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Posts for July, 2015

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 4

Jim Burroway

July 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Out (Washington, D.C.), June 18, 1981, inside front cover.

From Out (Washington, D.C.), June 18, 1981, inside front cover.

First edition of Leaves of Grass, 1855.

First edition of Leaves of Grass, 1855.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 160 YEARS AGO: Walt Whitman Publishes “Leaves of Grass”: 1855. The first edition of Leaves of Grass was a modest affair: self-published (he did much of the typesetting himself), consisting of only twelve unnamed poems in 95 pages (he wanted the book to be small enough to carry in a pocket), and only 800 copies. Whitman’s name appeared nowhere in the volume, just an engraving showing him in work clothes and a hat. The book’s title was a pun: “leaves” were the name publishers used for the pages of a book, and “grass” was a term given by publishers for minor, quickly forgotten works that they nevertheless relied on to pay the bills.

But Whitman’s book was not destined to be consigned to insignificance. He lost his job as a clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs after Interior Secretary James Harlan found a copy on Whitman’s desk. “I will not have the author of that book in this Department”, he said, and threatened to resign if the President were to order Whitman’s reinstatement. Critic Rufus Wilmot Griswold reviewed Leaves of Grass for The Criterion, writing, “It is impossible to image how any man’s fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth.” Griswold charged Whitman of “the vilest imaginings and shamefullest license” and “degrading, beastly sensuality.” He also switched to Latin to accuse Whitman of “that horrible sin, among Christians not to be named.” Whitman would defiantly include that review in a later edition.

Frontispiece to the first edition.

Frontispiece to the first edition.

Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass partly in response to an 1844 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who recognized a need for a distinctly American poet to write about the new nation’s qualities. “I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil,” Whitman said. He sent Emerson a copy of Leaves of Grass, who wrote back with effusive praise. “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom American has yet contributed,” he wrote. “I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.” Encouraged, Whitman immediately set about greatly expanding Leaves of Grass for a second edition, which was published the following year.

The expanded version now came in at 384 pages and sold for a dollar. Subsequent editions followed, each different from before. His fourth edition in 1867 was supposed to the last one of his “unkillable work!” But no, the work arose again for another three or five more editions, depending on how you count them. When Whitman was preparing the 1882 edition, a Boston district attorney threatened to prosecute thelocal publisher for obscenity unless Whitman removed two poems and altered ten others, including “Song of Myself,” and “I Sing the Body Electric.” Whitman refused and found a new publisher. When that edition came out, several prominent booksellers and department stores refused to carry it. But the controversy drove increased sales, and the first printing sold out on its first day. That edition then went on through four more printings.

Whitman completed his final edition in 1891. It became known as his “deathbed edition. “L. of G. at last complete —- after 33 y’rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old”. It was published in 1892, and the edition had grown to include more than 400 poems. Two months before Whitman died, the New York Herald published an announcement declaring the 1892 edition the definitive one:

Walt Whitman wishes respectfully to notify the public that the book Leaves of Grass, which he has been working on at great intervals and partially issued for the past thirty-five or forty years, is now completed, so to call it, and he would like this new 1892 edition to absolutely supersede all previous ones. Faulty as it is, he decides it as by far his special and entire self-chosen poetic utterance.

The full first edition is available online at the Walt Whitman Archive.

The first Annual Reminder, 1965.

The first Annual Reminder, 1965.

 50 YEARS AGO: “Annual Reminder” Pickets at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall: 1965-1969. The Fourth of July commemorates the day in which a group of second class citizens decided that it was finally time to not only declare their independence, but also their dignity for having been created equal and endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, not all Americans gained their freedom on that date in 1776. Instead, that marked the starting point for a long struggle, one which nearly destroyed the union almost a century later, and one which continues today. The 1960s will be long remembered as an important era in that struggle as racial barriers began to fall across the nation. But barriers against gay people held fast. In 1965, gay people were prohibited from holding jobs with the federal government by an Executive Order, homosexuality was illegal in every state in the country except Illinois, and gay people were regarded as mentally ill by the American Psychiatric Association.

AnnualReminder2

The first Annual Reminder, 1965. Photo by Kay Lahusen. (Source)

To protest those conditions, LGBT activists, under the collective name of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), met at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1965 for a demonstration to remind their fellow Americans that LGBT people did not enjoy some of the most fundamental of civil rights. Forty-four activists, including Frank Kameny (see May 21), Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), and Kay Tobin Lahusen (see Jan 5), picketed in front of Philadelphia’s potent symbol of freedom, carrying signs reading “15 million homosexual Americans as for equality, opportunity, dignity,” and “homosexuals should be judged as individuals.”

Craig Rodwell, a member of New York’s Mattachine Society and owner of the first gay bookstore in the United States (see Nov 24), is credited for coming up with the idea. He envisioned the protest morphing into a kind of a gay holiday. “We can call it the Annual Reminder — the reminder that a group of Americans still don’t have their basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he suggested. Kameny, Gittings and the others eagerly agreed. Kay Lahusen described the picketing in the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder:

Barbara Gittings and Randy Wicker picketing at Independence Hall on July 4, 1966. Photo by Kay Lahusen. (Source)

“We are not,” asserted one picketer, “wild-eyed, dungareed  radicals throwing ourselves beneath the wheels of police vans that have come to cart us away from a sit-in at the Blue Room  of the White House.” The firm rules followed by homosexual picketers are, in part: “Picketing is not an occasion for an assertion of personality, individuality, ego, rebellion, generalized non-conformity or anti-conformity. …Therefore the individual picketer serves merely to carry a sign or to increase the size of the demonstration; not he, but his sign should attract notice. …Dress and appearance will be conservative and conventional.” And so they have been. Women wear dresses; men wear business suits, white shirts and ties.

…”I didn’t know you people had problems like these.” exclaimed one man after reading the leaflet. His response gratified the key expectation of every picketer. A front-page mention of the demonstration in the Philadelphia Inquirer and coverage on local CBS-TV possibly multiplied his comment a thousandfold. Picketing had drawn public attention to long-hidden injustices.

This dignified protest, which startled many a citizen into fresh thought about the meaning of Independence Day, might well have been applauded by our Founding Fathers, who were intent on making America safe for the differences.

Peter Ogren (probably) and Craig Rodwell, marching at the Annual Reminder march in 1968. Photo by Randy Wicker

Peter Ogren (probably) and Craig Rodwell, marching at the Annual Reminder march in 1968. Photo by Randy Wicker. (Source)

East Coast activists had already staged several pickets elsewhere that year before descending on the City of Brotherly Love. Actually, the first was in 1964, when a small band of activists protested in front of a New York City army induction center (see Sep 19). That action was followed in 1965 with pickets in front of the White House (see Apr 17,  May 29), the Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), and the United Nations in New York City (see Apr 18). But Philadelphia’s protests would be an annual event, taking place every July 4th in front of  Independence Hall for the next four years.

But with 1969’s Stonewall rebellion, the gay community gained an independence day all of its own. The “Annual Reminder” for 1969, occurring just a few days after that declaration of freedom on Christopher Street in New York, would be the last, a victim by the rising tensions between the old ways of doing things and the rebelliousness of the younger generation. For previous marches, Kamany insisted on a strict, conservative dress code — suits and ties for men, dresses for women — and a strictly businesslike behavior among the marchers.

Two women holding hands during the fifth Annual Reminder, 1969. Photo by Nancy Tucker.

Two women holding hands during the fifth Annual Reminder, 1969. Photo by Nancy Tucker. (Source)

But during the 1969 march, Kamany and Rodwell got into an argument when Kameny separated two lesbian picketers after they began to hold hands. Rodwell was no longer interested catering to Kameny’s insistence on appearing “respectable.” Rodwell grabbed his partner’s hand and continued marching, as did several other New York-based picketers. That incident led the New York activists, energized by the Stonewall rebellion six days earlier, to regard the Annual Reminder as an increasingly irrelevant relic. As New York Mattachine Society president Dick Leitsch explained in a letter to Barbara Gittings:

We cannot support a demonstration that pretends to reflect the feelings of all homosexuals while excluding many homosexuals from participating in the demonstration. Since our membership covers all the spectrum of gay life, we encompass drag queens, leather queens, and many, many groovy men and women whose wardrobe consists of bell-bottoms, vests, and miles of gilt chains. Rather than risk the embarrassment and insult of having some of our people rejected (as did happen a few years ago), we choose neither to participate nor support the demonstrations and to make our reasons plain in our publication…

The Annual Reminder held out such promise at its inception, and I am sorry to see it become the personal property of a few who would set themselves up as an “establishment,” no less bigoted and exclusionary than the real “Establishment” we’re supposedly fighting.

During the train ride back home, Rodwell and other New York activists began tossing around the idea of holding an annual march in in New York where they could do things their way — without a dress code. As Rodwell described it, their march would not be “a silent plea for rights but as an overt demand for them.” He also came up with the idea of calling it the Christopher Street Liberation Day, to take place on June 28 to commemorate the first anniversary of the rebellion. As it happens, along with the many bell-bottomed, vested, leathered, dragged, and shirtless marchers who walked from Christopher Street to Central Park on June 28, 1970, was Frank Kameny, wearing tan slacks and a polo shirt and holding a sign reading “Gay is Good” while leading a contingent of members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.

We’ve been celebrating Pride as a commemoration of our declaration of independence ever since. But the Annual Reminder hasn’t been forgotten. In 2005, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission erected the first historical marker to recognize and celebrate LGBT history in commemoration of those early protests in front of Independence Hall.

You can see a short film shot by gay rights activist Lilli Vincenz in 1968 of the Annual Reminder march for that year here.

[Additional sources: “Kay Tobin” (Kay Lahusen). “Picketing: the impact and the issues.”  The Ladder 9, no. 12 (September 1965): 4-8.

Simon Hall. “The American gay rights movement and patriotic protest.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 19, no. 3 (September 2010): 536-562.

Michael G. Long (ed.) Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny (Syracuse, New York; Syracuse University Press: 2014): 93, 201. ]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 3

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David (Jacksonville, FL), May 1973, inside cover and page 1.

From David (Jacksonville, FL), May 1973, inside cover and page 1.

Larry Boxx was the manager of The Stonewall Inn in 1969 when a police raid ignited three days of rioting and changed the world. In 1972, Boxx moved to Florida and opened the Stonewall Disco in Miami Beach, which was popular with just about everyone:  gay, trans, and straights, especially straight girls. But the disco’s biggest claim to fame would be for playing host to the underground stage show Wild Side Story:

A 1976 publicity photo.

A 1976 publicity photo.

Moved two blocks up 22nd Street the following month by club owner Larry Boxx, from the shady old Ambassador III lounge to his brand new Stonewall disco, Wild Side Story reopened there on September 3, 1973, closer to a popular public beach. It now established itself as albeit bizarre but exciting after-midnight entertainment for more diverse crowds. Many were young tourists who would not have planned to go to a gay bar and now saw transvestite characters on stage (and some in the room) for the very first time. …Boxx called Wild Side Story “a fantastic attempt at true camp the way it should be done, and you can quote me on that”.

Camp it was, using a story based very loosely on West Side Story, but with cast members lip synching to recycled Broadway show tunes and popular hits — think Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge meets the Cockettes.  After the Stonewall Disco was destroyed by a fire in 1974, Wild Side Story resumed performances in Tampa before returning to other venues in Miami. Wild Side Story went on to stages in  in California, Spain and Sweden, where it was particularly successful, with performances continuing off and on through 2004.

Youths gather in front of the Stonewall on Sunday night, June 29 for a photo that appeared in the front page of the Village Voice.

Youths gather in front of the Stonewall Inn on Sunday night, June 29 for a photo that appeared in the front page of the Village Voice.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Village Voice: “Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square”: 1969. As I said earlier (see Jun 28), much of what we know about the Stonewall Rebellion comes to us from two articles published by the Village Voice on July 3, 1969. The Voice was perfectly situated, both temperamentally and geographically, to alert its counter-cultural audience to the events that unfolded a virtual stone’s throw from its offices. Lucian Truscott IV’s colorful description of the rise of “the forces of faggotry” during the wee hours of Saturday morning got the bigger headline. His liberal use of the words “fags”  and other epithets along with an often contemptuous tone would soon result in protests by those very same newly-created gay activists at the Voice’s offices just two months later (see Sep 12). Howard Smith’s much more straightforward account of what happened inside the Stonewall Inn also managed to squeeze its first two paragraphs on the front page.

To set the scene, Truscott reported that the police raid on the Stonewall was the second on that week. It started small, with only two detectives, and two male and two female police officers. They detained the patrons inside, and began releasing some of them one by one as a crowd gathered in the street. The crowd at first was somewhat festive, but when a police paddywagon arrived, the mood changed:

Three of the more blatant queens — in full drag — were loaded inside, along with the bartender and doorman, to a chorus of catcalls and boos from the crowd. A cry went up to push the paddywagon over, but it drove away before anything could happen. With its exit, the action waned momentarily. The next person to come out was a dyke, and she put up a struggle — from car to door to car again. It was at that moment that the scene became explosive. Limp wrists were forgotten. Beer cans and bottles were heaved at the windows, and a rain of coins descended on the cops. At the height of the action, a bearded figure was plucked from the crowd and dragged inside. It was Dave Van Ronk, who had come from the Lion’s Head to see what was going on. He was charged with throwing an object at the police.

Many believe that the “dyke” was probably Stormé DeLarverie, a drag king performer of the 1950s and 1960s, who  later worked as a bouncer at several of the city’s lesbian bars. There’s also this anacronism that bears explanation: why did the crowd throw coins? Most likely they were mostly throwing pennies — copper pennies — against the “coppers” in uniform, using the least valuable coin available as a both a taunt and a projectile. It was not an unusual practice in the 1960s.

This would be a good point to switch to Howard Smith’s account from inside the bar. He had been sticking close to Inspector Seymour Pine, the officer in charge of the raid, when the paddy-wagon left and the crowd grew angry. As bottles began flying, Pine ordered his officers inside the bar for cover, and convinced Smith to come inside where “you’re probably safer.”

In goes me. We bolt the heavy door. The front of the Stonewall is mostly brick except for the windows, which are boarded within by plywood. Inside we hear the shattering of windows, followed by what we imagine to be bricks pounding on the door, voices yelling. The floor shudders at each blow. “Aren’t you guys scared?” I say.

“No.” But they look at least uneasy.

The door crashes open. Beer cans and bottles hurtle in. Pine and his troop rush to shut it. At that point the only uniformed cop among them gets hit with something under his eye. He hollers, and his hand comes away scarlet. It looks a lot more serious than it really is. They are all suddenly furious. Three run out in front to see if they can scare the mob from the door. A hail of coins. A beer can glances off Deputy Inspector Smyth’s head.

Pine, a man of about 40 and smallish build, gathers himself, leaps out into the melee, and grabs someone around the waist, pulling him downward and back into the doorway. They fall. Pine regains hold and drags the elected protester inside by the hair. The door slams again. Angry cops converge on the guy releasing their anger on this sample from the mob. … And while the other cops help, he (the cop who was cut) slaps the prisoner five or six times very hard and finishes with a punch to the mouth. They handcuff the guy as he almost passes out. “All right,” Pine announces, “we’ll book him for assault.” The door is open again. More objects are thrown in. The detectives locate a fire hose, the idea being to ward off the madding crowd until reinforcements arrive. They can’t see where to aim it, wedging the hose in a crack in the door. It sends out a weak stream.”

