455 posts categorized "History"

August 29, 2013

Sniping on the Mount

(AP Photo)

My latest column looks at the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Here's a portion:

At the Busboys and Poets restaurant at 5th and K NW on Saturday, noted intellectual Cornel West called [Rev. Al] Sharpton "the head House Negro of the Obama plantation." West's radical performance art is done from the safety of a professorship at Union Theological Seminary. Busboys, incidentally, is a popular spot for upscale Washingtonians nostalgic for the Revolution, by which I mean the era of Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis, not Patrick Henry and Alexander Hamilton. I recommend the crab cakes.

The Aug. 24 event was certainly a tame affair compared to the original. Former Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser ruefully points out that in 1963, the paper was so focused on expectations of a riot that its lead story on the march made no mention of what became known as the "I Have a Dream" speech nor the young preacher who delivered it.

Much has changed for the better. This year's program included LGBT and women's voices that were absent 50 years ago. The five days of commemoration included tributes to the 1963 march's architect, Bayard Rustin, who at the time was denounced by segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond as a communist and "moral pervert." ...

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy bemoans the civil rights establishment's move to the "mainstream," and misses the leadership of socialist intellectuals like Rustin. He must have missed Rustin's call to move "From Protest to Politics" back in 1965. Rustin took on the system to create change, not just dramatic video. Organizing nurtures relationships that carry the movement forward.

Read the whole thing here.

August 28, 2013

Remembering Emmett Till, who died this day in 1955


Our friend Edmond Frost writes:

Remembering the late Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 - August 28, 1955) who was kidnapped, tortured and brutally lynched this day in Mississippi at age 14 for reportedly flirting with a white woman.

Imagine being so filled with hate that you would beat a 14-year-old child until he was unrecognizable. The capacity of human beings to hate, and our horror at it, reminds us of why we must continue the struggle with discipline and purpose. We can overcome it, but it has not vanished. Some continue to nurture it aggressively.

Man of Words


From 2 years ago, my essay on the importance of Dr. King's rhetorical mastery. A portion:

Martin Luther King Jr. required singular courage and wisdom to lead a nonviolent movement for racial justice. His charisma was crucial; but his mastery of words set him apart. This was not immediately obvious, given his fondness for biblical metaphors that could feel archaic and overripe – his mountains of this and valleys of that.

But King knew what he was doing. His elevated language and preacher's cadences took people out of their mundane mindset and stirred millions who had never set foot in a black Baptist church....

I write this on an anniversary. Forty-eight years ago, King wrapped himself in tradition as he raised a mighty challenge. "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Here he invoked the most powerful words of the past thousand years and brought them to life as no one had done since Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.

August 24, 2013

Paul Kuntzler remembers the 1963 March on Washington

(Photo by Patsy Lynch)

GLAA co-founder Paul Kuntzler is interviewed in this week's Metro Weekly about his participation in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom fifty years ago.

Celebrating Bayard Rustin


Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director the National Black Justice Coalition, writes a tribute to Bayard Rustin in this week's Metro Weekly:

On behalf of the National Black Justice Coalition and the black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, I applaud President Barack Obama for giving the late Bayard Rustin the national esteem and recognition he deserves by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As one of the chief architects of the Civil Rights Movement and the brilliance behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Rustin's indispensable contributions to the ethos of our country continue to reverberate and push us toward a more just and fair society. America is indebted to Rustin, and our nation is right to finally honor him for his stalwart courage and leadership.

Rustin was a radical visionary – a black gay activist for freedom and peace during a time when the conditions of both of these identities were perilous. The fact that he lived at the intersection of these identities while fighting for the freedoms of all oppressed people is even more revolutionary. Rustin owned his power as a black, openly gay man to fiercely challenge the status quo and fight on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized, while at the same time refusing to be defined by any single aspect of his identity. Rustin was as unapologetically black as he was gay, and by his very presence challenged the evils of homophobia and racism throughout his life. His legacy leaves a salient lesson for us on the power of living authentically.

Read the whole thing here.

August 21, 2013

BeBe Winans - Dream

This lovely song by BeBe Winans was played by my friend Mark Thompson Tuesday evening on Sirius/XM Progress. A nice lift.

August 19, 2013

August 24 - 50th Anniversary March on Washington


50 years ago, famous attendees at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom included Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, and (in the background) Sidney Poitier.

Please join us on Saturday, August 24th for the 50th anniversary march. Civil rights are under renewed attack from the nativist right, and we must organize to defeat those efforts to turn back the clock. RSVP here: http://www.naacp.org/march.

