506 posts categorized "History"

December 18, 2014

14-year-old exonerated, 70 years too late

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George Stinney, wrongly convicted and executed in 1944 at age 14 in South Carolina, was exonerated Wednesday by circuit court Judge Carmen Mullen. When he went to the electric chair, he was so small he had to sit on a phone book for the execution.

We do not have the knowledge of gods. There are too many people with motives to lie, to make false accusations, to seek out a scapegoat, to set an example. We should abolish the death penalty if only for this reason. It is good for Stinney's name to be cleared at long last; but his life was stolen. The sadness of this is beyond adequate expression.

December 06, 2014

Marion Barry's history on LGBT rights


(Marion Barry speaks in favor of Deoni Jones Act, June 26, 2013)

A memorial service for former Mayor Marion Barry was held on Saturday at the D.C. Convention Center, in which he was eulogized by a long list of public officials, entrepreneurs, and community activists. Loose Lips reports.

I was interviewed by Martin Austermuhle for a piece that aired on WAMU radio on Friday. Our friend Andy Bowen, who is now executive director of Garden State Equality, wrote a lovely remembrance of Barry for DCist on Thursday.

Regarding the bitterness that some in our community feel over Barry's 2009 vote against marriage equality: One thing people might keep in mind is that while Marion is gone, all of his friends and supporters aren't. Burning bridges by indulging a bitter comment accomplishes nothing. Plus, I hate being a sore winner. We won marriage equality strongly and overwhelmingly, and we did it with a broad-based coalition and with smart and respectful messaging. I confronted Marion in 2009 over his participation in an anti-gay rally at Freedom Plaza as he was leaving that rally, and I challenged him on his vote against marriage equality; but I did it in a civil manner. As a result, I had five more years of a cordial relationship with him, while he continued serving as one of 13 DC Council members. Being nasty would not have helped our cause. Marion was always nice to me, and it cost me nothing to reciprocate. Did I appreciate it when he told me he didn't know any gay couples in Ward 8? Of course not. I was truly baffled by his saying that to me (in the hallway outside the Council Chambers), because there were no reporters or news cameras near us for him to play to. But if I cut off everyone I know who said baffling or obnoxious things, well, I'd have a much lonelier life. Marion was not perfect, but he was a longtime ally (including supporting our successful effort in 1979 to prohibit ballot measures that infringed on rights protected by the DC Human Rights Act). So I gave him credit as well as criticism, and did not break off a productive relationship. May he rest in peace.

November 27, 2014

Pat Robertson: gays are destroying everything the Pilgrims worked for

As they say on the old Warner Bros cartoons, aaaah, shadaaaap!

2014 Medal of Freedom ceremony

This year's honorees include James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, the civil rights workers who were murdered fifty years ago during Mississippi Freedom Summer. Family members accepted for them.

Huckabee defiles Holocaust tour

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, not content with comparing abortion to the Holocaust, declares that gay marriage destroys the foundation of civilization.

November 25, 2014

Remembering Marion Barry

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(Still from The Nine Lives of Marion Barry)

I have known Marion Barry since the early 1980s, and he was always courteous to me, even twenty years ago on election day when he arrived at Precinct 15 and I was standing outside wearing a Carol Schwartz campaign shirt. Indeed, he came right for me, all smiles. That was always one of his more charming qualities.

After his death early Sunday at age 78, I received requests for comment from several journalists. I was under the weather all day and did not send them my thoughts until Monday morning. Since I missed the news cycle, here are my comments.

In many ways Marion Barry resembled Bill Clinton: smart, politically astute, charming, and with a phenomenal memory. He didn’t just remember people’s names, he remembered their pets and what ailed them. People who disliked him used to dismiss his talents, which was a big mistake. He was the smartest politician in hometown D.C.

In his early years as mayor, before his addictions got the better of him, he appointed more gay officials than any mayor in the country. I remember him announcing the birth of his son Christopher from the stage at Gay Pride. He was an ally of the LGBT community throughout his mayoral years.