That man who was dragged inside was Dave Van Ronk, who Truscott mentioned in his article. Switching back to Truscott’s narrative:

Three cops were necessary to get Van Ronk away from the crowd and into the Stonewall. The exit left no cops on the street, and almost by signal the crowd erupted into cobblestone and bottle heaving. The reaction was solid: they were pissed. The trashcan I was standing on was nearly yanked out from under me as a kid tried to grab it for use in the window smashing melee. From nowhere came an uprooted parking meter — used as a battering ram on the Stonewall door. I heard several cries of “Let’s get some gas,” but the blaze of flame which soon appeared in the window of the Stonewall was still a shock.

Back inside, Smith describes how that fire very nearly led to the police shooting into the crowd:

Pine places a few men on each side of the corridor leading away from the entrance. They aim unwavering at the door. One detective arms himself in addition with a sawed-off baseball bat he has found. I hear, “We’ll shoot the first motherfucker that comes through the door.” … I can only see the arm at the window. It squirts a liquid into the room, and a flaring match follows. Pine is not more than 10 feet away. He aims his gun at the figures.

He doesn’t fire. The sound of sirens coincides with the whoosh of flames where the lighter fluid was thrown. Later, Pine tells me he didn’t shoot because he had heard the sirens in time and felt no need to kill someone if help was arriving. It was that close.

With backup on hand, police cleared the streets. According to Truscott, the immediate battle was over in forty-five minutes, although other accounts describe running street battles continuing for the rest of the night, with police cars damaged, trash cans set ablaze and windows broken out in area banks and storefronts. According to Truscott, thirteen were arrested taht night, and two police officers were injured. Quiet was restored that night, and the Stonewall’s management quickly got the bar ready to re-open and get everything back to normal for Saturday night, as it always had before. But this time occupiers of Sheridan Square had other plans. Again, Truscott:

Friday night’s crowd had returned and was being led in “gay power” cheers by a group of gay cheerleaders. “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We have no underwear/ We show our pubic hairs!” The crowd was gathered across the street from the Stonewall and was growing with additions of onlookers, Eastsiders, and rough street people who saw a chance for a little action. …As the “gay power” chants on the street rose in frequency and volume, the crowd grew restless. The front of the Stonewall was losing its attraction, despite efforts by the owners to talk the crowd back into the club….

The people on the street were not to be coerced. “Let’s go down the street and see what’s happening, girls,” someone yelled. And down the street went the crowd, smack into the Tactical Patrol Force, who had been called earlier to disperse the crowd and were walking west on Christopher from Sixth Avenue. Formed in a line, the TPF swept the crowd back to the corner of Waverly Place where they stopped. A stagnant situation there brought on some gay tomfoolery in the form of a chorus line facing the helmeted and club-carrying cops. Just as the line got into a full kick routine, the TPF advanced again and cleared the crowd of screaming gay powerites down Christopher to Seventh Avenue. The street and park were then held from both ends, and no one was allowed to enter — naturally causing a fall-off in normal Saturday night business, even at the straight Lion’s Head and 55. The TPF positions in and around the square were held with only minor incident — one busted head and a number of scattered arrest — while the cops amused themselves by arbitrarily breaking up small groups of people up and down the avenue. The crowd finally dispersed around 3:30 A.M.

Other accounts have the Saturday night uprising as being more widespread and more violent than Truscott’s description. People were beaten with nightsticks, and tear gas was deployed in front of the Stonewall to try to break up the crowd.

The crowds gathered again on Sunday night, but according to Truscott, it was a somewhat quieter night with police and TPF out in force. In fact, unrest and police confrontations would go continue for another three nights. But Truscott’s account ended on a triumphal note Sunday:

Allen Ginsberg and Taylor Mead walked by to see what was happening and were filled in on the previous evenings’ activities by some of the gay activists. “Gay power! Isn’t that great! ” Allen said. “We’re one of the largest minorities in the country — 10 per cent, you know. It’s about time we did something to express ourselves.”

Ginsberg expressed a desire to visit the Stonewall — “You know, I’ve never been in there ” — and ambled on down the street, flashing peace signs and helloing the TPF. It was a relief and a kind of joy to see him on the street. He lent an extra umbrella of serenity of the scene with his laughter and quiet commentary on consciousness, “gay power” as a new movement, and the various implications of what had happened. I followed him into the Stonewall, where rock music blared from speakers all around a room that might have come right from a Hollywood set of a gay bar. He was immediately bouncing and dancing wherever he moved.

He left, and I walked east with him. Along the way, he described how things used to be. “You know, the guys there were so beautiful — they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.” It was the first time I had heard this crowd described as beautiful.

We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, “Defend the fairies!” and bounced on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of “gay power” and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way.

[Sources: Lucian Truscott IV. “Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square.” Village Voice 14, no. 38 (July 3, 1969): 1, 18. Available online via the Google Newspaper Archive here.

Howard Smith. “View from Inside: Full Moon Over the Stonewall.” Village Voice 14, no. 38 (July 3, 1969): 1, 25, 29. Available online via the Google Newspaper Archive here.]

200px-US-CivilServiceCommission-Seal-EO11096

Civil Service Commission Begins Hiring Gay People: 1975. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded to both the “Red Scare” and the “Lavender Scare” stoked by Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist and anti-gay hearings by signing an executive order mandating the firing of all federal employees who were found guilty of “sexual perversion” — government-speak for homosexuality (see Apr 27). Untold thousands lost their jobs in the ensuing decades, including one astronomer by the name of Frank Kameny, who was fired in 1957 (see Dec 20). He protested his firing, and argued his case in federal court all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to hear the case in 1961, making his firing permanent. Kameny went on to become a leading gay-rights activist, and while his efforts extended to opposition to all aspects of discrimination and oppression, the federal employment ban never strayed far from his top concerns. Kameny supported others who had been fired in their efforts to get their jobs back and organized several protests and meetings at the commission’s Washington, D.C. headquarters throughout the next two decades (see, for example, Sep 28, Jun 26).

While Kameny’s case was the first legal challenge, it wasn’t the last. Several others followed suit, but most federal judges sided with the government’s position upholding the Civil Service Commission’s rules. But in 1973, after a federal judge in California ordered the commission to cease labeling gay people as unfit for federal employment, the commission decided to review its policies. By 1975, the commission finally amended its regulations and ended its ban on employing gays in the federal government. The decision however was not accompanied by a formal announcement. Instead, supervisors were quietly instructed that no one was to be barred for homosexuality. But news of the change did slowly leak out. According to Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price in their book Courting Justice: Gay Men And Lesbians V. The Supreme Court, Frank Kameny learned of the change via a phone call on a Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend. Federal personnel officials “surrendered to me on July 3rd, 1975,” he recalled. “They called me up to tell me they were changing their policies to suit me. And that was the end of it.”

MMWR1981.07.03

Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals: 1981. That was the headline the New York Times used to announce a new set of illnesses stalking gay men. The Times article, the first mainstream media report about of what would eventually become known as AIDS, came out just a month  after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first announced that five gay men had died of a rare form of pneumonia in Los Angeles (see Jun 5). Now the CDC issued another notice of gay men in New York and California being stricken with Kaposi’s Sarcoma in the July 3 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

During the past 30 months, Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), an uncommonly reported malignancy in the United States, has been diagnosed in 26 homosexual men (20 in New York City [N YC ]; 6 in California). The 26 patients range in age from 26-51 years (mean 39 years). Eight of these patients died (7 in NYC, 1 in California)—all 8 within 24 months after KS was diagnosed. The diagnoses in all 26 cases were based on histopathological examination o f skin lesions, lymph nodes, or tumor in other organs. Twenty-five of the 26 patients were white, 1 was black. …

Skin or mucous membrane lesions, often dark blue to violaceous plaques or nodules, were present in most of the patients on their initial physician visit. However, these lesions were not always present and often were considered benign by the patient and his physician. …

Seven KS patients had serious infections diagnosed after their initial physician visit. Six patients had pneumonia (4 biopsy confirmed as due to Pneumocystis carinii [PC]), and one had necrotizing toxoplasmosis of the central nervous system. One of the patients  with Pneumocystis pneumonia also experienced severe, recurrent, herpes simplex infection; extensive candidiasis; and cryptococcal meningitis.

This report, which noted that gay men were developing KS “during the past 30 months” confirmed rumors that had been swirling in New York of a “gay cancer.” Until then, KS had been extremely rare, affecting mainly older men of Mediterranean descent, Africans in the equatorial belt, and transplant patients who were on anti-rejection drugs that suppressed their immune systems. The CDC report also updated their count of gay men with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) from the prior month, from five to fifteen.

[Sources: A. Friedman-Kein, L. Laubenstein, M. Marmor, et al. “Epidemiologic Notes and Reports: Kaposi’s Sarcoman and Pneumocystis Pneumonia among homosexual men — New York City and California.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 30, no. 25 (July 3, 1981): 305.308. Available online here (PDF: 705KB/12 pages).

Lawrence K. Altman. “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexual Men.” New York Times (July 3, 1981): 20.]

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 Thursday, July 2

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Nuntius (Houston, TX), August 1970, page 16.

From Nuntius (Houston, TX), August 1970, page 16.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Fires 381 Gay Employees: 1953. In the early 1950s, the entire country was in the grips of the Red Scare as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy was conducting his witch hunts. One of his main platforms would be the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Investigation of Loyalty of State Department Employees. While McCarthy’s main targets were imaginary Communists in the State Department, gay employees were also seen as “subversives” in need of rooting out. Among the more high-profile targets was Samuel Reber, a twenty-seven year career diplomat who announced his retirement in May of 1953 after McCarthy charged that he was a security risk — which was a barely-concealed code for homosexual. By then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had already responded to McCarthy’s witch hunt by signing an executive order mandated the firing of all federal employees who were deemed guilty of “sexual perversion,” whether proven or not (See Apr 27). Eisenhower also announced a re-organization of the State Department. Rep. Charles B Brownson, an Indiana Republican with his own lesser-known witch hunt underway in the House Government Operations Committee, asked the State Department for a progress report in rooting out homosexuals. On July 2, 1953, the State Department’s chief security officer R.W. Scott McLeod revealed that 351 homosexuals and 150 other “security risks” had been fired between 1950 and 1953.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Richard Bruce Nugent: 1906-1987. When the landmark Harlem Renaissance literary magazine Fire!! published his short story “Smoke, Lilies and Jade” in 1926, Richard Bruce Nugent became the first African-American writer willing to declare his homosexuality in print — and he would remain so for the next thirty years. A year earlier, he had been attending the “Saturday Evening” salons of poet Georgia Douglas Johnson in his native Washington, D.C., where he was introduced to the leading African-American thinkers of the day, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, and Waldo Frank. He also met poet Langston Hughes (see Feb 1). The two of them became fast friends and moved to New York. Nugent, Hughes, Cal Van Vechten (see Jun 17) and several others became integral players in Harlem’s intellectual and artistic life, with Nugent becoming the most notorious. Van Vechten once wrote to Hughes that he saw Nugent at a society dinner in evening clothes “with his usual open chest and uncovered ankles. I suppose soon he will be going without trousers.”

Nugent wasn’t just a writer, but also a dancer, painter and illustrator. The apartment complex in Harlem that he shared with other artists became known as “Niggeratti Manor,” where Nugent had painted the walls with mural, some depicting homoerotic scenes. Other illustrations appeared in Fire!! as well as two other African-American publications Opportunity and Palms, and other New York art magazines. Meanwhile, he continued to write short stories and even took his turn on the stage, appearing on Broadway and in an early production of the play Porgy (later adapted by George Gershwin for Porgy and Bess) In 1937, he published what is often considered his finest work, “Pope Pius the Only.”

In 1952, he married Grace Marr, with whom he shared accommodations, and with her three brothers. The marriage was her idea; she thought she could “change” him. It’s unclear why he went along with it. He warned her that it was a bad idea, but marry her he did. The relationship was never consummated. Meanwhile, Nugent remained an active booster of Harlem’s literary and arts scene throughout the rest of his life. He was also a harsh critic of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1968 exhibition on the Harlem Renaissance which, astonishingly, was put together without the involvement of Harlem artists. In 1983 he was interviewed for the film Before Stonewall. He died in 1987. In 2002 Duke University Press published Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent, a collection of Nugent’s most important writings, paintings, and drawings, many of them made available for the first time.

Dee Palmer

Dee Palmer: 1937. Jethro Tull fans would know her as composer and keyboardist David Palmer. She had provided orchestral arrangements for several significant Jethro Tull albums, including Aqualung and Thick as a Brick before joining the band as a full time musician in 1976. At the time, she presented herself as an eccentric Englishman, complete with a Sherlock Holmes pipe and a beard. She remained with the band until it broke up in 1980 over Ian Anderson’s decision to release a solo album under the Jethro Tull name.

She was also married. He had told Maggie about her transgender feelings on their second date, and Maggie was accepting. “All of my time with Maggie was blissfully happy,” she later recalled. But after her wife died in 1998, Dee was left alone to confront her sense that something was wrong. “Once she died I sat in the kitchen looking down the garden for a year, then gradually from the outermost part of my body and soul where I had consigned what I was to learn was gender dysphoria started to reassert itself as something that I had to deal with again.”

She finally decided it was time to act on the feelings that she had been having since the age of three. She changed her name to Dee in 2000 and underwent gender reassignment in 2004. The whole process for her was very difficult. “It isn’t for wimps by the way … And it isn’t for people who want to wear a frock and prance around masquerading as a female. It’s nothing to do with that, it’s a light year away from that.” Now that she has transitioned, she feels liberated, and lives with a sense that there was nothing left to hold her back. “it is like jumping from a parachute. At first it’s very easy, but then suddenly the ground is coming up at you and you can’t stop until you’ve reached the end; it’s very much that kind of experience – your writing and performance will take on new dimensions.”

JohnnyWeir

Johnny Weir: 1984. The famous American figure skater is a three-time U.S. National Champion (2004–2006) and a the 2008 Worlds Championship bronze medalist, although for a number of reasons, his Olympic appearances in 2006 and 2010 were disappointing. When he appeared at the 2010 U.S. Championships wearing fox fur as part of his costume, he began to receive death threats from animal rights activists. He defended his decision to wear fur as “a personal choice,” but decided to remove the fur from his costume. By the time the 2010 Winter Olympics came around in Vancouver, he had to change his housing arrangement due to security concerns.

Weir was always a bit different — including the fact that he spins clockwise instead of counter-clockwise like most other figure skaters. He was long suspected of being gay — as are probably most male figure skaters. The fact that he designed some of his own skating costumes in a very androgynous style didn’t do much to quell the rumors. But for most of his career, he preferred to leave the questions unanswered. “It’s not part of my sport and it’s private,” he’d say. But when he published his memoir Welcome to My World in 2011, he finally came out as gay. He said his decision to come out was prompted by a string of suicides in 2010. “With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story.”

In 2013, Weir retired from professional skating and became an NBC figure skating analyst for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. When controversy over Russia’s anti-gay laws prompted calls to boycott the games, Weir, who is a self-proclaimed Russophile, criticized those suggestions by saying that “the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement” about Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, adding “you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.” Just before leaving for the Sochi games, Weir filed for what looked to be a very nasty divorce from his Russian husband, Victor Voronov. The divorce was finalized earlier this year.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 1

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Budapest, Hungary; Catania, Italy; Cologne, Germany; Leamington, UK; Lethbridge, AB; Madrid, Spain; Porto, Portugal; San Antonio, TX; Schwerin, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Victoria, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Arizona Gay News, June 24, 1977, page 7.

From Arizona Gay News, June 24, 1977, page 7.

