514 posts categorized "History"

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

Stonewall inn nps 2
(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


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


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

(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

(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.

May 17, 2014

Official 9/11 Memorial Museum Tribute In Time-Lapse 2004-2014

Brian Cury, CEO & Founder of EarthCam, writes of this video:

It's been a heroic undertaking to rebuild downtown New York City after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Within days of this national tragedy, I personally installed a camera to webcast the rescue and recovery for the families, and the world, to see the brave determination of first responders. As the recovery effort continued, we installed more cameras to document the rebuilding and construction of the site. This commemorative time-lapse honors the victims of 9/11 and is dedicated to their families and friends, with special gratitude to the first responders and the steadfast construction teams.

May 15, 2014

New Mattachine Society of D.C. uncovers LGBT history

(Photo courtesy of Charles Francis)

Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports:

When gay rights pioneers Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. in 1961 as the first gay advocacy organization in the nation’s capital, conditions were so hostile toward gay people that Kameny initially was the only one to use his real name on the group’s membership list.

More than 50 years later, gay public affairs consultant Charles Francis and Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall reinstated the lapsed corporate charter for the Mattachine Society of Washington shortly after Kameny’s death in October 2011.

Francis and Rosendall along with a new board of directors have since reshaped the group’s mission to conduct archival research to uncover long forgotten government documents that show in chilling detail how federal policies were put into place to ban gays from the federal workforce.

Congrats to Charles and thanks to the Blade for the story. I am proud to be associated with this important project. Mattachine is having an event on May 21:


Cordially invites you to a dynamic evening & reception with The 10th Archivist of the United States


Historian & Author of “The Lavender Scare”


Wednesday, May 21, 2014 5:00 – 7:30 p.m.

THE MCDERMOTT BUILDING Capitol Room – Ninth Floor 500 North Capitol Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001

Kindly RSVP to: MattachineSocietyDC at gmail dot com

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. conducts original archival research and educational programs that focus on gay and lesbian, political and policy history.

May 11, 2014

Indelible moment


There are certain public events that become indelible in our memory. One such is the moment when Pee Wee Reese stopped a baseball game during a road trip, walked over to his Dodgers teammate Jackie Robinson, and put his arm around his shoulder in silent rebuke to the racist fans who were screaming epithets at the brave man who broke the color line in baseball.

The moment captured in the above screen shot from ESPN, from 7 pm EDT on Saturday, May 10, 2014, is such a moment for me. As the headline writer at HuffPost (see below) perceived, it was a defining cultural moment. Collective expectations will change, including for sexual minority children and youth who will see themselves validated and affirmed by this natural expression of celebration and release.

Of course we will move on from this moment; but it will always remain as a milestone of our journey toward freedom and equality. Maybe it is easy to take for granted now, at least for those of us in liberal urban enclaves or college towns; but, as Sidney Poitier said as he accepted the Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field from Anne Bancroft, "It is a long journey to this moment."

In our lives, the moment flies past us and is gone. In our memories, it is a bright flash that illuminates all around it, and sustains us in moments of setback and frustration and despair. Do not be intimidated or embarrassed or ashamed by the belittling and dismissive comments of those who find it necessary to treat this moment as nothing, who suggest that we are silly drama queens for making a big deal of it. It damn well is a big thing. Is it everything? Of course not. That moment between Reese and Robinson, or the one between Bancroft and Poitier, was a milestone, not the end of the journey. We need our milestones.

More pics of Sam and his boyfriend here.


May 10, 2014

Michael Sam gets the call

Joy and history have never been more closely linked than in this moment, when Michael Sam got the call from the St. Louis Rams that he is in the NFL.

The video of the announcement is here.

May 07, 2014

Bachmann opposes National Women's Museum

May 06, 2014

Tobias Wolff nails Forcing the Spring

In case you missed it: One of the smartest analyses I've seen on NYT reporter Jo Becker's book on the Prop 8 case is this Tobias Wolff piece in The New Republic. A taste:

Or there is the passage in which Becker describes the decision by lawyer Ted Olson to take on the case. Olson proclaims, “I will not just be some hired gun. I would be honored to be the voice for this cause,” only to explain three sentences later that the cost of this not-a-hired-gun honor will be a discounted fee of $2.9 million plus expenses. David Boies, too, agrees to sign on for the “deeply discounted fee” of $250,000 plus expenses. (Public records indicate that the totals ran north of $6 million.) Becker must be lampooning these rich mega-lawyers for their capitalist rendition of pro bono legal representation, and she is not gentle.

