492 posts categorized "History"

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.

December 05, 2013

Obama: Nelson Mandela "belongs to the ages"

President Obama's remarks on the death of Nelson Mandela.

Addendum: LGBT leaders remember Mandela's contributions to social justice, including South Africa becoming the first nation in the world whose constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Nelson Mandela is dead at 95

(Mandela leaving Victor Verster Prison, 1990. Photo by Alexander Joe, AFP/Getty Images)

NYT reports on the passing of the last great figure of the 20th Century.

"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, daring the Apartheid regime to kill him, Rivonia treason trial, April 20, 1964

Rest in peace, Madiba.

December 04, 2013

ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row

The Guardian reports:

An influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses is seeking to avert a looming funding crisis by appealing to major donors that have abandoned it over the past two years following criticism of its policy on gun laws.

The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes and promotes legislation at state level across the US, has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the "Prodigal Son Project".

Karma Zabich strikes again!

In related news, Right Wing Watch reports:

Throughout the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- now infamous for its work on behalf of “stand your ground” laws and restrictions on voting rights -- was instrumental in pushing anti-gay policies throughout the country, according to documents recently uncovered by People For the American Way and the Center For Media and Democracy.

Well ain't that a shocker.

November 25, 2013

Katy Perry and cultural appropriation


You may have heard about Katy Perry's impersonation of a Geisha at the American Music Awards. Ravi Chandra, M.D. writes at Psychology Today that Perry's performance was racist. The term "yellowface" comes up.

Setting aside Ms. Perry for a moment: If all cultural appropriation is racist, am I allowed to sing (or even enjoy) jazz or R&B? Such appropriation runs through all of human history. That doesn't make it okay, necessarily, but it is universal, flowering wherever different cultures encounter one another. Words are not just fossil poetry, as Emerson said; they are fossils of conquest and cultural encounters.

So our cultural policing needs to be more nuanced. If Perry's performance was exploitive and patronizing, that should be the point. If (say) your beautiful imported shirt from Mali or Japan was made in a sweatshop by someone who earned at most one percent if what you paid for it, that exploitation (and trade policies that protect it) is the issue. So the question is, how do we mix greater respect and equity into the inevitable cultural borrowing and its attendant commerce?

Continue reading "Katy Perry and cultural appropriation" »

November 22, 2013

Funeral march, 1963

Fifty years ago, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was preparing to do its regular Friday afternoon concert, starting with a work by Rimsky-Korsakov. But conductor Erich Leinsdorf came out and announced the terrible news (you can hear the audience gasp). Instead of the Rimsky-Korsakov they performed the funeral march from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, the sheet music for which had been distributed to the musicians moments before onstage.

Haunting. I appreciated hearing that musical performance, in contrast to all the rehashing of the events of that awful day and conspiracy theories about it. The Beethoven wordlessly conveys grief and respect, far better as a response in my view than all the yammering and speculating.

November 21, 2013

Video: Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony

The video of the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House on November 20, 2013.

November 18, 2013

Happy 10th anniversary, Goodridge!

(Mary Bonauto escorted by police on May 17, 2004, the first day same-sex couples could marry in Massachusetts. Susan R. Symonds / Infinity Portrait Design / Via infinityportraitdesign.com)

Today is the tenth anniversary of the landmark decision by the Masschusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, which established marriage equality in that state. Mary Bonauto of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders had argued for plaintiffs when the court heard the case the previous March. On this date a decade ago, in a 50-page ruling, the court ruled 4-3 for equality, the first high court of any state to do so.

Chris Geidner interviews Bonauto at BuzzFeed. Lisa Keen discusses the pivotal moment that Goodridge represented.

November 15, 2013

Nuclear tests, 1945-1998

Memolition writes:

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project’s “Trinity” test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea’s two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).

Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing”the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.” It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.

October 27, 2013

Pastor Morris Shearin celebrates 25 years as pastor of Israel Baptist


I spent five hours today in Israel Baptist Church in northeast Washington helping to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the pastorship there of Rev. Morris L. Shearin, Sr. This ally and friend is a member of the national board of NAACP, which voted 62-2 in May of 2012 to support civil marriage equality.

