Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gay Marriages in the 1970s: Older than Cellphones and the Internet

Gay marriage and gay rights were on the court docket last week The Supreme Court of the United States heard two days of arguments on two cases regarding gay marriage and rights. There were several snarky and demeaning quotes from the conservative members of the Court:

Justice Samuel Alito: “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cellphones or the Internet? I mean we — we are not — we do not have the ability to see the future.”

Justice Antonin Scalia: “I’m curious, when—when did—when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted?”

Justice Anthony Kennedy: "There's substance to the point that sociological information is new. We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more."

This may be news to the Court but gays and lesbians have been coupling since the dawn of humankind. Just to keep it simple, let's look back 40 years to the early 1970s in the United States. With a quick a Google search, I have come across numerous gay and lesbian marriage stories from that decade.

On June 4th, 1971, the Gay Activist Alliance decided to use one of their activist tools called “zaps” and occupy NYC's Marriage License Bureau. The GAA considered zaps as direct, non-violent actions to confront oppressors. The City Clerk Herman Katz had threatened to arrest the minister of a local gay church, the Church of the Beloved Disciple, for performing "Services of Holy Union" which the City Clerk said were the equivalent of gay marriage. The GAA invaded the office with coffee and cake to hold an "engagement party" and protest the anti-gay "slander" of the city clerk.

Three YouTube videos were recently posted of this 1971 occupation.

Marc Rubin and Pete Fisher were an activist couple that were members the Gay Activist Alliance and participated in the Marriage License Bureau zap. As one of the first out gay teachers, Marc Rubin helped found the Gay Teachers Association in 1974. With assistance with Lambda Legal they filed a lawsuit to win domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian public school teachers. The suit dragged on for six years, and was settled in negotiations with Mayor David Dinkins giving such benefits to all city employees. Rubin and Fisher were together for more the 35 years until Rubin’s death in 2007.

Jack Baker, a law student, Air Force veteran, and gay activist from Minnesota, pressed for the right of same-sex couples to marry from 1969 to 1980. He and his lover, Michael McConnell, a librarian, repeatedly sought to obtain a marriage license. Their attempt to assert their rights as a married couple ended when the Minnesota Supreme Court decided the case of Baker v. Nelson in 1972 and the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed their appeal "for want of a substantial federal question." About 18 months after Hennepin County rejected their application, the couple traveled to southern Minnesota's Blue Earth County, where they obtained a marriage license on which Baker was listed with an altered, gender-neutral name. That license was later challenged in court but was never explicitly invalidated by a judge. Currently, the couple lives in retirement in a quiet, nondescript south Minneapolis neighborhood. “I am convinced that same-sex marriage will be legalized in the United States,” Baker told a group of lawyers on Oct. 21, 1971. When asked why they pursued the case, Baker wrote, “The love of my life insisted on it.” Their case received the most national attention including a three-page photo essay in Look magazine.

Meanwhile, even further west, John Singer walked into the King County marriage license office in Seattle Washington with his lover Paul Barwick and asked county auditor, Lloyd Hara, for a marriage license. Hara refused. The couple had met at a meeting of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in Seattle. Barwick was a Vietnam veteran and Singer had served in the Army as a medic in Germany. Their gay marriage lawsuit, Singer v. Hara ended unsuccessfully with the Washington State Court of Appeals laughing the men out of court in 1974.

In Jefferson County, Kentucky in 1971, Marjorie Jones, a mother of three children, and Tracy Knight, her partner, were in love and wanted to marry. They applied for a marriage license, were refused, and filed suit. The Jefferson Circuit Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in Jones v. Hallahan that same-sex couples may not marry. During the Jefferson Circuit Court hearing, Judge Lyndon Schmid delayed the start until Tracy Knight changed from a beige pantsuit she wore to court into a dress. He said the pantsuit was “offensive to the court.” “She is a woman and she will dress as a woman in this court,” the judge declared. The county clerk James Hallahan testified that same-sex marriage would “lead to a breakdown in the sanctity of government,” jeopardize the country’s morality, and “could spread all over the world.”

From a post at
Queer African American Women and the History of Marriage:  This photo and headline accompanied an article from the October 15, 1970 issue of Jet magazine. They reveal that long before the recent struggle for marriage equality began, African American women who love women have engaged with the institution of marriage and have fought to make it their own.

Edna Knowles, on the left, and Peaches Stevens were wed in Liz’s Mark III Lounge, a gay bar on the South Side of Chicago, “before a host of friends and well wishers.” The article ended by noting, “although the duo has a type of ‘marriage license’ in their possession, the state’s official marriage license bureau reported it had no record of their license.” This ending serves to remind Jet readers that Knowles and Stevens’ union was not legitimate in the eyes of the state, as does the use of quotes around the word “married” in the headline.