The Last Culture disco opened in Tucson in 1977 over the July 4 weekend. The Arizona Gay News described the new club:

Aztec, Egyptian, Futuristic are apt words to describe the totally remodeled Last Culture disco located at 1455 N. Miracle Mile. Owners Bernie, Joel, and Budd have spared no expense to make this club one of the most up to date discotheques in the West. A complete new computerized sound system. A completely new lighting system. A complete new laser system that will have your head spinning are but three of the innovations that have been installed. There is a new bleacher section for resting between dances.

The Last Culture disco is in conjunction with Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s Restaurant which makes this facility one of the most complete entertainment centers in the Southwest.

The city of Tucson inadvertently found itself in the gay bar business in November of 1978 when it purchased the Tucson House, a high rise apartment building on 1455 N. Miracle Mile, which the city intended to turn into public housing for senior citizens. City council members were surprised to learn that the strip mall in front of Tucson House, which housed The Last Culture and Jekyll and Hyde’s, happened to be part of the same transaction, making the city the clubs’ new landlord. While Tucson overall was quite gay friendly — the city council would pass a broad anti-discrimination ordinance a month later — anti-gay council member Richard Amlee was aghast. “I don’t want to use city funds to finance any of their operations,” he said, apparently ignorant of the fact that the two bars were now paying the city “four figures each month” for rent.

At about the same time, the business itself was sold to new owners, and I don’t know what happened after that. I’m still combing through back issues of the Arizona Gay News, which showed that the business continued to advertise as Jekyll’s Last Culture for a few more weeks, as it had been doing through much of 1978, after which it seems to have dropped The Last Culture and advertised itself simply as Jekyll’s. The building is still there (that portion of the old Miracle Mile was renamed Oracle Road to reflect a realignment several blocks to the north many years earlier), and houses a family and youth counseling non-profit organization.

[Sources: “Jekyll’s Changes Hands, City New Landlord.” Arizona Gay News 3, no. 47 (November 23, 1978): 1.]

L-R: Willem Arondeus, Sjoerd Bakker, and Johan Brouwer.

L-R: Willem Arondeus, Sjoerd Bakker, and Johan Brouwer.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Resistance Fighters Shot By Nazis: 1943. Dutch painter and writer Willem Arondeus’s career in art, like that of many artists, was marked by poverty. But his 1938 biography of the Dutch painter Matthijs Maris (1839-1917) not only assured Arondeus of a modest steady income, but Maris’s fight on the barricades in 1871 for the Paris Communards inspired Arondeus to join the Resistance when the Nazis invaded Holland. Arondeus hatched a plot to burn the Bevolkingsregister which housed the citizen registration office in Amsterdam where the Nazis kept copies of all of the identity cards held by Dutch citizens. Late on March 27, 1943, Arondeus and fourteen others, including two young doctors, donned German uniforms, asked the building’s guards to open the building for a special inspection. As soon as they gained entry, the two doctors injected the guards to put them asleep and placed them in the courtyard away from harm while the rest of the crew set fire to the building.

aanslag_bevolkings_register1_370

The destroyed Bevolkingsregister, 1943.

Five days later, an unknown infiltrator informed the Nazis, which arrested the group. During the trial, Arondeus took responsibility for the fire. The two doctors were sentenced to life in prison, but the rest were ordered to go before a firing squad. Before he was executed, Arondeus asked his lawyer to make public after the war that he and two others were gay: the tailor Sjoerd Bakker, who made the fake German uniforms, and writer Johan Brouwer. “Tell the people that gays are not cowards,” Arondeus instructed his lawyer. (Bakker, for his part, requested a pink shirt as his last request before his execution.) But despite the Netherlands’ renowned liberal attitudes, Arondeus’s request wasn’t heeded until 1990 when a television documentary by the Dutch filmmaker Toni Bouwmans revealed the full story.

[Source: Lutz van Dijk. “Arondeus, Willem” in Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds.) Who’s Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to the Mid-Twentieth Century, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2002): 34-35.]

Rep. Larry Craig (R-ID)

Rep. Larry Craig (R-ID)

Larry Craig Preemptively Denies Connection to Gay Page Sex Scandal: 1982. Rumors of Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-ID) sexuality have long swirled around Washington as well as back home in Idaho. When his 2007 arrest in a Minneapolis airport men’s room for soliciting sex from an undercover (male) police officer went public (see Aug 27), many Washington insiders weren’t too terribly surprised by the news.

A lot of that had to do with a gay page scandal that broke on June 30, 1982. CBS News aired an exposé featuring Congressional page Leroy Williams alleging that he had sex with three House members when he was 17. Neither CBS News nor Williams named any of the House members publicly, so it was quite surprising when the very next day, then-Rep. Larry Craig Craig issued a statement saying that reporters were calling him saying they were going to publish his name in connection with the scandal as “part of a concerted effort at character assassination.” He added, “I have done nothing that I need to be either publicly or privately ashamed of. I am guilty of no crime or impropriety, and I am convinced that this is an effort to damage my personal character and destroy my political career.”

Craig was the only of the 435 House members to issues such a statement. He then flew to Idaho for a previously-scheduled campaign stop where he addressed the issue again: “Persons who are unmarried as I am, by choice or by circumstance, have always been the subject of innuendos, gossip and false accusations. I think this is despicable.” His statements, out of the blue, puzzled some and raised red flags with others, though few were willing to acknowledge them at the time. What prompted Craig’s pre-emptive, un-sought denial?

 Peter Fearon, then with the New York Post, said he never said his paper was preparing to name Craig. “No, no — it wasn’t ‘are you under investigation?’ It was simply an inquiry: ‘Have you heard anything? Who have you heard about? Have you heard any names mentioned? What’s your reaction to this news?’

“The next thing I know, Larry Craig has issued a press release:  ‘This isn’t me.’ Which I just thought was a bizarre and ultimately very foolish thing to do.

“He was the only person going on the record anywhere,” Fearon said. “And of course, when you do that, it’s like raw meat. He’s saying, ‘Nobody’s actually accusing, but it wasn’t me!’ It’s no wonder it’s dogged him. He denied something that no one had accused him of.”

Williams recanted his statements a month later, as did a second page who appeared on CBS. A House ethics committee investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Craig proposed to Suzanne Thompson by the end of 1982. The couple married the following summer and the page scandal was forgotten. Mostly.

Here are two  news reports from July 2, 1982 on the page scandal. Both reports included Craig’s denials:

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
90 YEARS AGO: Farley Granger: 1925-2011: Despite being one of the best-looking and well-regarded men in Hollywood, Granger didn’t have the kind of prolific a film career one might expect. He is best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and Strangers on a Train and for Luchino Visconti’s Senso. In Rope, Granger played a murderer and (implied) lover of an accomplice in a story inspired by the Loeb and Leopold murder.

In real life, Granger enjoyed the attentions of men, and women. According to his 2007 autobiography Include Me Out, he had affairs with Patricia Neal, Arthur Laurents, Shelly Winters, Leonard Bernstein, Barbara Stanwick and Ava Gardner. As for dealing with “liberal” Hollywood’s deeply-entrenched homophobia:

I found it difficult to answer questions about “gay life in Hollywood when I was living and working there. …I was never ashamed, and I never felt the need to explain or apologize for my relationships with anyone. I had many gay friends, but more of my friends were straight and most were married with families. The ratio of my gay to straight friends was probably in direct proportion to that of gay and straight people in general. I have loved men. I have loved women.”

Granger insisted he was never closeted, and he also resisted labeling himself:

Men or women?

“That really depends on the person,” he said impishly. But his follow-up comment left little doubt: “I’ve lived the greater part of my life with a man” — he has been with (Robert) Calhoun in New York since the 1960s — “so obviously that’s the most satisfying to me.”

In the late 1950s, Granger left Hollywood and moved to New York City, where he launched a second career on Broadway. Granger died in 2011 of natural causes in New York at the age of 85.

Fred Schneider: 1951. The B-52s front man is probably America’s best known practitioner of sprechgesang. (The Free Dictionary: “a type of vocalization between singing and recitation … originated by Arnold Schoenberg, who used it in Pierrot Lunaire (1912)”) The group’s guy-and-gals call-and-response between Schneider and Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson have become a trademark ever since “Rock Lobster” hit the charts in 1978. That sound defined the B-52s as the quintessential party band, inviting everyone to pile into the Chrysler as big as a whale. Schneider was coy about his sexuality throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, but his reluctance appeared to be more a matter of annoyance than fear. “I’m on the same side the fence as k.d., Elton and Frederick the Great. I just don’t like to share my personal life with the public.” Of course, there wasn’t much sharing needed. His own mother’s reaction when he came out to her probably sums it up for everyone else. “Oh I know, Freddie,” she said, and continued vacuuming without missing a beat.

Roddy Bottum: 1963. The keyboardist for Faith No More since 1982, Bottum came out as gay in 1993 the year after his father died. It’s easy to imagine that his revelation would have come as quite a shock to the hyper-hetero world of heavy metal, but Bottum described it as “a positive and uplifting experience. I guess I expected some of the fans to burn crosses or throw panties at me, but nothing like that ever happened.” One of his hits with Faith No More was “Be Aggressive,” from their 1992 album Angel Dust. The homoerotic song was about oral sex. “It was a pretty fun thing to write, knowing that (lead singer Mike Patton) was going to have to put himself on the line and go up onstage and sing these vocals.” Bottum’s openness about his sexuality didn’t exactly open the floodgates for other heavy metal rockers to come out. “You’d think there’d be a lot more homosexuality in metal with all the dressing up,” he told The Advocate in 1999. By then he had left Faith No More — and metal — to form the indie boy/girl group Imperial Teen. Since 2005, Bottum has written scores for more than a dozen movies and television shows.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 30

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), July 1981, page 17.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), July 1981, page 17.

Mugshots from Grand Rapids Police, early 1900s.

Mugshots from the Grand Rapids, Michigan, police department, early 1900s.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Census Bureau Releases Incarceration Statistics on Sodomy: 1904. Dr. William J. Robinson, editor of the American Journal of Urology, in 1914 combed through the Census Bureau’s statistics released ten years earlier and published the following information:

STATISTICS OF SODOMY
Statistics regarding all crimes in the United States are miserably defective and the results attending an effort to determine the frequency of the offence of sodomy, generally designated as an “offence against nature” is unsatisfactory. We find, however, that on June 30, 1904, there were in American penal institutions 876 prisoners committed for this crime. These prisoners comprised 15.5% of those committed for offences against chastity. Of the total 375 were male and 1 female.

The distribution by states was as follows: New Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 20; Connecticut, 7; New York, 62; New Jersey, 12; Pennsylvania, 52; Maryland, 8; Virginia, 3; West Virginia, 1; North Carolina, 4; South Carolina, 1; Georgia, 1; Florida, 3; Ohio, 22; Indiana, 6; Illinois, 20; Michigan, 11; Wisconsin, 6; Minnesota, 8; Iowa, 2; Missouri, 11; North Dakota, 2; Nebraska, 2; Kansas, 4; Kentucky, 6; Tennessee, 5; Alabama, 3; Mississippi, 6; Louisiana, 3; Texas, 29; Montana, 4; Wyoming, 2; Colorado, 5; Arizona, 1; Utah, 2; Idaho, 2 ; Washington, 8; Oregon, 1; California, 30. It will be seen that the frequency of conviction varies greatly in different localities.

In the figures of crime given for the state of Indiana, which are probably the most complete available, the offence in question is not mentioned. In the Indianapolis police court, however there were two cases of sodomy in 1910 and ten in 1911.

[Source: Robinson, William J. “Statistics of Sodomy.” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 3 (March 1914): 146. Available online via Google Books here.]

New York Magazine, June 30, 1969.

Upper West Side’s Renaissance Blighted by “Parading Homosexuals”: 1969. We like to think that gentrification of older urban neighborhoods is something new. For most cities, it is, and for many cities it has been gay people leading the way, rehabbing run-down homes and bringing entire blocks back to life. But New York’s neighborhoods have been in a constant state of reinvention ever since the Indians moved out and the Dutch moved in. In 1969, it was the Manhattan Upper West Side’s turn when New York magazine noticed its “renaissance,” brought on by a new band of urban settlers moving into the very rough neighborhood, attracted there by cheap rents and readily available housing:

“I was ready for war,” one recent brownstone buyer said. “You know, German shepherd, barbed wire, burglar alarms, punji sticks, the works. But we were delighted to find that with a little caution it could be a relaxed place to live.” … Business, of course, has joined and helped to stimulate the movement to the West Side. Flower vendors who set up their cardboard cartons at the top of the neighborhood’s subway stairs claim business is booming. “Only a year ago,” Monroe, a West 86th Street vendor, said between sales, “flowers couldn’t live on the West Side.”

High end stores, restaurants, theaters were returning to the Upper West Side amidst a $700 million building boom. But the transition from a down-in-the-heels neighborhood to a sought-after address was far from complete:

The same kind of young, successful and relatively affluent middle-class families that moved to the suburbs 20 years ago and to the East Side 10 years ago are moving to the West Side today, and while the neighborhood still has an ample supply of teenage muggers, parading homosexuals and old men who wear overcoats in July, the over-all mood of the area seems to have changed.

This article was published just two days after the Stonewall Rebellion that took place just four short miles to the south in Greenwich Village. Those riots were barely mentioned in New York’s respectable press, and “parading homosexuals” were still seen as a sign of decay. But just a decade later a new generation of “parading homosexuals” would become highly sought-after pioneers in reviving dying neighborhoods, whose efforts today are often praised by city leaders as evidence of renewed economic and creative vigor.

[Source: Nicholas Pileggi. “Renaissance of the Upper West Side.” New York (June 30, 1969): 28-39. Available online via Google Books here.]

HardwickProtest

Bowers v. Hardwick: 1986. It all began with a beer bottle thrown into a trash can in outside a gay bar 1982. A police officer saw Michael Hardwick do it and cited him for public drinking. When Hardwick failed to arrive for his court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Several weeks later — after Hardwick realized his error and paid the ticket — a police officer went to Hardwick’s apparent to serve the arrest warrant. The police officer entered the apartment (accounts differ on how he got in), and discovered Hardwick and a male companion engaged in oral sex, an act which fell under Georgia sodomy law (see Aug 3). Both men were arrested, but the local district attorney decided not to press charges. Hardwick then sued Georgia attorney general Michael Bowers in federal court seeking to overturn the state’s sodomy law. The ACLU agreed to take the case on Hardwick’s behalf.

A federal judge in Atlanta dismissed the case, siding with the Attorney General. Hardwick appealed to the Eleventh Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. Bowers then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled on this date — during pride week — in 1986 that Hardwick’s right to privacy did not extend to private, consensual sexual conduct — at least as far as gay sex was concerned. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, barely concealed his contempt for gay people. He wrote, “to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious.” Chief Justice Warren Berger, in a concurring opinion, piled on: “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”

Justice Lewis Powell was considered the deciding vote. It has been reported that he originally voted to strike down the law but changed his mind after a few days. In 1990, after Powell had retired three years earlier, he told a group law students that he considered his opinion in Bowers was mistake (see Oct 18). “I do think it was inconsistent in a general way with Roe. When I had the opportunity to reread the opinions a few months later I thought the dissent had the better of the arguments.” His mistake would remain the law of the land for another seventeen years, until Bowers itself was held to be “not correct” in Lawrence v. Texas (see Jun 26).

protest

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin Enacts Law Against “Homosexual Propaganda”: 2013. On June 11, Russia’s State Duma gave its unanimous approval for a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” ostensibly to minors, although the law was so broadly written that it effectively banned advocacy just about anywhere. It effectively prohibits advocating the moral equivalency of gay relationships to straight ones, as well as the distributing of material advocating for gay rights. The law imposes fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150) for citizens, and goes up to as much as 200,000 rubles (US$6,600) for officials if such “propaganda” is transmitted via the media or the internet. Organizations face a fine of up to 1 million rubles (US$30,200) and suspension of all activity for 90 days. In addition, foreigners face up to fifteen days detention and deportation. 