Jose Julio Sarria, first openly gay candidate in North America, dies at 90


LGBT Weekly reports the death of Jose Julio Sarria, who in 1961 became the first openly gay candidate for public office when he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was also the founder of the Imperial Court System.

GLAAD pays tribute to this pioneer. GLAAD national spokesperson Wilson Cruz writes:

José Julio Sarria's passing today is an enormous loss. His work as a politician, humanitarian, and performer was unprecedented, and has rightfully earned him a place in history. He was an icon who stood his ground for himself and so many others when it was hardest to do so. During such a formative time for the LGBT and Latino communities it is crucial that we remember and honor the exceptional people like José for making our successes possible. He will forever reside in the hearts and minds of the LGBT and Latino communities and their allies. Thank you, José.

May Sarria rest in peace.

Donnie McClurkin's attempt to play the victim

Joshua Lazard at Religion Dispatches discusses the recent flap over "ex gay" singer Donnie McClurkin being disinvited from a concert connected to the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. McClurkin is not being honest about his bigoted statements, as usual with gay haters on the right, who love to turn the truth on its head and claim that they are the victims.

(Hat tip: Pam Spaulding)

August 11, 2013

McClurkin disinvited from concert at MLK Memorial, plays the victim

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters posts a superb story on the removal of anti-gay Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin as the headliner at a concert at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The bottom line:

[Bayard] Rustin never got his due for what he did in the Civil Rights Movement. Now I ask you, does it make sense to honor the 50th anniversary of a march whose coordinator was shoved in the background due to homophobia by inviting someone as a headliner who is committing the same offense against gays in the present?

Thanks to our friend Philip Pannell for his timely advocacy on this, and to Mayor Vince Gray for stepping in to ask McClurkin to withdraw. McClurkin is playing the victim, and is being joined by some anti-gay local ministers. But we have a long list of gay-affirming ministers. How many times do the haters want to make us prove it?

WJLA and the Blade report on the story.

August 08, 2013

Rustin to receive posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Obama today announced the list of this year's recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Among the sixteen is the late civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, who among other things was the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, whose 50th anniversary will be observed later this month.

The announcement says the following about Rustin:

Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.

This year's recipients also include the late former astronaut Sally Ride.

(Hat tip: Bob Witeck)

50 years ago today: Kameny testifies for Mattachine Society at Dowdy hearings

Charles Francis writes in HuffPo about the Dowdy hearings which were held 50 years ago today, and about their modern relevance. Rep. Dowdy was pushing a bill of attainder to revoke the nonprofit status of the Mattachine Society of Washington. Mattachine co-founder Frank Kameny's forceful testimony at the hearing was a landmark of gay rights advocacy.

Thanks to Charles for reminding us of this history anniversary.

August 05, 2013

Hand wringers and tit wringers


There has been much hand-wringing in the past several hours over the sale of The Washington Post for $250 million to Amazon's Jeff Bezos. There is little reason for such fretting other than silly romanticism regarding the history of newspaper ownership in this country. News is a business, and a fast-changing one. There are different sorts of owners, some braver and smarter and more committed to the enterprise than others. You cannot tell in advance who will thrive and who won't. With Mr. Bezos we'll just have to wait and see; but he was pitch perfect in his message to Post employees:

"I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost. While I hope no one ever threatens to put one of my body parts through a wringer, if they do, thanks to Mrs. Graham’s example, I’ll be ready."

For those whose knowledge of the Watergate scandal of four decades ago is spotty, Bezos refers to the notorious threat by Richard Nixon's campaign manager and former attorney general, John Mitchell, against then Post publisher Katherine Graham via reporter Carl Bernstein, warning of the consequences if the paper did not stop its reporting on Nixon's crimes:

"All that crap you're putting in the paper, it's all been denied. Katie Graham's going to get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's published. Good Christ, that's the most sickening thing I ever heard."

After the Post emerged from the Watergate scandal with its reporting vindicated and its reputation enhanced, Bernstein and Bob Woodward presented Mrs. Graham with an antique laundry wringer to thank her for standing up to the powerful in defense of her paper's mission. For Bezos to invoke the glory days of the paper he has purchased may turn out to have been merely a nice gesture. Time will tell. On the other hand, he just might mean it, which would be a very fine thing.

