Today In LGBT History – June 17th: Liberace Declares ‘I’m NOT Gay!’ and the AIDS Years
1883 – Birth date of Mauritz Stiller, the Finnish film director. Stiller was Greta Garbo’s discoverer, mentor, and friend. Tall, lean, gay, with a shock of hair and long expressive hands, Stiller was in demand in the film industry and his price to come to Hollywood was a contract for the then pudgy Greta Gustafsson.
1943 – Birth date of Barry Manilow, American singer-songwriter, musician, arranger, producer, conductor, entertainer, and performer. To this day Barry Manilow has never “officially” come-out of the closet. But he recently just entered a same-sex-marriage.
1948 – Anthropologist Ruth Benedict died. She was a sometimes lover and lifelong friend of fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Benedict held the post of President of the American Anthropological Association and was also a prominent member of the American Folklore Society. She became the first woman to be recognized as a prominent leader of a learned profession.
After Benedict died of a heart attack on this date, Margaret Mead kept the legacy of her lovers work going by supervising projects that Benedict would have looked after, and editing and publishing notes from studies that Benedict had collected throughout her life
1959 – On this date a London court awarded pianist Liberace $22,400 in damages against the “London Daily Mirror” for implying that the flamboyant entertainer was a homosexual by referring to him as a “mincing ice-covered heap of mother love.” The case went to trial, and when Liberace was asked by his own counsel whether he was gay. Liberace said no, saying: “My feelings are the same as anybody else’s. I am against the practice because it offends convention and offends society.” – I guess the jury was both blind and deaf.
1976 – In Toronto, the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario presents a brief “The Homosexual Minority in Ontario” to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
1977 – Vice President Walter Mondale angrily left a San Francisco Democratic fund raising event when his speech on human rights in South America was interrupted by a man who demanded to know when he would speak in favor of gay rights. Members of the newly formed San Francisco Gay Democratic Club held up signs demanding a statement on human rights in the United States. The club was created by Harvey Milk.
1981 – Sen. Roger Jepson (R-IA) introduced the Family Protection Act in Congress. It specified that anyone who was homosexual or openly supportive of homosexuals could not receive student aid, social security, or veterans’ benefits; and regulated what public school textbooks could say about human sexuality. It never passed, and Jepson lost his bid for re-election when it was revealed he had a membership at a brothel.
1983 – New York State Funeral Directors Association announced its members would not embalm the bodies of those who had died of AIDS.
From: The New York Times:
The state’s largest such group, urged its members yesterday not to embalm victims of AIDS until the government issues guidelines for safe handling of such cases.
Governor Cuomo characterized the action as “unfortunate.” He said he had asked state officials to investigate all legal remedies “to insure that the civil rights and human dignities of AIDS victims’ families are not compromised.”
1985 – Johnny Greene was fired from his job with McDermott International Inc. after writing an article for PEOPLE magazine about his own suspected case of AIDS. “They just walked in and said, ‘Get the hell out,’ Green said. “I hope they were acting out of panic or confusion, not belligerence or homophobia.”
1989 – Jessie Portis Helm, a columnist for Gentleman’s Quarterly, died of complications from AIDS at age 41.
1990 – Twelve US marines attacked three gay men outside a gay bar in Capitol Hill, leaving two of them unconscious. Two of the marines were fined $400 and confined to their barracks for 30 days. Despite witness accounts that several of the marines chanted, “Kill the fags,” Marine officials ruled that it was not a gay bashing but a bar brawl.
1990 – Mayor P.J. Morgan of Omaha, Nebraska declared the week of June 17 as “Understanding Our Differences, Respect All People Week.” Though in coincided with gay pride week, he received criticism for not mentioning gays and lesbians in the proclamation.
2005 – On this date the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops agreed to a five-year extension on their unprecedented policy of permanently barring sexually abusive clergy from church work. They did not take the opportunity to stop scapegoating gay clergy for the institutional church’s misdeeds. – Obviously the barring of sexually abusive clergy did not work.
2006 – An estimated 2.4 million people took to the streets of Sao Paulo to celebrate the Brazilian city’s 10th annual Gay Pride parade.The record attendance — the largest in the world, according to organizers — topped 2005’s official crowd count of 1.8 million, and was a far cry from the 2,000 people who took part when Sao Paulo’s first Pride was held a decade ago. Some revelers dressed up as Batman, Elvis Presley, Cinderella or Marie Antoinette; others as gay cowboy lovers Jake and Heath from “Brokeback Mountain”.