I was greatly disappointed when he opposed marriage equality, and said “Shame on you” to him after he led a chant (3:30 on the clip) at an anti-gay rally in Freedom Plaza in the spring of 2009. He replied, “I supported you on everything else.” That did not mollify me, but it was noteworthy that he and the only other “no” vote on marriage, Ward 7 councilmember Yvette Alexander, touted their pro-gay credentials from the dais rather than launching into anti-gay screeds. They were voting with their constituents; but they still, implausible as it seemed, were eager not to be thought anti-gay. That was a tribute to how far the LGBT community had come.

People are calling this the end of an era, but the Barry era really ended 16 years ago when Anthony Williams was elected mayor. After that, Marion was still a force in Ward 8, but not citywide. In recent years he could barely walk, but his mind was still sharp. I was still pleasant with him despite the harm he did to the city, because it cost me nothing and he was still one of our 13 councilmembers. He was a charmer to the end (when he wasn’t trash talking), and enjoyed reminiscing about past battles when he was on our side. It was clear that he would be re-elected in Ward 8 as long as he lived; now the question is when his constituents, so devoted to him, will move on.

November 23, 2014

Marion Barry dies at 78

The Mayor for Life is dead. May he rest in peace.

November 22, 2014

Regarding healthcare before Obamacare

November 19, 2014

A tree for Emmett Till at the U.S. Capitol

Janet Langhart Cohen was on Joe Madison's show on SiriusXM's Urban View 126 yesterday to talk about the planting of a tree on Capitol Hill commemorating Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 and whose murderers were let off by an all-white jury. We know Emmett's name, as we do not know the names of the thousands of others who met similar fates, because his mother Mamie had the courage to order an open casket and allow Jet Magazine to photograph her son's horrifically mutilated face. Her words, "I want them to see what they did to my son," are one of the most powerful statements ever made by an American.

Jet founder John Johnson's unhesitating decision to print the photo and story of Till's murder helped galvanize African Americans for the civil rights struggle; the Montgomery Bus Boycott began later the same year. Thanks to Mrs. Cohen for her efforts to get a living memorial for Till, and to Joe Madison for sharing the video. As Madison notes, the sycamore's location across from the Russell Senate Office Building is particularly apt, given Richard Russell's unreconstructed racism and ferocious opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

November 15, 2014

The Christmas Truce 1914

This year's Christmas ad by Sainsbury's, the British supermarket and convenience store chain founded in 1869, recreates the legendary Christmas Truce that occurred on the Western Front one hundred years ago during World War I. After the jump are videos about the making of the advert in partnership with the Royal British Legion, and the story behind it.

The video's moving reminder that humanity can emerge under the worst circumstances also reminds us of the pointlessness of war. It was rising anti-German sentiment during WWI, in 1917, that caused the British House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to become the House of Windsor, and Battenberg to become Mountbatten. The British, German, and Russian royals were cousins. The Tsarevitch Alexei, for example, famous hemophiliac son of Tsar Nicholas II, was the great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. If you didn't know better, you might think that as the world grows smaller, it would grow less violent.

At least at this point regarding the English and Germans, the prospect is not war but whether Britain will leave the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that she would sooner see the UK leave the EU than limit the freedom of movement within EU, with which Britain has a problem. The Iron Lady's ghost hovers, saying "No, no, no."

Continue reading "The Christmas Truce 1914" »

November 06, 2014

Summoning the Ancestors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 04, 2014

'Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have….'

On this day when many elections may be swayed by aggressive voter suppression laws, it is worth re-watching this powerful speech by Rep. John Lewis, who put his life on the line five decades ago for civil rights and voting rights.

October 24, 2014

Great performances: Jeffrey Wright at Belize in Angels

I was looking for something else, and came upon this clip from the HBO version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Justin Kirk as Prior Walter, hospitalized with AIDS, tells his friend Belize, played by Jeffrey Wright, about the angels who are visiting him. Prior and Belize are former lovers and dear friends.

