Showing posts with label Gay Rights History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Rights History. Show all posts

May 4, 2016

Pres. Obama to Declare First Gay Rights Monument


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Gay marriage supporters hold a gay rights flag in front of the Supreme Court before a hearing about same-sex marriage in Washington, April 28, 2015. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

President Obama is poised to declare the first-ever national monument recognizing the struggle for gay rights, singling out a sliver of green space and part of the surrounding Greenwich Village neighborhood as the birthplace of America’s modern gay liberation movement.




While most national monuments have highlighted iconic wild landscapes or historic sites from centuries ago, this reflects the country’s diversity of terrain and peoples in a different vein: It would be the first national monument anchored by a dive bar and surrounded by a warren of narrow streets that long has been regarded the historic center of gay cultural life in New York City.

Federal officials, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), will hold a listening session on May 9 to solicit feedback on the proposal. Barring a last-minute complication — city officials are still investigating the history of the land title — Obama is prepared to designate the area part of the National Park Service as soon as next month, which commemorates gay pride.

Protests at the site, which lasted for several days, began in the early morning of June 28, 1969 after police raided the Stonewall Inn, which was frequented by gay men. While patrons of the bar, which is still in operation today in half of its original space, had complied in the past with these crackdowns, that time it sparked a spontaneous riot by bystanders and those who had been detained.

Although national monument designations are partly symbolic, backers of the move said it could bolster the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which led to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. 

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced in May 2014 a study to find landmarks important to LGBT history for inclusion in the national parks program. President Obama is expected to declare the site of the Stonewall riots a national monument.  (US Department of the Interior)

“We must ensure that we never forget the legacy of Stonewall, the history of discrimination against the LGBT community, or the impassioned individuals who have fought to overcome it,” Nadler, who has co-authored legislation that would make it a national park, said in a statement. “The LGBT civil rights movement launched at Stonewall is woven into American history, and it is time our National Park system reflected that reality.”

The president has described Stonewall as a critical event along the nation’s path to become “a more perfect union,” both in his second inaugural speech and when celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, Ala. 

Interior Department spokeswoman Amanda Degroff said Obama “has made clear that he’s committed to ensuring our national parks, monuments and public lands help Americans better understand the places and stories that make this nation great” — though at the moment the administration has no official announcement on the designation.

Noting that Jewell and Jarvis are attending next week’s public meeting at the invitation of Nadler and federal, state and local officials, Degroff added, “Insights from meetings like this one play an important role in identifying the best means to protect and manage significant sites like Christopher Park, whether a designation is established by Congress or through executive authority.”

Nadler and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have asked the president to protect the site under the 1906 Antiquities Act. In a sign of how much has changed since 1969, the three officials who represent the area — City Council member Corey Johnson, state assembly member Deborah Glick and state senator Brad Hoylman — are all openly gay and endorse the idea of making it a monument, as does the local community advisory board.

The decision to recognize a critical moment in the fight for gay rights, at a time when politicians in several states are moving to strip away legal protections for transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual residents, enjoys considerable support within the administration. But the path to declaring the monument has been a complicated one, largely because the site involves private property and a dense urban area where land-use planning is never simple.

But late last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation, backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and several state lawmakers, that would allow the city to transfer ownership of Christopher Park to the federal government should it become designated as a monument. That patch of green, spanning less than two-tenths of an acre, lies opposite the Stonewall Inn.
In the same way Chicago’s Pullman National Monument — which Obama declared last year to highlight the struggle for labor and civil rights in the late 1880s — encompasses a federally owned former railroad-car factory and part of the surrounding neighborhood, the proposed monument would include several streets that served as a battlefield between activists and law enforcement.

“History’s messy,” said David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, whose group has pushed for the designation along with others such as the National Parks Conservation Association and Gill Foundation. “This raised the consciousness of people throughout the country. It said to people, you don’t have to be quiet. You don’t have to stay in the closet.”
The site has become a gathering place following victories in the fight for LGBT equality: Many came there after key court rulings in 2014 and 2015, and Cuomo officiated at a same-sex wedding outside the Stonewall Inn last summer.

 Gill Foundation president and chief executive Courtney Cuff, whose group helped fund a two-year study to identify what LGBT sites might qualify for National Park Service recognition, said a monument designation would mean “interpreters will be talking to visitors about the LGBT community and the contributions of the LGBT movement writ large.”