On June 30, President Vladimir Putin, who had earlier blamed gay people, in part, for Russia’s declining population, signed the bill into law. Protests broke out in St. Petersburg, which had already passed a nearly identical law, which ended when gay rights supporters were attacked and beaten by nationalist skinheads, and then were arrested by police. Additional attacks broke out across Russia, with violent skinhead gangs using social media to lure gay people on the promise of a date, only to torture them and force them to come out to family and friends on video, which the gangs proudly posted on the internet. Dmitri Kislev, anchor of the most popular news program on state-owned Russia 1, told his audience that imposing fines wasn’t enough. “Their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life,” he said. (Kislev was later promoted to head Russia’s re-organized RIA Novosti, the state-owned news agency.)

widemodern_sochigay_100413620x413Putin received praise for his actions from a number of American anti-gay extremists, including Pat BuchananScott Lively, Franklin Graham, the American Family Association’s Bryan FischerLinda Harvey, and six American anti-gay organizations including the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families. And all of this was was just seven months before Russia was to host the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, which put the spotlight on the International Olympic Committee. The IOC clearly didn’t want any negative publicity. So instead of moving the games (which, admittedly, would have been a monumental task) or press the Russians to uphold gay athletes’ rights of personal expression, they instead opted for a much easier solution by reminding athletes about their “responsibility” to refrain from doing anything that would embarrass the IOC, their Russian hosts, or corporate sponsors. The Sochi Olympics went off without a hitch, under heavy security. But the new and glamorous face that Russia hoped to present to the world was shattered just a few weeks after the closing ceremonies when Putin’s allies in America were shocked — shocked! — to see Putin violate international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty by annexing the Crimean peninsula.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 29

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Gay Life (Chicago, IL), April 16, 1976, page 16.

From Gay Life (Chicago, IL), April 16, 1976, page 16.

The Butterfly, which later adopted the name Iron Butterfly, was described as “a raucous and fun hangout (which) always had a great party or benefit going on.” The location today is a French bistro.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Henry Gerber: 1892-1972. Pro-gay activism in the U.S goes back a very long way, far longer than most people realize. Henry Gerber, a Bavarian immigrant to Chicago, served in the U.S. Army’s occupation of Germany following World War I, where he came in contact with the growing German gay rights movement. He read up on German homophile magazines and came in contact with Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first organization in the world working to advance gay rights. He observed that the situation in Germany, where gay people were organizing and only one set of laws were in force throughout the nation contrasted markedly with that in the U.S., where gay people hadn’t even thought of organizing, and the laws in the U.S. were a patchwork of different definitions and penalties in each of the 48 states:

To go before each State legislature and argue the real nature of homosexuality would be plainly a job too costly to be considered. The conduct of many homosexuals in their unpardonable public behavior clearly led to public protest against all homosexuals. Here were only two stumbling blocks on the road to reform.

I realized at once that homosexuals themselves needed nearly as much attention as the laws pertaining to their acts. How could one go about such a difficult task? The prospect of going to jail did not bother me. I had a vague idea that I wanted to help solve the problem. I had not yet read the opinion of Clarence Darrow that “no other offence has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.” All my friends to whom I spoke about my plans advised against my doing anything so rash and futile. I thought to myself that if I succeeded I might become known to history as deliverer of the downtrodden, even as Lincoln. But I am not sure my thoughts were entirely upon fame. If I succeeded in freeing the homosexual, I too would benefit.

Soon after returning to the U.S., Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in 1924 (see Dec 10). With an African-American clergyman named John T. Graves as president, SHR is believed to be America’s first gay rights organization. Gerber also founded Friendship and Freedom, the first known American gay publication. As Gerber explained in 1962:

The outline of our plan was as follows:

1. We would cause the homosexuals to join our Society and gradually reach as large a number as possible.

2. We would engage in a series of lectures pointing out the attitude of society in relation to their own behavior and especially urging against the seduction of adolescents.

3. Through a publication named Friendship and Freedom we would keep the homophile world in touch with the progress of our efforts. The publication was to refrain from advocating sexual acts and would serve merely as a forum for discussion.

4. Through self-discipline, homophiles would win the confidence and assistance of legal authorities and legislators in understanding the problem; that these authorities should be educated on the futility and folly of long prison terms for those committing homosexual acts, etc.

The beginning of all movements is necessarily small. I was able to gather together a half dozen of my friends and the Society for Human Rights became an actuality. Through a lawyer our program was submitted to the Secretary of State at Springfield, and we were furnished with a State Charter. No one seemed to have bothered to investigate our purpose.

Gerber got that charter by omitting any mention of homosexuality in his application. Instead, the application spoke of promoting more general values of freedom and independence. Nevertheless, Gerber found that getting SHR set up difficult, and he had to finance the whole enterprise out of his own picket. He managed to put out two issues of Friendship and Freedom, before running out of money. He tried to seek support among medical authorities, but none would help him. He also had trouble finding people to join his group. “Being thoroughly cowed, they seldom get together,” he observed. “Most feel that as long as some homosexual sex acts are against the law, they should not let their names be on any homosexual organization’s mailing list any more than notorious bandits would join a thieves’ union.” Those who did join had few resources themselves.

The only support I got was from poor people: John (Graves), a preacher who earned his room and board by preaching brotherly love to small groups of Negroes; Al, an indigent laundry queen; and Ralph whose job with the railroad was in jeopardy when his nature became known. These were the national officers of the Society for Human Rights, Inc. I realized this start was dead wrong, but after all, movements always start small and only by organizing first and correcting mistakes later could we expect to go on at all. The Society was bound to become a success, we felt, considering the modest but honest plan of operation.

SHR didn’t last long. Graves’s wife denounced Gerber and his associates to police, calling them “degenerates.” In July, 1925, at 2:00 a.m., police showed up at his apartment with a reporter from the Chicago Examiner in tow and arrested Gerber. Graves and Al the “laundry queen” and his roommate were also arrested. The next day, the Examiner’s headline screamed, “Strange Sex Cult Exposed,” which claimed (falsely) that Graves was arrested while in the middle of an orgy in full view of his wife and children.

The “laundry queen” was pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and was fined $10.00. Gerber was tried three times, but the charges were eventually dismissed. Charges were also dismissed against Graves. Gerber was nevertheless ruined, fired from his job and drained of his life savings. “The experience generally convinced me that we were up against a solid wall of ignorance, hypocrisy, meanness and corruption. The wall had won.”

Gerber moved to New York, got a job as a proofreader at a newspaper, and then reenlisted in the army, where he served until his retirement in 1945. When gay people finally started getting serous about organizing in the 1950s, Gerber resumed writing about gay rights, sometimes under his own name and sometimes under a pseudonym. He died on New Year’s Eve in 1972 at the age of 80, having lived long enough to see gay rights advocacy take on a new vibrancy in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in an explosion of advocacy and pride after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

[Source: Henry Gerber. “The Society for Human Rights — 1925.” ONE 10, no. 9 (September 1962): 5-11. Also available online here.]

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, June 28

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2015

THE DAILY AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Bangor, MEBarcelona, Spain;Bilbao, Spain; Bratislava, Slovakia;Chicago, ILColumbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Fayetteville, ARHarlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; London, UK; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MNNew York, NY; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Perugia, Italy; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CASardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BCToronto, ON; Valencia, Spain; Victoria, BC; Whitehorse, YT.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Empty Closet (Rochester, NY), June 1974, page 5.

From The Empty Closet (Rochester, NY), June 1974, page 5.

The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley — it’s still going strong today — in 1974 chartered a bus for a pilgrimage from Rochester, N.Y. to the Big Apple for the fourth Christopher Street Liberation Day celebration, as Pride was known then. The chartered bus got cancelled “due to a mix-up,” according to the local LGBT paper, The Empty Closet. So GAGV organized a group of car pools for the trip down:

The variety of types were mind boggling. A group from several leather bars made up a section that thundered with heavy leather and chains. And straight out of fantasy land appeared the good fairy, drifting (on roller skates) lightly about, dressed in a wispy but tattered chiffon dress, waving a magic wand over any bystander that looked the least bit skeptical.

There were processions of religious groups, some in clerical vestments; a contingent of parents of gays; college groups, a generous sprinkling of radical drags, a lesbian women’s marching band from New Jersey, and thousands of women and men representing all walks of life. They were from all over the Northeast U.S. — New England, D.C, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and every city in New York state, including Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. It took very little courage to join this festive jaunt. There were no fists raised in revolt, no jeering crowds on the sidelines, and the police were just directing traffic. It was together.

The marcher couldn’t help but get high on the spirit that united such a diverse group. The act of marching with 40,000 sisters and brothers makes a clear statement to the nation that gay is good and that we will succeed in achieving full rights.

…This is the third year Rochesterians organized to attend this annual event. We’ll be back again and again until there’s no longer any reason.

[Source: “Gay Pride Week Parade to Central Park.” The Empty Closet (Rochester, NY; July-August 1974): 1-2.]

Stonewall RebellionTODAY IN HISTORY:
Stonewall: 1969. What can I possibly tell you about Stonewall that you don’t already know? Or that you think you know, even if what you know isn’t altogether true. In some ways, what happened or didn’t happen that night, the things that made it special in ways that it wasn’t all that special, the “groundbreaking” fight that was far from groundbreaking — those details, details, details — they just don’t matter.

It’s kind of like story like the story of Paul Revere’s ride and the Battle of Lexington. Or George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, except, well because its our story it naturally has to have a lot more drama. Whatever Stonewall is, or was, it is now our origin myth. And like all origin myths, it’s not the facts that matter anymore, but the idea of what happened that night. A police raid against a dingy and not particularly popular mafia-owned gay bar, people who had nothing to loose and fought back, a community that organized against all odds and marched, and kept marching for more than four decades to bring us where we are today. It all traces back, like a straight line — at least in our imagination — to that hot Friday night on Christopher Street.

Stonewall RebellionMythmaking is not an entirely bad thing. It’s what we humans naturally do to carry our stories from one generation to the next. But it can obscure some actual facts that would otherwise be forgotten. One myth, that Stonewall was “the first time gay people fought back,” simply isn’t true, as regular readers of these Daily Agenda know very well. It wasn’t the first time gay people protested (see Sep 19), it wasn’t the first time gay people organized against injustice (see, for example, Nov 11Dec 10), and it wasn’t the first time patrons fought back physically against a police raid (see Jan 1, Aug 21).

But Stonewall gets remembered for all of these things. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down marriage bans nationwide, we instinctively returned to Stonewall, and the news media was there, authoritatively telling America our creation myth — the one that says that Stonewall was the first time we fought back, and that Stonewall birthed the gay rights movement that led to last Friday’s victory.

But why is that? Why Stonewall? Why not the Black Cat? Or California Hall? Or Compton’s Cafeteria or Dewey’s?

Well, like all things in history, it seems to be a matter of two critical elements coming together in a near-perfect fashion. Stonewall 1) happend at the right place, and 2) it happened at the right time.

Stonewall InnThe Stonewall Inn’s location couldn’t have been more perfect for building a legacy. It didn’t just happen in a very dense part of America’s largest city and media capital, it took place just a few blocks from the Village Voice. Two Voice reporters just happened to be in the neighborhood when New York Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, commander of Lower Manhattan’s vice squad, decided that the Stonewall needed to be cleared out. Lucian Truscott IV wrote his eyewitness account of what happened from outside the Stonewall, and Howard Smith wrote about how he wound up being trapped inside the Stonewall with the besieged police. Those eyewitness accounts, and numerous articles which followed, meant that the history of Stonewall was written while it happened. Prior confrontations were typically ignored or downplayed by the mainstream press. The mainstream press was content to downplay Stonewall too — except for an infamous article in the New York Daily News which dismissed the whole affair more than a week later with “Homo Nest Raided! Queen Bees are stinging mad!” (see Jul 6).

But the Village Voice, the go-to paper for the city’s radicals, leftists, cultural savants, hippies, civil rights workers, (and in more modern-day parlance) community organizers and change agents, transmitted those nights’ events to a larger audience that was already engaged in bringing about sweeping social and political changes. If Stonewall had been located further away from the Voice’s offices, say, across any of the three rivers that separate Manhattan from the rest of America, it’s very likely that the rebellion would have been just another riot, one of so many that the media was growing tired of counting them all.

Gay Power, 1970The Voice carried the news of the Stonewall rebellion beyond the boundaries of New York City, but Stonewall’s legacy wasn’t all the Voice’s doing. Another factor in Stonewall’s geography that worked in its favor was that the rebellion happened on the streets of Greenwich Village, in dense neighborhoods filled with young people where news spread almost as fast as modern-day tweets. And what happened next leads to the second critical element that made Stonewall what it is today: it happened at the right time, at the tail end of the 1960s. It was a decade that taught those young people what to do when confronted with war, the draft, segregation, assassinations, injustice, and police oppression. They organized. They formed committees, councils, alliances, liberation fronts, and task forces. They held meetings and rallies, rap sessions and zaps. They organized marches and political campaigns. They turned a small movement led by careful strategists doing the best they could with little support into a mass movement propelled by a youthful energy that defied containment. And they did all of this because by 1969 it was in their DNA. They saw no other way. The knew no other way. And the fact that Stonewall touched on that other hallmark of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, was just icing on the cake.

The scene in front of the Stonewall moments after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, June 26, 2015.

The scene in front of the Stonewall moments after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, June 26, 2015.

The Stonewall Inn wasn’t the only place our origin story could have taken place. There were countless other locations in countless other cities that were just as ripe for starting a revolution. It just happened that the Stonewall Inn was there, and that’s where it happened. It was perfectly placed and the timing was perfectly right to fire our shot heard around the world. It’s our Liberty Bell, our Valley Forge, and our Bethlehem, all wrapped up into one. As soon as the news of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage hit the airways, the first instinct for thousands in New York and elsewhere in the Northeast was to make a pilgrimage to Stonewall. It’s where we return, time and again, to celebrate our victories and tell our story once again and share our pride.

Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day

 45 YEARS AGO: First Gay Pride Marches to Commemorate Stonewall: 1970. The actual Stonewall uprising received scant attention in the mainstream media. There were very few reporters there and only a bare handful of photos taken of the uprising. By in the space of a year, Stonewall had already become a single word that meant more than just a run-down bar in the Village. Gay people across the country took June 28 as their own Independence Day with commemorative marches taking place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and, of course, New York. The day was celebrated as “Christopher Street Liberation Day” for several years before Pride took over. (The celebration is still called CSD, or Christopher Street Day, in Germany.) One of the more interesting articles to appear in the mainstream media for those first Christopher Street Liberation Day marches was a brief description of the parade up Christopher Street on June 28, 1970 that appeared in July 11 edition of The New Yorker

A number of policemen were standout around, looking benevolent and keeping an eye on things. Many of the marchers were carrying banners that identified them as members of homosexual organizations, like the Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society, and the Gay Activists Alliance. The symbol of the G.A.A. is a lambda, which physicists use as a symbol for wavelength, and many of the kids were wearing purple T-shirts with yellow lambdas on them.

Most of the marchers chatted in anticipatory tones, and a few reporters were among them looking for interviews. One approached two boys standing together and asked them the question that reporters always ask: “How do you feel?”

One of the boys said, “I feel proud.”

Pride MarchersAt the head of the parade, one boy stood carrying the American flag. Near him stood a man talking to another man. “Homosexuals are very silly,” said the first man. “They congregate in certain areas and then spend all other time walking up and down the street ignoring each other.”