In his book “Same-Sex Marriage,” author David E. Newton describes a county clerk in Colorado that issued a half-dozen same-sex marriage licenses.
“In Colorado 1975, David McCord and David Zamora approached the county clerk in Colorado Springs seeking a marriage license. The clerk responded the “we do not do that here in El Paso County, but if you want to, go to Boulder County they might do it there.” The Boulder County clerk, Clela Rorex, consulted the assistant district attorney for Boulder County, who said that there appeared to be no state law that prevented the clerk from issuing a marriage license to two individuals of the same sex. Which she proceeded to do. In succeeding months, she issued five more marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The practice came to a halt, however, when state attorney general J.D. McFarlane issued and opinion on May 7, 1975, that Rorex’s actions were illegal under stat law.”

Another one of the six couples were Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams. They had traveled from California to obtain their license.
“Two gay men in Colorado, Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, sue Joseph D. Howerton, acting district director of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), to force him to recognize their marriage, legally performed in the state (Adams v. Howerton). The purpose of the recognition was to allow Sullivan, a citizen of Australia, to remain legally in the United States. The court ruled that immigration law prohibited the INS from admitting homosexuals to the country, so the Congress did not intend to recognize a marriage between homosexuals.”

Hundreds of same-sex couples sought public recognition of their relationship in commitment ceremonies. The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), founded in 1968 by Rev. Troy Perry in Los Angeles, had a policy of performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples that had been together for at least six months and had undergone pastoral counseling. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Community Church had performed more than 150 marriages during its first four years. Couples also found other churches willing to solemnize their marriage vows or otherwise bless their commitments. The Advocate reported in 1972 that there were “mainline churches where such ceremonies are performed,” although “the ministers often prefer to say merely that they are ‘blessing’ a union.”
One early MCC minister, Rev. Robert Sirico, performed what was reported to be the first “gay marriage” ceremony in the history of Colorado. According to an article in the Denver Post, It was held at the First Unitarian Church in Denver on April 21. The wedding was for the previously mentioned gay couple Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan.
In November 2014, the LGBT site reported on a Houston Chronicle story that recounts the Oct. 5, 1972 wedding of Antonio Molina and William"Billie" Ert in Texas.  Mr. Molina was a former high school linebacker and Navy veteran and Mr. Ert was a drag queen and nightclub performer who performed under the name Mr. Vicki Carr. While Ert was dressed in drag, the couple tricked the Wharton County clerk’s office into issuing them a marriage license. Two days later, the couple held a ceremony at Dallas' Metropolitan Community Church with a minister officiating. But the county clerk declined to record the couple's license when the rouse was exposed.
Molina and Ert obtained their marriage license just months before the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a federal lawsuit challenging Minnesota's same-sex marriage ban, Baker v. Nelson.

Even with all these stories about same-sex marriage happening in the 1970s, that was not the focus for most gay and lesbian activists. Most were not interested in getting married or winning equality. What they were fighting for was liberation. At the beginning of the 70’s, homosexuality was still considered a crime, a disease, a mental disorder and a perversion.  The early activists were more concerned with fighting against employment discrimination, physical assaults, police harassment and brutality. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Passover! Chag Sameach!

After several days of searching & thinking, my talented chef of a husband has decided on our Seder Menu:
- Canyon Ranch Charoset, Charoset Edda, and Tangy Charoset Balls
- Steamed Sole Rolls with Mango & Red Peppers
- Roasted Carrot Soup with Parsley & Sage Matzo Balls
- Salad of Bitter Herbs & Oranges
- Rolled Turkey Breasts with Spinach Mushroom Stuffing & Pan Gravy
- Barry Wine's Tsimmes Terrine
- Roasted Pear, Potato & Watercress Puree with Toasted Walnuts
- Cranberry-Pineapple Kugel
- Strawberry Mousse
- Chocolate Meringue Squares
We are hosting our gay men's seder on Saturday (sixth night) because hubby is singing with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Their concerts this year fell on first and second night of Passover.
SFGMC - Where Is Love & Secret Love

The Maccabeats - Les Misérables - Passover


Stuff People Say At The Seder


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Gay and Queer Slang

Queer Gay Slang.
The following is a list of more interesting and colorful slang terms that I have come across in my readings and research. They didn’t quite fit into a previous post: Queer Definitions, Gay Labels, and Homosexual Context.