Hoylman, who lives in the neighborhood with his husband and 5-year-old daughter Silvia, said he has her there and “tried to explain her how important it is to her daddy and her papa.”

“The president has mentioned Stonewall along with Selma and Seneca Falls in his second inaugural. So it’s fitting that he would be the president to bring this forward,” he said. “It’s breathtaking how far we’ve come, in so short a time.”
                                                                       



   

September 7, 2015

This is where the Gay Rights Movement commenced in the USA: on ‘Science Fiction Novels’



It sounds like a dystopian science fiction novel: Writers in crowded basements, operating under pseudonyms and code words to build networks with the like-minded without attracting the ire of a watchful government.
But it’s true – gay and lesbian writers and activists who wanted to connect with others in the LGBT community in the 1940s could only do so with pseudonyms and double entendre. And they were able to do it with the help of another burgeoning movement with roots in Los Angeles – science fiction.
Jim Kepner's "Toward Tomorrow" magazine. Courtesy ONE Archives/USC.
“Everybody in this particular time is using a pseudonym to cover for their gay activities,” says Joseph Hawkins, professor at University of Southern California and director of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC. “So, if they openly go out and do gay activities, they get blacklisted by the American government.”
Deep within the ONE archives, Hawkins made a discovery. Jim Kepner is famous in LGBT history for co-founding the nation’s first gay magazine, as Lisa Ben (whose real name is Edythe Edye) is for founding the first lesbian magazine. But these two LGBT revolutionaries found an unlikely ally in the science fiction community, which not only allowed them to imagine a more equal future, but connect with others under their pseudonyms: Jyke (Kepner) and Tigrina the Devil Doll (Ben).
“I’ve always been completely obsessed with science fiction,” says Hawkins. “And then when I began to realize how much Kepner was and how much Lisa Ben was - they were actually using science fiction publications to figure out what they wanted to do with gay and lesbian magazines.”
Lisa Ben -- an anagram for “lesbian” -- would go on to found the nation’s first lesbian magazine, "Vice Versa," in 1947. Six years later, Jim Kepner would co-found "ONE Magazine," dubbed “the homosexual magazine,” which was in circulation for over a decade. Their revolutionary work would spur the early gay rights movement, as well as win the first Supreme Court cases for LGBT people.
A page from a science fiction fan zine from the 1940s, with Ray Bradbury and Tigrina (Lisa Ben). Courtesy ONE Archives/USC
“Each of them has these particular science fiction covers, so Lisa Ben writing as Tigrina or Kepner writing as Jyke will produce these incredible fan zines.” Hawkins said. Both Kepner and Ben were well-known science fiction writers in Los Angeles, writing in well-known magazines and members of fan clubs, along with Ray Bradbury and L. Ron Hubbard.
“This provides a sort of proving ground where they learn how to organize, how to create networks for publication,” Hawkins says. “If you think about it, Lisa Ben and "Vice Versa," and "ONE Magazine" owe, to some extent, their foundation to that early science fiction publication.”
But Ben and Kepner didn’t just save their activist writing for "Vice Versa" and "ONE." Their science fiction writing was full of their desires for a more equal world.
“It was all over the place,” Hawkins said. “Some of it is clouded, some of it’s not. Kepner and Lisa Ben weren’t just talking about gay rights, they were talking about feminism, racial equality – the thing is science fiction was a place they could do all that because they were imagining a new world.”
Courtesy ONE Archives/USC.
Kepner and Ben, as Jyke and Tigrina, were both devoted members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, which met weekly in the basement of the Prince Rupert Arms near downtown Los Angeles to imagine a future of technological marvels and social equality.
The society still exists. Now in Van Nuys, it’s the oldest running science fiction society in the world, and holds members just as devoted as Kepner and Ben once were, like June Moffatt, who joined the society in August 1947 when she was a teenager. She says she “only met Tigrina once” but she knew Kepner quite well.
“He was good fun,” says Moffatt. Moffatt knew Kepner was gay and an activist, but he was still just “one of the gang. I remember once sitting down next to [Kepner] and telling him he was in danger,” Moffatt says, laughing. “I was flirting with him.” 
Mark Pampanin

January 12, 2015

It’s 1958 and the Supreme Courts Convened to Face a Gay Rights Decision


                                                                        
The road to gay rights at the U.S. Supreme Court began not in San Francisco or New York, but in a small downtown Los Angeles office, where volunteer writers and editors in 1953 launched a new "magazine for homosexuals."