While “Pride” as a name for these marches was still several years ago, you can already see that pride was already the operative word for the day. The author (whose name is not given) reported that marchers carried signs reading “Homosexual is not a four letter word,” “Latent Homosexuals Unite!” and “Hi Mom!” Anti-gay protesters were there as well, one with a sign reading simply “Sodom + Gomorrah.” But despite a few sour notes, the parade was more than just a success: it was cathartic for some:

Pride at Central Park

Arrival at Central Park.

An eighteen-year-old boy from Long Island who was marching in the middle of the parade with his arms around two friends said, “I’ve been up since six-thirty, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t going to come, but then I figured I’m gay and I might as well support my people. So here I is!” Sometimes the marchers addressed the onlookers. “Join us!” they called, and “Come on in, the water’s fine!” They got a few grins for this, and once or twice somebody did step out from the crowd to join the parade. These people were roundly cheered by the marchers. Just south of Central Park, a well-dressed middle-aged woman on the sidewalk flashed a V-sign. A marcher, a young man with a mustache, shouted to a cop, also a young man with a mustache, “It isn’t so bad, is it?” The cop shouted back, “No!”

As the parade entered the Park, a young marcher said, “Would you believe it! It looks like an invading army. It’s a gay Woodstock. And after all those years I spent in psychotherapy!”

A friend of his laughed and said, “What will your shrink do without you? He’s dependent on your for the payments on his car.”

The Village Voice has another first-person account of the 1970 celebration. A short film by Lilli Vincenz, Gay and Proud, documenting New York’s march can be seen at the Library of Congress.

[Thanks to BTB reader Rob for providing a copy of the New Yorker article.]

James Dale at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony, 1988.

James Dale at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony, 1988.

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Boy Scouts’ Gay Ban: 2000. James Dale joined a Cub Scouts pack in Monmouth County, New Jersey and stayed with it through Boy Scouts, where he became an Eagle Scout at the age of seventeen. In fact, his Eagle Award was presented to him by none other than M. Norman Powell, a descendent of the founder of international scouting, Lord Baden-Powell. When he turned nineteen, Dale became an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 73 while a freshman at Rutgers University, where Dale also became co-president of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alliance. In July of 1990, he was a featured speaker at a Rutgers Conference where he spoke about the health care needs of gay and lesbian teens. He was interviewed by the Newark Star Ledger, which quoted him as saying he was gay. When local Boy Scout officials saw the interview, they promptly expelled him for violating “the standards for leadership established by the Boy Scouts of America, which specifically forbid membership to homosexuals.

Dale sued the BSA in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that the Boy Scouts had violated a New Jersey statute forbidding discrimination in a public accommodation. Superior Court Judge Patrick J. McGann ruled for the BSA and against the “active sodomite” — McGann’s very words in his ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court however overturned the lower court’s ruling in a unanimous decision, and held that the BSA’s actions violated state law. The Boy Scouts then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s application of its public accommodations law violated the Boy Scouts’ rights of free expressive association under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the majority, wrote that “[t]he Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill,” and that Dale’s presence “would, at the very least, force the organization to send a message, both to the young members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” He then added:

We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts’ teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization’s expression does not justify the State’s effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization’s expressive message. “While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government.” Hurley, 515 U.S. at 579.

Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined Rehnquist in the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens dissented. In Stevens’s dissent, he noted that the Boy Scouts had been inconsistent in its policies towards gay people, and its newfound opposition to homosexuality was inconsistent to the guidance it gave scout leaders on sexual and religious matters:

Insofar as religious matters are concerned, BSA’s bylaws state that it is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward . . . religious training.” App. 362. “The BSA does not define what constitutes duty to God or the practice of religion. This is the responsibility of parents and religious leaders.” In fact, many diverse religious organizations sponsor local Boy Scout troops. Because a number of religious groups do not view homosexuality as immoral or wrong and reject discrimination against homosexuals, it is exceedingly difficult to believe that BSA nonetheless adopts a single particular religious or moral philosophy when it comes to sexual orientation. This is especially so in light of the fact that Scouts are advised to seek guidance on sexual matters from their religious leaders (and Scoutmasters are told to refer Scouts to them); BSA surely is aware that some religions do not teach that homosexuality is wrong.

He then concluded:

The only apparent explanation for the majority’s holding, then, is that homosexuals are simply so different from the rest of society that their presence alone— unlike any other individual’s— should be singled out for special First Amendment treatment. Under the majority’s reasoning, an openly gay male is irreversibly affixed with the label “homosexual.” That label, even though unseen, communicates a message that permits his exclusion wherever he goes. His openness is the sole and sufficient justification for his ostracism. Though unintended, reliance on such a justification is tantamount to a constitutionally prescribed symbol of inferiority.

… That such prejudices are still prevalent and that they have caused serious and tangible harm to countless members of the class New Jersey seeks to protect are established matters of fact that neither the Boy Scouts nor the Court disputes. That harm can only be aggravated by the creation of a constitutional shield for a policy that is itself the product of a habitual way of thinking about strangers. As Justice Brandeis so wisely advised, “we must be ever on our guard, lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles.”

The Boy Scouts’ gay ban wasn’t limited to leaders, but extended to Scouts themselves. In 2013, after a long and contentious debate, the Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would rescind their ban against gay Scouts beginning January 1, 2014. The ban on gay leaders, however, remains in place.

Rainbow Lounge raid

Fort Worth Police Raid the Rainbow Lounge: 2009. Exactly forty years earlier, the New York police’s raid of  Stonewall Inn and sparked a revolution. Forty years later, LGBT people across America were reflecting on that important milestone. But the Fort Worth Police Department and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) observed the occasion by raiding the newly-opened Rainbow Lounge and dragging about twenty outside before deciding to arrest seven of them.

Officers claimed that bar patrons were drunk, groping officers and acting aggressively. Eyewitness accounts however contradicted the Police Department’s claims. Todd Camp, a former Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reporter who was at the bar, said, “No one was acting aggressive to officers.” Another eyewitness, Chuck Potter, told a local CBS affiliate, “I can guarantee there wasn’t a man in this bar that would’ve touched one of those officers, knowing they were arresting people.” Brandon Addicks, a straight man who was there with his girlfriend and some of her friends, said, “I saw a cop walk up behind a guy who was sitting at a table. The cop told him to stand up, and when the guy asked what for, the cop said, ‘You’re intoxicated.’ Then there was that guy getting the crap beat out of him there in the back. I have been in bars before when police have come in, and I have never seen anything like this.”

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor.

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor.

One patron suffered broken ribs, second had a broken thumb, and another experienced severe bruising and muscle strain. But that guy “getting the crap beat out of him” ended up in intensive care. Chad Gibson was walking down a hallways to a mens’ room when police threw him against the wall and slammed him down onto the brick floor. He suffered severe head trauma, which resulted in a brain hemorrhage. Police Chief Jeff Halstead however went to the media to claim that Gibson had “severe alcohol poisoning” and not a head injury, despite a number of credible eyewitness reports to the contrary.

The afternoon following the raid, a couple hundred people showed up to protest in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse to protest the raid. Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, addressed the crowd and called for “an immediate and thorough investigation Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member.

On July 1, the TABC acknowledged that Griffin had indeed suffered a head injury.  At a community meeting that evening, Chief Halstead retreated from his earlier statements and announced that he would appoint an LGBT liaison — up until then, the nation’s seventeenth largest city still didn’t have one — and he would institute sensitivity training for the department’s officers. On July 2, TABC reassigned two agents to desk duty. while the Fort Worth Police Department announced they were suspending operations with state agents. Two weeks later, TABC Administrator Alan Steen apologized for the raid and said that his agents violated the agencies policies. “If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there.” In all, TABC tallied nineteen violations of state policy and fired three agents. Halstead also announced several FWPD policy changes as a result of the raid, and two officers were officially reprimanded for failing to follow procedures.

John Inman

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
80 YEARS AGO: John Inman: 1935-2007. The quintessential British poofter known for his role as Mr. Humphries in Are You Being Served? He was also a pantomime dame, a distinctly British form of drag performance (Dame Edna is actually Australian, but think of her and you get the idea.) “I’m a tits and feathers man,” he once said in explaining his love for show business. His character’s high camp and trademark high-pitched “I’m free!” in Are You Being Served? became a catchphrase in Britain.

Not everyone was amused. He was picketed by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality because they felt that his character posed a bad image for gay men. Inman said, “they thought I was over exaggerating the gay character. But I don’t think I do. In fact there are people far more camp than Mr. Humphries walking around this country. Anyway, I know for a fact that an enormous number of viewers like Mr. Humphries and don’t really care whether he’s camp or not. So far from doing harm to the homosexual image, I feel I might be doing some good.” In December 2005 he and his partner of 35 years, Ron Lynch, took part in a civil partnership ceremony at London’s Westminster Register Office. Inman died in 2007.

Jim Kolbe: 1942. He is the former Republican Congressman for Arizona’s 8th congressional district — the district more recently held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before she resigned after being seriously injured in a 2011 shooting. Kolbe was outed in 1996 after voting for the Defense of Marriage Act. He was reelected to his seat in 1998, and in 2000, he became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention, although his speech did not address gay rights. He also continued to defend his vote for DOMA. “My vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was cast because of my view that states should be allowed to make that decision, about whether or not they would recognize gay marriages,” he said. “Certainly, I believe that states should have the right, as Vermont did, to provide for protections for such unions.” He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006.

By the time he was wrapping up his congressional service in 2006, Kolbe was a supporter of same-sex marriage, telling local audiences in Tucson that “in a few years,” same-sex marriage would be normal and uncontroversial. In 2008, his good friend Tim Bee, who was the state Senate Majority Leader, announced that he would run against Giffords for Congress, Kolbe agreed to serve in Bee’s election campaign. Kolbe withdrew his support however when Bee cast his tie-breaking vote to place the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot. Kolbe is currently a fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

David Kopay: 1942. A former American football running back in the National Football League before retiring in 1972, David Kopay became one of the first professional male athletes to come out as gay in 1975. His 1977 biography, David Kopay Story, dished about the sexual adventures of his fellow heterosexual football teammates and revealed their widespread homophobia. In 1986, Kopay revealed his brief affair with Jerry Smith, who played for the Washington Redskins from 1965–1977 and who died of AIDS in 1986 without ever having publicly come out of the closet. He is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation, and he has been active in the Federation of Gay Games. Since Kopay came out, two other former NFL Players have come out as gay: Roy Simmons (1992), and Esera Tuaolo (2002). In February, University of Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam came out as gay. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, making him the first out current player in NFL history.

In 2007, Kopay announced he would leave an endowment of $1 million to the his alma mater University of Washington’s Q Center, a resource and support center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and faculty. He has said that it is one of the most important efforts he will ever undertake.

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 Saturday, June 27

Jim Burroway

June 27th, 2015

THE DAILY AGENDA:
pride-parade-9The First Full Day of Marriage Equality in America. The sun set last night and worked its way around the world to rise again this morning. Of course, that’s scientifically incorrect. The sun never went anywhere. Perhaps its more accurate to say that we turned again to meet the sun. And what a glorious sun it is, especially sweeter this weekend as it shines upon an extra special set of pride celebrations throughout the country and around the world.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Bangor, MEBarcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 12, 1983, page 38.

From the Advocate, May 12, 1983, page 38.

The Chase was the upstairs disco portion of the three-story Indianapolis complex known collectively as the Hunt and Chase. The Hunt, downstairs, was a brass and hunter green show bar, while the Chase upstairs was Indy’s glamor disco, with stainless steel, mirrors and two-story tall mirrors that stretched up to the ceiling on three sides of the dance floor. It may have been a gay bar, but it also had a reputation for being Indianapolis’s finest dance bar, gay or straight. Being a gay bar didn’t stop Playboy from naming it one of the country’s top ten discos in 1979. After disco’s popularity plummeted in the 1980s, the Chase’s shiny surfaces were blacked out and it became more of an alt-music club. The location today is now a much quieter office building.

Sen. Pat McCarran and Rep. Francis Walker.

Sen. Pat McCarran and Rep. Francis Walker.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Congress Bars Homosexuals from Immigration: 1952. 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. With politicians looking for communists and homosexuals under ever bed and in every closet, few Senators and Representatives dared to vote against it, despite a promised veto by President Harry Truman. After Congress passed the McCarran-Walter Act, 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, 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 (see 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.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, June 26

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
same-sex-marriage-supporters-scotus-580Another Chance for Marriage Equality. I gave you my prediction yesterday. I went out on a limb and predicted a 6-3 decision for marriage equality, and I predicted that the decision would come out today. I’ll hedge a bit on the second part. Given the funerals scheduled to take place today in Charleston, S.C., the Supreme Court may reconsider whatever plans it may have had to release the its decision today for Obergefell v. Hodges, the lead lawsuit for a slew of marriage equality cases before the Court. The Court has been sensitive to news cycles in the past, and I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised if if decided to hold Obergefell until Monday — despite what I think would otherwise be compelling reasons to issue the ruling today. June 26 is already a red letter day for gay rights, with the Lawrence decision< striking down sodomy laws in 2003 and the Windsor case striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

But like I said, I’ll hedge my bets for my second prediction, but not the first. I do think it’ll be a 6-3 decision, even though it means that Chief Justice will have to change sides in the two years since Windsor. Some of his questions during oral arguments were encouraging, where he wondered allowed whether the case could be decided on gender discrimination issues. “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t,” Roberts he asked, “why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?” We’ll soon find out, either today or Monday.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Bangor, MEBarcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Lavender Baedeker Guide, 1963, page 23.

From the Lavender Baedeker Guide, 1963, page 23.

In the 1950s, San Francisco’s leathermen mostly hung out at the waterfront bars along with the sailors, dockworkers and day laborers. The first dedicated gay leather bar in San Francisco was the Why Not, which opened briefly in the Tenderloin in 1962. Later that same year, the Tool Box opened on the corner of Fourth Street and Harrison, which set the area known as South of Market on the path toward becoming the heart of San Francisco’s leather scene.

The Tool Box was known for its giant black and white mural on the back wall, painted by Chuck Arnett, depicting a variety of very masculine-looking men. The mural achieved a measure of national fame when Life Magazine featured a photograph taken inside the Tool Box for its feature story on “the Homosexuality In America” in 1964 (see below). When Life asked Mattachine Society president Hal Call for help in finding a gay bar they could photograph, he saw an opportunity to break straight America’s stereotypes of gay men and took the photographer to the Tool Box. Mike Caffee, a local artist, remembered that photo shoot. “My mother actually recognized me,” he said. “We chose the people in the picture on the grounds that they were people who like, were self-employed or worked for gay organizations, so that they could not be blackmailed.”

That photo signaled to straight Americans that there was more to the gay stereotype than the limp-wristed lisping swish. It also became a beacon for thousands of gay men who saw San Francisco as, in Life’s words, America’s “gay capital.” Paul Boneberg, of San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society, remarked, “In fact, people have come to me and said, ‘This is the first time I saw a photograph of people like me’.”

ToolBoxMuralDespite the Tool Box’s important place in American history, its popularity was short lived. The influx of gay men into SOMA led to more bars and more competition, and the Tool Box quickly lost its niche position and its dominance of the leather scene. It finally closed in 1971. But when it was being demolished for redevelopment, the wall containing the mural against the building next door remained intact for the next two years, now as an outdoor mural rather than an indoor one. It finally came down in 1973 as the block underwent further redevelopment. The spot where the Tool Box once stood is now occupied by a Whole Foods supermarket.