I saw both parts of Angels on a Saturday in 1994 on Broadway. I vividly remember Wright delivering the line, "My jaw aches at the memory." Wright's performance in that production won him a Tony, and his HBO reprise won him an Emmy. I appreciate having the TV version (though it lacks another Tony winner, Kathleen Chalfant, whose roles were given to Meryl Streep), because in 1994 I was in the balcony. TV gives you a front-row seat. This landmark drama was the first time I saw Wright. He has played a wide range of characters since, from MLK in HBO's Boycott to a CIA agent in the James Bond movies, to a Dominican drug lord in the Shaft remake, to the dangerous Dr. Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He is always compelling. If you know of a more gifted actor currently working, do tell.

Another clip, this one facing off with the dying Roy Cohn, played by the man whose performance in Dog Day Afternoon convinced Wright he must be an actor. Imagine Wright's thrill at this collaboration. If you are unfamiliar with Angels (something which you ought to correct), the ghost standing next to Belize at the end (when he says "I am the shadow on your grave") is that of Ethel Rosenberg.

October 22, 2014

Rep. Gohmert shows his detailed knowledge of Greek military history

Ah, the endless font of stupidity that is Rep. Louie Gohmert.

October 12, 2014

On National Coming Out Day, a sad anniversary

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October 11 was National Coming Out Day. It was also the third anniversary of the death of our colleague and friend, gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny. Here is a link to my blog post on the night of Frank's death in 2011. Frank's voice remains with us, exhorting us, as he did in 1969, to assert our full rights as gay people:

It is time to open the closet door and let in the fresh air and the sunshine.

It is time to doff and to discard the secrecy, the disguise, and the camouflage.

It is time to hold up your heads and to look the world squarely in the eye as the homosexuals that you are, confident of your equality, confident in the knowledge that as objects of prejudice and victims of discrimination YOU are right and they are wrong, and confident of the rightness of what you are and of the goodness of what you do.

It is time to live your homosexuality fully, joyously, openly, and proudly, assured that morally, socially, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and in every other way: Gay is good.

POTUS_and_Kameny

September 24, 2014

Crazy Eyes: "Phyllis Schlafly Is My Heroine"

I find that after about 20 seconds, I can filter out Michele Bachmann and just listen to Pachelbel.

September 11, 2014

13 years ago today

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(Photo courtesy U.S. Public Safety News & Events)

In lower Manhattan last night, a tribute in lights on the eve of today's 9/11 anniversary. Among the legacies of that awful day have been reckless military adventures abroad and threats to civil liberties here at home. Citizen, awake!

September 10, 2014

Mayor Gray honors anti-gay activist Bob King

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(Photo by Michael Key, Washington Blade)

Mayor Gray has proclaimed September 29, 2014 "Robert 'Bob' King Day" in Washington, D.C.

We must object. Here are links to several stories and blog entries that detail King's efforts against marriage equality in the District.

Let us be clear: Bob King did NOT merely oppose marriage equality in D.C. He aggressively opposed us, stoked anti-gay bigotry, took money from anti-gay bigots for his efforts, and even asked the U.S. Congress to intervene in D.C. affairs because he didn't like what our own elected leaders had done. The latter is especially egregious.

As GLAA has stated:

The District has no business issuing official proclamations and ceremonial resolutions to honor people and organizations openly hostile to the LGBT community. Officials must put procedures in place to prevent such slip-ups. Good works in other areas do not excuse discrimination or bias.

Mayor Gray is a good friend who has done more than any other mayor for LGBT people in the District. But we cannot agree with his act to honor Bob King. Mr. King contacted me last year seeking to put the past behind us and work together for the sake of the District. I was interested in a reconciliation; but when he refused to express any regrets for his past anti-gay and anti-democratic actions, much less apologize for them, I declined to meet with him. We are not sore winners. But reconciliation requires a change of heart and mind. King merely said, "You won, and we lost." I was already aware of that. What I did not detect was any contrition, nor the slightest warmth in his voice. If you extend your hand to me in fellowship, I will reciprocate. If, on the other hand, you are merely a political operative who wants others to forget your transgressions without your having acknowledged them, it is another matter.

(Hat tip: Bob Summersgill)

August 21, 2014

Smithsonian adds LGBT history to collection

AP reports some good news on the museum front.

This has been in the works for some time. Eight years ago, for example, the Smithsonian acquired about a dozen picket signs from the first gay rights picket at the White House, which was led by Frank Kameny in 1965. That acquisition was thanks to the Kameny Papers Project and the efforts of Charles Francis and Bob Witeck.