ONE, as it was called, offered thoughtful articles, defiant editorials and none of the racy photos or sex ads often found in the gay press. "The first issue was sold in bars in the Los Angeles area for 25 cents, about the price of a draft beer," said Michael C. Oliveira, an archivist at the magazine’s archives housed at the USC Library. 
High court justices meet to decide whether to hear gay marriage case
Yet in an era when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was routing out "sex deviates" from the government and homosexuality was a crime in every state, the journal quickly drew negative attention, culminating with a U.S. Post Office ban of the magazine as "obscene." The cover story of the first issue censored by the postmaster proved decades ahead of its time, asking "Homosexual Marriage?"

To the rescue came a young, straight California attorney fresh out of law school.

The result was a little-noticed, one-line Supreme Court ruling in 1958 that didn't mention the word "homosexuality" and was largely forgotten until recently, but nevertheless scored the first gay rights victory at America's highest court.

Fifty-seven years later the high court is expected to revisit the gay rights issue, deciding soon whether to hear a case to determine whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry nationwide.

But the story of ONE vs. Olesen, hailed by the gay rights movement as a forgotten landmark, remains "the seminal gay rights case in America" because it extended free speech protection to the gay press, said Jonathan Rauch, a scholar at the Brookings Institution. “It put gay people on the path to freedom." 
Eric Julber, now 90 and living with his wife in Carmel, Calif., is a surprising hero in the ONE saga. A new attorney with an interest in civil liberties, he was asked to write an article for ONE about the threat of government censorship and how to avoid it. His piece, titled "You Can't Print It!," became the cover story of the October 1954 issue — and the second target of a postal service seizure.

Julber, who was 30 at the time, promptly agreed to represent the magazine's editor pro bono.

"I said I would take their case, and I wouldn't charge a fee," said Julber, who grew up in Los Angeles, where his musician father worked at a Hollywood studio. "I thought they had a strong case. They were not running a night club. They were writing a magazine. It was a very conservative magazine. It was just the subject matter — homosexuality — that made it 'obscene.'"

Georgia federal judge allows same-sex marriage case to proceed
Few other legal experts at the time agreed. Fellow attorneys ribbed him for representing a gay journal and predicted no judge would take his side. Even the American Civil Liberties Union office in Los Angeles rebuffed him. "I guess it was too hot to handle for them," Julber said.

Undeterred, Julber filed suit against Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen, contending the seizure of the magazine violated the constitutional principles of free speech and equal protection. His suit contended ONE was subjected to discriminatory treatment because of prejudice against gays.

Federal judges in California were not ready to approve this type of magazine. U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke in Los Angeles handed down a two-page opinion in March 1956 upholding the Post Office's decision that ONE was "non-mailable matter." As evidence of obscenity, he cited one piece of fiction in which a woman recalls an affair with her college roommate and decides to live with the woman rather than marry a high school boyfriend.
This was "obviously calculated to stimulate the lust of the homosexual reader," Clarke said. He also cited as "filthy" a bawdy poem called "Lord Samuel and Lord Montagu" and an ad for a Swiss magazine which could, he said, "lead to the obtaining of obscene matter."

Clarke concluded: "The suggestion advanced that homosexuals should be recognized as a segment of our people and be accorded special privilege as a class is rejected."

Julber appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but lost in a 3-0 decision handed down in February 1957.

The 9th Circuit's decision could well have been a death sentence for ONE, whose circulation had reached 2,000. The magazine was having trouble delivering issues to its readers. To get around the postal ban, ONE continued to sell copies on news stands and sent copies in brown envelopes from various post offices in other locations, Oliveira said.


Julber persuaded ONE's founding editors, Dale Jennings and Don Slater, to appeal the 9th Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court. "They agreed to pay my expenses to travel back to Washington. That's the way you had to do it then. I took along a copy of the magazine," he recalled.

He told them the rulings by the California-based judges reflected an intense prejudice against homosexual people and predicted the Supreme Court would take a "rational view of the matter."

Julber wrote a petition asking the high court to consider, for first time, whether homosexuality could be openly discussed in literature without being automatically banned as obscene.

Lower courts had allowed publications advocating nudism and polygamy, he argued. So why had the 9th Circuit "singled out and discriminated against" ONE because it dealt with homosexuality, he asked.