Life Magazine: Homosexuality In America

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Life Magazine’s “Homosexuality In America”: 1964.

“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 actuall 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.”

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. At one point, author Paul Welch accompanies a Los Angeles police officer acting as a decoy to try entrap a gay man 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 (see 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.” Welch 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 — thought not the end — of police harassment in Los Angeles (see Jan 1), more than two years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York.

[Source: 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.]

50 YEARS AGO: Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. Pickets the Civil Service Commission: 1965. 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. To test the waters for picketing, the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. held their first gay rights protest in front of the White House earlier that year (see 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 (see May 29).

But it was the federal government’s ban on employment of gay people that really stuck in the Mattachine Society’s president and co-founder Frank Kameny’s crawl. Eight years earlier, Kameny had been fired from his civilian job by the U.S. Army map service over his homosexuality (see Dec 20), and after he exhausted his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kameny turned his attention to organizing local activists to confront the Civil Service Commission over its discriminatory ban. Their earlier efforts to sit down with the Commission to discuss the matter were curtly rebuffed (see 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. decided to take it to the streets once again, as 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. 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 (see 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.

[Source: Unsigned. “Homosexuals Picket in Nation’s Capital.” The Ladder 9, no. 10-11 (July-August 1965): 23-25.]

John Lawrence  (left) and Tyron Garner, 1988.

John Lawrence (left) and Tyron Garner, 1988.

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Nation’s Sodomy Laws: 2003. 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” (see 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.

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor

U.S. Supreme Court Declares Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional: 2013. 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. [Emphasis mine]

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 listeni.ng 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.

supreme_court_doma_prop_8

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of California’s Prop 8: 2013. On the same day that the U.S Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 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 unconstituional. 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 rulling, 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 oppposed the suit, fearing that a federal challenge at that time might do more harm than good if there was an adverse rulling. 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.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lance Loud: 1951-2001. 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 had a regular column, “Out Loud,” in 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.

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 Thursday, June 25

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
SCOTUSWill The Supreme Court Rule On Marriage Equality Today? Mondays and Thursdays are traditionally the days that the Supreme Court hands down decisions, but the timing for when a particular decision will be released depends on a number of factors. Once the justices decide that all of the opinions in the case have been written, passed back and forth, and then finalized and printed — don’t forget the printers — the Chief Justice then decides when to issue the ruling. But the timing of a given ruling is not entirely based on when things are completed. There’s a kind of media strategizing that takes place when there are a number of high profile cases competing for just a few decision days.

And there are quite a number if high-profile cases awaiting a ruling: the fate of Obamacare, the constitutionality of marriage equality bans, whether EPA Clean Air regulates should be subject to cost considerations, whether lethal injections using the unreliable drug Midazolam constitute cruel punishment, and whether independent state redistricting commissions are allowed to act in the place of state legislature in fixing the boundaries of Congressional districts. When there are a number of eagerly-awaited cases stacked up for the end of June, the Court often adds additional decision days so they can space out the high-profile cases rather than having them dump all on one day. The Court prefers to have each major decision given its own decision day, knowing that the news media really isn’t capable of carrying on more than one major conversation at a time.

Traditionally, the Supreme Court issues all its ruling for a given term by the end of June, although legally they have until the following October to wind up their work. But if they stuck to a strict Monday/Thursday schedule, there wouldn’t be enough days to spread out the rulings over before month’s end. So instead of sticking to today and Monday as the only remaining decision days for their remaining caseload, the Court has announced an additional decision day for tomorrow. Conceivably, they could also add another day for next Tuesday, or even the first few days of July, although that seems unlikely. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a celebration.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Bangor, MEBarcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector magazine (San Francisco, CA), September 1968, page 32.

From Vector magazine (San Francisco, CA), September 1968, page 32.

Seal of the New Netherland Colony

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Execution in New Netherlands Colony 1646. 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.]

An Early Ex-Gay Testimony: 1741. 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 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.

Supreme Court Declares Physique Magazines Non-Pornographic: 1962. 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.

William Johnson

United Church of Christ Ordains First Gay Minister: 1972. 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. He never received a call to pastor a local church. 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.

Rainbow Flag Debuts: 1978. The original rainbow flag, hand-dyed by Gilbert Baker, first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade on June 25, 1978. The original 1978 flag consisted of eight stripes, with each stripe assigned a specific meaning. From top to bottom, the stripes were:

  • hot pink: sexuality
  • red: life
  • orange: healing
  • yellow: sunlight
  • green: nature
  • turquoise: magic
  • indigo: serenity
  • violet: spirit

After Harvey Milk’s assassination on November 27, 1978, demand for the flag went up sharply. But since Gilbert had hand-dyed his flag and hot pink fabric wasn’t available as a commercially available color, the top stripe was removed and the flag became a seven stripe flag. Then, the story goes, organizers planned to hang rainbow flags vertically from lamp posts for San Francisco’s 1979 pride celebration and they noticed that the lamp post would obscure the middle stripe. Another version of the story had it that it was cheaper to produce a six-stripe flag because flag makers could sew two stripes together, and then sew together three two-stripe blocks. Whatever the explanation, the turquoise stripe was dropped, the indigo was changed to royal blue, and the rainbow flag became the familiar six-stripe flag we’ve come to know ever since.

The rainbow flag is now a world-wide symbol for LGBT communities everywhere, and it has come to mean many things to many different people. For some, it’s a gesture of visibility, a way of saying we’re here. For others, its a reminder of all that we’ve gone through as a community. And some in the LGBT community consider it a silly expression of separatism and self-segregation from society. In 2007, Gilbert Baker penned an essay to explain what the flag meant to him. He describes growing up gay in Middle America and being harassed while serving in Viet Nam. He was sent stateside to work as a nurse in San Francisco, where he met Harvey Milk:

Stationed in San Francisco as a nurse, I cared for the wounded. I also met my closet [sic] friend and mentor, Harvey Milk. Harvey had an aggressive charm that attracted the wicked and the wise. His charisma and fearlessness are at the heart of all I hold dear.

Harvey was a pioneer, a trailblazer, and with the community by his side, he became a San Francisco Supervisor. One day he said to me that we needed a logo, a symbol. We needed a positive image that could unite us. I sewed my own dresses, so why not a flag? At Harvey’s behest, I went about creating our Rainbow Flag. I had never felt so empowered, so free.

My liberation came at a painful cost. In the ultimate act of anti-gay violence, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. The bullets were meant for Harvey, to silence him, and, by extension, every one of us. Uniting a community cost him his life.

I remember when I was still coming out how reassuring it was for me to see it and know that it marked a place of safety and refuge. And even now, when I go to a strange town and I see a small sticker on a doorway or a car’s bumper, I know that I’m among friends.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 80 YEARS AGO: Larry Kramer: 1935. He is probably the most pissed-off gay man in America. His defenders will say that has has as many reasons to be pissed off as anyone. Kramer’s crotchety reputation goes way back, to his 1978 novel Faggots, which was widely denounced, by gay people anyway, for his critical portrayal of promiscuity in the gay community.

Two years later, he would find himself in the middle of another whirlwind, but this one wasn’t of his making: a strange new set of diseases began claiming the lives of close friends. In 1982, Kramer convened a meeting in his apartment that led to the founding of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Three years later, he would be forced out of GHMC due to controversy over his confrontational style. At another meeting in 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York, Kramer asked two-thirds in the room to stand up, told them in five years they would be dead. “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”

The fight back found its voice in the founding of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP). Their first target was the Food and Drug Administration, which was accused of moving slowly to approve badly needed AIDS medications that had already been made available in Europe. While controversial at the time, ACT-UP’s confrontational tactics made people with AIDS visible and impossible to ignore. They were no longer faceless patients of victims, but people fighting for life. That visibility is credited by many within the FDA and the National Institutes of Health with effecting real changes in national health policy.

Meanwhile, Kramer kept writing. In 1985, he wrote the mostly-autobiographical play The Normal Heart, which portrays his reaction to the rise of AIDS in New York City as portrayed through the character of writer/activist Ned Weeks. Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times review, “The playwright starts off angry, soon gets furious and then skyrockets into sheer rage.” Liz Smith at the New York Daily News called it, “a damning indictment of a nation in the middle of an epidemic with its head in the sand.”

In 1989, he published a collection of essays in Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist, which was revised and expanded in 1994. In 1992, he wrote the play The Destiny of Me as a sequel to The Normal Heart. It became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2004, he gave a controversial speech at the Cooper Union five days after the re-election of President George W. Bush that became the book, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays. In his usual hyperbolic fashion, he characterized the election as the death knell for gay rights:

George Bush won his Presidency of our country by selling our futures. Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day think we are immoral. “Moral values” was top of many lists of why people supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. “Moral values.” In case you need a translation that means us. …he new Supreme Court, due any moment now, will erase us from the slate of everything possible in no time at all. Gay marriage? Forget it. Gay anything, forget it. Civil rights for gays? Equal protection for gays. Adoption rights? The only thing we are going to get from now on is years of increasing and escalating hate.

Which goes to show that he’s not always a prophet in the wilderness. Sometimes he’s just plain wrong. But he has used his Cassandra complex to great effect in lighting a fire under an often-complacent gay community. In 2011, he told Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner that anger is “a wonderfully healthy emotion.” In 2011, The Normal Heart was revived on Broadway and brought to a whole new generation of theater-goers. Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey won Tony Awards for Best Performance by a Featured Actress and Actor, and the production won Best Revival of a Play. A film version for HBO premiered last may with a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, and Julia Roberts. It is expected to be released on DVD and Blu-ray in August.

George Michael: 1963. He may be a talented performer, but he’s propably better known this past decade for being one hot mess. He started out as half of Wham!, which he formed with his school chum Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The first album Fantastic reached number 1 on the U.K. charts, and their second album Make It Big hit number one in the U.S. Wham!’s 1985 tour of China was the first by a major Western music group, generating worldwide attention. Two Wham! singles, 1984’s “Careless Whisper” and 1986’s “A Different Corner,” both featured Michael as a solo singer, and were sufficiently successful to guarantee a promising solo career.

Wham! came to an end in 1986, and the following year, Michael’s album Faith featured his sexy voice and his sexy butt to propel the singles “Faith” and “I Want Your Sex” to the top of the charts. But his recording output was sporadic: Listen Without Prejudice came out in 1990, and he waited until 1996 to release Older. Songs from the Last Century came out in 1999 and Patience in 2004. As far as solo albums go, that’s about it.

It was a few years after the release of Older when his personal problems started to become public ones. In 1998, he was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, a charge which effectively outed him as gay. He was arrested again on similar charges in London’s Hampstead Heath in 2006. In 2007, he was arrested  in Northwest London when police found his car blocking traffic and him behind the wheel zonked out on drugs. He’s had several other drug arrests since then.

In 2011, he began his Symphonica tour when his health took a severe turn. He was admitted to a hospital in Vienna on  November 21 complaining of chest pains. A few days later he was put in intensive care for over a week after developing pneumonia. After emerging from intensive care, he remained in the hospital for three more weeks, and was finally discharged on December 21. Two days later, he publicly acknowledged that doctors there had saved his life and that he had undergone a tracheotomy. His attraction to drama wasn’t over with yet. In May 2013, he somehow managed to fall out of a passenger seat of a Range Rover and onto the M1 motorway, requiring his airlift to a hospital with minor head injuries. His latest solo album, Symphonica, came out in March 2014.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, June 24

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: A Coruña, Spain; Augusta, GA; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Bilbao, Spain; Bologna, Italy; Bratislava, Slovakia; Cartagena, Colombia; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cloppenburg, Germany; Pride Columbia, SC (Black Pride); Coventry, UK; Dublin, Ireland; Durango, CO; Durban, South Africa; Fayetteville, AR; Flagstaff, AZ; Flint, MI; Frederick, MD; Gijón, Spain; Harlem, NY; Helsinki, Finland; Holland, MI; Houston, TX; Istanbul, Turkey; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria; Lexington, KY; London, UK; Manila, Philippines; México, DF; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; Oslo, Norway; Owensboro, KY; Palermo, Italy; Paris, France; Perugia, Italy; Quito, Ecuador; St. Louis, MO; St. Petersburg, FL; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Sardinia, Italy; Seattle, WA; Seoul, South Korea; Seville, Spain; Skopje, Macedonia; Sundsvall, Sweden; Surrey, BC; Tenerife, Spain; Toronto, ON; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Västerås, Sweden; Victoria, BC; Vigo, Spain; Whitehorse, YT; Yellow Springs, OH.

Other Events This Weekend: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Calgary AB; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Midsummer Canal Festival, Utrecht, Netherlands.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Contact (Houston), March 1974. Ad from page 4, photo from page 8.

From Contact (Houston), March 1974. Ad from page 4, photo from page 8.

In 1974, there was a rather impressive cluster of gay and lesbian bars along the western edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter, a number of which are still in business today. Most of them were concentrated just a couple of blocks on Bourbon Street and North Rampart, between St. Peter and St. Phillips, although a few could be found scattered elsewhere in the Quarter. Travis’ on North Ramparts is no more, but the building is still a gay bar. The sign on front said Michael’s On the Park when the Google camera car last passed by in 2013, but the bar is now called Grand Pre’s.

UpStairs Lounge FireTODAY IN HISTORY:
32 Killed in Arson Fire At New Orleans Gay Bar: 1973. It was a Sunday. The UpStairs Lounge, a second floor gay bar in New Orleans’s French Quarter, had hosted members of the local Metropolitan Community Church who attended a beer bust following church services. Most of the bar’s patrons had gone home, but those who remained, about sixty or so, gathered around a piano to sing tunes, as they often did that time of night. The evening was still early, not quite eight o’clock when the bartender heard the door buzzer downstairs ring, a sound that usually meant that a cab was outside the take a patron home. What he didn’t know was that someone had thrown a molotov cocktail into the staircase that led up to the bar’s door on the second floor. And so when another bar employee went to open the door, a massive backdraft drew the flames into the lounge like a flamethrower.

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The bartender, Buddy Rasmussen, led about twenty or thirty people through an unmarked exit which led to the roof, and they were able to hop onto other buildings and make their escape. But more than thirty others in the lounge ran to the windows instead, only to discover they were barred. By the time one of the patrons managed to squeeze through the bars, his body was already in flames and he died right after landing in the street below. Another patron escaped, but when he realized his boyfriend didn’t make it out, he went back in to find him. Fire crews later discovered their burned bodies holding each other. MCC pastor Rev. Bill Larson clung to the bars at a window where he died, his body melted into the window frame. His charred body remained visible from the street below all the next day as the fire department conducted its investigation and couldn’t be bothered with the simple decency of covering his body. Twenty-nine people died that night, and three more died later from their injuries.

UpStairs Lounge patrons during happier times.

UpStairs Lounge patrons during happier times.

The UpStairs Lounge fire was the deadliest in New Orleans’ history, and may very well have been the worst mass murder of gay people in American history. But aside from the first day’s coverage, New Orleans could barely muster a yawn. Newspaper photos of Rev. Larson’s charred body against the window frame came to symbolize the city’s apathy t0ward the tragedy. Talk radio hosts told jokes (“What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars.”), and a cab driver callously quipped, “I hope the fire burned their dresses off.” Not only did the New Orleans Police Department barely investigate the crime, they could hardly be bothered to identify the victims. Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the New Orleans Police Department said, “We don’t even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.” Churches refused to allow families to hold funerals on their premises. Other families refused to claim their dead sons’ bodies. Four unidentified bodies ended up being dumped in a mass grave. Although there was a firm suspect in the case, no one was ever charged.