May 02, 2014

20 Years of Metro Weekly


Randy Shulman writes in the 20th anniversary issue of Metro Weekly:

It seems just like yesterday.

Running around frantically in my tiny apartment at the corner of 17th and T Streets, scrambling to get the very first issue of Metro Arts & Entertainment Weekly written and to the printer. I don't have clear, detailed memories of it, apart from recalling that pages were laid out in PageMaker on a monochrome IBM computer (floppy disks!), printed out on a cheap black and white laser printer, and then pasted onto templates through the aid of a hot-glue gun. The pages were then bound into a loose-leaf three-ring binder -- "the book," as it came to be known -- which was then raced to the printer by car and handed off, relay style, to the camera department. From there, I always said, "It's in God's hands." God, in this case, being the printing press, which would not break down and create a distribution delay. God forbid.

I remember franticness. Followed by relief. Followed by exhilaration. Followed by a lot of celebratory alcohol. Followed by a hangover. Rinse and repeat.

In the ensuing years the changes came. Many changes -- to the name, to the logo, to the format, to the way we submitted our files to the printer, to the staff -- and through them all we've remained consistent to our mission to create a magazine -- and a website -- that speaks to the LGBT community, locally and beyond, in a literate, interesting and, whenever possible, unique way. A magazine that covers things that are more than just LGBT-oriented, because as LGBT people, we are interested in things beyond our own microcosm.

Follow the above link for the rest. Congrats to Randy and the staff at Metro Weekly on their 20th anniversary. I am proud to be on their masthead as a contributing writer.


Barton: Not Allowing Women To Vote Was Designed 'To Keep The Family Together'


Right Wing Watch reports:

On today's episode of "WallBuilders Live," David Barton explained that women were not given the right to vote when the Constitution was written because the Founding Fathers were trying to protect the institution of the family by giving every "family" a right to vote through the male head of the household.

Responding to a question from a listener who argued that the Founding Fathers denied women the right to vote not out of sexism but rather based on the biblical principle that a house divided against itself cannot stand, Barton said that this interpretation was exactly right because not allowing women to vote was designed "to keep the family together":

Those who think Mr. Jefferson did not entertain the idea of a "wall of separation" should try reading Mr. Jefferson. His January 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists includes this:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

April 25, 2014

Rand Paul and other Republican leaders back away from Bundy

WaPo reports.

Cliven Bundy's "they were better off as slaves" idea, loony as it is, has a very long provenance. The longtime Virginia and Kentucky state songs, for example, evoked nostalgia for antebellum times when slaves were happy on the plantation. Clearly some people still cling to this. As it happens, many plantations have been preserved. Why not offer these nostalgic white folks the experience of what it was like? And I don't mean for a weekend.

Meanwhile, Alan Keyes explains that Bundy is not racist, you are.

April 23, 2014

Geidner: The New Book About The Marriage Equality Movement Gets The Big Things Wrong

(Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed critiques Jo Becker's book on the court fight over Proposition 8, which is being widely criticized. As Chris says, "A 434-page book about a lawsuit that promised to bring marriage equality to all Americans, but only resulted in restoring marriage equality in California, is a tough sell."

Regarding the above photo of the plaintiffs and legal team, my first question was, "Which one of those guys is Tom Cruise?"

April 17, 2014

No, Chad Griffin is not Rosa Parks


NYT reporter Jo Becker's new book, Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, includes this preposterous statement:

This is how a revolution begins. It begins when someone grows tired of standing idly by, waiting for history’s arc to bend toward justice, and instead decides to give it a swift shove. It begins when a black seamstress named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in the segregated South. And in this story, it begins with a handsome, bespectacled thirty-five-year-old political consultant named Chad Griffin, in a spacious suite at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco on election night 2008.

What pretentious, ahistorical rubbish. The marriage equality movement was a reform movement, not a revolution, and did not begin in 2008. A lot of people were working for marriage equality long before then. We were not standing idly by but laying the groundwork in a variety of ways: strategizing, researching, organizing, educating, lobbying, fundraising, litigating, debating, testifying, writing and advocating in cities and states across the country. We were building support among lawyers, legislators, and opinion makers. We were developing talking points and winning people over in countless difficult conversations and sustained efforts over many years in our families and neighborhoods and faith communities. The assertion that Chad Griffin started it is ridiculous and insulting and discredits Becker's entire book. I hope Griffin has the sense and perspective and respect to distance himself from this hyper-inflated nonsense.

