Gay History – October 18th: The KKK Plots To Blow Up A Gay Bar, Georgia’s Sodomy Apology, and the USS Iowa’s Gay Baiting
1977: Citizens United to Protect Our Children, an organization in Portland OR, announced they had failed to get enough signatures to get a recall election of Mayor Neil Goldschmidt after he declared Portland Gay Pride Day.
1990: Former Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell declared that he believed he made a mistake by voting to uphold Georgia’s sodomy laws in the 1986 Bowers v Hardwick case.
In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick to uphold Georgia’s sodomy law, and with it similar laws in twenty-five other states and the District of Columbia. It had been reported that Justice Powell had originally voted to strike down, but a few days later he changed his mind and became the deciding vote in the court’s 5-4 decision. His retirement the following year gave him plenty of time to think about what he had done. Four years after Bowers, Powell spoke before a group of law students at New York University where he was asked how he reconciled his vote in Bowers, which limited the right to privacy, with his vote in Roe v. Wade, which extended a woman’s right to privacy to include whether she wanted to have an abortion. “I think I probably made a mistake on that one,” Powell said of his Bowers decision.
Powell later explained to a law journal, “I do think I was inconsistent in a general way with Roe. When I had the opportunity to reread the opinions a few months later, I thought the dissent had the better of the arguments.” But Powell refused to consider his deciding vote all that important. “I thought it was a frivolous case. I still think it was a frivolous case.” He considered his decision as “one of little or no importance,” because, he said, no one had actually been prosecuted for homosexual conduct.
1990: Three white supremacists: Robert John Winslow, Stephen Nelson,, and Procter Baker were convicted of conspiring to blow up Neighbours Disco a gay bar in Boise, Idaho.
Robert John Winslow, a twenty-nine year old former infantryman from Laclede, Idaho had it all figured out. He used a towel spread out on a table top to represent the area around Seattle’s Neighbours Disco, a popular nightclub in the Capital Hill gayborhood, as he explained to Rico Valentino how it would all go down. They’d plant four bombs in the alley adjacent to Neighbours’ rear entrance. They’d paint them black and hide them in the shadows, on opposite sides of the alley. They could even use propane to create a “fireball effect.” Then someone would phone the bar with a bomb threat and everyone would evacuate out into the alley. “Fag burgers!” Winslow laughed. Why? Winslow said that homosexuals in America were threatening “white Christianity.” They also talked about bombing the Anti-Defamation League, cars owned by Jews, and businesses owned by blacks and Chinese.
They began planning the operation on April 20, 1990, during an Aryan Nation’s celebration of Hitler’s birthday, and now they were ready to do it. Winslow, Stephen Nelson, 35, and Procter Baker, 58, who had served as master of ceremonies for the birthday observance, were members of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations) at Hayden Lake, Idaho. But Valentino, a former professional wrestler, was a paid informant who had been working undercover for three years for the FBI. He wore a wire as Winslow laid out the plans. He also collected evidence at the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho. On May 12, 1990, Winslow and Nelson were arrested after driving with Valentino to Seattle. FBI agents trailed the van and arrested them in a motel parking lot near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Agents found pipe-bomb components, a .38-caliber pistol, a 12-gage shotgun and white-supremacist literature. Baker was arrested at his home in Coeur d’Alene. A search of his cabin in Kendrick turned up a partially assembled pipe bomb.
On October 18, 1990, Nelson, Winslow, and Baker were convicted of conspiracy and manufacturing and possessing pipe bombs. Nelson and Winslow were also found guilty of using interstate commerce in a conspiracy and possessing firearms during a violent crime. Winslow was sentenced to nine years, Nelson eight, and Baker to two years. The sentence was considered light: they had faced 20 to 25 years. But U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan rejected prosecutors contention that their actions amounted to “domestic terrorism,” and he also declined the government’s request to add time to the sentenced based on the intended victims.
1991: Admiral Frank B Kelso, chief of naval operations, announced that the explosion of the USS Iowa which killed forty-seven men had been proven not to have been caused by a wrongful intentional act and apologized to the family of Clayton Hartwig. Hartwig had been accused of intentionally causing the blast as an act of suicide following the break up of a homosexual affair. (It was NEVER proven that Hartwig was a was homosexual.)
On April 19, 1989 in the Number Two 16-inch gun turret aboard the USS Iowa exploded, killing 47 crewmen who were inside the turret. Iowa crewmen were ordered to remov the bodies, throw damaged equipment overboard and repaint the damaged turret the next day — all without taking photos or gathering any evidence. Investigators immediately set out the theory that Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, was killed in the blast, had committed suicide by detonating the explosion after an alleged affair with another male soldier ended. As far as the Navy was concerned, that explained everything and the case was closed.
But Congress and the general public weren’t satisfied. After mounting criticism, Navy Secretary J. Lawrence Garett III ordered the service to reopen the investigation and hand it over to independent investigators. During that investigation, a sample of gunpowder of the same type used on the USS Iowa exploded during a ram test, which simulated the process of raming bags of gunpowder into the gun during loading. With that, the original investigation, which was based on circumstantial evidence, also went up in smoke. The Navy was left with nothing to do but apologize. “For this, on behalf of the U.S. Navy, I extend my sincere regrets to the family,” said a statement from Adm. Frank Kekso, chief of naval operations. “The Navy will not imply that a deceased individual is to blame for his own death, or the death of others.” He also apologized to the other families of those who died because “such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts, no certain answers regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.”