C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vito Russo's Our Time, Episode 4 - AIDS

This episode, which aired on WNYC-TV on March 3, 1983, focused on what was then the still-new epidemic of AIDS that was cutting a deadly swathe through the ranks of gay men. At this time, cases were still concentrated in big cities like New York and San Francisco, but the alarming news was filtering slowly into the hinterlands, where we were bewildered and afraid. As seen here, activists like Larry Kramer and Michael Callen were informing and organizing their brethren in the Big Apple - with the enormous help of our lesbian sisters, to whom we owe an enduring debt of gratitude - but between the coasts, rumor and confusion prevailed.

As you will see in the video, very little was known for sure about the HIV virus and how it was transmitted. Could you catch it by kissing someone? Hugging? Shaking hands? Breathing the same air? Sharing finger foods? Eating off the same plate, or drinking from the same glass? What about toilet seats? Not even the doctors were sure, and most doctors were themselves still uninformed of the latest research. News reports told of nurses and hospital staff refusing to touch or treat AIDS patients, who were sometimes flatly turned away from the hospital doors, or left to lie in hallways, unattended. Some funeral homes refused to accept the bodies of patients who died from the disease.

Politicians were starting to call for mass internment of people with HIV or AIDS, and your Head Trucker heard with his own ears the pontificating asshole and conservative pundit William F. Buckley calling for all men with HIV to be tattooed on their foreheads to warn the public to stay away from them.

All that seemed certain was that the virus was spreading among gay men, apparently like other sexually transmitted diseases. And yet, we read in the scanty, infrequent news reports, some men who had a "promiscuous lifestyle" seemed unaffected, while others who rarely had sexual partners were stricken. So what did that mean for us young gay men, newly out and relieved to be free from the soul-destroying closet of celibacy? Your Head Trucker remembers sitting in a gay rap group where this very topic was hotly discussed: some guys were ready to wall themselves away from all sexual contact, while others swore they would not change a thing they were doing until science had determined the exact cause - why go back to living like a lonely monk for no good reason?

And all this was before the concept of "safe sex," later cslled "safer sex," was really developed or publicized. The best advice the medical establishment could give in those early days, which most gay men in the provinces read in abbreviated news reports in gay porn magazines - even those were simply not available in most towns and cities or through the mail in most Southern states - was to "avoid exchanging bodily fluids" with other men. But what the hell did that mean, exactly? What is a "bodily fluid"? Blood? Cum? Piss? Spit? Sweat? Tears? For a long time, nobody bothered to clarify for us, and the national magazines and network news shows, when they did, at long intervals, mention the AIDS epidemic, were not about to descend into the gutter by specifying what was meant. Not even the word condom had ever yet been heard on American television.

Thus, many thousands of men died. It was a scary time to live through, a walk in the dark through a cemetery - no doubt unimaginable to the smartphone-toting, constantly linked-in younger generation. But important to remember.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Marriage News Watch, 7/28/14

Lots of good news for marriage in the South today.  Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights reports:

And Freedom to Marry reports on Friday's ruling in Pareto v. Ruvin:
Judge [Sarah] Zabel ordered the Miami-Dade County clerks to stop enforcing Florida's anti-marriage constitutional amendment, and for now, the ruling only applies to Miami-Dade County. The ruling does not require the state of Florida to respect the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states.

In her ruling, Judge Zabel writes:
The flood of cases that have come out since Windsor amply demonstrates this truth as not one court has found a same-sex marriage ban to be constitutional. As case after case has come out, unified in their well-reasoned constitutional condemnation of the deprivation of one class of person’s right to marry, the answer to the question of whether it is constitutionally permissible to deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry has become increasingly obvious: Of course it is not.

Preventing couples from marrying solely on the basis of their sexual orientation serves no governmental interest. It serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.
Full text of Judge Zabel's ruling here.

Update, 8:15 p.m.: 

Freedom to Marry reports:
Today, July 28, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry, upholding a marriage ruling out of Virginia from February.

The landmark ruling follows a similar ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that banning same-sex couples from marriage in Utah is unconstitutional. It is the 29th consecutive ruling in favor of marriage for same-sex couples in the past year. Read about all of the rulings here.

The decision reads:
We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.
Text of the ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer here; the ruling is stayed pending appeal.