Update: BTW, Bezos gave $2.5 million to the successful fight for marriage equality in Washington state. That earns him some good will from me. He is a libertarian. He has given money to both Democrats and Republicans, but mostly to Democrats like Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

July 26, 2013

Library of Congress acquires archives of activist Lilli Vincenz

(Lilli Vincenz and partner Nancy Davis. Photo by Linda Davidson, The Washington Post)

Monica Hesse wrote in WaPo on July 25:

In one corner of the climate-controlled manuscript division, on a series of otherwise empty shelves, sits Lilli Vincenz’s unprocessed collection. It’s new. It just got here — the library announcement of the acquisition is scheduled to go out today....

In 1968, Vincenz made a movie. A short documentary, called "The Second Largest Minority," about a Philadelphia picket. It is seven minutes long and black and white. In the footage, men and women wearing starchy business attire pace in a silent circle holding signs that say, "Homosexuals Are Citizens Also." Two years later, she made another film. This one is 111 / 2 minutes long. It documents the sun-kissed revelers of New York’s first gay pride parade, grooving out on the street and chanting "Gay and proud, gay and proud, gay and proud."

AP reports as well.

The acquisition of the Vincenz collection for the Library of Congress was a project of the new Mattachine Society of Washington, whose mission is the rescue of LGBT history. The original MSW was allowed to lapse in 2004 by Frank Kameny, who died in 2011.

July 25, 2013

Annie Kaylor dies at 85


Annie Kaylor, namesake of Annie's Paramount Steakhouse on 17th Street NW, died on July 24 at age 85. Metro Weekly reports:

To allow patrons and friends to pay their respects and honor Kaylor's long life and the mark she has left on this neighborhood that is home to so much of the city's LGBT history – as underscored by Frank Kameny Way, the specially named stretch of 17th Street on which Annie's sits – DeGuzman says the restaurant will hold a memorial event at the restaurant Tuesday, Aug. 20, what would have been Kaylor's 86th birthday, from 6 to 10 p.m., as a celebration of Kaylor's life.

The Blade also reports.

Annie was working behind the bar when I first went into Annie's (at its previous location down the street) in 1979. She helped set the tone for the restaurant's friendly, welcoming atmosphere that made it a gathering place for the gay community. I last saw her there a few months ago, having lunch with a friend in a booth by the bar. As always she had a warm greeting. May she rest in peace.

(Photo by Todd Franson, Metro Weekly)

July 18, 2013

Mandela is 95 today


The face of great vision matched with great courage.

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

- Nelson Mandela, Rivonia trial, April 20, 1964

His colleagues begged him not to stand in the dock and dare his oppressors to kill him. But he knew the power of those words. He says that after he spoke them, the courtroom was silent except for sobs from the balcony. For 27 years the Apartheid government jailed him, but they dared not let him die. When he got pneumonia, they took him by boat from Robben Island to Cape Town, where his nurses fussed over him so much that his guard became cross and ordered them to leave. He said to the guard, "Are you jealous of an old man?" The guard was shamed into relenting. Mandela launched secret negotiations with his enemies from a prison cell. Then, when he gained power, he forgave them for his country's sake. That is power.

Happy birthday, Madiba.

July 15, 2013

Trayvon Martin and the struggle for justice

Sent today to GLAA's listserve:

Greetings from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
http://www.glaaforum.org (blog)


The peaceful, multiracial crowds that protested the verdict in the killing of Trayvon Martin offer a hopeful sign that some Americans are heeding the better angels of their nature. But the message the verdict sends to our children—that there are two standards of justice in this country—is poisonous and reminds all of us who work for equality that we must rededicate ourselves to the difficult work of coalition building.

George Zimmerman is but the latest in a long line of people, many of them real cops, who have killed unarmed black men and boys. See this item from The Root:

Profiling is a real and terrifying reality for many Americans—as I certainly don't need to tell our transgender sisters. It will not end without a challenge or without our cooperation.

My own commentary, "Seeing Trayvon," is now online at Metro Weekly:

Our society's discussion of the issues highlighted by this case must go beyond consideration of further indictments or lawsuits against Mr. Zimmerman (analysis of which I will leave to others). We must ask how meaningful or secure our legal rights can be amid the legal sanctioning of vigilante justice.

Instead of Trayvon, the innocent victim of this unpunished crime could have been one of the students I advise, or my own fiancé. As long as prejudice and privilege cause some people to be treated as automatic suspects who can be killed with impunity, justice is a mirage. An increasingly unhinged gun culture is put in service of social division to perpetuate minority rule. The same right wing that demonizes LGBT people also devalues and disenfranchises black people, Muslims, and immigrants, and works relentlessly to control women's wombs.