Rev. Shearin is a humble and decent man, but he was not as comfortable on LGBT matters twenty years ago as president of the DC chapter of NAACP when he rejected a donation from the DC Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gay Men. But a few years later he empowered the chapter's political director, Mark Thompson, to create a task force to push for what became the DC Office of Police Complaints, and that involved reaching out to the ACLU, National Black Police Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. At the time, it was easier for me and GLAA to respond to Mark's bridge-building effort, since our friends at DC Coalition had so recently felt burned.

Over the years, trust and respect grew between Rev. Shearin and me. We had our friendship with Mark in common, as we followed Mark's career at Sirius/XM Radio. We would encounter each other in the church, in Mark's studio, or around town. It wasn't that Rev. Shearin and I got together and argued over gay marriage. But he did not stand in the way of the new generation of ministers and civil rights leaders, in whom he took pride. I believe that over time our simple perseverance together in good faith, along with countless similar journeys by others across the country, helped lay the groundwork on which national NAACP President Ben Jealous walked to victory in that boardroom last year.

Rev. Thompson, a former associate minister at Israel Baptist who now lives in Harlem, came down to Washington for the worship service Sunday morning. His tribute to Rev. Shearin included a recording from Mark's Sirius/XM radio broadcast of the moment at the 2008 Democratic National Convention when Barack Obama was nominated by acclamation while Rev. Shearin was with Mark in the convention hall and they gave emotional voice to the historic moment.

After the 3 1/2 hour service today, featuring much music and impassioned sermonizing, Mark and I talked about the film 12 Years a Slave (which we both saw in recent days) and what a magnificent achievement it is, and I marveled that Mark's 11-year-old son Menra had sat through its unflinching portrayal of the brutality of slavery with him. Mark recalled that he himself was Menra's age when he watched Roots. Then he had to catch a train back to NYC, while I joined a few hundred people for a repast in the fellowship hall.

The people of that church have always welcomed me. Who would have thought twenty years ago, after Rev. Shearin rejected that donation by the DC Coalition, that I would spend a good portion of this day there helping honor him? What a journey we have traveled. And after such a journey together, how could I not have been there today in my Sunday best? As I left the church at almost 4 pm to walk back to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro in the bright autumn afternoon, I thought how blessed I am to live in this town that so seldom stops to give itself credit. So congrats on 25 years to my friend Pastor Morris Shearin and the good people of Israel Baptist.

October 24, 2013

Mock trial convicts three late senators for role in 1954 suicide of Sen. Lester Hunt

Al_Simpson_at_mock_trial Trevor_Potter_as_prosecutor
Mindy_Daniels_as_defense_atty_for_McCarthy Rick_Rosendall_as_Roy_Blick

Here are photos taken by Band of Thebes blogger Stephen Bottum at the October 23 mock trial of the late U.S. Senators Joe McCarthy (R-WI), Styles Bridges (R-NH), and Herman Welker (R-ID) for driving Senator Lester Hunt (D-WY) to suicide in 1954. Shown above are former senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), who offered preliminary remarks; Trevor Potter, who played the prosecutor; former GLAA president Mindy Daniels, who played the defense attorney; and I (Rick Rosendall), who played Lt. Roy Blick of the Metropolitan Police Department vice squad, which had arrested Sen. Hunt's son, Lester Jr., for soliciting a plainclothes male officer in Lafayette Square in June 1953.

The jury convicted McCarthy, Bridges, and Welker of violating 18 U.S.C. 372, which makes it a crime for “two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States to leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties."

Continue reading "Mock trial convicts three late senators for role in 1954 suicide of Sen. Lester Hunt" »

October 14, 2013

How That Confederate Flag at the White House Got There

(Photo courtesy AMERICAblog)

TNR, looking at the display of the Confederate Flag at the Palin-Cruz-veteran shutdown protest over the weekend, points to an essay by Sam Tanenhaus from February on the 19th century Southern roots of the 20th century GOP:

The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun's ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.