Congrats to our friend, photographer Patsy Lynch, for her contributions to the museum's collection. She commented on Facebook, "I am very honored and humble and excited to know that some of my work is now in a vaulted museum and will soon be available for more people to see."

August 16, 2014

Suspected Looters

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Kinda sorta.

(Hat tip: Lauren Chief Elk - ‏@ChiefElk)

August 14, 2014

'All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper'

Tell it, Martin. Words from 46 years ago that are as apt as when he spoke them, the day before he was taken from us.

August 12, 2014

Lauren Bacall, 1924-2014

Another great one passes. In this scene, accompanied by Hoagy Carmichael, Bacall sings to an adoring customer I imagine was her first gay fan.

Years ago, I worked a column around "How Little We Know" and the movie it's from, To Have and Have Not.

It seemed we would have Betty Bacall forever. She was 89.

August 07, 2014

Blow: War Against Whites? I Think Not

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In another excellent commentary, NYT columnist Charles M. Blow blows to smithereens the claim by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) that Democrats are waging a "war on whites." Blow notes the Republican Party's extensive history of racially divisive politics and policies, going back to Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy which was based on exploiting white voters' fears of and hostility toward blacks. Here's a portion:

The racial divisiveness ... continues as Republicans trade racial terms for culture-centric euphemisms. Newt Gingrich, in 2011: “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works,” although most poor people of working age work. Paul Ryan, earlier this year: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” And Bill O’Reilly said recently in a discussion about legalizing marijuana that the left’s position was that marijuana was harmless and “It’s blacks, you know, you get, you’re trapping the blacks because in certain ghetto neighborhoods it’s part of the culture.” ...

Whites are not under attack by Democrats; Republicans like Brooks are simply stoking racial fears to hide their history of racially regressive policies.

Talking about a "war on whites" is like calling marriage equality a threat to straight people. You might well call it a war on exclusivity, which is to say discrimination; but that is not what is being claimed. Those who practice this wedge politics are manipulating voters into voting against their own interests by exploiting fears. If we let cynical men divide us in this way, or if we become discouraged by partisan gridlock and withdraw from participating in elections, we hand over control to those who pick our pockets and line their own at the expense of the common good.

August 04, 2014

R.I.P. James Brady

The video clip above was the first televised news bulletin of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, in which his press secretary, James Brady, received a head wound that would change his life forever. (When ABC News anchor Frank Reynolds gave the bulletin, it was not yet known that Reagan had been hit.) NYT reports on Brady's death earlier today:

James S. Brady, the White House press secretary who was wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and then became a symbol of the fight for gun control, championing tighter regulations from his wheelchair, died on Monday in Alexandria, Va. He was 73.

His family confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.

On the rainy afternoon of March 30, 1981, Mr. Brady was struck in a hail of bullets fired by John W. Hinckley Jr., a mentally troubled college dropout who had hoped that shooting the president would impress the actress Jodie Foster, on whom he had a fixation. Mr. Hinckley raised his handgun as Reagan stepped out of a hotel in Washington after giving a speech.

I remember the date of those awful events at the Washington Hilton Hotel because it happened to be my twenty-fifth birthday. A few times in the years that followed, I encountered Jim and Sarah Brady at La Fonda Restaurant on 17th Street (which closed in the 1990s), where he would have to be assisted down the few stairs to the restaurant. They were gracious and unpretentious people, who became gun control advocates after Jim's debilitating injury from the assassination attempt. At this point, the prospects of any kind of gun control have never been more grim, with the nation held hostage by an astonishing level of ideological fervor over the need for guns and more guns. The Bradys tried to make a difference. Here's to both of them.

July 24, 2014

This Land Is Mine

Pretty well sums it up. Lovely singing by Andy Williams.

July 17, 2014

"I don't know if I have paralyzed you."

Mandela the master politician at work, a few months after his release from prison. In the full video of this 1990 town hall meeting in NYC (here and here), Madiba's questioners from the audience are stacked with right-wing tools trying to bait him. As this clip shows, they woefully underestimated him. At another point, he said, "Some people make the mistake of assuming that their enemies must be our enemies." Cheers erupted. I understand those cheers much better now than I did then.