Andrew Sullivan, who was advocating for marriage equality two decades before Griffin came along, offers a bracing take-down to Becker's "jaw-dropping distortion."

I remember Evan Wolfson being viciously attacked in the 90s by gay people for his marriage advocacy. I remember the vitriol Sullivan endured back then as well. How lovely it must be for them, after so many years of trenchant advocacy on the front lines and taking the debate to places others didn't dare go (and would have been unprepared to handle), to be treated like fluffers by people who arrived fairly late in the struggle and stood on the shoulders of those who came before.

For D.C.'s part in the struggle, you can look at the timeline that Bob Summersgill and I prepared, at my oral history shot by students at Cesar Chavez Public Charter High Schools, and at my December 2013 article on the lessons from our victory.

(Photo of Chad Griffin by Rex Wockner)

April 10, 2014

Marian Anderson at Lincoln Memorial, 75 years ago

Filmpreservation.org writes:

[I]n early 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution declined music impresario Sol Hurok's request to book Marian Anderson into its Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Her race was evidently the reason. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt then resigned from the DAR, an act that increased public awareness of the controversy. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes arranged for a concert on the Lincoln Memorial steps. On April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson sang before a live audience of seventy-five thousand and a national radio audience of millions more.

Mrs. Roosevelt's immortal resignation letter to the president general of the DAR began, "I am afraid that I have never been a very useful member of the Daughters of the American Revolution...." It was politely devastating. Any course in rhetoric should include it.

April 06, 2014

20 years later, commemorating the Rwandan Genocide

[Above, the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda tells the story of how hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, hid and protected 1,268 Hutu and Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan Genocide. Rusesabagina's story was told by Philip Gourevitch in his book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda.]

20 years ago the horror was already planned, and needed only surface-to-air missiles to set it off. Wiki reports: "On April 6, 1994, an airplane carrying [Rwandan President Juvénal] Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down on its descent into Kigali, killing all on board. Genocidal killings began the following day: soldiers, police and militia quickly executed key Tutsi and moderate Hutu leaders, then erected checkpoints and barricades and used Rwandans' national identity cards to systematically verify their ethnicity and kill Tutsi. These forces recruited or pressured Hutu civilians to arm themselves with machetes, clubs, blunt objects and other weapons to rape, maim and kill their Tutsi neighbors and destroy or steal their property."

The commemoration to be held in Kigali tomorrow, April 7, will not include a representative of France. Al Jazeera reports:

Continue reading "20 years later, commemorating the Rwandan Genocide" »

April 04, 2014

Musings on a grim anniversary


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered 46 years ago today. On the fortieth anniversary, I wrote about the legacy of that awful event for Washington and for the country. Those thoughts still hold today.

Coming Unglued
by Richard J. Rosendall
Metro Weekly
April 10, 2008

Walking along U Street Northwest on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, there is little sign that the neighborhood was on fire forty years ago. Ben's Chili Bowl, one of the few establishments that survived the riots, has been joined in the past decade by a host of new restaurants and upscale apartments. The boom has brought gentrification and its attendant displacement of longstanding residents, though the area remains ethnically diverse.

My father attended nearby Cardozo High School in the 1930s when it was the all-white Central High. Central became Cardozo in 1950 when it was transferred to the Colored School District to relieve overcrowding as the city's white population shrank and the black population grew. I have heard unscrupulous realtors blamed for the "white flight" that took with it development capital in the postwar years, but the prejudice was there to be exploited.

Thoughts of decay and renewal, and the sad King anniversary, bring to mind Langston Hughes' musing on a dream deferred: "Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?" The dream exploded in Los Angeles in 1992 when a jury acquitted four police officers videotaped beating Rodney King. It exploded in San Francisco in 1979 when Dan White, who killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, was convicted only of manslaughter.

Continue reading "Musings on a grim anniversary" »

March 28, 2014

Happy 100th birthday, Ed Muskie!

Senator Angus King (I-Maine) paid tribute on the Senate floor yesterday to the late Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine), whose 100th birthday would have been today.

(Hat tip: Gregory King)

March 16, 2014

Graham: 'Importance of openly gay elected officials'

(Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham has an op-ed in the current issue of the Blade explaining why it's crucial that we keep electing him because he's gay. Or something.