His petition was filed on June 13, 1957. By coincidence, the Supreme Court was struggling at the same time with the question of obscenity in a case involving Samuel Roth, a New York book dealer, who was appealing his conviction for selling sexually explicit books. In a 6-3 decision, the justices upheld his conviction, but also sharply narrowed the definition of what is considered obscene.

"All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties" of the 1st Amendment, said Justice William J. Brennan in Roth vs. United States, handed down on June 24, 1957. "Sex and obscenity are not synonymous," he added.

First Amendment experts cite the decision as a landmark. "Roth was a revolution in obscenity law," said Robert Corn-Revere, a Washington law who specializes in the 1st Amendment. In its wake, the court limited prosecutions to sexually explicit, "hard core" pornography.

With that ruling fresh in their minds, several Supreme Court law clerks read Julber's petition — as well as the magazine itself — and advised the justices it was not obscene.


"This was an easy one for the liberal justices. It was a speech case," recalled Norman Dorsen, who was then a law clerk to conservative Justice John Marshall Harlan and would go on to lead the national ACLU from 1976 to 1991. But even the conservatives were not in favor of censorship practiced by the Post Office.

"The conservatives on the court then — Felix Frankfurter, Potter Stewart and Harlan — were not like the real conservatives we have now. They were more tolerant,” he said. 

Brennan, the author of the Roth opinion, looked at all the petitions on his own. He would have seen the magazine and its supposedly obscene articles. After taking several votes, the justices decided on a simple, one-line ruling issued on Jan. 13, 1958, reversing the 9th Circuit decision.

The magazine reported the "electrifying news" in the next issue. “For the first time in American publishing history, a decision binding on every court now stands … affirming in effect that it is in no way proper to describe a love affair between two homosexuals as constitut(ing) obscenity." 

USC law professor David Cruz said the ONE decision was most important not as a matter of legal doctrine but because of "its on-the-ground effects."

"By protecting ONE," he continued, "the Supreme Court facilitated the flourishing of a gay and lesbian culture and a sense of community at a time when the federal government was purging its ranks" of suspected gays.

Julber said he was delighted to win, but disappointed the court had not issued a written opinion explaining its reasons. He was honored at a banquet sponsored by ONE, and he went on to have a long career as a personal injury lawyer. But he never again had a case go to the Supreme Court.

Though his high court victory garnered little attention at the time, Julber said he was proud of what he had accomplished. "I always thought it was a major case because it said homosexuals had a right to express their own views and a right to their own literature."

September 24, 2014

The Gay marriage Case that will be chosen for Histoy


                                                                             

 
“As I would read their briefs,” Mr. Campbell said of his dueling adversaries, “I would write in the margin: ‘That’s an implicit dig at this case’ and ‘That’s a dig at that case.’ ”

Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry and one of the architects of the political and legal push for same-sex marriage, said there would be plenty of glory to go around should his side prevail. A victory, after all, he said, would be the culmination of a joint effort that was decades in the making.

“Every attorney in the world, it seems, is now eager to be the one that stands before the court in the freedom to marry case, but what really counts is the compelling collective presentation we will all make, no matter which case it is,” Mr. Wolfson said.

The lawyers challenging the same-sex marriage bans are confident they will win in the Supreme Court, which is why they have all urged the justices to hear their cases even though they had won in the lower courts.

The justices will consider whether to hear one or more of the cases at their first private conference of the new term, next Monday, and they may announce their choice or choices in the following weeks. If they do, they could hear arguments this winter and announce a decision by June.

The arguments for and against same-sex marriage are by now familiar to the justices, who considered but sidestepped them in a case from California last year.

Theodore B. Olson, a former United States solicitor general in the administration of George W. Bush, argued that case for the challengers of the California ban, and he is now one of the lawyers challenging Virginia’s ban. As before, he is joined by David Boies, his adversary in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 decision that delivered the presidency to Mr. Bush.

On the phone the other day, Mr. Olson listed the reasons to pick his case. It includes a class action, he said. It presents not only the issue of the right to marry but also that of whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Continue reading the main story
Virginia, he pointed out, was home not only to several of the giants who wrote the Constitution but also to Mildred and Richard Loving, who successfully challenged the state’s ban on interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

“It’s pretty potent stuff,” he said of his case’s connection to another civil rights movement.

