hawk one day and the following day, blond hair. You could spot him a mile away. His personality went hand in hand with that outfit. He was very proud of being a gay man in the community. No one could tell him different. He wasn’t ashamed of it. He was out there and that is who he was and if you didn’t like it – tough cookie. He wasn’t going to let nobody bring him down.”
Rody was a big Ricky Martin Fan and loved to dance, especially the cha-cha and merengue. Friends say he didn’t go out very often, but when he did it was to dance. said one friend, “He didn’t even drink because he had a long drive home and always wanted to be safe.”
“These brawny young men in their leather caps, shirts, jackets and pants are practicing homosexuals, men who turn to other men for affection and sexual satisfaction. They are part of what they call the “gay world,” which is actually a sad and often sordid world. …
“Homosexuality shears across the spectrum of American life — the professions, the arts, business and labor. It always has. But today, especially in big cities, homosexuals are discarding their furtive ways and openly admitting, even flaunting, their deviation. Homosexuals have their own drinking places, their special assignation streets, even their own organizations. And for every obvious homosexual, there are probably nine nearly impossible to detect. This social disorder, which society tries to suppress, has forced itself into the public eye because it does present a problem — and parents especially are concerned. The myth and misconception with which homosexuality has so long been clothed must be cleared away, not to condone it but to cope with it.”
The opening paragraphs and the accompanying photo described the Toob Box, a San Francisco bar that was popular with the leather crowd. Over the next fourteen pages, Life magazine explored that so-called “sordid world”: in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, “which rates as the ‘gay capital’ [with] 30 bars that cater exclusively to a homosexual clientele.” The articles provide interesting vignettes and photos of gay life in the pre-Stonewall era, but reading through them today probably tells us more about society’s revulsion towards gay people than it does about gay people themselves.
For the first part of the article describing gay night life in San Francisco, Life turned to Hal Call (Sep 20), who had taken over the Mattachine Society in a coup against the Society’s founder in 1953 (Apr 11). He also was the publisher of the Mattachine Review, which, owing to the Mattachine’s disbanding as a national organization in 1961, had effectively become Call’s personal property. Life worked with Call to document two gay bars in San Francisco. As Call later explained:
In January of that year, people from Life magazine contacted us and wondered if we could help them get a photographic representation of the homosexual community in the San Francisco area. It had to be authentic news, not staged, because Life was a news magazine. But the identity of the people in the photographs had to be protected because in those days you could’d just go out and photograph a bunch of gays and them label them without being subject to lawsuits.
We chose two bars two bars, and they were both reluctant. One of them was the Tool Box. We chose it because it had a particular black-and-white mural of macho, leather cowboy times. We got a number of regular customers to come in. For the photo shoot, the place was lighted by opening the door wide to allow daylight to flood in on one side. Most the the people inside were shown in silhouette. Plus, there was smoke haze in the air. One or two faces were somewhat identifiable after the picture was taken, so Life did an air brush job on them.
When the article came out in June, the owner of the Tool Box said, “Jesus Christ, Hal Call, we shouldn’t have done that. Now the ABC (Alcohol Control Board) is going to close my bar.” I said, “Don’t you worry. You’ve got a black-and-white double-page ad in Life magazine.” … Anyway, he was pacified, especially when business picked up. My God, every gay that came two San Francisco wanted to see the Tool Box and see that mural!”
The other bar featured in Life was called the Jumping Frog. Located on Polk Street (then the heart of San Francisco’s gay night life about a decade before the Castro grabbed that distinction), the Jumping Frog showed old Hollywood films using a sixteen-millimeter projector. For the Life shot, they were showing Some Like It Hot.