As I said before, the following is not a definitive list of terms, and I don’t claim that the definitions are perfect. The majority of the words on this list come from books I have read as well as from various online content and an occasional film or play I’ve seen. Most of the definitions and histories I mention come from Wikipedia.

Batty boy: A Caribbean/British derogatory slang term for a gay person derived from bottom and buttocks. Jamaican migrants brought it to Britain. Jamaica has a strong tradition of music, particularly reggae and dancehall. As a consequence performers are high profile, both influencing popular opinion and reflecting it. Artists such as Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Elephant Man, Sizzla, Capleton, T.O.K. and Shabba Ranks, write and perform songs that advocate attacking or killing of gays and lesbians. “Stop Murder Music” is an international campaign to oppose the homophobic work of these Jamaican musicians.

Bent, bender: British slang for homosexual. Someone who is bent is not straight. Dates back to the 1920s. “Bent” is also a 1979 play by Martin Sherman. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany. The play was the first time that popular culture acknowledged the fact that gay men were victims of the Holocaust. It was made into a movie in 1997.

Boston Marriage: A polite term to describe two women living in a household and sharing expenses, whether in a Platonic or lesbian relationship. “Boston Marriage” is also 1999 play by playwright David Mamet.

Buggery: The British English term buggery is very close in meaning to the terms sodomy and anal sex. In English law, "buggery" is common law offence, encompassing both sodomy and bestiality. It was first used in the Buggery Act 1533. The Section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, entitled "Sodomy and Bestiality," defined punishments for "the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal." The definition of "buggery" was not specified in these or any statute, but rather established by judicial precedent. Over the years the courts have defined buggery as including either: anal intercourse by a man with a man or woman, or vaginal intercourse by either a man or a woman with an animal. In the UK the punishment for buggery was reduced from hanging to life imprisonment by the Offences against the Person Act 1861. As with the crime of rape, buggery required that penetration must have occurred, but ejaculation is not necessary. The most famous man to be convicted of this offence was the playwright Oscar Wilde.

Confirmed Bachelor: Polite euphemism for a gay man from Victorian times, on the premise that such a man will never marry. 

Down Low, on the DL: The phrase has its origins in African American slang, where it refers to black men who have sex with other men, as well as with women, but who do not identify as gay or bisexual. It was originally used to describe "any kind of slick, secretive behavior, including infidelity in heterosexual relationships.” The term was popularized in the late 1990s and after by a series of mainstream media reports emphasizing the danger of such men transmitting HIV to their unsuspecting female partners. Recent popular literature includes J.L. King’s first book, On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep with Men which appeared on The New York Times best seller list for more than 30 weeks and E. Lynn Harris’ successful series of novels of African American men who were on the down-low and closeted.

Harry Hay
Fairy: A male who acts slightly feminine but may not necessarily mean that he is gay. It was a common derogatory term during much of the twentieth century. The “Radical Faeries” is a movement that started in the US among gay men during the 1970s sexual and counterculture revolution. Faeries represent the first spiritual movement to be both "gay centered and gay engendered", where gayness is central to the idea, rather than in addition to, or incidental to a pre-existing spiritual tradition. The Radical Faerie exploration of the "gay spirit" is central, and that it is itself the source of spirituality, wisdom, and initiation. Harry Hay was one of the founders of the Radical Faeries. Previously he co-found the LA chapter of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969. Before that, he founded the Mattachine Society in 1950, the first sustained gay rights group in the United States.

Faygeleh: Yiddish word for male homosexual. Originally it meant little bird or small child. It comes from the German word "vogel" for bird.

Finocchio: Italian slang for homosexual. It also refers to the fennel plant. Some sources say in medieval times when people were accused of witchcraft, they were burned at the stake that was covered with fennel leaves to mask the smell of burning flesh.  
“Finocchio's” was also the name of a world-famous SF nightclub where female impersonators strutted their campy stuff for tourists and straights.

Friend(s) of Dorothy (FOD): A slang term used within the gay community of the 1950’s. Judy Garland was one of the first celebrities to embrace her gay fans and the Wizard of Oz was viewed as a “gay” fairy tale for many queer Americans at the time. The phrase was often used as the password to enter gay establishments. Some claim that Friend of Dorothy may have roots as “Friend of Dorothy Parker” (an American critic, satirical poet, and short-story writer) before becoming a slang term for the L. Frank Baum’s Oz character, Dorothy.