July 07, 2014

George Takei: Why I love a country that once betrayed me

Gay actor George Takei tells of when soldiers with bayonets came to his Los Angeles home when he was 5 and sent his family to a Japanese-American internment camp on a presidential order, without due process. He then talks about his heroes, including the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American military history. And he explains why he loves America and is committed to democracy.

June 28, 2014

Stonewall 45

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Happy Stonewall 45. The reason New York City celebrates LGBT Pride on the last weekend in June is of course because it was on this day in 1969 that gay patrons during a police raid of the Stonewall Inn bar decided to stand their ground.

David Boaz of the Cato Institute reflected in 2011 on the impact of resistance: "Sometimes all it takes is one person or a few people saying, “We’re not going” to light the spark of a movement or a revolution." (Hat tip: Stephen H. Miller)

Contrary to legend, the gay rights movement did not start that night in 1969. People like Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny were already at work before then. But Stonewall was a crucial flashpoint that broadened the movement beyond the relative handful of people who were active before. So we celebrate. Nowadays (specifically since 2009), the celebration also happens at the White House, where President and Mrs. Obama will host a few hundred LGBT folk on Monday, June 30. (Nope, not me. I did attend in 2009, as Frank Kameny's date. And no, I could not resist doing my Jackie Kennedy impression: "This is the Blue Room. We decided to leave it just the way it was when President Blue lived here.")

Regarding the Empire State Building's tower lights, ESB's website explains:

The international icon of the New York skyline, since 1976 the Empire State Building’s tower lights have maintained a tradition of changing color to recognize various occasions and organizations throughout the year.

Everything changed in 2012, when ownership installed a new computer driven LED light system. The system is capable of displaying 16 million colors, which can change instantaneously.

We stage dazzling light shows celebrating holidays and events, often synchronized to music broadcast simultaneously on Clear Channel radio stations. Just search "Empire State Building Light Shows" on YouTube to see the shows!

(BTW, June 27 is sometimes given as the date of the start of the uprising. It was the night of June 27/28, and it happened after midnight.)

June 26, 2014

Libertarians and Gay Marriage

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Our friend David Boaz at Cato Institute sends the following, which I publish with his permission:

In the moving HBO documentary “The Case against 8,” Chad Griffin jokes at one point that if the chairman of the Cato Institute supports marriage equality, maybe he should rethink his position. Of course he’s joking. But the implication is that it’s some sort of surprise to find a libertarian scholar supporting equality under the law, perhaps because of the mistaken impression that the Cato Institute is, or libertarians in general are, are “right-wing.” In fact, of course, libertarians were ahead of liberals on gay rights. The Libertarian Party Platform of 1972 called for an end to laws regulating voluntary sexual behavior, and the Party issued a pamphlet in 1976 that endorsed marriage equality. Cato’s amicus brief was cited in the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision. Indeed, in this Cato video from 2011 John Podesta says you probably had to be a libertarian to have supported gay marriage 15 years earlier:

http://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-video/constitutional-case-marriage-equality

Here’s the Cato Institute chairman’s take on Griffin’s comment, along with a video clip:

http://www.cato.org/blog/case-against-8

David Boaz
Executive Vice President
Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202)842-0200
http://www.cato.org/people/boaz.html

Check out my blog: http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/author/david-boaz/
and my books: Libertarianism: A Primer (the theory); The Libertarian Reader (the history); The Politics of Freedom (essays on politics, policy, and libertarianism); and The Libertarian Vote (ebook on libertarians in the electorate).

As it happens, I mentioned Cato's support for marriage equality in my latest column, "When Rights Collide." Those suffering from what philosopher Stephen Toulmin called "hardening of the categories" would do well to recall Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

June 20, 2014

Robert Alfandre, 1927-2014

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Our old friend Bob Alfandre has died at age 87, the Blade reports:

Robert “Bob” Alfandre, a prominent D.C.-area homebuilder and philanthropist who contributed to LGBT rights and AIDS-related causes, died June 12 in his home in Washington following a long battle with cancer. He was 87....