This is the politics of nullification, the doctrine, nearly as old as the republic itself, which holds that the states, singly or in concert, can defy federal actions by declaring them invalid or simply ignoring them. We hear the echoes of nullification in the venting of anti-government passions and also in campaigns to "starve government," curtail voter registration, repeal legislation, delegitimize presidents. There is a strong sectionalist bias in these efforts. They flourish in just the places Kevin Phillips identified as Republican strongholds—Plains, Mountain, but mainly Southern states, where change invites suspicion, especially when it seems invasive, and government is seen as an intrusive force. Yet those same resisters—most glaringly, Tea Partiers—cherish the entitlements and benefits provided by "Big Government." Their objections come when outsider groups ask for consideration, too. Even recent immigrants to this country sense the "hidden hand" of Calhoun's style of dissent, the extended lineage of rearguard politics, with its aggrieved call, heard so often today, "to take back America"—that is, to take America back to the "better" place it used to be. Today's conservatives have fully embraced this tradition, enshrining it as their own "Lost cause," redolent with the moral consolations of noble defeat.

October 13, 2013

Rios cites shoddy book to call Matthew Shepard murder a 'complete fraud'

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch writes:

Not only did American Family Association talk show host Sand Rios plug the ex-gay movement and warn that gay people are trapped in “a powerful web of deceit” during her Values Voter Summit speech yesterday, but she also cited Stephen Jimenez’s shoddy reporting on the Matthew Shepard case to call his murder a “complete fraud.” She lamented that schools host the play The Laramie Project to teach tolerance to students and said that Shepard’s murder was a result of a “drug deal gone bad.”

Luke Brinker at Media Matters debunks the Jiminez book.

October 11, 2013

Two years later, Frank Kameny remains unburied

(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu, The Washington Post)

Happy Coming Out Day. Two years ago, shortly before a GLAA meeting, Officer Justin Markiewicz of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, who was there, got a text message and told me that Frank Kameny was dead. Two years later, Frank's remains remain unburied. The Blade reports.

Here are remarks I prepared for a burial on March 3, 2012, which was canceled due to a legal dispute. I would rather focus on Frank today than on the unnecessary conflict that followed his death.

October 04, 2013

October 23 - Mock trial of Joe McCarthy and two other senators in D.C.

The new Mattachine Society of Washington, which is dedicated to archival research and education, announces a mock trial to be held on October 23, 2013 in D.C.'s historic All Souls Unitarian Church:

Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and two additional former members of the United States Senate will go “on trial” in Washington, DC, for their alleged roles in the 1954 suicide of a colleague. Senators Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin), Styles Bridges (R-New Hampshire) and Herman Welker (R-Idaho), all deceased, are “charged” with a criminal conspiracy to blackmail Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Lester Hunt whose son had been arrested for homosexual “solicitation” in Lafayette Park. Hunt died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his senate office in 1954.

A mock trial of the three senators will be held at All Souls Church Unitarian on October 23rd beginning at 7:30 PM in the church sanctuary. All Souls Church Unitarian is located at 1500 Harvard Street NW @ 16th in Washington, DC.

The “trial” is a readers’ theater presentation based on the biography of Senator Hunt. Dying for the Sins of Joe McCarthy-The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt, was written by Rodger McDaniel and published by WordsWorth Publishing Co. The Mattachine Society of Washington, DC. is sponsoring the event.

Charles Francis, Mattachine Society President said, “What these men did to Lester Hunt was not just sharp-elbowed politics. This is the true story of a long covered-up criminal conspiracy to blackmail a sitting U.S. Senator and take over the leadership of the United States Senate. It is time for this conspiracy to go before a jury — even in a mock trial — in Washington, D.C.”

Retired Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden will preside. Senator Alan K. Simpson (ret.-WY) will address the Court. Trevor Potter, the Washington attorney behind the creation of the Colbert Super PAC will play the part of the prosecuting attorney. Jamie Kirchick will play “Washington Merry-Go-Round” columnist Drew Pearson. Robert Raben, longtime counsel to Congressman Barney Frank, will be the Jury Foreman. Verizon government affairs executive Ed Senn will play Senator McCarthy.