Gunsel: A catamite or young gay boy kept as a sexual companion, perhaps a modification of Yiddish “gendzl” or gosling. Another non-sexual meaning, "young hoodlum," is traceable to Dashiell Hammett. He sneaked it into the book and movie "The Maltese Falcon" while warring with his editor over the book's racy language and evidently with the Motion Picture Production Code censors.
"Another thing," Spade repeated, glaring at the boy: "Keep that gunsel away from me while you're making up your mind. I'll kill him."
In the movie, Humphrey Bogart, playing Sam Spade, threatens Casper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) about his young effeminate underling, Wilmer, played by Elisha Cook, Jr. The sexual relationship between Gutman and his young hit-man companion is obviously clear. 

In The Life: Homosexual term dating back to the 1920s. It was most common with the black community. It was also the name of a PBS news magazine that exposed social injustice by chronicling LGBT life. It ran from 1992 to 2012.

Kinsey Six: A person who is completely homosexual with no bisexual inclinations. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey developed a scale from 0 to 6 to indicate a subject's sexual orientation. A person with no homosexual feelings was ranked a zero. Someone exclusively homosexual was a six. It was first published in Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948). The “Kinsey Sicks” are a vocal group that bills themselves as "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet." Don’t miss the when they come to your city.

Lavender Marriage: A type of male-female marriage of convenience in which the couple are not both heterosexual and conceal the homosexual or bisexual orientation of one or both spouses. In gay slang, the spouse whose presence conceals the other's sexual orientation is referred to as a "beard."

Light in the Loafers: A male who is perceived to be a homosexual. Specifically, a man that has fashion sense and appears to be effeminate. Loafers refer to shoes, and it is implied that the individual is about to fly away like a fairy. Dates from the 1950s US slang.

Luvvie: British slang for an actor, actress, or other artistically minded person who is effusive, affected, or camp.

Maricón: Spanish term for gay man, mostly derogatory, but occasionally used affectionately between gay men. Homophobia in male professional sports has always been part of the game. Gay epithets are so pervasive among players that they are unaware of the weight and meaning of the terms. Today individuals making homophobic slurs are being confronted. In 2012, Major League Baseball had a new twist that appears to signal a change. Toronto Blue Jays player Yunel Escobar took the field with "Tu Ere Maricon" ("You are a faggot") painted in his eye black strips. He was given a three game suspension and had to donate his lost salary to anti-defamation group GLAAD, and You Can Play, an organization dedicated to combating homophobia in sports. He also underwent sensitivity training.

MOTSS: An acronym used as a term to refer to "Member(s) Of The Same Sex" or describe gay or bisexual encounters or relationships. It is possibly derived from the 1970 U.S. Census forms for counting households with Member Of The Same Sex. The acronym was popularized in the early years of Usenet (which is similar to today’s web forums). In 1983, "net.motss" was chosen as a name for one of the first LGBT newsgroups as an inside term to avoid having a highly visible, gay-related newsgroup name. It changed to “soc.motss” in 1987.

Nancy Boy, Nance: A post WWII term for an effeminate, homosexual male. “Nancy Boy” is also an artisanal bath, body and home store in San Francisco. I can vouch that they make excellent soaps, shampoos and personal care items. Visit them at 347 Hayes Street in San Francisco or on the web.

Polari: A secret gay language used in England during the 1950s and 60s. British linguist Paul Baker describes Polari: “In a world where homosexuality was stigmatized through the institutions of law, medicine and religion, [gay] men needed a way to express themselves without getting caught. Consisting of sixty or so core words, Polari described types of people, their body parts and clothing and evaluated them in terms of their attractiveness and sexual availability. So dropping the odd Polari word into a conversation with a new, handsome acquaintance was one way of working out if they might be interested.”
It was derived from a variety of sources, such as Italian words, rhyming slang, and back slang, which was saying a word as if it were spelled backwards. Actors, sailors, prostitutes and the gay subculture contributed various words. There were about 500 terms. They included words for types of people, occupations, body parts, clothing, and sexual acts.
A few examples of Polari: bona-good, ajax-nearby, eek-face, cod-vile, naff-awful/dull/hetro, lattie-room/flat, nanti-not/no/none, omi-man, palone-woman, riah-hair, zhoosh-style hair/tart up/mince, trade-sex or sex partner, and vada-to see.

Poof, Poofter: British/Aussie slang for homosexual, widely used in the 60's. Some claim that word comes from name for a large footstool or ottoman, - “pouffe”. In the Edwardian era, a pouffe was usually covered in leather and would make a flatulence noise when sat upon. It could also be a corruption of “puff.”