Graham is right that he has not run in the past solely as a gay candidate. That is why I find it peculiar that he is placing such emphasis on the “seat at the table” argument (in this case meaning keeping him in the seat) now that a combination of longevity in office and ethical problems have made him vulnerable. Here he mischaracterizes Mark Lee’s argument in the referenced column, which is something he does a lot. At the Stein Club endorsement forum a few weeks ago, he falsely claimed that GLAA had given him no credit for his long record of service, when in fact we had given him every available record-related point. He also gave the impression that his entire disagreement with GLAA was over ABC reform, a ploy also used by Muriel Bowser at the subsequent Stein mayoral forum. The ploy did not work for either candidate.

Jim does deserve props for his long service. Indeed, GLAA awarded him our hard-to-get championship point for steering to passage the LGBT youth homelessness bill, for which we also gave him a shout-out in our policy brief. But the LGBT community’s seat at the table is about much more than having one of us on the DC Council. It is about hard-earned clout won over decades of smart and sustained advocacy, productive relationships with policy makers, and involvement in our communities all across town. Anti-gay campaigning has been a loser in DC for more than three decades. In race after race here, multiple pro-LGBT candidates are battling for our support, which increasingly hinges on other issues. One such issue in the Ward One race was raised by someone who pointed out that 16 years ago, in his successful first run for the Council, Jim said that incumbent Frank Smith had been in office for 16 years, and that was an awfully long time. Jim is now in his 16th year on the Council. Let him make his best case against his challenger; surely that best case is not that he is gay.

As a voter I care not about who you sleep with, but what you will do on my issues–and Jim disagrees with GLAA on some of our issues. That is his right, but he can hardly blame people for noticing. I note that Brianne Nadeau has a thinner record on LGBT issues, which is reflected in her rating from GLAA being lower than Jim’s. The voters in their wisdom will sort all this out.

March 05, 2014

March 4 in gay history: Mattachine Society of Washington DC Declares Homosexuality Not A Mental Illness: 1965

From Box Turtle Bulletin:

Mattachine Society of Washington DC Declares Homosexuality Not A Mental Illness: 1965. We often think of Stonewall and 1969 as marking the of the more assertive gay rights movement, shoving aside the prior generation’s timidity and accommodation. But as I’ve written before, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you really wanted to point to a pivotal year which truly marked the beginning of the beginning of a self-confident and assertive stance on gay rights, that year would be 1965, not 1969. That year, began with a San Francisco police raid on a New Years’ Day party (see Jan 1). The community’s reaction resulted in the appointment of the first ever police liaison to the gay community and forever changed that city’s politics. Then later that month, The Washington Post, published a five part series which was the first relatively judgment-free, balanced, mostly accurate and sympathetic portrayal of gay people in a major newspaper (see Jan 31).

On March 4, 1965 marked another momentous occasion when Frank Kameny shepherded this resolution through the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.:

“The Mattachine Society of Washington takes the position that in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense, but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity on par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality.”

Continue reading "March 4 in gay history: Mattachine Society of Washington DC Declares Homosexuality Not A Mental Illness: 1965" »

January 28, 2014

We Shall Overcome

It was March 15, 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson spoke to a join session of Congress to call for passage of the Voting Rights Act, just eight days after Bloody Sunday. In that speech he said, "And we shall overcome," echoing the great anthem of the civil rights movement. With Pete Seeger, who popularized that song, having just died at age 94, a fitting tribute would be for President Obama to invoke that phrase tonight from the same place where LBJ spoke it.

What the President could say tonight:

Today we mourn the passing of the great American singer and champion of justice, Pete Seeger. One of the songs with which he is most associated is "We Shall Overcome." Those words rang through this chamber in 1965, when President Johnson called for passage of the Voting Rights Act after peaceful demonstrators were brutally attacked by police in Selma, Alabama. At the head of that peaceful march was a brave young man who nearly died that day, but who survived to become a conscience of our nation. Congressman Lewis, please stand. Thank you, sir. Let us honor that generation, and the cause for which so many gave their lives, by passing voting rights reform. No one who loves this country should seek to win an election by means of voter suppression.

January 20, 2014

"Always fight with love"

He was 26 years old when he launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He set a standard which is hard for anyone to meet. Our nation owes him a debt that we can never repay. Happy birthday, Dr. King.