Here are two news reports of the fire, a lengthy film report from CBS news, and a shorter one from NBC:

You can read the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s original coverage of the fire here (PDF: 4.4MB/2 pages), and its 20th anniversary coverage here (PDF:5.9MB/2 pages). In 2014, MacFarland Press released Clayton Delery-Edwards’s heavily-researched account of The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar.

The first Sydney Gay Mardi Gras march

Sydney Police Block Pride Parade: 1978. This was supposed to be Sydney’s first Gay Pride Parade, known locally as Mardi Gras, and was planned as a night-time celebration after a morning march and commemoration of the Stonewall riots. (You can see film of the morning march taken with a super-8 camera here.) While homosexuality was still against the law in New South Wales, organizers had obtained all the necessary permits for the celebration beforehand. The evening celebration began simply, with a small crowd walking down Oxford Street on a chilly Australian winter day. The idea was to encourage people to come out from the bars and join the fun. But the crowd aroused suspicions of the police, which had gathered around the group.

Sydney police arresting Mardi Gras marchers.

By the time the small crowd, estimated at between five hundred and a thousand, reached the end of the street, the police confiscated the sound system, removed their identification badges and turned on the crowd. One participant recalled, “There was, you know, pretty serious bashing and kicking and all sort of things going on. It was a real riot.” Fifty-three marchers were arrested. One marcher recalled that while in police custody, he was beaten so badly he began to convulse on the floor.

“They took me along a long corridor in the police station through a U-shaped route into a room and then just beat the hell out of me. There were two police officers who did that – one in particular – bashing me with their fists in the head and saying ‘you’re not so smart now are you’.” Mr Murphy said he was beaten solidly until a blow to the solar plexus floored him. He was thrown into a solitary cell where he could hear protesters gathered outside chanting his name. “They tried to break my leg but fortunately the bones didn’t snap,” he said. “I was (literally) pissing my pants.”

Although most of the charges were dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the full names of everyone who was arrested, outing many to their family, friends and employers. Many lost their jobs. Thirty-five years later, surviving marchers are still waiting for an official police apology.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 23

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, July 27, 1979, page 3.

From The Advocate, July 27, 1979, page 3.

Two Honolulu bars were targets of tear gas attacks on Saturday night, June 23.

A tear gas canister released in Hula’s disco caused a total evacuation of the premises. The gas spread to Hamburger Mary’s next door. Choking and tearful patrons poured from both establishments, but there were no injuries.

Arriving promptly, Honolulu police could find no evidence of saboteurs. It is speculated that the gassing came in reaction to a Gay Pride celebration at Queen Surf Beach earlier the same day.

[Source: “Dispatch, Honolulu.” The Advocate 274 (August 23, 1979): 10.]

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“5 Beastly Sodomiticall boyes”: 1629. The Puritans were having a particularly rough time of it in Old England in the early seventeenth century, leading to the first batch of them to board the Mayflower and establish the colony of Plymouth in New England in 1620. For those who remained behind, things only got worse when Charles I became King in 1623. The Rev. Francis Higginson, a preacher with a Puritan bent in the Church of England, left his parish and, in 1628, accepted an offer to join the Massachusetts Bay Company. In 1629, the Company was granted a Royal Charter to establish a “plantation” in New England, and Higginson and several of his Puritan followers were given permission to establish a colony — and in the process, remove their troublesome lot from England.

Higginson obtained six ships, each armed with cannons to protect against pirates. The fleet set sail on May 1, 1629, with 350 Puritan settlers, 115 head of cattle, 41 goats and, apparently, five “beastly Sodomiticall boys.” An entry in his diary for June 23, 1629, reads:

Tewsday the wind n:E: a fayre gale. This day we examined 5 beastly Sodomiticall boyes, which confessed their wickedness not to bee named. The fact was so fowl we reserved them to bee punished by the governor when we came to new England, who afterward sent them backe to the company to bee punished in old England, as the crime deserved.

The laws of England held that the crime deserved death by hanging. We don’t know the fate of the “beastly boyes” after they arrived in old England.

Dale Jennings

Dale Jennings Cleared of Morals Charge: 1952. The nightmare began as many such nightmares did in Los Angeles in the 1950s. In February of 1952, Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) was in a public men’s room at Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park) when a man walked up to him with his hand on his crotch. Jennings wasn’t interested. “Having done nothing that the city architect didn’t have in mind when he designed the place, I left,” Jennings later explained. The man, however, insisted on striking up a conversation and following Jennings home. When they arrived at Jennings’s house, Jennings said good-bye and went inside, but the man decided to invite himself inside. The stranger continued to make sexual advance to Jennings — in Jennings’s own home — but Jennings refused. “At last he grabbed my hand and tried to force it down the front of his trousers. I jumped up and away. Then there was the badge and he was snapping the handcuffs on with the remark, ‘Maybe you’ll talk better with my partner outside’.”

As Jennings continued the story:

“I was forced to sit in the rear of a car on a dark street for almost an hour while three officers questioned me. It was a particularly effective type of grilling. They laughed a lot among themselves. Then, in a sudden silence, one would ask, ‘How long have you been this way?’ I sat on my hands and wondered what would happen each time I refused to answer. Yes, I was scared stiff. … At last the driver started the car up. Having expected the usual beating before, now I was positive it was coming–out in the country somewhere. They drove over a mile past the suburb of Lincoln Heights, then slowly doubled back. During this time they repeatedly made jokes about police brutality, and each of the three instructed me to plead guilty and everything would be all right.”

Jennings was formally arrested and charged with solicitation. While in jail, he called his friend Harry Hay. The two of them, along with several others, had founded the Mattachine Foundation two years earlier. Jennings’s troubles would soon become the fledgling organization’s first gay rights victory. Hay bailed Jennings out and the two set about devising a strategy for Jennings’s trial. Jennings would admit to being gay, but he would refuse to plead guilty and would forcefully defend himself against police witnesses. Meanwhile, Mattachine would support Jennings’s legal fight through its Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, which raised money for Jennings’s defense. They hired George Shibley, an Arab-American lawyer who was well known for taking on controversial civil rights and union causes in the 1930s and ’40s. As Jennings later wrote:

The attorney, engaged by the Mattachine Foundation, made a brilliant opening statement to the jury in which he pointed out that homosexuality and lasciviousness are not identical after stating that his client was admittedly homosexual, that no fine line separates the variations of sexual inclinations and the only true pervert in the courtroom was the arresting officer. …

…The Jury deliberated for forty hours and asked to be dismissed when one of their number said he’d hold out for guilty till hell froze over. The rest voted straight acquittal. Later the city moved for dismissal of the case and it was granted.

News of that victory spread throughout the Mattachine Foundation, leading not only to its rapid growth, but also to unforeseen growing pains which, ironically, resulted in the collapse of the Mattachine Foundation and the birth of the much more timid Mattachine Society (see Apr 11). By then, Jennings had already left to become the first managing editor of ONE magazine, the first nationally distributed publication for a gay audience. His account of his arrest and trial appeared in the magazine’s first issue, which helped to spread the news further. The case didn’t bring an end to official harassment of gay men by the Los Angeles police. That would continue for more than two more decades. But it did signal to the nation’s fearful gay community that false charges could be fought and defeated. Sixty years ago, that was big news indeed.

[Source: Dale Jennings. “To be accused is to be guilty.” ONE 1, no. 1 (January 1953): 10-13.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Alan Turing: 1912-1954. It’s hard to imagine what the 21st century would have looked like without him. The English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst practically invented computer science when he formalized the idea of “algorithm” and “computation” with the what became known as the Turing machine. It was a conceptual device, imagined to consist of an infinitely long tape which would be capable of write, read and changing arbitrary symbols, much as a hard drive can do so today. With that concept defined, he proved that relatively simple Turing machines would be capable of making computations — hence the very term computer that we use today.

A working replica of a Turing Bombe on display at Bletchley Park (Click to enlarge)

Turing became a Fellow at the University of Cambridge just four years after entering as an undergrad. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in just two years, just in time to head home to Britain before World War II. After a brief stint at Cambridge, he joined the famous Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, where he headed the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, the most important of which was the BOMBE, an electromechanical machine that could determine the settings for Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma machine. Turing’s Bombes were instrumental in Germany’s ultimate defeat when the Enigma code was cracked.

Following the war, Turing worked at the National Physical Lab (NPL) in London on the design of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). In 1946, he presented the design for the first stored-program computer. But because his work at Bletchley Park was classified, he found it difficult to translate what he invented there to the NPL. He left NPL in frustration and returned to academia at the University of Manchester, where he devised what is now known as the Turing Test. The Turing Test still serves as a standard for whether a computer could be considered “intelligent.” The test was simple: a computer could be considered a “thinking machine” if a human, through ordinary conversation, could not tell its responses apart from those of another human being. He then set about writing a program to play chess, but he was frustrated by the fact that there was no computer powerful enough to execute it.

It was in Manchester where, in 1952, he met Arnold Murray outside a theater and asked him for a lunch date. After a few weeks, the man spent the night at Turing’s house. Sometime later, Murray stole a gold watch and some other items from Turing’s home. Turing reported the crime to police. When police investigated, they asked Turing how he knew Murray. Turing, who had become relatively open about his homosexuality by that time, acknowledged the sexual relationship.

But with homosexuality being illegal in England, Turing was charged with gross indecency, the same crime for which Oscar Wilde was convicted more than half a century earlier. Turing was given a choice between imprisonment or probation on the condition he underwent chemical castration via estrogen hormone injections. Turing chose the latter, but his conviction led to his security clearance being revoked, which seriously damage both his career and reputation. And as the Red Scare rose its ugly head in the early 1950s, and with gay men coming under growing suspicion for being a danger to national security, Turing found himself under increasing surveillance. His estrogen injections themselves may have added to his feelings of hopelessness; one of the side effects of the synthetic estrogen he was prescribed was depression. Finally on June 7, 1954, Turing’s cleaning woman found him dead in his bedroom with a half-eaten apple laying beside his bed. An autopsy revealed that he died of cyanide poisoning. That apple was never tested for cyanide, but it is believed that this was how he ingested the fatal dose.

After the secrets of Bletchley Park were declassified, Turing’s posthumous reputation as a war hero only added to growing recognition of his impressive contributions to computer science. In 1966, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) began awarding the Turing Prize for outstanding technical contributions to computing. His childhood home in London has been designated a English Heritage site with an official Blue Plaque. Another Blue Plaque was placed at his home in Wilmslow where he died, and today a third will be unveiled in front of King’s College at Cambridge. In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologized: “On behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

A petition to have Turing formally pardoned was circulated 2012 as part of the observance of Turing’s centenary. But the request was denied by Justice Minister Lord McNally who said: “A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.” McNally added that the best response would be to “ensure instead that we never again return to those times.” Turing finally got a Royal pardon on Christmas eve of 2013 after a request from Justice Minister Chris Grayling. Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Turing in the 2014 biopic The Imitation Game, has joined Stephen Fry, producer Harvey Weinstein, and Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes in a campaign to pardon the 49,000 who had been convicted under the anti-gay law.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 22

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 18, 1982, page 23.

Before the rainbow flag became the ubiquitous symbol for the LGBT community, the greek letter Lambda (λ) was the common symbol to identify all things gay. One writer of the day explained the significance:

Lambda is commonly known as the eleventh lower case letter of the Greek alphabet. Originally the letter was a picture symbol for the scales, the figure of justice. In time, the Lambda became more abstract in the resemblance to the scales of justice. It is represented as a concept of qualities if balance. Greeks believed that balance was a reconciliation between two opposites and as such was not a stable state, but one needing continuous adjustment.

Ancient Spartans wore their Lambda asa symbol of their unity. Many times it was worn as a logo on their shields as it signified the special balance which they felt must exist between an individual and the state. They believed that the demands of society should never interfere with each person’s right to be totally free and independent. Each Spartan recognized that only in a common bond could they hope to preserve their existence as a free and equal people. As Rome rose to power, the Lambda was borrowed since it’s overall shape was suggestive of a flame. It was used as a symbol for “Lampas”; their latin word for torch.

In the 1960’s, when the quest for Gay liberation began to emerge as an organized movement after the famous Stonewall riots, the lambda was selected asa Gay symbol due to its famous historical associations. The Lambda symbolizes justice, balance and the conciliation of opposites, unity, and the relationship of man and his society; freedom, equality and independence of the individual, and light. Gay people feel that the Lambda has those qualities which best represent their objectives.

As a symbol of freedom for Gay people, the Lambda has come to represent the “light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance.” It promises hope for a new future with dignity, for Gay men and women everywhere. Today, the Lambda is recognized as a unique international symbol for Gay rights, for sexual liberation, for justice and enlightenment; as well as for a needed balance in the acceptance of differences by and with all humanity.

[Source: “What’s A Lambda?” Arizona Gay News 2, no. 40 (October 7, 1977): 13.]

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Robert Hillsborough Murdered: 1977. A brutal murder nearly four decades ago in San Francisco has been largely forgotten today, but at the time it was credited for catalyzing that city’s gay community and awakening the Bay Area to the growing violence against gay people. On the night of June 21, 1977, Robert Hillsborough, 33, and his roommate, Jerry Taylor, 27, went out to a disco for a night of dancing. They left sometime after midnight and stopped for a bite to eat at the Whiz Burger a few blocks from their apartment in the Mission District.

When they left the burger joint, they were accosted by a gang of young men shouting epithets at the two. Hillsborough and Taylor ran into Hillsborough’s car as several of the attackers climbed onto the car’s roof and hood. Hillsborough drove off, and thought that he left his troubles behind him. What he didn’t know was that others were following in another car. They parked just four blocks away near their  apartment, and had gotten out of the car at 12:45 a.m. four men jumped out of another car and attacked them. Taylor was beaten, but he managed to escape and flee to a friend’s apartment. Robert wasn’t so lucky. He was brutally beaten and stabbed 15 times by 19-year-old John Cordova who was yelling, “Faggot! Faggot!” Some witnesses also reported that Cordoba yelled, “This one’s for Anita!” Neighbors were awakened by the commotion, and one woman screamed that she was calling the police, which prompted the four attackers to flee. Neighbors rushed to Hillsborough’s aid, but it was too late. Hillsborough died 45 minutes later at Mission Emergency Hospital. Cordoba and the three other assailants were arrested later that morning.

Because Hillsborough was employed as a city gardner, Mayor George Moscone followed longstanding practice and ordered flags at City Hall and other city properties to be lowered to half-stalf. He also directed his anger to Anita Bryant and California State Sen. John Briggs, who was running for governor on an anti-gay platform. Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in Miami, which resulted in the defeat of a gay rights ordinance three weeks earlier (See Jun 7), had inspired Briggs to hold a new conference in front of city hall the week before Hillsborough’s death to announce a campaign to remove gays and lesbians from teaching. Moscone called Briggs an anti-homosexual “demagogue” and held him responsible for “inciting trouble by walking right into San Francisco, knowing the emotional state of his community. He stirred people into action. He will have to live with his conscience.”

Impromptu shrine to Robert Hillsborough at City Hall.

Hillsborough’s death also struck a deep nerve in the gay community. “We live in a paranoid state,” said Harvey Milk, who was preparing his run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, “and the death of Robert is only the culmination of a lot of violence that’s been directed at us.” San Francisco’s Pride celebration, which took place just a few days later, attracted a record-breaking 300,000 people, and it became an impromptu memorial march as participants erected a makeshift shrine at City Hall.

