Today In Gay History: December 5th -The1600’s: Irish Bishop Busted for Buggery and the Lusty Lesbians of The New World
1640 – The good bishop of Waterford and Lismore of the Church of Ireland Bishop John Atherton was one of the loudest and most anti-gay proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. After the laws passage Bishop Atherton himself was accused of buggery with a man, John Childe, his steward and proctor. They were tried under a law that Atherton himself had helped to institute. They were both condemned to death, and Atherton was executed in Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Reportedly, he confessed to the crime immediately before his execution, although he had proclaimed his innocence before that Atherton became the second person to be hanged under his own law. Some things never change.
1642 – The Essex County Court in Salem, Massachusetts recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention of “unseemly practices” is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of lesbians in America