January 19, 2014

Contrary to Godwin's Law

An eloquent piece by Israeli writer Etgar Keret on the effort there to ban the word "Nazi."

January 17, 2014

Hiroo Onoda, Soldier Who Hid in Jungle for Decades, Dies at 91

From NYT, a remarkable story of perseverance and devotion to duty that bears reading.

January 09, 2014

Study Finds White Americans Believe They Experience More Racism Than African Americans


Political Blind Spot reports.

Sure. Just think of all the black women who cringe in terror when I walk into an elevator. And all the times I was stopped on the highway by cops just for being white. And being the last served in a restaurant despite arriving long before groups that are already eating. And being followed around stores like I'm a criminal. And being seated at the boss's table at the annual banquet because I'm the only white manager in the company and they want to show their commitment to diversity. Oh, wait. None of those things ever happened to me. Never mind.

Or, as my friend Denise put it when she shared this article, "Some white folks are completely clueless." Denise herself is white, and is a veritable font of clues, which is a good thing. Here's to more people getting a clue.

January 07, 2014

Former DefSec Gates criticizes Obama in memoir

WaPo reports.

Ryan Teague Beckwith tweets, "Instead of a memoir, Robert Gates should have just given lots of loud off-the-record interviews on the Acela." Obama never stops being punished for reaching across the aisle. Gates complains about civvies on the White House staff asking skeptical questions of military brass. Clutch the pearls!

Norton moves to end congressional review for D.C. laws

Holmes_nortonDCist reports:

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is once again trying to end the 30-day congressional review of D.C. laws.

The D.C. representative introduced the District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act today, which aims to "eliminate the congressional review period for legislation passed by the D.C. Council." At the moment, the review period is 30 days for civil bills and 60 for criminal. But not just any type of days! Legislative days, which mean the review process can take quite some time. While there's now a handy effective date calculator to figure out when the review period is over, this still puts an unfair burden on D.C.

"The congressional review process for D.C. bills provides no benefit to Congress, but imposes substantial costs (in time and money) on the District," Norton said in a statement. "Indeed, Congress effectively abandoned the congressional review process as a mechanism for overturning D.C. legislation twenty-three years ago, yet it still requires the D.C. Council to use Kafkaesque make-work procedures to comply with the abandoned congressional review process established by the Home Rule Act of 1973."

Thank you, Congresswoman. I wrote on behalf of GLAA about the long history of congressional interference in District affairs, including on LGBT issues, in 1997. You can read that here. Our 2011 article on congressional anti-LGBT discrimination can be read here.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

January 14 - Tom Chorlton memorial service in Charleston

Thomas Patrick Chorlton
February 26, 1946 - January 5, 2014

Our friend Deacon Maccubbin sends the following obituary on our late friend Tom Chorlton, including memorial service details, and encourages us to share with all who knew him:

Thomas Patrick Chorlton, 67, of Folly Beach, South Carolina, a Professor of American History at the College of Charleston, passed away Sunday, January 5, 2014 following an extended illness.

Tom was born February 26, 1946, in Belleville, Illinois. Nine months later, he was adopted by the late Wes and Bette Chorlton, He was a graduate of St. Louis University and earned his master's degree from Webster University. He was a Professor of American History at College of Charleston.

During the past 10 years, Professor Chorlton taught classes in the Political Science Department of the College of Charleston. His subjects included American Government, Contemporary Political Issues, the Politics of the American Revolution, the American Presidency, and LGBT Politics. He inspired countless students to get involved in the political system, constantly reminding them that “Democracy is a Participatory Sport.” He is also the author of “The First American Republic: 1774-1789,” a book John Bicknell, columnist for Roll Call newspaper, said “gives life to long-forgotten figures of American history who deserved to be remembered.”

Continue reading "January 14 - Tom Chorlton memorial service in Charleston" »

January 06, 2014

Activist and author Tom Chorlton dies at 67

(Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports the sad news that our old friend and fellow activist Tom Chorlton died on Sunday:

Tom Chorlton, a longtime advocate of LGBT rights and former D.C. resident who taught political science at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, died Jan. 5 from complications associated with leukemia. He was 67.

Chorlton has been credited with playing a key role in the early 1980s in organizing support for gay rights within the Democratic Party. Among other endeavors, he helped found the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs in 1982 and served as its first executive director from 1982 to 1987.