Call praised the article as “the first time a national magazine had ever treated the subject of homosexuality with any sensitivity or understanding.” But it wasn’t all movies and a few beers. In what passed as “fair and balanced” for its day, Life also documented a Los Angeles police officer acting as a decoy, entrapping gay men into propositioning him. Even if the proposition involves going to a private home for the evening — the same type of invitation being made in straight bars all across Los Angeles that very same night — it would end badly with an arrest and possible lifetime registration as a sex offender. LGBT activist Dale Jennings’s 1952 arrest in the privacy of his own home and the city’s embarrassing failure to secure a conviction in a well-publicized case (Jun 23) had still done nothing to stem police harassment twelve years later.
One educational pamphlet compiled for Los Angeles police warned that what gay men really want is “a fruit world.” Life continued: “Although the anti-homosexual stand taken by the Los Angeles police is unswervingly tough, it reflects the attitude of most U.S. law-enforcement agencies on the subject.” Three years later, gay Angelenos would reach their breaking point and the Black Cat riots would become the high water mark — though not the end — of police harassment in Los Angeles (Jan 1), more than two years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York.
Life also printed a second article in which “scientists search of the answers” about what purportedly causes homosexuality. For this article, Life broke no new ground, although it did include some friendly voices from the Kinsey Institute. But it also included conjectures by some of the leading anti-gay psychologists and therapists of the day, including psychoanalyst Sando Rado (it’s “hidden but incapacitating fears of the opposite sex”) and Irving Bieber, whose 1962 book proposed the smothering-mother-distant-father theory (“Babied and demasculinized by his mother, despised by his father, he arrived at adolescence ‘beset by feelings of inadequacy, impotence and self-contempt’.”) It did however included a brief comment on Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s research (Sep 2), which found, according to Life, that “homosexuals can be just as healthy as anybody else” (Aug 30). Although, in that fair-and-balanced-for-1964 thing, Life cautioned that her research might have only proven that “personality tests are unreliable, as many scientists suspect.”
[Sources: Paul Welch. “Homosexuality In America.” Life 26, no. 26 (June 26, 1964): 66-74. Available online via Google Books here.
Earnest Havemann. “Scientists search for the answers to a touchy and puzzling question: Why?” Life 26, no. 26 (June 26, 1964). 76-80. Available online via Google Books here.
Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990: An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 65-66.]
Picketing was a new and controversial tactic for East Coast gay rights activists, but the year 1965 saw them finally shedding their reservations and, in keeping with the times, assuming a more confrontational posture in their demands for equal treatment. The very first public protest, a picket of the Whitehall Army Induction Center in New York City, occurred in 1964 (Sep 19). That tiny protest of only five marchers inspired four East Coast groups — the Daughters of Blitzes of New York, the Janus Society of Philadelphia, and the Mattachine Societies of New York and Washington, D.C. — meeting in Washington under the banner of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), to embark on a program of direct action to raise public awareness of anti-gay discrimination (Oct 10).
To test the waters, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. organized their first gay rights protest in front of the White House earlier that year (Apr 17). They had decided not to publicize the hour-long protest ahead of time because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent an excuse to block their demonstration. They were so excited over how well that protest went that they decided to do it again a month later, and this time they invited the press to cover it (May 29). Meanwhile, New York activists also organized another public protest, this time at the United Nations (Apr 18).
But it was the federal government’s ban on employment of gay people that really stuck in Frank Kameny’s crawl. He was the co-founder and president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. (May 21) Eight years earlier, Kameny had been fired from his civilian job by the U.S. Army map service over his homosexuality (Dec 20). Kemeny had been caught up in the same ban against gay federal employees that led to thousands of others to lose their jobs. That ban had been formally in place ever since President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 in 1953 (Apr 27), just as the Lavender and Red scares were about to down. After Kameny exhausted his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, he turned his attention to organizing other activists to confront the Civil Service Commission over the discriminatory employment ban. Their earlier efforts to sit down with the Commission to discuss the matter were curtly rebuffed (Sep 28: “It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.”), and all further requests for meetings were stonewalled.