Continue reading "Trayvon Martin and the struggle for justice" »

July 07, 2013

Bruni: The Church’s Errant Shepherds

Frank Bruni at NYT discusses the release last week of thousands of pages of records on the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and in particular the role of its former archbishop, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Bruni makes the central point regarding the Roman Catholic Church:

[O]ver the last few decades we’ve watched an organization that claims a special moral authority in the world pursue many of the same legal and public-relations strategies — shuttling around money, looking for loopholes, tarring accusers, massaging the truth — that are employed by organizations devoted to nothing more than the bottom line.

Exactly. It is not simply about a long list of individual abuses. It is about the coverup and facilitation of those crimes at the highest levels of the Church. It is about the attitude and expectation of non-accountability to civil authorities for those crimes. It is about the belief that churchmen should be above the law. It is about the corruption of privilege and authority. These men (and they are men, whose disrespect for and harassment of women's religious is an outrage) continue to issue pronouncements seeking to obliterate the wall of separation between church and state and to impose on the rest of us their opposition to women's reproductive freedom and gay people's right to equal protection of the law -- despite the churchmen's utter moral bankruptcy. They have shown themselves highly and aggressively resistant to learning any lessons. And so the Church's destruction from within continues.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

July 04, 2013

Desmond Tutu on Truth and Reconciliation

The former Archbishop of Cape Town describes how his country found its way out of a stalemate. This is several years old, but bears watching.

Bombs bursting in air

The outrage of America's involvement in the Vietnam War screams from Jimi Hendrix's electric guitar in this virtuosic, unforgettable rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, performed live at Woodstock in 1969. Is it irreverent? You fucking bet. If you cannot deal with that, then your love of country is a hollow farce. Patriotism must be more than a series of self-congratulatory gestures, otherwise it becomes corruption, like Dorian Gray's portrait. The beautiful and talented young Mr. Hendrix, who would not live long, showed a more profound love of country in his musical protest than anyone who has ever been in the employ of Fox News.

July 02, 2013

Next on the Olympic torch route, the Trail of Tears


Tulsa is using the Trail of Tears to market its 2024 Olympics bid. This is shameful, but no more so than the fact that the man who signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 is honored on our $20 bill.

(Photo of President Andrew Jackson)

June 25, 2013

LBJ on Voting Rights Act, 1965

A great moment from 48 years ago, dishonored today by the Supreme Court of the United States.

June 21, 2013

Paula Deen's apology: cheese and crackers

June 19, 2013

Fruitvale Station portrays 2009 murder by BART police officer

Due for a July release, director Ryan Coogler's drama Fruitvale Station, portrays a real event. The film, produced by Oscar-winning Forest Whitaker, won the Prize of the Future at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the early hours of New Year's Day 2009, unarmed 22-year-old Oscar Grant was shot in the back on the platform of Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle was subsequently convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months of a two-year minimum sentence. He said he had accidentally pulled his gun instead of his taser gun.

The disturbing court-released compilation of video from the actual shooting, taken by witnesses with their cell phone cameras, is below. One thing about such incidents that adds insult to outrage is the increasing illegal habit by police of confiscating cell phones from witnesses. If you are doing no wrong, why the need to harass bystanders and destroy evidence?

June 17, 2013

Make the switch

June is always the gayest month because of the many LGBT pride celebrations around the country.  The possible Supreme Court decision on DOMA and Prop 8 have magnified that this year.  Adweek has a collection of 16 advertisements One Million Moms would strenuously object to.  And there is an article on how advertising to gay people has changed in the last century.


June 10, 2013

Get happy

This great TV moment came fifty years ago on The Judy Garland Show. The two performers were 21 and 41 years old, respectively. Streisand remembers:

She was holding my hand and I thought, "Gee, she seems nervous." At that time, I wasn't nervous. I was still very young, I think, about to do Funny Girl, and now, when I think back on it, I think, "Oh, my God, I know exactly what she's feeling." Or, you know, the fears. It's like, as you get older and people are kind of looking for you to fail more, I think—not people, not the audience—but, you know, critics or producers or whatever. And I just felt her. I felt her anxiety.... Part of me is much more relaxed than I've ever been, less frightened, less anxious. On the other hand, it's a coming-of-age-thing, and she was much younger than I am, but there are things with careers.... I just understand the anxiety even though in a sense I'm calmer. It's a dichotomy. It's hard to explain.... You wonder, "Well, do I give it up? Do I retire? Or do I get more in before my time is up?"