Also in the cast are former GLAA President Mindy Daniels, a local attorney, who will defend the three accused senators; and I (current GLAA President Rick Rosendall) will play Detective Blick, the head of the vice squad who arrested Senator Hunt's son. Attendance is free.

Update: The Blade does a preview of the mock trial.

The moderates who lit the fuse

(Drawing by Edel Rodriguez for The New York Times)

Geoffrey Kabaservice writes in NYT writes that it is Republican moderates in Congress who put the extremists in charge:

As moderates came to believe that nothing was to be gained from cooperating with Democrats, they became more receptive to Mr. Gingrich’s argument that the way to dislodge the entrenched majority was to polarize the electorate while attacking Congress as an irredeemable and illegitimate institution.

And so the moderates propelled Mr. Gingrich into power....

September 30, 2013

Eulogy for Barrett L. Brick, 1954-2013

(Photo of Barrett Brick by Patsy Lynch)

I delivered the following eulogy at a memorial service for former GLAA President Barrett Brick on Sunday, September 29 in Washington, D.C. The room was overflowing with his friends. In addition to Rabbi Laurie Green of Congregation Bet Mishpachah, other speakers were Barrett's husband Antonio Ruffini, Noah Wofsy, and Sterling Washington of the Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs.

Eulogy for Barrett Brick
Richard J. Rosendall
President, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
September 29, 2013

Barrett Brick moved in many circles and had many friends. Over three decades of friendship I encountered many of his affiliations—not just GLAA but the FCC, the ABA's Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Immigration Equality, Lambda Salaam Shalom, Lambda Sci Fi, Reel Affirmations, the Screaming Eagles and DC United, and astronomical adventures like watching lunar eclipses from the Altamont rooftop or viewing a comet from the Manassas Battlefield.

Perhaps his father’s early death made him mindful that time is short. He was incredibly productive as an activist. His efforts as executive director of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations helped the International Lesbian and Gay Association in its quest for consultative status at the United Nations. He pressed, with Michael Petrelis and Margaret Cantrell of ACT UP, for gay inclusion in the State Department's annual country human rights reports. He pressed, with Craig Howell of GLAA, for gay inclusion in the Holocaust Memorial Museum. He intervened with President Carlos Menem of Argentina on behalf of a gay rights group there. He was an early voice for inclusion of the faith community in LGBT movement organizing, which became key to our strategy for winning marriage equality in D.C. With Craig, Bob Summersgill, and me, he pressed the D.C. Office of Human Rights to get rid of the case backlog and put up educational posters around town.

In all of this, he was guided by Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?" He was a graceful and perceptive writer. He had a gift for making connections that I could only marvel at. As an adviser and collaborator, he was beyond price.

Continue reading "Eulogy for Barrett L. Brick, 1954-2013" »

September 15, 2013

Four little girls, 50 years later

Doing justice to the memory of the four little girls murdered at Sunday school in Birmingham 50 years ago today (Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair) requires more than ceremonies like the one above, however fitting and overdue, in which they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. We should consider their legacy and what the cause of justice still demands of us today. A good start is to read this clear-eyed assessment by Eddie S. Glaude and Imani Perry of how far we haven't come: "Not a triumphalist story." "President Obama's claim of excuse-making for criminality in the black community threatens to dismiss what is an all-too-plain story of under-protection and over-punishment faced by African Americans and Latinos in the U.S."

September 11, 2013

Speak, Memory


Here's remembering not just the victims and first responders on that awful day twelve years ago, but the freedoms that were lost, and the blood and treasure that were subsequently spent, when our patriotism was misused by unscrupulous people who exploited the attack to divide the country for a power grab and partisan gain. Their punditry is hollow and hypocritical. May a lifetime of showers never wash away the shame that properly clings to them for their acts.

August 31, 2013

An encounter with gay football legend Dave Kopay

Jeremie Adkins has a lovely piece in The Advocate about meeting gay former NFL player Dave Kopay. I have met Kopay; he is a gracious and charming man whose story is a reminder of the long silence and intolerance and invisibility, and the long struggle, that came before the breakthrough we have started to see for gay people in professional sports.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

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.