Rev. Jerry Anderson, an Episcopal priest, said he met Alfandre in the 1980s through All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in D.C., where Alfandre was a parishioner and Anderson served as director of the D.C. group Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS. He said he and Alfandre became friends and kept in touch after Anderson moved to Miami and later to Los Angeles.

“He was a wonderful human being,” said Anderson. “He was one of those gay men who responded immediately and wholeheartedly to the AIDS epidemic. He was a very generous, passionate advocate for the AIDS cause.”

Anderson and Rev. John Beddington, current pastor of All Souls Episcopal Church, said Alfandre had a wry sense of humor and became admired for lifting up the spirits of his friends and associates, including people with AIDS.

Anderson said Alfandre often hosted fundraisers and social gatherings at his home in D.C.’s Kalarama section and often invited AIDS patients. He said he has especially fond memories of a party Alfandre hosted for residents of the Carroll Sledz House, a Whitman-Walker facility that Alfandre initiated and funded in honor of his late partner.

Bob was a warm and generous man. Condolences to all his family and friends. There is an online guest book to which you can post condolences. The Blade reports:

A visitation was scheduled for Friday, June 20, from 6-8 p.m. at Joseph Gawler’s, 5130 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. A funeral service was scheduled for Saturday, June 21, at 11 a.m., at All Souls Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.

June 19, 2014

When Rights Collide

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Happy Juneteenth. Here's my latest column at Metro Weekly. I'll talk with Mark Thompson about it this evening at 7 pm EDT on Make It Plain on SiriusXM Progress, Channel 127.

Here's an excerpt:

On April 7, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to hear the Elane Photography case, in which an Albuquerque studio refused to take commitment ceremony photos of Vanessa Willock and her same-sex partner, Misti Collinsworth. This left in place the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that Elane Photography's claimed free speech right "directly conflicts with Willock's right ... to obtain goods and services from a public accommodation."

If you think this pleased all gay rights advocates, you are wrong. An amicus brief supporting the photographer was filed on behalf of the Cato Institute, Eugene Volokh, and Dale Carpenter, all marriage equality supporters. Volokh explained that "wedding photographers ... have a First Amendment right to choose what expression they create, including by choosing not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies."

SCOTUS will rule this month in the Hobby Lobby case, concerning a company's right to deny employees contraceptive coverage based on the owners' religious objections. In contrasting briefs, Cato defended Hobby Lobby's free exercise rights, while Lambda Legal wrote that ruling for Hobby Lobby "would transform our equal opportunity marketplace into segregated dominions within which each business owner with religious convictions 'becomes a law unto himself.'"

Meanwhile, LGBT groups differ over the religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. DC's Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which I lead, is among those that support ENDA but favor a narrower exemption. Religious groups are protected in their core religious function; outside it is another matter. Why should anti-LGBT discrimination enjoy exemptions beyond those applying to discrimination under Title VII?

LGBT people are not the only historically oppressed group asked to subordinate their interests....

Click on the above link for the whole thing.

June 12, 2014

Today in history - Loving v. Virginia

On this day in 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Loving v Virginia that state anti- miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Responding decades later to discrimination against gay couples, Mildred Loving expressed support for marriage equality. Here's to the memory of her and her husband, and those who helped them fight for equality.

June 07, 2014

Ghosts on a beach

This haunting blend of current and historic photos says more than I can after watching ceremonies at Omaha Beach yesterday marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy. In the video of the ceremonies below, my favorite part is near the end, when President Obama interacts with the old soldiers, now in their 90s, who were there 70 years ago. In his remarks he mentioned that his maternal grandfather was in Patton's army that followed the invasion to liberate Europe from the Nazis. These moments are important as more than just ceremonies; they are a reminder of the cost of war. By June 6, 1944, my father had been a prisoner of war for nearly 16 months, having been captured in Tunisia at Kasserine Pass in February 1943. This year he would have turned 96.

June 02, 2014

A strangely monochromatic photo op at Stonewall Inn

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(Photo courtesy of the Gill Foundation's Facebook page)

Our left coast friend Mike Petrelis writes:

Take a look at this photo snapped on Friday in front of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan, as the National Park Service announced a project to identify and designate additional sites of relevance to LGBT and American history, and see what's wrong with it....