(Hat tip: Steven Publicover)

June 06, 2013

June 11 - GLAA Meeting


Happy LGBT Pride! It's been a busy year for LGBT advocacy in D.C., and below is a list of highlights.

GLAA's next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 11 at 7:00 pm in Room 104 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. (Closest Metro stations: Metro Center, Federal Triangle.) Click here for the meeting agenda. Please bring your concerns and issues you want us to address, and your ideas and suggestions for our next efforts. I am going to propose that we change from the quarterly meeting schedule that we implemented earlier this year to a monthly meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. (I expect, however, that we will take the months of July and August off.)

Three bills that GLAA called for in our Agenda: 2012 policy brief are currently before the D.C. Council:

  1. Bill 20-118, the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013, passed the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on June 6 on a voice vote. The bill allows people other than ministers, judges, and court clerks to serve as marriage officiants, thus giving more options to couples planning their weddings. GLAA testified for the bill at a hearing on March 14.
  2. Bill 20-142, the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, passed the Committee on Health on June 5 and Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on June 6 on voice votes. It was jointly assigned to Health and Judiciary. Thanks to Councilmember David Catania for introducing the original bill. With the changes requested by GLAA and our allies, this is model legislation allowing people to obtain new birth certificates, in particular transgender people who have faced considerable ID-related discrimination over their gender identity. Thanks to Andy Bowen of DC Trans Coalition and Lisa Mottet of NGLTF (who has recently moved to the National Center for Transgender Equality) for their leadership on this bill. GLAA testified for the bill at a joint hearing by the Health and Judiciary committees on June 16.
  3. Bill 20-32, the Surrogacy Parenting Agreement Act of 2013. We will testify at a hearing scheduled for June 20. This bill legalizes and regulated parenting surrogacy agreements. At present such arrangements are against the law in the District, which causes hardship on many LGBT families. Thanks to Councilmember David Catania for introducing the original bill. A redraft is underway by committee director Anne Phelps in consultation with LGBT family law experts Nancy Polikoff and Michele Zavos. Here's a link to GLAA's discussion of the issue in Agenda: 2012.

Continue reading "June 11 - GLAA Meeting" »

June 05, 2013

Oral history on winning marriage equality in DC

This 52-minute video on how we won marriage equality in Washington, D.C., was made by students at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School on Capitol Hill in March, 2013. Thanks to them and teacher Ayo Magwood. There are many more videos by a variety of advocates in various fields, and I will post some of them in the days ahead.

May 25, 2013

Birmingham girls murdered by KKK in 1963 to receive Congressional Gold Medal


NPR reports:

They were just little girls when they were killed in 1963, in what came to be known as the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. And now Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley have been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, nearly 50 years after the attack in Birmingham, Ala.

President Obama signed the legislation Friday to award the girls — all of them 14, except for McNair, who was 11 — with the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a civilian.

The girls' deaths, from dynamite hidden under a bathroom by white supremacists, helped propel the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress. They were eulogized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who famously asked, "What murdered these little girls?" — a sentiment echoed in director Spike Lee's film about the incident, 4 Little Girls.

This is beautiful news. The murdered girls would now be in their 60s. This story is as vivid a lesson in man's capacity for hatred and cruelty as I can imagine. As it was reported and retold, it seared into many Americans' minds the truth about the terrorism under which millions of African Americans lived for so long. This holiday weekend honors those who died in America's wars; but Addie Mae, Carole, Cynthia, and Denise died for our country too. Here is to their memory.


May 21, 2013

Obama will award posthumous Medal of Freedom to astronaut Sally Ride

AP reports.

May 21, 2013

Today would have been Frank Kameny's 88th birthday.  This clip is from an interview he gave for the documentary The Lavender Scare.

May 13, 2013

We're gonna make it after all


(Hat tip: Jonathan Capehart)

Bittersweet victory

Half a lifetime ago, I was on a flight back to DC from the GALA Choruses festival in Minneapolis when I read Justice Harry Blackmun's stirring dissent in Bowers v Hardwick. 17 years later, Bowers was overturned and we were no longer habitual criminals. Ten years further on, Minnesota becomes the 12th marriage equality state. How incredibly fast. Yet so many did not live to see it. The more victories we rack up, the more I think of vanished friends. Tonight I will raise a glass to them.