Cordova was charged with a single count of murder, along with Thomas J. Spooner, 21. The other two passengers in the car were not charged. Charges were later dropped against Spooner. Cordova was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Jimmy Somerville: 1961. The Scottish pop singer had his moment in the sun in the 1980s as lead singer with the synth pop group Bronski Beat.  Those of us of a certain age might remember “Smalltown Boy,” which dealt with homophobia, family rejection, bullying and the loneliness that comes with growing up in a homophobic society. That song became a gay anthem in 1984 and peaked in the top five throughout much of Western Europe, and hit number one on the U.S. dance charts.  In 1985, Somerville left Bronski Beat and formed the Communards, which scored a dance hit with a cover of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” After the Communards split in 1988, he embarked on an off-again on-again solo career. His 2009 album Suddenly Last Summer, contained acoustic versions of songs from his iPod. In 2011 Somerville released a dance EP, Bright Thing.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 21

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Biarritz, France; Bisbee, AZ; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Huntsville, AL; Iowa City, IA; Juneau, AK; Las Cruces, NM;New Orleans, LA; Oklahoma City, OK; Olympia, WA; Portland, ME; Regina, SK; Riga, Latvia (EuroPride); Shanghai, China; Springfield, MO; Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland.

Other Events This Weekend: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest, Berlin, Germany; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Folsom East, New York, NY; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Cedar Point Gay Days, Sandusky, OH; Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend, Sonoma, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 31.

One regular of Seattle’s Silver Slipper remembered that the clientele watched out for each other:

The Slipper was a women’s bar. It was a lesbian bar. Occasionally a man would come in, but he would be a gay man. He was kind of an oddity, you know? He was there because maybe he knew one of the bartenders, or maybe he was a friend or a brother of a customer there that night, or whatever. He had a legitimate tie, and nobody really minded that. But every once in a while mixed couple would come in. And you could pretty well tell, after a while, whether the men had a legitimate reason for being there, or whether he was with a woman friend or wife — and they were there looking for a lesbian to go home with them for perverse three-way kinds of [sex ?].

So when you would see a mixed couple zeroing in on a woman who was by herself and started buying her drinks, you knew what was going on. And other lesbians would move in to protect her, or they would try to intervene and either get her out — if she was too drunk to get out — somebody would take her either to her home or to their home, or to somewhere for the night. Or they would try to get the het couple to leave peaceably.

Or they would distract them, or as a last resort — and I saw this happen more than once. Some lesbian would go to the bar and get a beer, and come back and stumble and go, “Whoops!” and dump a beer on the guy. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Oh — spill over here! Somebody bring a rag!” And they would all pitch in and clean up, and then they would pack up and leave. And I saw that happen two or three times.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Meredith Baxter: 1947. Her first big break on television was in 1972, when she stared as Bridget in the short-lived CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. After the series was cancelled, she married her co-star, David Birney, which made her Meridith Baxter-Birney. A few years later, she landed a part in the painfully earnest drama Family (the show is credited for inventing what has become the bane of too-self-important television, the “very special episodes”) before lightening things up again as Alex P. Keaton’s mom on Family Ties. In between and afterwards, she starred in a number of made-for-TV movies and various television episodes.

Baxter divorced Birney in 1989, and she went back to using Meredith Baxter professionally. She married again in 1995, but divorced five years later. The National Enquirer reported in 2009 that Baxter was spotted on a lesbian cruise with a female friend. The ensuing speculation finally led to her coming out as a lesbian during an interview with Matt Lauer on Today. “I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening,” she said. “I never fought it because it was like, oh, I understand why I had the issues I had early in life. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships.” Her memoir, Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering, came out un 2011. She married her partner, Nancy Locke, in December 2013.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, June 20

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Biarritz, France; Bisbee, AZ; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Cumbria, UK; Denver, CO; Edinburgh, UK; Grand Rapids, MI; Guadalajara, JAL; Huntsville, AL; Iowa City, IA; Juneau, AK; Knoxville, TN; Lancaster, PA; Las Cruces, NM; Louisville, KY; Lyon, France; Nanaimo, BC; New Orleans, LA; Oldenburg, Germany; Oklahoma City, OK; Olympia, WA; Portland, ME; Providence, RI; Regina, SK; Riga, Latvia (EuroPride); Salem, MA; Salisbury, NC; Schenectady, NY; Shanghai, China; Sioux Falls, SD; Sitges, Spain; Springfield, MO; Syracuse, NY; Thessaloniki, Greece; Vienna, Austria; Wilton Manors, FL; York, UK; Zurich, Switzerland.

Other Events This Weekend: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest, Berlin, Germany; Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Durban, South Africa; Folsom East, New York, NY; Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, San Francisco, CA; Cedar Point Gay Days, Sandusky, OH; Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend, Sonoma, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), June 12, 1987, page 4.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), June 12, 1987, page 4.

I’m having a hard time trying to imagine how one could take “a comic” look at sexual expression in the AIDS era, although I guess gallows humor is not an altogether uncommon way of coping with such a crisis. Buck Harris traveled all the way from Cleveland to give the talk at San Antonio’s famed Bonham Exchange. The Cleveland Historical Society has a good writeup about Harris:

Looking back, it’s not surprising that the nation’s first gay and lesbian talk show was hosted by Cleveland native Buck Harris, a man at ease being the “first” in a number of public roles. In 1984, Governor Richard Celeste appointed Harris as the Ohio Department of Health’s gay health consultant, the first state in the nation to create such a position in response to the growing AIDS crisis. Shortly after his appointment, the Plain Dealer asked Harris for an interview regarding the crisis, insisting on referring to him as a “homosexual” (as opposed to gay) consultant, as was the newspaper’s policy at the time. Harris told the paper if they did not use his proper title, there would be no interview. The paper relented and, in 1985, for the first time used the word “gay” instead of the inflammatory alternative. A few short months later Harris made the P.D.’s 1986 “Happy New Year” list, the first openly gay person to make the cut. Later that year, Cleveland Magazine named Harris one of the 86 most interesting Clevelanders – again, a first for any openly gay Clevelander. And the bomb threat that greeted Harris and his staff that first radio broadcast? Not a first. As an outspoken and unapologetic AIDS activist, Harris was accustomed getting death threats. Escorted by police and armed with his brave “chin up” attitude, Harris and his crew aired the live broadcast as scheduled.

Harris’s appointment as the Ohio Department of Health’s gay health consultant became a campaign issue during the 1986 gubernatorial election. The powerful four-term former Gov. James Rhodes (R, of Kent State fame) was trying to mount a comeback against the Democratic incumbent:

Ad the Ohio Citizens for Decency and Health PAC, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 23, 1986, page 4-B. (Click to enlarge.)

Ad the Ohio Citizens for Decency and Health PAC, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 23, 1986, page 4-B. (Click to enlarge.)

Rhodes criticized Celeste for hiring gay activist Michael “Buck” Harris of Cleveland in 1984 as a consultant to educate gays about AIDS. Harris, who is not a doctor, crisscrossed the state, visiting gay bars and bathhouses and nightclubs to promote safe sex. He earned a reputation for his blunt messages. His work won national acclaim.

Rhodes saw Harris’ position as an example of Celeste’s gay-friendly agenda that was not good for the state. Rhodes urged the conservative group, Ohio Citizens for Decency and Health, to run newspaper ads exploiting the issue. In October 1986, the group placed in The Plain Dealer one of its ads titled, “Why Homosexuals Support Celeste.”

Rhodes and the group believed such a message would turn voters against Celeste.

“Under Governor Richard F. Celeste the gay and lesbian movement had made great progress,” the ad charged. The ad also misrepresented Harris’ work, and the efforts of the health department to educate Ohio students about AIDS.

“How can they instruct 8th grade students on the dangers of AIDS without revealing what homosexuals do to get AIDS?” the ad asked.

During the final days, Rhodes promised in a press release to make Harris the first person he fires. Rhodes said he would take the state’s AIDS education program “out of the hands of homosexual sympathizers.”

Rhodes was trounced in the election, 61% to 39%, which finally brought his political career to an end. Harris still resides in Cleveland where he operates a “buck naked” yoga studio.

Front and back covers of ONE magazine, June 1963.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage”: 1963. June is traditionally the month for weddings. This June may be a really auspicious one, especially, if as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the overwhelming majority of lower court decisions finding various state bans on same-sex marriage. More than fifty years ago, ONE magazine dared to imagine the possibility of “homophile marriage” in its June 1963 issue. Randy Lloyd, the article’s author, didn’t really touch on the legal or religious elements of same-sex marriage. Instead, he was writing about just the idea of two people forming a relationship and calling it marriage. That idea, limited as it was, was quite radical in the gay community. In fact, there was a very large contingent of gay men and women who felt that one of the only advantages of being gay was that you weren’t expected to settle down and get married. Lloyd didn’t see it that way:

There are many homophiles who, like me, find the homophile married life so much more preferable, ethically superior, enjoyable, exciting, less responsibility-ridden (contrary to a lot of propaganda from the single set), and just plain more fun — well, there’s no sense beating around the bush — the truth is, many of us married homophiles regard our way of life as much, much superior and as a consequence, mainly stick to ourselves and look down our noses at the trouble-causing, time-wasting, money-scattering, frantically promiscuous, bar-cruising, tearoom-peeping, street crotch-watching, bathhouse towel-witching, and moviehouse-nervous knee single set.

Now, before you scream “Snob!” I want to say that there are plenty of the single set who just as strongly and volubly look down on us. And it seems to me that lately in the pages of ONE their viewpoint has been way out of line in preponderance. And, frankly, I’m sick of it.

As you can see, Lloyd’s problem wasn’t so much in convincing straight people that gays should be allowed to marry. He had to begin first in convincing gay people that other gay people might have legitimate reasons to want to marry. One problem, Lloyd said, was that settled-down gay men and women just weren’t that visible in the gay community. But he also pointed out the larger problem of the heightened visibility from straight people that would befall couples who decided to set up house together:

I realize that much of the lack of publicity on the homophile married set, and the extent of it, is our own fault, or, if you prefer (depending on your point of view), the fault of circumstances. Marriage, it has been said, is a private affair. A homophile marriage is a very private affair.

In the first place. usually we’ve got more to lose — a house, two good jobs (often in the professions), and a happy personal relationship that has been tempered by the years. To find a married couple so endowed that would take their chances on, for instance, appearing as such in a TV show would be tremendously difficult. Not only jobs and material things are at stake but also personal relations with one’s relatives and in-laws. Instead of just one set of heterosexual parents and relatives, in a homophile marriage there are two sets. I have only siblings, all of whom accept my circumstances. But my lover has three aunts, very religious, who raised him through sacrifices, and he would not dream of causing them embarrassment and grief. It would be a very rare homophile marriage that did not have on one side or the other some good reason for shunning publicity.

Lloyd explored the various aspects of gay marriage, including marriage-like relationships in history as well as the practical problems which made those relationships so difficult in 1963. That difficulty included meeting others in an environment that forced everyone underground, finding someone who isn’t more damaged by the social pressures than yourself, and the lack of role models. To address that last concern, Lloyd provided several tips on how to navigate the difficult emotional and practical problems, things that straight people naturally absorb from their parents and peers. Some of the advice is common sense (“Cultivate the homophile married life,” “Expect to adjust,” If you hanker for a house, don’t ‘wait for marriage’ to buy one.”) and other advice that seems, well, dated (“If you don’t cook, look for somebody who can.”). And he closed by calling for the start of a new marriage movement:

There are many homosexuals, who neither desire nor are suited for homophile marriage, that ridicule what they call the “heterosexual” institution of marriage. This is only a clever twisting. Marriage is no more a strictly heterosexual social custom than are the social customs of birthday celebrations, funerals, house-warmings, or, for that matter, sleeping, eating, and the like. I participate in those, not because they are heterosexual or homosexual things, but because I am a human being. Being homosexual does not put one out of the human race. I am a human being, male and married to another male; not because I am aping heterosexuals, but because I have discovered that that is by far the most enjoyable way of life to me. And I think that’s also the reason heterosexual men and woman marry, though some people twist things around to make it appear they are merely following convention.

After all, there must be something to marriage, else what is the reason for its great popularity? Marriage is not anybody’s “convention”. It is a way of living and is equally good for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I think it is high time the modern homophile movement started paying more attention to homophile marriage. … Homophile marriage is not only a strictly modern idea that proves our movement today is something new in history, it is the most stable, sensible, and ethical way to live for homophiles. Our homophile movement is going to have to face, sooner or later, the problem of adopting a standard of ethics. We have got to start laying the groundwork. I can’t think of a better way to begin than by pushing homophile marriage.

ONE magazine, August 1953.

This wasn’t the first time ONE magazine tackled the issue of same-sex marriage. Ten years earlier in August of 1953, ONE published an article by E.B. Saunders titled, “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License,” where Saunders observed that the homophile movement was avoiding the topic of marriage (see Aug 20). “One would think that in demanding acceptance for this group, legalized marriage would be one of the primary issues,” Saunders wrote. “What a logical and convincing means of assuring society that they are sincere in wanting respect and dignity!” Saunders however argued the idea of gay marriage was preposterous because getting married would mean giving up freedoms, not gaining them. “We simply don’t join movements to limits ourselves! Rebels such as we, demand freedom! But actually we have a greater freedom now (sub rosa as it may be) than do heterosexuals, and any change will be to lose some of it in return for respectability.” And since he saw marriage as the primary avenue for “respectability,” he declared all of the efforts of the homophile movement doomed. “All of this energetic work merely produces a hole,” he concluded. “Any bomb can do that.”

But in 1963, Lloyd wasn’t as gloomy about marriage, or about the gay rights movement for that matter. And many others turned to the idea of same-sex marriage, either legally or extra-legally, through the years. In 1970, Jack Baker and James McConnell tried to get married in Minneapolis (see May 18) and sued in state and federal court when their request for a license was denied. That ended with the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Most gay rights groups at that time were caught up in the broader sexual revolution rhetoric, and had little interest in pushing for something as conventional as marriage. That attitude remained through the 1970s and the 1980s. But when AIDS hit the gay community in the 1980s and partners found themselves blocked by law and relatives from caring for and properly burying their partners and remaining in the homes that they shared together, it finally dawned on a lot of people that they really were married, regardless of whether they had thought of themselves and each other that way or not. And so here we are, a little more than half-century later, and marriage is now at the forefront of the gay rights movement. And in just a few short years, we’ve already seen it expand in ways that Randy Lloyd probably never could begin to imagine.

[Sources: Randy Lloyd. “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage.” ONE 9, no. 6 (June 1963): 5-10.

E.B. Saunders “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License.” ONE 1, no, 8 (August 1953): 10-12.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 60 YEARS AGO: E. Lynn Harris: 1955-2009. Raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, he attended the University of Arkansas where he became the first African-American editor of the university’s yearbook. After graduation, he worked in sales for IBM and Hewlett-Packard, but quit after thirteen hears to pursue his first love, writing. His first novel, Invisible Life, followed an African-American man’s journey of self-discovery as gay man, and themes of the struggle between acceptance and shame among African-American men on the “down low” would become a recurring theme in Harris’s oeuvre. Invisible Life first failed to find a publisher, so Harris he published it himself in 1991 and sold it out of the trunk of his car before he was finally discovered by Anchor Books in 1994.

After Invisible Life’s publication as a paperback, his career was set. He went on to author ten consecutive books which landed on The New York Times’s Best Seller List, making him simultaneously among the most successful African-American authors and gay authors for the past two decades. LGBT advocate Keith Boykin observed that Harris’s books encouraged the black community to talk openly about homosexuality. “It was hard to go on a subway in places in New York or D.C. and not see some black woman reading an E. Lynn Harris novel,” Boykin said. Harris died in 2009 in Los Angeles of heart disease. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times posthumously named Invisible Life as one of the top 20 classic works of gay literature.

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

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