So the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. and the rest of ECHO, with members of Chicago’s newly-formed Mattachine Midwest now joining to group, decided to take it to the streets once again. Eighteen men and seven women, all conservatively dressed — “If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”, Kameny ordered — carried picket signs demanding and end to the employment ban. According to pamphlets distributed during the protest, their purposes were two-fold:
- To protest the policies of the Civl Service Commission in totally disqualifying homosexuals from Federal Employment, regardless of ability, training, competence or background — policies which are unjustified, unwise, harmful to the national interest, and immoral.
- To protest the un-American refusal of the Civil Service Commission to meet with spokesmen for the homosexual community (which, with its fifteen million members, is the nation’s largest minority group after the Negro) to discuss policies and procedures in regard to homosexuals — a meeting with their public officials which citizens in a democracy should be able to expect as a matter of right, not of mere privilege.
The two-hour protest in front of the Civil Service Commission headquarters generated just enough publicity for the CSC to request a meeting in September. Nothing much came from that meeting, but for the first time in history, federal officials were forced to justify their policies directly to the very group that was most affected by them. That meeting was followed by another ten years of letters, phone calls, lawsuits and meetings before the CSC finally capitulated, in a phone call to Kameny personally, in 1975 (Jul 3). Times continued to change, and in 2009, Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.
[Sources: Unsigned. “Homosexuals Picket U.S. Civil Service Commission” (): Eastern Mattachine Magazine 10, no. 7 (August 1965): 21-22.
Unsigned. “Homosexuals Picket in Nation’s Capital.” The Ladder 9, no. 10-11 (July-August 1965): 23-25.]
One of the most important gay rights cases to reach the Supreme Court had its beginnings under very unusual circumstances. In 1998, Houston police were called to the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence over what was supposed to be some kind of a “weapons disturbance” (Nov 20). As the story went, police arrived and caught Lawrence and Tyron Garner having oral sex, or anal sex, or no sex at all, depending on which eyewitness you want to believe. But if they were having sex, then that meant that they were breaking Texas’s anti-sodomy law. They were held overnight in jail and charged with violating Chapter 21, Sec. 21.06 of the Texas Penal code, a class C misdemeanor, for engaging “in deviate sexual intercourse with an individual of the same sex.”
Lawrence and Garner hadn’t had a sexual relationship, as author Dale Carpenter revealed in his 2012 book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. But gay rights advocates were looking for a test case to try to overturn the state’s sodomy law. This case wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough. They convinced Lawrence and Garner to plead no contest. After they were convicted by a Justice of the Peace, they exercised their right to a full trial before the Texas Criminal Court, where they asked for the case to be dismissed on Fourteenth Amendment grounds. When the court rejected that argument, they pleaded no contest again and were fined $200 each. Lawyers appealed on their behalf to a three-judge panel of the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, which ruled in their favor. That decision was then overturned by the full Appeals court, and the case was appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which operates as the state’s supreme court for criminal matters. After that court declined to hear the case, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down Texas’s sodomy law, and other laws like it in thirteen other states. In the 6-3 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the decision specifically overruled the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision which upheld Georgia’s sodomy law. “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled.” Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, one part of which has proved to be very prescient:
If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct…what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.
Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer shared a modest Greenwich Village apartment for three decades before they finally decided to marry in Canada in 2007. The decided to formally marry after Spyer, already paralyzed with Multiple Sclerosis, was diagnosed with a heart condition. Spyer died at home in 2009, which sent the grieving Windsor to the hospital with a heart attack. When she came home, she found a $363,053 estate tax bill on the inheritance that Spyer had left her. Windsor filed for a refund from the IRS, but it was denied because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing their marriage. Windsor got a lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, and sued, arguing that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.
The lawsuit was filed in November of 2009, just three months before U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama Administration agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional and that the Attorney General’s office would no longer defend the law in court. This left the door open for the Republican-led House of Representatives to defend DOMA instead, but to no avail. On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision in October, which sent the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 26, 2013, the court issued its 5-4 decision in the case of United States v. Windsor, finding that Section 3 of DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” because the Federal Government was treating some state-sanctioned marriages differently from others. This federal action, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “demean[ed] the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” Kennedy also noted the broad reach of DOMA’s effects:
DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in person hood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The Windsor decision had both immediate effects and far-reaching ones. Immediately, Edith Windsor got her estate taxes back from the IRS. Soon after, the Obama Administration began issuing instructions for granting federal recognition of same-sex marriages with regard to taxes, employment benefits, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, and other areas impacted by marital status.