Our friend Joe Cantor especially raises a glass to our late friend Steve Endean, the founder of the Human Rights Campaign who's been gone twenty years now, whose home state did him proud today.

May 12, 2013

Library of Congress to display Walt Whitman's haversack

WaPo reports.

May 04, 2013

Glenn Burke: the male major-leaguer who came out before Jason Collins

Glenn burke banner

Allen Barra writes in The Atlantic:

This week's coming out by NBA player Jason Collins is momentous, but the Jackie Robinson of gay rights was Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's from 1976 to 1979. He tried to change sports culture three decades ago—but back then, unlike now, sports culture wasn't ready for a change.

Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn't write that in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused. In a bit of irony that would seem farcical if it wasn't so tragic, one of the Dodgers who tried to talk Burke into getting "married," was his manager, Tommy Lasorda, whose son Tom Jr. died from AIDS complications in 1991. To this day, Lasorda Sr. refuses to acknowledge his son's homosexuality.

(Photo: AP/LM)

May 01, 2013

Obama at NAS on the science that helped win the Civil War

"Certainly I would not be here" without the scientific contributions of the National Academy of Sciences to the Union in the Civil War, the President quipped in remarks celebrating the organization's 150th anniversary. (Click on link for video.)

April 29, 2013

The Lavender Scare

GayPolitics.com has an interview with the producer and director of a documentary due to be released this summer on the purge of gay men and women fired from the federaly government in the 1950's and beyond.  It was 60 years ago today that Executive Order 10450 was signed by President Dwight Eisenhower  authorizing the firing of all gay government employees.

The renewed effort to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act launched last week came days before the 60th anniversary of a defining moment in LGBT history, when thousands of employees and contractors were purged from the federal government because they were gay or lesbian.

On April 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an executive order calling for the removal of homosexuals from all federal agencies. Gay and lesbian government workers were immediately fired or resigned out of fear of being publicly outed.  Even LGBT people working in the private sector whose jobs required them to have a federal security clearance were also fired or resigned.

April 26, 2013

Speech of the night from GLAA reception: Jason A. Terry


Congrats again to all five honorees from GLAA's anniversary reception on April 25. For me, the highlight of the evening was this inspiring speech by the remarkable Jason Terry of the DC Trans Coalition.

25 APRIL 2013

Thank you to GLAA, and especially to Rick, Charles, Kevin, Gary, and Alison, for this distinct – and truly undeserved – honor. Thanks also to those who have shaped me, guided me, and inspired me all through life: the fierce and fearsome Appalachian women who raised me; my three grandfathers who taught me patience and calm; the teachers, choir directors, and old school activists who lit my path, taught me discipline, and gave me hope; and to my beloved and ever-growing community of rabble rousers here in DC who make this city more livable, and bring us closer to peace. Chief among those, I have to thank Ruby Corado for teaching me everything I know. And, of course, I must thank my partner Elijah Edelman, who is with me not just in life, but in an ongoing journey towards justice, and who, without his unending support, absolutely incredible intellect, and remarkable strength, I would be less than half the activist I am.

Continue reading "Speech of the night from GLAA reception: Jason A. Terry" »

Thanks for last night....

Thanks to everyone who made GLAA's 42nd anniversary reception a success on Thursday - from the fabulous community organizers and change agents we honored to our friends in high places to public-spirited business leaders and donors at every level who support our advocacy.

Beyond the champagne and hors d'oeuvres, the gathering was a reminder of the cooperation it takes to create change. We even had a taste of politicians rewriting history, in accidental tribute to the GWB presidential library opening. (We can blame the cocktails.) "Thanks for holding on," one honoree said to me. And that's the key thing: holding on. It hasn't been easy, and we're not done, but look how far we've come. Washington takes a lot of knocks, but we are blessed to live in this city.

Later I'll post the speeches and presentations on GLAA's main website, and perhaps post a few highlights here (though it's a lovely day and I'm heading to the park for some sunshine and fresh air); but for the moment I want to thank everyone for helping us celebrate. As Paul Kuntzler said in the Founder's Toast, "Much has been done. Much remains to be done. Here's to the cause."

April 14, 2013

Thatcher's anti-gay speech, 1987

This clip from 1987 shows then-PM Margaret Thatcher speaking against gay rights, because The Children! The following year, Parliament passed the notorious anti-gay Section 28. As Maggie gets the grand send-off, this is worth remembering.