This Week In Gay History May 11 – 17: Nero Performs 1st Gay Marriage, The Equality Act of 1974, and MORE!
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)
1999 – Billy Bean the former outfielder and left-handed hitter for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres makes headlines in when he became only the second baseball player to publicly come out, three years after his retirement. It was a long struggle to get there. As a closeted pro athlete, he struggled to juggle his secret and his career. He divorced his wife in 1993 and secretly moved in with his first lover. When his lover died of AIDS, Bean didn’t attend the funeral because he was too frightened that his secret would be revealed. “Why was it so impossible to think that a baseball player could grieve for a man?” he later reflected. “That was a terrible, terrible decision I made.”
His 2003 book, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball, chronicles the ups and downs of his life as a gay man and baseball player. He is currently a real estate agent in Miami.
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.
1944 – Novelist 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.
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.
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. Introduced by Bella Abzug and ironically Ed Koch the sweeping federal bill would have banned discrimination against lesbians, gay men, unmarried persons and women in employment, housing and public accommodations. Abzug and Koch’s bill stands as the first-ever national legislative proposal to end discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
40 years later and we are still waiting……….
1981 – The Reagan administration cancels the White House subscription to The Advocate.
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
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.
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.
1969 – Canada decriminalizes private same-sex acts.
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.
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 Mame‘s 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
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.
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