Gay History – July 20: The Mattachine Society’s “Mission and Purposes”, Cruising in Paris, Gerry Studds, and the Murder of John O’Connell
1845: In Paris, a mob attacks a group of about 50 men arrested by police in a sweep of the Tuileries Gardens, a popular cruising area.
The Archives de la Bastille contain hundreds of reports of conversations between “sodomites” and police decoys in public spaces such as the Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens. The reports include many of the same comments and gestures, as well as numerous variants in their opening lines. Thus, for example: Charles Gentil accosted a man listening to music emanating from the Tuileries palace by noting that “there are some fine instruments in this ensemble” and adding that “there are others that do not make so much noise but give more pleasure” (from the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Archives de la Bastille, November 1, 1728). He explained by exposing himself, as countless others did without the clever verbal prelude. Many “sodomites” discussed their endowments or endurance, preferences and adventures, all in order to impress and entice the object of their desires. Some declared that they had never liked women (sometimes in misogynistic terminology) and always liked men—which begins to sound like an assertion of personal sexual identity.
1951: The “Missions and Purposes” of the Mattachine Society are ratified under California corporation law.
The Society, founded upon the highest ethical and social principles, serves as an example for homosexuals to follow and provides a dignified standard upon which the rest of society can base a more intelligent and accurate picture of the nature of homosexuality than currently obtains in the public mind. The Society provides the instrument necessary to work with civic-minded and socially valuable organizations and supplies the means for the assistance of our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression. Only a Society, providing an enlightened leadership, can rouse the homosexuals — one of the largest minorities in America today — to take the actions necessary to elevate themselves from the social ostracism an unsympathetic culture has perpetrated upon them.
1983: The House votes 420 to 3 to censure Representatives Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.) and Daniel B. Crane (R-Ill.) for sexual misconduct with House pages. Studds later reads reporters a statement saying that the censure was not warranted: his affair with the page was private and mutually voluntary. He adds that he hopes “to emerge from the present situation a wiser, a more tolerant and a more complete human being.” The censure strips Studds of his chairmanship of the Coast Guard and Navigation Subcommittee. “We are here to repair the integrity of the United States House of Representatives,” proclaims Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia).
After retiring from Congress in 1997, Studds worked as a lobbyist for the fishing industry.
Studds and partner Dean T. Hara (his companion since 1991) were married in Boston on May 24, 2004, one week after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gerry Studds died on October 14, 2006, in Boston, at age 69, several days after suffering a pulmonary embolism. Due to the federal ban on same-sex marriage, Hara was not eligible, upon Studds’ death, to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.. Hara later joined a federal lawsuit, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, that successfully challenged the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
1981: Despite having privately acknowledged her “bisexuality” to officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Czechoslovakian- born tennis champion Martina Navratilova is finally
granted U.S. citizenship, six years after she defected.
1984: Forty-year-old gay San Franciscan John O’Connell is murdered, and another man injured, when five men, all in their late teens or early twenties, drive into the city from nearby Vallejo looking to “beat up some fags.” The murderers are all released in 1990, after only serving four years of their 15-year-to-life terms.
A 9 p.m. in the Polk Street district, a favorite area of homosexuals, two men walking along the street were accosted by four of the Vallejo group, one of them shouting anti-homosexual epithets.
John O’Connell, 42, suffered two blows and fell to the pavement. The medical evidence was that it was the fall, not the blows, that produced the cerebral trauma that caused death.
The defendants left the scene laughing.
2005: Bill C-38 receives Royal Assent, legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada nationwide. The first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license under the new law is a couple from Alberta.