Windsor has also had some very important legal effects which influenced 64 state and federal court rulings in favor of marriage equality. According to Freedom to Marry, forty-one marriage equality rulings have been issued in federal court, eighteen have been issued in state court, and five have been issued by a federal appellate court. Only five rulings have gone against marriage quality, including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Marriage equality is now the law for 37 states (although Alabama and Kansas both have been recalcitrant), the District of Columbia and Guam. Those developments make the scathing Windsor dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia both entertaining and somewhat prescient:
In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion … is that DOMA is motivated by “bare… desire to harm” couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.
…As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe. By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.
On the same day that the U.S Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (above), the court also issued another ruling that was near and dear to Californians. In a 5-4 decision, the court declined to review the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision which upheld a lower court’s finding that Proposition 8, the 2008 Constitutional Amendment that banned same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that because the state of California declined to defend Prop 8, the ban’s supporters did not have standing to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. And because they didn’t have standing to bring the case to the highest court, the Court ruled that they also lacked standing to appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court instructed the Ninth to vacate its ruling, which sent the case all the way back to the orignal district court ruling.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out when high-powered lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies made their bold announcement in 2009 that they would challenge Prop 8 in federal court. It was a controversial move. Lambda Legal and the ACLU opposed the suit, fearing that a federal challenge at that time might do more harm than good if there was an adverse ruling. But Olson and Boies insisted that not only could they win marriage equality for California, but that they could also leapfrog the long-held state-by-state strategy favored by other gay rights organizations and win marriage equality for everyone at the Supreme Court. In the end, they only achieved the first half of their objectives, and Hollingsworth v. Perry has been legally inconsequential in the two score federal and state court rulings since then overturning marriage bans in other states. But by restoring same-sex marriage rights for Californians, this Supreme Court decision doubled the number of Americans living in marriage equality states in one fell swoop. Another accomplishment is perhaps less tangible, but no less important: the discussions about marriage equality prompted by Hollingsworth as it made its way through the court system undoubtedly contributed to Americans’ growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur had spent two decades building a life together as husbands to each other in Cincinnati, even though the state of Ohio refused to recognize that fact. But in 2011, John was diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), a degenerative neurological disorder that attacks nerve cells responsible for muscle movement. Those with the disease typically die of respiratory failure. As John’s condition rapidly deteriorated, the couple decided in 2013 that it was imperative for them to tie the knot now that several states were granting same-sex marriage license.
There was one hitch though: Ohio wasn’t one of those states. Its constitution had been amended in 2004 to ban same-sex marriage. John was far to ill to travel to another state on a commercial airline, so friends and family raised the $12,000 to charter a specially-equipped medical plane to fly to Baltimore, Maryland, one of the few states that allowed same-sex marriages. “We landed at Baltimore, sat on the tarmac for a little bit, said ‘I do,’ and 10 minutes later were in the air on the way home,” Obergefell said.
One week after their marriage, the couple filed suit in Federal District Court in Cincinnati seeking an injunction ordering the State of Ohio to recognize their marriage. Specifically, they wanted the marital status on John’s death certificate to reflect the fact that they were married. The Federal judged issued that injunction, citing the plaintiff’s “strong likelihood of success on the merits” and John’s declining health for the urgency of his order. John died in October. Ohio appealed, and Jim’s case case, along with four others, wound its way through the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, dozens of other cases filed in Federal courts across the country resulted in several other states’ bans on same-sex marriage getting struck down. In nearly every case, judges cited the 2013 Windsor Supreme Court decision which held that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional (above). And as those cases made their way through the appeals processes, those appeals courts were unanimously upholding their lower courts’ rulings. At first, everyone assumed that the process would end at the U.S. Supreme Court, which just two years earlier didn’t appear ready to deal with marriage equality when the Prop 8 case landed on its doorstep. When the Prop 8 case presented the Supreme Court with opportunity to strike down marriage bans nationwide, it instead chose to return the case to the lower courts over Prop 8 supports’ lack of standing to appeal. This way, the Court avoided entertaining the merits of the case itself (above).