At the lectern bearing the seal of the Secretary of the Interior is millionaire and gay political strategist Tim Gill, who has donated $250,000 to the Department of Interior's project, on the left is Democratic gay New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson and a member of the National Park Service wearing a green uniform. Also speaking at the event was Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Notice how there are no drag queens, no people of color and no veterans of the Stonewall Riot. Representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are two white men, hardly displaying the diversity of our community and especially those who stood up to the Mafia bosses and New York Police Department in the sweltering month June 1969.

Gill, it should be noted, is a philanthropist who through his foundation has donated an estimated $240 million to the cause of LGBT equality. He is to be commended for his generosity and vision. But Mike raises a very good question. The announcement at Stonewall should have been more representative.

May 23, 2014

Larry Kramer Lives to See His ‘Normal Heart’ Filmed for TV

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NYT talks to Larry Kramer on the occasion of the TV version of his landmark play The Normal Heart. Congrats to him.

However. "We have no power in Washington, or anywhere else," says Kramer, who doesn't do nuance. In the week of Frank Kameny's 89th birthday, I say what he once said to Kramer in Lambda Rising bookstore: Larry, you are wrong.

That we haven't won everything doesn't mean we won nothing. Kramer has done much to admire; but his boorishness and disrespect are gratuitous and increasingly ridiculous.

(Photo of Larry Kramer by David Shankbone)

Harvey Milk Forever Stamp dedicated

On what would have been Harvey Milk's 84th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service and the Harvey Milk Foundation hosted a ceremony at the White House unveiling the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp.

Zach Ford at Think Progress gives us 5 Amazing Harvey Milk Quotes That Are Too Long To Fit On His New Stamp.

Meanwhile, there's a Harvey Milk musical.

May 21, 2014

1974 video: Kameny defends gay marriage on PBS

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Please follow this link to the "OpenVault" page at WGBH Boston, since I cannot embed the video.

Our friend Michael Bedwell brings to our attention an archival video of a televised debate from May 1974 on what we now call marriage equality. It was done in the form of a mock trial. The witnesses included Elaine Noble (for) and Dr. Charles Socarides (against). It is a bracing hour of debate from long before marriage equality was on the minds of many LGBT activists (though GLAA first testified on the subject before the D.C. Council the following year).

I told Frank that I had seen this back in the 1970s, and that he was brilliant, and it had had a great effect on me. He said he had no recollection of having done it. He forgot more accomplishments than other people had accomplishments.

Happy birthday, Frank Kameny

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(Photo by The Washington Post)

Today would be Frank Kameny's 89th birthday. Remembering a brave, visionary, and tough pioneer. Thank you, Frank.

May 20, 2014

NYT: Uncovered Papers Show Past Government Efforts to Drive Gays From Jobs

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(Charles Francis and historical documents. Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

NYT reports:

[D]ocuments newly obtained by a gay-rights group offer new details about the views that drove the government’s sometimes obsessive effort to identify and fire gays in government jobs....

“These memorandums were not meant for the outside world to see,” said Charles Francis, a gay-rights advocate with the Mattachine Society of Washington. “It’s a tide of human indignation.” ...

Mr. Francis, working with pro bono lawyers at one of the nation’s largest law firms, McDermott, Will & Emery, has used public-records requests to collect hundreds of documents in which gays or policies toward them were discussed. The government has identified thousands more, and Mr. Francis says he plans to someday make the records public as part of what he calls “archive activism.”

Charles writes on Facebook:

The inspiration for this is Allan Berube, the LGBT community historian, who discovered a cache of 300 letters from gay and lesbian service members, and turned that into "Coming Out Under Fire". We have only professionalized that passion.

Congrats to Charles on this story. I am proud to be part of the new Mattachine and its archival rescue efforts.

Mayor's office video from GLAA 43rd anniversary reception

A video from the Mayor's office on GLAA's 43rd anniversary reception, held April 30. When they arrived to tape the event, they had no idea we would be honoring Mayor Gray for his service to the LGBT community. That was a surprise.