And in a further development, North Carolina's attorney General announced this afternoon that he will no longer defend his state's same-sex marriage ban.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How Fashions Come and Go

The first episode of a fascinating BBC series - unusually for 1957, filmed in color - on the history of fashion, presented by noted fashion historian and scholar Doris Langley Moore, who designed Katharine Hepburn's wardrobe for The African Queen. A young Vanessa Redgrave is one of the models; can you spot her?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Coming Out in Britain, 1976

This is the lost documentary "Coming Out" which screened on ITV as part of Southern Television's "Southern Report" in February 1976. The programme prompted nationwide gay rights protests after one of the participants was fired from his job at British Home Stores.

It would be interesting now to interview these guys in the program and hear their reflections on all the amazing changes of the last forty years.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another Marriage Victory in Colorado

On July 9, Adams County Judge Scott Crabtree struck down Colorado's same-sex marriage ban. This afternoon, as USA Today reports, the federal district court in Denver has done the same thing:
Judge Raymond P. Moore's ruling Wednesday was in response to a lawsuit filed July 1 by six gay couples who asked the court for an injunction ordering that the state's ban no longer be enforced.

Colorado Republican Attorney General John Suthers and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had requested a stay so the issue could eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court — though both agreed the state ban should be declared unconstitutional.

The couples filed the lawsuit after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled against Utah's gay marriage ban but put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.
The ruling in this case, Burns v. Hickenlooper, is stayed until August 25, allowing the state time to appeal to the Tenth Circuit or the Supreme Court. Full text of the ruling is here.

It's been a crazy month in Colorado as judges, state officials, and county clerks have been scrambling to stay on top of the rapidly changing legal landscape. Freedom to Marry explains:
On July 9, a judge in state court issued a ruling in Brinkman v. Long that Colorado's marriage ban was unconstitutional. Shortly after, county clerks in Denver County and Pueblo County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, joining the Boulder County clerk, who had begun issuing marriage licenses when the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Colorado) affirmed that same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry. Over the past few weeks, the state of Colorado has tried to stop clerks in Denver, Boulder, and Pueblo County from issuing marriage licenses as the appeal in Brinkman proceeds to the Colorado Supreme Court. Last week, the CO Supreme Court ordered Denver clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses (but did not issue any orders about Boulder and Pueblo County).

Update, 7/24: The Colorado Attorney General has filed an appeal of the case with the Tenth Circuit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vito Russo's Our Time, Episode 3

Episode 2 is missing from this YouTube collection, but Episode 3 aired on WNYC-TV on January 26, 1983:

Abbot and Costello: 13 x 7 = 28

Some arithmetic exercises to start your day with a chuckle.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Marriage News Watch, 7/21/14

Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights reports:

And some long-awaited good news today from the White House, the Washington Post reports:
President Barack Obama on Monday gave employment protection to gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, after being convinced by advocates of what he called the “irrefutable rightness of your cause.”

“America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” Obama said at a signing ceremony from the White House East Room. He said it is unacceptable that being gay is still a firing offense in most places in the United States. . . .

Since Obama announced that he would take executive action, he’s faced pressure from opposing flanks over whether he would include an exemption for religious organizations. He decided to maintain a provision that allows religious groups with federal contracts to hire and fire based upon religious identity, but not give them any exception to consider sexual orientation or gender identity. Churches also are able to hire ministers as they see fit. . . .

The change for federal contracting will impact some 24,000 companies with 28 million workers, or one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. Many large federal contractors already have employment policies barring anti-gay workplace discrimination. However, the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School estimates that the executive order would extend protections to about 14 million workers whose employers or states currently do not have such nondiscrimination policies.

While few religious organizations are among the biggest federal contractors, they do provide some valued services, including overseas relief and development programs and re-entry programs for inmates leaving federal prisons. . . .

Obama also amended an order signed by President Richard Nixon in 1969 to prevent discrimination against federal workers based on race, religion, gender, nationality, age or disability. President Bill Clinton added sexual orientation, and Obama will include gender identity in a change that will immediately take effect.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Republican Mom Defends Transgender Kid

Debi Jackson, a self-described "conservative Southern Baptist Republican from Alabama" shares the story of her daughter A. J., who transitioned from male to female at age 4, in this speech given last May in Kansas City:

The family was profiled in the Kansas City Star in February of this year.  Debi has set up a blog called Trans-Parenting to help bring attention and clarity to the issue of transgender children.

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