But as more appeals courts weighed in, it looked as if the Supreme Court might not need to rule either way on marriage equality. If all of the Circuit Courts of Appeals were unanimous in striking down same-sex marriage bans in their circuits, then the Supreme Court could simply point to the fact that there were no conflicts in any of the appeals outcomes. And with no conflicts in any of the appeals outcomes, there was nothing for them to arbitrate.
But that path was closed when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Obergefell and four other cases, and upheld marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. This split among the Circuits all but guaranteed that the U.S. Supreme Court would now have to weigh in. The Court accepted the case of Obergefell v. Hodges on January 16, 2015, and heard oral arguments on April 28. Representing the marriage equality side was famed LGBT rights lawyer Mary Bonauto (Jun 8). She had been lead council in the Massachusetts 2003 case that led the Bay State becoming the first in the nation in marriage equality (Nov 18), and she followed that feat by serving as lead council for one of five federal cases to successfully challenged the Defense of Marriage Act ten years later.
On June 26, Bonauto accomplished for the entire nation what she had done for Massachusetts when the Supreme Court struck down marriage bans across the nation. In a 5-4 decision the court held that those bans violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Writing for the majority, Justice Antony Kennedy concluded:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds—minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly—could not. …
The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. …
The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie. …
Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent was even worse. He actually argued that LGBT people didn’t have it so bad, not as bad as what slaves had. And even if they had, so what?
Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.
But no matter. Full equality for LGBT citizens was now the law of the land. With this act, the last prohibitive act towards gay people was now wiped from the nation’s law books.
65 YEARS AGO: (d. 2003) PBS aired the groundbreaking documentary series An American Family in 1973 which would become the first reality television series in history. Millions of Americans were glued to their television sets watching the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California, go about their daily lives with film cameras in tow. Lance Loud, the family’s eldest twenty-year-old son who was living in New York City, quickly became the star of the program. He came out to America in the second episode when his mother went to visit him at the Chelsea Hotel, and his daring nonconformity became an inspiration for young Americans, gay and straight.
Loud had returned to California by the time the series aired, so he decided to move back to New York City to take advantage of his new-found fame. He formed a band called the Mumps, which played New York’s famed CBGB and Mix, and toured with the Talking Heads, Television, Ramones, Cheap Trick and Van Halen. But after five years and a loyal following, they failed to attract a major recording contract. After the band broke up, Loud returned to Los Angeles and became a writer. His articles were published in Interview, Details, Vanity Fair, among others. He also wrote a regular column, “Out Loud,” for The Advocate.
Loud found the fame he earned from An American Family to be hollow. Americans had watched as his parents’ relationship careened toward divorce, leading Loud to say, “Television ate my family.” Loud himself went through years of substance abuse. When he was diagnosed with AIDS and hepatitis C, Loud agreed to appear in one final cinema verité documentary for PBS. But this time he chose to perform as an example of what not to do with one’s life. Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family aired in 2003, two years after he died of liver failure.
The Daily Agenda for Saturday, June 25
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Shane grew up in Ramapo, New York, and sang his first solo when he was nine years old at the family’s church. He was the only child to sing with the adult choir. When he was fourteen, the family moved to Concord, where Shane sang in the Carrabas County Multi-cultural Community Student Union choir. Choir founder Ruth Brooks remembered, “Anybody who knows Shane, knows he’s gonna get something started. He taught us how to have fun.”