Mr. Olson was quick to add that the ultimate goal was victory, whatever the vehicle. “We have great respect for the lawyers in the other cases,” he said, “and we would be quite supportive of them if that’s what the justices want to do.”

A second set of challengers is also involved in the Virginia case. Their lead lawyer is Paul M. Smith, who argued Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision that struck down laws making gay sex a crime. That team also includes lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

Mr. Smith told the justices that “the collective experience of counsel” in the two Virginia challenges mattered, as their groups “have litigated every major gay rights case decided by this court” from 1996 on.

 
Roberta A. Kaplan said that a case from Utah was the leading candidate to go before the justices. Credit Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Logo Tv
Independent observers said a second case, from Utah, is the leading candidate. “Maybe if they want to be neutral they’ll pick Utah just because they were first,” said Roberta A. Kaplan, who successfully argued last year’s challenge to a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Utah case, Herbert v. Kitchen, No. 14-124, was the first to strike down a state marriage ban after Ms. Kaplan’s victory. It is also much less complicated than the one from Virginia, which features three separate petitions from government officials seeking review of the appeals court’s ruling. One of the petitions, from the state’s attorney general, seeks to have the ban overturned. The others, from court clerks, seek to have it upheld.

There are two sets of plaintiffs, too. Mr. Olson represents two gay couples. Mr. Smith represents a class of gay couples who seek to marry.

By contrast, lawyers in the Utah case told the court, their case has “just one set of plaintiffs and one set of respondents.”

But Mr. Olson’s brief, in Rainey v. Bostic, No. 14-153, said the complications in his case were a virtue, as “all sides of this important issue would be vigorously represented.” The class-action aspect of the case, he added, would mean “there is no risk that this case would become moot — due, for instance, to the unforeseen end of a couple’s relationship — during the pendency of this appeal.”

The lead lawyer in the Utah case is Peggy A. Tomsic of Salt Lake City, and her team includes Neal K. Katyal, a former acting United States solicitor general; Mary L. Bonauto, who argued the 2003 case that established same-sex marriage in Massachusetts; and lawyers for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“The obvious thing about the Utah case is that it is being defended by state officials,” said Shannon P. Minter, a lawyer with the lesbian rights center. “It’s a very clean vehicle.”

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Still, he added, “we’re long past the point where it would matter which case or which lawyer.”

Ms. Bonauto agreed. “Our case is an appropriate case,” she said. “All of the cases are appropriate cases.”

The justices will also consider cases from Indiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. In the Oklahoma case, the challengers are represented by Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford who won a unanimous ruling in June requiring the police to get warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

Mr. Fisher devoted 11 of his brief’s 32 pages to showing that his case was the right choice — or at least that it should be in the mix.

His case, Mr. Fisher wrote, presented only the straightforward question of whether Oklahoma must allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the state. “Some of the plaintiffs from the Utah and Virginia cases, by contrast, raise another claim,” he wrote, that of whether states must recognize marriages performed elsewhere.

Mr. Fisher assured the justices that they would receive “full and focused briefing and argument” on the core issue if they picked his case, Smith v. Bishop, No. 14-136.

Mr. Olson drew the opposite conclusion from the same set of facts. Hearing the Virginia case, he told the justices, would “enable the court to resolve all aspects of the marriage-equality question in a single opinion without leaving lingering questions and uncertainty for lower courts, states and the American public.”

On this, at least, the lawyers in the Utah case agreed. “Piecemeal review risks that litigation will drag on for years,” they wrote.

A version of this article appears in print on September 23, 2014, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Seeking a Same-Sex Marriage Case Fit for History. 

May 28, 2014

The Main Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Winning

  
                                                                                 

                                           


The following article just appeared at Religion News Service BY KEVIN ECKSTROM. I endorse it because it carries us through those moments of tears and smiles, the shaking of hands and the CRUNCHING of fists. As this story reaches a stoning crescendo  is good to look back and see why things happen, who screw up and who made those home runs.
   

WASHINGTON — What a difference 10 years makes.

In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. Six months later, with dire warnings about schoolchildren being forced to read “Heather Has Two Mommies” and threats of legalized polygamy, so-called “values voters” passed bans on same-sex marriage in 11 states and ushered George W. Bush to another four years in the White House.