While living in D.C. from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, Chorlton advocated for LGBT rights on a local and national level. He served as president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club from 1981 to 1982 and ran as a candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council in 1988 under the banner of the D.C. Statehood Party.

Tom's 2012 book on the Continental Congress, The First American Republic 1774-1789: The First Fourteen American Presidents Before Washington, is available for purchase at Amazon. It's a great read. My GLAA colleague Craig Howell and I had the pleasure of attending Tom's reading from the book at the National Archives. Special condolences to Deacon Maccubbin and Jim Bennett, who were with Tom at the end along with other friends. May he rest in peace.

December 31, 2013

Sad anniversary on a celebratory night

This was the night five years ago when Oscar Grant was fatally shot on the Fruitvale Station platform by BART police in Oakland. His story, as told by young film director Ryan Coogler, moved a lot of people this year. Here is to his memory and to the cause of equal protection and justice for everyone.

December 28, 2013

Dench in Philomena: must see

I just came from seeing Judy Dench in Philomena. Do not miss it. Review here. Read about the notorious Magdalene Laundries here. Find Bill Donohue's denial here.

December 24, 2013

Transformative Year

My year-in-review for 2013 was published before the news broke of Her Majesty's Alan Turing pardon; but it was already a jam-packed year for the LGBT community. Here are a few excerpts:

2013 was a momentous year for the LGBT community, with nine states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah) joining the marriage equality ranks; landmark marriage rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court; the Social Security Administration making it easier for transgender people to obtain Social Security cards reflecting their true gender identity; strong moves in sports and the arts; and Presidential Medals of Freedom awarded posthumously to Bayard Rustin and Dr. Sally Ride….

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered historic rulings in the Windsor and Perry cases, overturning the federal denial of recognition to same-sex marriages and restoring marriage equality in California. Edith Windsor, whose irrepressible personality made her the perfect "poster girl" for marriage equality at age 84, was a finalist for Time's Person of the Year….

The cause of marriage equality grew more bipartisan in 2013, when former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman organized a pro-equality amicus brief in the Perry case signed by more than 100 Republican officials; Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) endorsed marriage equality after learning his son was gay; and former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara served as witnesses at the wedding of Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen in Maine.

The year's remarkable string of marriage equality victories ended on an exhilarating note when U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, an Obama appointee, ruled Utah Measure 3 unconstitutional, setting off a rush of same-sex couples to county clerk's offices in the conservative state ahead of an expected stay of the ruling. Shelby deliciously cited Justice Antonin Scalia's bitter dissents in Lawrence and Windsor to bolster the argument in favor of marriage equality.

I also touch on sports, the arts, and the international front. Read the whole thing here.

Alan Turing receives posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth


Alan Mathison Turing, the brilliant mathematician who broke the Nazi naval Enigma code in World War II and pioneered modern computing — but who was hounded to an early grave for being homosexual — has been pardoned by Queen Elizabeth.

This was a long time in coming. Bravo and thanks to all who have worked over the years to tell his story and to bring him some measure of justice — including Andrew Hodges, who wrote Alan Turing: The Enigma in 1983; to Hugh Whitemore, whose 1986 play (and 1996 movie) Breaking the Code starred Derek Jacobi as Turing; and to Patrick Sammon, executive producer of Codebreaker. Winston Churchill said that Turing deserved a peerage for his contribution to defeating Hitler. A royal pardon is well short of that; but it is a graceful act, and a bit of vindication.


December 13, 2013

"We have not seen him"

The Soweto Gospel Choir performs a stirring flashmob version of Johnny Clegg's Asimbonanga ("We have not seen him"), written in the 1980s as a call for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, in the Woolworth's store in the Parkview suburb of Johannesburg. In the season of Advent, a joyous celebration of an avowedly flawed mortal who rose to greatness by persevering and leading his people to freedom.

You can watch a version here in which Mandela himself appears onstage as Clegg performs the song.

December 10, 2013


President Obama today delivered a sweeping, eloquent, and insightful eulogy today in Johannesburg at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. A friend in Johannesburg, after watching the speech, told me that Obama is the best orator he has ever heard. You could tell from the crowd's reaction that they were welcoming a son. South African President Jacob Zuma received a very different reaction: loud boos. Thank you, President Obama, for representing our country so magnificently. (Note: the video skips a couple of times; if I find a better version I will replace it.)

WaPo has the transcript. Here is a portion that includes a reference to the gay rights struggle:

Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa -- Ubuntu -- a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us....

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.