He studied communications at East Carolina University, where he also performed for East Carolina’s gospel choir. “He was destined for a grand stage and he was doing exactly what he wanted to do,” said Dr. Lathan Turner associate director of student transitions. After graduating in 2003, he moved to Atlanta, then to Orlando.
About four years ago, he was performing for Epcot in a Christmas gospel show called Joyful, Joyful. One friend at Disney said Shane was a gifted, high-energy singer. “He’s just a very charismatic performer,” he said. “He has lots of energy. Depending on what he’s doing, he adapts to whatever that show needs.” Another friend at Disney described him as funny, outgoing, and the life of the party. “You look at him and say he’s just Shane,” he said.
Later, he founded, co-managed, and fronted a local cover group Frequency, which performed at several night clubs around Orlando, delivering its “rhythmic, high-energy renditions of classics from the Beatles and Earth, Wind and Fire.” Shane was described as a gifted, high-energy singer: “He’s just a very charismatic performer,” said one friend who performed with Shane at Epcot. “He has lots of energy. Depending on what he’s doing, he adapts to whatever that show needs.”
On June 11, Shane was shaken to learn of the fatal shooting of another singer in Orlando, Christina Grimmee, who had competed on “The Voice. That Saturday morning, at 7:24. a.m., he shared a link to an article on Facebook and wrote, “As a stage performer, you can’t help but keep questioning … How did this get past security? The only compete protection we have is God and sometimes he needs you more than this evil world! RIP Christina Grimmie.”
Frequency often performed at Blue Martini. They had three shows scheduled at Blue Martini locations in Orlando and Tampa in the two weeks following the Pulse shooting. That Saturday night, Frequency performed at the Orlando Blue Martini, just hours before Shane was gunned down at Pulse early Sunday morning.
Shortly before Shane was killed, Frequency had recorded a couple of promotional videos, and they were in the process of being edited. The surviving members of Frequency put those videos online as a tribute to Shane: “This is how we will remember him, as a person who always sang his heart out, strived for the best, and lived life to its fullest. He loved what he did and we loved him for it.”
The New Netherlands Colony court, located in present-day New York City, sentenced “Jan Creoli, a negro,” for a second “sodomy” offense. The record stated: “this crime being condemned of God…as an abomination, the prisoner is sentenced to be conveyed to the place of public execution, and there choked to death, and then burnt to ashes….” The court justified the sentence by citing Genesis chapter 19 and Leviticus 18:22, 29. The margin of the court record states: “he was executed at New Haven.”
[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 90.]
Joseph Bean, a twenty-two year old highly religious Bostonian kept a spiritual diary in which he details his battles his “unchaste and immodest thoughts.” In April of 1741, he experienced a spiritual crisis when his friend married. Bean described going “upstairs by myself all alone” and pleading with God that “this Night be the Wedding Night between Christ and my Soul.” That night he dreamed that Satan brought him a beautiful young man who Satan laid on and crushed his bones. But the handsome young man “looked on me very Steadily Smiling and his Countenance even Shined; in short he Looked the beautifulest that ever I saw in all my Life, which made me sometimes for to think it was the Son of God.” Two months later, Bean wrote out a covenant in which he joined himself to that beautifulest (imaginary) young man…
and do hereby Solemnly Join myself in marriage Covenant to him… But since such is thine unparalleled love: I do here with all my power accept thee and do take thee for my head husband for bitter [the mistake is in the original], for worse, for richer, for poorer, for all times and Conditions to love, honor and obey thee before all others, and this to the death: I Embrace thee in all thy offices. I Renounce my own worthiness and do here avow thee to be the Lord of my Righteousness: I Renounce mine own wisdom and do here take thee for my only guide: I renounce mine own will and take thy will for my Law.
