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You Are Here: Home » Featured, LGBT History » This Week In Gay History May 12 – 18: Nero Marries 1st Gay Couple, Divine, Auntie Mame, and ENDA


54 AD - Nero becomes Emperor of Rome. Nero married two men in legal ceremonies, with at least one spouse accorded the same honours as an empress. Gay relationships are accepted and institutionalized in this time period.

1102 AD – The Council of London took measures to ensure that the public, quite tolerant of homosexuality at the time, knew that it was sinful, marking a significant shift in church attitudes towards homosexuality, which previously had been more or less indifference, or very mild condemnation. Many priests were homosexuals, likely one of the causes of the change in attitude, as moral reformers such as Bernard of Cluny called for change.

 1250 – 1300 AD – “Between 1250 and 1300, homosexual activity passed from being legal in most of Europe to incurring the death penalty in all but a few contemporary legal compilations.” – John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980)


May 12

May 12, 1975 - California decriminalizes same-sex acts between consenting adults. Assembly member Willie Brown  and state Senator George Moscone (who will later in his career be assassinated along with LGBT civil rights great Harvey Milk in San Francisco)  co-sponsor AB 489, the “Consenting Adults Bill,” which decriminalizes sexual activity between consenting adults.  Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill into law on May 12, 1975, and it goes into effect January 1, 1976.

May 13

May 13, 1944Novelist Armistead Maupin is born. Maupin becomes famous for his Tales of the City  novels, the first portions of which were published initially as a newspaper serial in The Pacific Sun and later picked up San Francisco Chronicle, and then reworded into a popular bestselling series of books.  reworked into the series of books published by Harper Collins places his gay characters within a large framework of humanity, creating a social history of San Francisco during the tumultuous decades of the 1970s and 1980s.  Maupin is  compared to the Charles Dickens of San Francisco. Like Dickens’s London, Maupin’s San Francisco is populated by all sorts and conditions of humankind: waifs and scoundrels, high-society hypocrites and burghers complacent in their middle-class ways, and at the center, a group of earnest seekers after a happy life.

May 14

May 14, 1883 - One of America’s foremost female impersonator is born as Julian Eltinge in Newtonville, Massachusetts. Eltinge was a stage and silent film star with few realizing he was actually a man until  So popular was he that during the Korean War a troop ship was named in his, or rather, her honor.

May 14, 1974 - Long before ENDA (The Employment Non-Discrimination Act)  is introduced in 1991, the first federal gay rights bill is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974  but fails to pass. The Equality Act of 1974, would have amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act, by adding “sexual orientation, to the list of protected from discrimination. .

May 14, 1981 – The Reagan administration cancels the White House subscription to The Advocate.

March 14, 2002 - On the ABC primetime news program Primetime Live, Rosie O’Donnell officially comes out in order to offer support to a gay male couple trying to adopt in Florida

May 15

May 15, 356 BC - Alexander the Great is born in Macedonia. One of the greatest conquering generals of all time, Alexander’s love of Hephaistion, before and during a marriage, is well accepted as factual history. Upon Hephaistion’s death in battle, Alexander wept for days and provided him a funeral normally afforded kings.

May 15, 1897 - The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, (Wissenschaftlich-Humanitres Komitee) was founded by Dr Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin, Germany to campaign for social recognition of homosexual, bisexual and transgender men and women, and against their legal persecution. The committee was dissolved in 1933 when the Nazis destroyed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin where the WhK was based.

May 15,1969 - Canada decriminalizes private same-sex acts.

May 15, 1977 – CBS’ 60 Minutes broadcasts a segment on child pornography, concentrating on “adult homosexuals who prey on small boys.”  As a result teenagers from a conservative New York Catholic high school go on a gay bashing spree, beating one victim to death. They are later sentenced to 35 and 40 years in prison.

May 16

May 16, 1921 – Patrick Dennis (pseudonym of Edward Everett Tanner) , the writer who created Auntie Mame was born in Chicago. A bisexual man, he is the only author to have had three novels on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time. Auntie Mames first edition spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list, selling more than 2,000,000 copies in five different languages. The manuscript was turned down by fifteen publishers before being accepted by the Vanguard Press

May 17

May 17, 1866 – Composer Erik Satie is born in Honfleur, Calvados. Throughout his life he lived in a small Paris room. Dissatisfied with his compositions, he returned to school when he was forty to study music formally. Satie, a contemporary of Ravel & Debussy collaborated with Jean Cocteau to create the ballet Parade (1917) and left a remarkable set of writings, having contributed work for a range of publications, from the Dada 391 to the American culture chronicle). Still today his untutored works are among his most popular.

March 17, 1972 - John Waters’ outrageous movie Pink Flamingos opens in theaters and introduces the world to Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead). When the film was initially released, it caused a huge degree of controversy due to the wide range of “perverse” acts performed in explicit detail. It has since become one of the most notorious films ever made and is rated as #29 on the list of 50 Films to See Before You Die

May 18

May 18 , 1981 – The New York Native becomes the first news source to report on the emerging epidemic of AIDS.  Lawrence D. Mass, the paper’s medical writer, had been tipped off by two sources that a new disease, Pneumocystis pneumonia, had been infecting gay men in NYC.  After contacting an official with the CDC, he was told that the rumors were unfounded. He ran an article titled “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded” on May 18, 1981. Mass wrote,

“Last week there were rumors that an exotic new disease had hit the gay community in New York. Here are the facts. From the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Steve Phillips explained that the rumors are for the most part unfounded. Each year, approximately 12 to 24 cases of infection with a protozoa-like organism, Pneumocystis Carinii, are reported in New York City area. The organism is not exotic; in fact, it’s ubiquitous. But most of us have a natural or easily acquired immunity.”

Between this first report and December 31, 2000, 774,467 persons were reported with AIDS in the United States; 448,060, nearly half a million of then die of the disease.

About the author

Will Kohler has written 6655 articles on this blog.

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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