Pansy: An American term for an effeminate man, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. It was one of a number of flower names used in this manner. Others include Daisy, Lilac, Daffodil (British), Buttercup (US). “Lily-White Boys” refers to cowardly men, and “Daisy Chain” refers to a gay orgy. “Pansy Division” is also punk rock band from San Francisco. Formed in 1991, it features primarily gay musicians and focuses mostly on gay-related themes.

Rough trade: A casual partner of gay man that might be “gay for pay” or of a lower class or education or might be considered tough, rough, dangerous, or thuggish. Dates back to the 1930s. The term was also used as a name of a British record label, a record store chain, and a new-wave Canadian band.

Shirt-lifter: British and Australian urban slang for a male homosexual. It references an often-effeminate man who lifts his shirt to enable sexual access, usually for anal intercourse.

Temperamental: A euphemism for homosexual. Earliest usage is from the 1920s. “The Temperamentals” is a 2009 play by Jon Marans. It chronicles the founding of the Mattachine Society, the first sustained LGBT rights organization in the United States. Harry Hay, a leading gay activist, along with seven other gay men, formed it in 1950.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Sailors at the Market

There is a story here but I don't know what it is. There is probably a good punch line too. What a setup: Two sailors (seamen?) standing in front of a market that is selling horsemeat. Hmmm.
Did you hear the one about 2 sailors and the horse meat?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Gay fun in Guerneville

Entrance to R3 Hotel.
We were in Santa Rosa area of Northern California last weekend. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus was holding their pre-concert retreat at a Jewish camp and I went along with my husband who is an “upper tenor II” in the group. At the last minute we decided to extend our stay by spending the afternoon and evening in Guerneville. We spent a delightful evening at R3 Hotel. The R3 (formerly the Russian River Resort, RRR, and Triple R) is one of many "straight-friendly" accommodations available in "straight-friendly" Guerneville. The R3 Hotel offers 23 clean, simple, basic motel rooms around a pool, bar and garden court. The pool bar is popular and can be noisy but fun. In the evening there are programs of drag shows, comedy and karaoke. There is also a restaurant on the premises.  Because of the food and liquor laws, it is not clothing optional. (If that is your thing, try The Woods one block over.) We spent an enjoyable, gorgeous Sunday afternoon walking around the town. That evening, the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were holding an Oscars party and fundraiser at the bar. A fabulous time was had by all.

Our cabin at Highlands Inn
Our last stay in Guerneville was with friends about 5 years ago. Back then we stayed at the Highlands Inn. My review of the place back then said: “The resort offers private cabins with bath, kitchenette, and sitting area. They are clean and well maintained. The amenities are good (clothing-optional pool, hot tub, homemade breakfast muffins) but no Wi-Fi and spotty cell coverage. There is a meadow where you pitch your own tent for a fee. It is located on a hill above the rustic town of Guerneville, about a 5-minute walk down a steep hill. The place was nice but it is unlikely we would be back. The whole area was more of a rural experience then we like. But if you are a bear in the woods, go for it.”

The pool at R3 Hotel.
Guerneville is an interesting and unusual gay community that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. It is very small and rural with a population around 4,500. Palm Springs, for example, is 10-times the size. Generally it is unusual for a small town to have such an out and active LGBT presence.  It began in the 70’s when the area had a gay resurgence. The Russian River area and Guerneville in particular became the prime recreational destination for many of gay men and lesbians from San Francisco. Old traditional resorts gained a new lease on life catering to the new influx of gays and lesbians. The AIDS pandemic brought an end to Guerneville's reputation as a primarily gay destination. More straight families and retirees moved into the area and the resorts, once gay, turned to a heterosexual or mixed clientele. The once largest gay resort, Fife’s, is now very much a straight wedding destination, Dawn Ranch Lodge.  Guerneville has continued to succeed with a very eclectic population and is one of the most gay/straight integrated communities in the country.

I find it interesting that LGBT tourist sites promote Napa and Sonoma area over the Russian River area. First, the Napa and Sonoma wine country are just a short day trip for anyone visiting San Francisco. Other than several nice gay-owned B&B's and a couple gay/gay-friendly wineries, the wine country doesn’t have a gayborhood or a strong out LGBT presence. There are no gay bars or restaurants and very few community services or events. I find the communities to be little more then tolerant, conservative, straight-acting environments.

Downtown Guerneville, the 5 & 10.
The more interesting community that embraces the LGBT visitors and locals is the more rustic Russian River and Guerneville area that is 69 miles north of San Francisco and 55 miles northwest of Napa. The Russian River area has several gay resorts as well as a number of upscale gay-owned boutique properties. There are also a couple gay bars and the community supports many LGBT events. Check it out if you come to northern California.
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