In the 1950s, Herman L. Womack published three beefcake magazines: MANual, Trim and Grecian Guild Pictorial. Although the magazines were marketed to gay men, they made no mention whatsoever of homosexuality, instead presenting themselves as bodybuilding and physique magazines. In 1960, the postmaster in Arlington Virginia seized a shipment of the three magazines and declared that because the magazines were marketed to gay men, they were obscene and therefore “nonmailable,” even though the magazines contained no actual nudity. (Models wore “posing pouches” to conceal their genitalia.) In other words, it wasn’t that the photos themselves were pornographic, but that the gay audience made the photos pornographic and therefore illegal. Womack sued in federal court, but after the court granted the government’s move for summary judgment, he appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
On June 25, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in MANual Enterprises v. Day that the materials in question were not pornographic. Writing for the majority, Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote that the photos themselves were not “patently offensive” or “indecent.” “[We] need go no further in the present case than to hold that the magazines in question, taken as a whole, cannot, under any permissible constitutional standard, be deemed to be beyond the pale of contemporary notions of rudimentary decency.” And since the magazines didn’t reach that level of indecency, it didn’t matter who the materials were being marketed to. The mere portrayal of the male nude — even if it happens to be the portrayal of the gay male nude — “cannot fairly be regarded as more objectionable than many portrayals of the female nude that society tolerates.” If nude or semi-nude photos marketed to straight men weren’t pornographic (Playboy had already been around since 1953), then similar photos marketed to gay men couldn’t be pornographic either.
This was not the first time the Supreme Court weighed in on a case that was directly connected to gay rights. It wasn’t even the first time that the Supreme Court ruled that materials dealing with homosexuality could be legally sent through the mails. In 1958, the high court ruled that the Los Angeles Post Office had no authority to prevent ONE magazine from being sent through the mails (Jan 13). But that ruling was an unsigned one with a simple reference to another court ruling , consisting of a single sentence overturning a lower court ruling and instructing the lower courts to follow a 1957 ruling that narrowed considerably what could be considered pornographic. What sets MANual Enterprises v. Day apart from the ONE case is that the MANual was a signed one, and the Supreme Court directly curtailed the post office’s discretion to decide what was porn and what wasn’t, and its ability to do so based solely on the intended audience.
MANual was not a particularly hot topic that day. As it happened, the bigger news was that the Supreme Court, on January 25, also released its landmark decision in Engel v. Vitale, which declared public school prayer an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment’s religious establishment clause. But Newsweek saw a connection between the two, complaining “Many citizens were infuriated by the fact that in the same prayer-banning session, the Supreme Court had restored postal privileges to three homosexual magazines.”
History was made when William Johnson, 25 and an “avowed homosexual,” became the first gay person to be ordained into the ministry of a major mainline denomination. His ordination took place at the Community United Church of Christ in San Carlos, California, two months after the Ecclesiastical Council of the Golden Gate Association voted 62 to 34 in favor of his ordination.
Before that vote took place, delegates grilled Johnson over his theology and how he planned to practice his ministry. One delegate asked whether he would marry gay people. “I will celebrate their marriage, homosexual or heterosexual,” he responded. “Love between two people is beautiful.” Another asked if he would “forego the pleasures of practicing homosexuality in order to fulfill your calling as a minister?” He responded candidly that he wouldn’t, saying “I don’t believe in compulsory celibacy.” He then added, “I am not calling on the United Church of Christ to affirm my homosexuality, only my ordination.” Another asked whether he would ordain a prostitute who was otherwise qualified. Johnson answered that it wasn’t his “privilege” to judge; that was up to God.
Johnson told reporters that he was looking forward to pastoring his own parish church. But that was not to be. No church would hire him. Instead, he formed what would become the Coalition for LGBT Concerns. He later described that coalition’s work:
“The Coalition challenged the United Church of Christ to honor our baptisms,” he says, “to recognize that we all are called into the church by God and welcomed through baptism. Many people don’t understand that the affirmation that the Coalition’s Open and Affirming Church Program is asking them to give to gay and lesbian people is preceded by God’s affirmation through baptism.”
In 1983, the Coalition introduced a proposal for an Open and Affirming Church Program, which the General Synod adopted in 1985. He also served on the UCC’s national staff working on education, advocacy and AIDS. He retired from active ministry in 2013.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.