Fast-forward to 2014, and the cultural and legal landscape could hardly be more different. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, and federal courts have struck down bans in 11 more states. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages after ditching a central portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act last year, and 44 percent of Americans now live in states that allow same-sex marriage.

After four same-sex couples filed suit May 21 challenging Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage, neighboring North Dakota is the only state that isn’t facing a challenge to its gay marriage ban – at least not yet.

So what changed? The issue is far from settled – and some conservatives insist that it never will be – but pro-gay groups clearly have the momentum. Here’s why:

Rapid cultural shifts

The culture changed faster than conservatives thought possible. Led by the popular gay characters on “Will & Grace” and “Glee,” gays and lesbians are more visible in public life, and Americans are growing increasingly comfortable with that. A generation ago, coming out as gay was a career-killer; now it’s almost trendy.

Within religion, the 2003 election of openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson dramatically shifted the conversation about gays in leadership, and Presbyterians and Lutherans voted to allow gay clergy with barely a shrug. The wildly popular Pope Francis changed the tenor of the discussion by famously asking “Who am I to judge?” as his church struggles to reclaim its moral credibility on sexual ethics in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal.

Coupled with an aggressive campaign targeted at gays and lesbians to come out to their families and colleagues, America now has innumerable friends, co-workers, celebrities, siblings and children that are the new face of the gay movement. And that, says Evan Wolfson of New York-based Freedom to Marry, carries more weight than any court ruling or legislative vote.

“There’s no question that popular culture and celebrities and religious figures who speak out create the air cover for the ground game of personal conversations,” said Wolfson, whose group has been at the forefront of the legal fights over marriage. “And that is what really closed the deal.”

An ally in the White House       

It’s hard to overestimate the power of a bully pulpit, and there’s no bigger microphone than the chief executive’s. While President Obama may be the country’s first black president, he will also be remembered as the most pro-gay occupant of the Oval Office – even if it took him time to get there.

Obama’s White House shaped the cultural narrative around gay rights by ending the 17-year Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. Like Obama, millions of Americans reached the same conclusion: If gay men and women can die for their country, why shouldn’t they be allowed to get married? And if it’s OK for the military, why not for everyone else?

Perhaps most significantly, Obama’s Justice Department dropped its defense of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, concluding that the federal ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Attorney General Eric Holder encouraged state attorneys general to do the same, and when the attorneys general in Pennsylvania and Oregon followed Holder’s advice, federal courts swiftly struck down bans in both states.

“No one defended the law in court,” fumed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the Catholic bishops’ point man on same-sex marriage. “Is this justice, or just a farce?”

Whatever it was, it worked for the gay rights side.

“If we would have known 10 years ago that the rule of law would no longer be in play, maybe we would have had a different strategy,” added Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who accused Obama of “unleashing lawlessness on the country.”

A problem of overreach

Starting with the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, conservative activists concluded that the only solution to stopping gay marriage was a nationwide ban. A federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has languished in Congress for years – and now Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, calls such a strategy “a politically ridiculous thing to talk about right now.”

In addition, conservative groups resisted moves to compromise on a half-measure like civil unions; Perkins’ organization calls civil unions nothing more than “a slow-motion surrender.” And that, said veteran gay marriage proponent Jonathan Rauch, was a critical mistake.

“They set an impossible goal for themselves by saying from day one that the goal of success would be not one gay marriage on not one square inch of American soil, and that was never going to happen,” said Rauch, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

That, in turn, only strengthened the resolve of gay rights groups, even if it meant passing gay marriage state by state, or mounting legal challenges one ban at a time.

“I don’t think a lot of gay people are really in a mood to say `Let’s meet the other side halfway’ because the other side has never been interested in meeting us halfway,” Rauch said.

Religious influence rises – and falls

In 2004, popular support for same-sex marriage was stuck in the low 30s. According to the latest Gallup Poll released this week, that number is now at 55 percent. It’s now rare to see a poll that finds only minority support for gay marriage.

But another poll number may be more telling about the underlying cultural shift: A decade ago, 71 percent of Americans said religion was “increasing its influence” on American life. Today, nearly the exact opposite is true – 77 percent of Americans say religion is “losing its influence” on public life.

In short, Americans have concluded that while marriage may well be a sacred institution, couples tying the knot have to seek a marriage license at the courthouse, not the altar. With the moral influence of organized religion on the wane, more Americans have decided that there’s a difference between marriage rights – and all the legal and financial benefits that go with them – and matrimonial rites.

“Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage,” federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled in striking down Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban. “However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.”

‘Hateful and bigoted’

Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing proponents of traditional marriage was a negative image that they were never able to overcome. While chafing at comparisons to racism and Jim Crow laws, the matriarch of the traditional marriage movement, Maggie Gallagher, concedes that her side has been labeled as “hateful and bigoted.” It’s no accident that opponents of Proposition 8 – the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California – adopted the logo of “No H8T.”

Some conservative activists say they brought it on themselves.

“There was the evangelical belligerence, often, in the last generation that spoke, for instance, about the gay agenda, in which there was this picture, almost as though there is a group of super villains in a lair, plotting somewhere the downfall of the family,” Moore told a gathering of journalists in March.

Conservatives also weathered a host of guilt-by-association charges, which were equally hard to dislodge. In Arizona, a bill that supporters said would protect religious freedom was conveyed as license to turn gays away from public businesses. Evangelical opposition to homosexuality was exported to Africa, which took the form of harsh laws to jail or even sentence to death known homosexuals.

In short, it was no longer popular or politically correct to stand against popular culture and a swiftly changing popular opinion.

“They showed no compassion for gay people, they didn’t offer any substitutes like protecting gay families or gay kids,” Rauch said. “That lack of compassion came through. It took a little while to register, but the American public does not like lack of compassion.”

April 9, 2014

“Gay Liberation” Paved the Way (Learn some of our History)


 

 While pursuing a psychology degree, Wendell Jones, a member of UT’s first gay student organization, was told by his adviser he should not pursue the degree since being gay made him unfit to give psychological advice to others. 

Gay Liberation monument in New York City
This type of discrimination led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front, also known as GLF, UT’s first gay student activist group in early 1970. In addition to protests and rallies, the group hosted the first GLF conference in spring of 1971, which brought together gay liberation groups from across the country.
While composed almost exclusively of UT students, the group was prevented by the University’s policy from meeting on campus or becoming an official student organization. 
“The nation was just in incredible turmoil, but it was also a very exciting time when people were energized and felt that we could really build a better world,” Jones said.
Today, LGBTQ students and their GLF predecessors have different tactics and issues they are fighting for, but their underlying goal of equality has not changed.  
“I think our goals are fundamentally the same as when we started seeing more LGBTQ visiblity on campus,” said Marisa Kent, co-coordinator for UT’s Queer Student Association. “But the one big shift is that we are more accepted on campus.” 
Often faculty and staff members and students were supportive of gay students, but discrimination was common on campus in many forms. According to Randy Conner, UT alum and former GLF member, professors would sometimes alter grades if they discovered a student was homosexual.
“When I wrote an openly gay story, [my professor] totally flipped out and basically told me, after telling me I had great talent, that I had no talent,” Conner said. 
Conner contributed to the group by teaching one of the University’s first LGBTQ literature classes. The course was informal, not for credit and free for all students. 
“They made me call it ‘The Homophile in Literature,’ and no one used that term anymore,” Conner said. “That was a term from the ’50s. It was the only way they allowed me to teach the class.”
When UT did not recognize the group as an official student organization in the spring of 1972, GLF decided to sue the University. They raised money to sue through a school dance, which the then-dean Edward Price canceled at the last minute. Wendell and his peers refused to leave the area in protest and were arrested.
In jail, the police put Jones in a cell with an African-American man and told the stranger he could be violent toward Jones, stereotyping both men in the process. The man told Jones he had a gay brother [and that he] would not harm him.” 
This further opened Jones’ eyes to the connection between all minority groups.
“I began realizing that there were certain common things that homosexuals shared with black people at that time, and my politics started getting much sharper,” Jones said. “I started wanting to work with other groups — not just the anti-war movement and the gay liberation movement — that were trying to create a better world.”
In the spring of 1974, the GLF was finally recognized as an official student organization. But, as the Vietnam War came to an end, the gay rights movement became more conservative — the once-connected movements became isolated, and the group lost momentum. 
In 1976, Jones left UT to study law in California, and Conner graduated with his masters degree in English. 
Current LGBTQ student groups owe their establishment to the efforts of the GLF. 
“They had a hard fight to have the ability to form a group,” Kent said. “I think in that in itself, and what they were working towards, started opening the door for other groups to come in and form organizations based on their LGBTQ status.”
 Click below to see part of our history:

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