Today in Gay History – January 26
1886 – Serbian Nikola Tesla (July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was issued nearly 300 patents in the US for his ground-breaking career focusing on electricity. He was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current(AC) electricity supply system. Likely asexual, Tesla never married, explaining that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. Tesla chose to never pursue or engage in any known relationships, instead finding all the stimulation he needed in his work.
1958 — Comedian Ellen Degeneres (born January 26, 1958) is born. Degeneres is the first star of a television sitcom ever to come out — in 1997 — to the public, an act many see as having dramatically improved the climate for LGBT actors, though she almost instantly lost her show. Her current success in daytime talk television was unforeseeable at the time and she had no reason to think she would not have to go back to stand-up comedy clubs forever at the time she risked her television career. In 2008, she married her longtime girlfriend Portia de Rossi (born 31 January 1973), Australian and American actress, model, and philanthropist.
1971 –Look Magazine includes a gay couple from Minnesota, Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, as part of that week’s cover article on “The American Family.” Baker and McConnell are also noteworthy as they are the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to be granted a marriage license.
Jack Baker and Mike McConnell were married by a young Methodist minister in Mankato, MN in 1971. Baker had legally changed his name to the gender-neutral Pat Lynne McConnell to get the marriage license. By the time the state of MN figured out that the bride was actually a male it was already too late. The two were officially married.
While Minnesota did try to null and void their marriage Baker and McConnell fought back furiously and predicted they would win eventually, but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that their marriage was illegal. However, their license was never revoked
1996 – Rent opens off Broadway in the New York Theater Workshop for a six-week run. The creator, Jonathan Larson (February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996), died unexpectedly the morning of Rent‘s first preview performance Off Broadway. He suffered an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996.
Rent is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini‘s opera La Bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City‘s East Village in the thriving days of bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of poverty and HIV/AIDS.
2011, Uganda – David Kato Kisule (c. 1964 – 26 January 2011), founding member of Sexual Minorities Uganda, is murdered. He was the founder and leader of the LGBT rights movement in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. He was a Ugandan teacher and LGBT rights activist, considered a father of Uganda’s gay rights movement[ and described as “Uganda’s first openly gay man”. He served as advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Kato was murdered in 2011 allegedly by a male sex worker, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.