Monday 21 January 2013

History of Homosexuality (Part II)

Let me  premise this article with the statement that I am a heterosexual and happily married for the past 36 years with two daughters and five grandchildren.

After the middle of the last century passed, The United States began to accept homosexuals (gays and lesbians) more readily but the progress was slow to begin with.

The Task Force on Homosexuality in the U.S. reported in 1969 that although many people continued to regard homosexual activities with repugnance, there was evidence that the public attitudes towards homosexuality were changing.  As many as 60% of 20,000 polled, agreed that it was a matter of choice. 

However, only 14% agreed that there was nothing wrong with it. The vast majority did agree that homosexuals shouldn't be punished as criminals. 

The NBC television network acknowledged on October 26, 1973, that it had at times dealt unfairly with homosexuals in its programs and further agreed to maintain contact with homosexual organizations for advice on the treatment of homosexual topics.

There was a radical change in the attitudes of homosexuals towards themselves. Many were coming out of the closet so-to-speak and speaking publicly about homosexuality without feeling embarrassed.


The churches had traditionally condemned homosexuality and had been unsympathetic and openly hostile towards homosexuals but in 1969, the Council for Christian Social Action of the United Church of Christ and the United Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church and the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1970 gave their collective approval opposing criminal punishment for private homosexual acts between consenting adults however they were prepared to go as far as saying that homosexuality was without sin. 

The United Church of Christ on June 25, 1972 really stepped into the breech when it ordained an avowed homosexual to its clergy. On the other hand, Rev. Gene Leggett was suspended by the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church in June 1971 after he proclaimed his homosexuality.

Despite such setbacks, a growing number of ministers, seminary students and even congregations and religious committees were speaking out against discriminating against homosexuals. Norman Pittenger, an Anglican Theologian argued that homosexual acts need not be either immoral or sinful since God gave men and women a capacity and a need to love and the object of this love and the way it is expressed is of secondary importance providing that the intent is good. Peter E. Fink, a doctoral candidate in theology at Emory University said that the prime mission of the church is to help homosexuals love God and accept his or her homosexuality and that God also loves them. He also said that the church should be a home for gays and lesbians.

Unfortunately, most churches at that time refused to accept homosexuals in their midst so they were forced to bring about their own churches in which they could pray to God. Beginning in Los Angeles, homosexual congregations of the Universal Fellowship of the of the Metropolitan Community Church spread to Chicago, Dallas, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego and Denver. A second denomination for homosexuals, the Orthodox Church founded by a former Polish Catholic priest was brought about in New York. The first gay synagogue Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim (The House of New Light) opened in Los Angeles in March 1972 and a second gay temple Beth Simchat Torah (House of Joy) opened in December 1973 in New York. 

Gay liberationists were almost unanimous in their condemnation of psychiatrists during this period of time. The object of their condemnation s was brought about by such statements by psychiatrists as; “Homosexuals are emotional disturbed; they are sexual immature; homosexuality is a curable illness; It is not the way of life these sick people gratuitously assume it to be but a neurotic distortion of the personality of homosexuals.” It is small wonder why such stupid statements infuriated homosexuals, and other reasonably thinking individuals.


Not all psychiatrists agreed that homosexuals were suffering from a mental illness. Dr. Martin Offman, a staff psychiatrist for the Center for Special Problems in San Francisco said, “Psychiatrists who claim that all homosexuals are sick, apparently forgot that members of any group who go to a psychiatrist are there because they are troubled people.”  It follows that they didn’t need a psychiatric quack telling them that they were sick individuals because of their homosexuality. The biggest sign of change by the psychiatric profession was its later approach to homosexuality by the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders.

State laws against homosexuality

Unfortunately for the homosexuals, many states in the U.S. continued to outlaw private homosexual acts between consenting adults in the era of the mid Twentieth Century however some of the states began to repeal or liberalize their laws towards homosexuals. They did this more as a revision of their criminal laws than alleviate the suffering of homosexuals by their prejudice.

The American Civil Liberties Union in 1973 launched a Sexual Privacy Project aimed at attacking all criminal statutes that prohibited consensual activity among consenting adults. The ACLU contended that such laws violated a homosexual’s constitutional rights including (1) the right to privacy, (2) the First Amendment right of free speech (3) the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and (4) the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.  

The Supreme Court of the United States had previously ruled against the invasion of privacy of married couples so it followed later that the lower courts would apply the same rights to privacy to homosexuals. A three-judge court in Texas in 1970 declared that the Texas sodomy statute was void on the basis of it being an improper invasion of privacy. In the case before the court, it was clear that the statute applied to married persons and to homosexuals practicing acts of sodomy in private.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the United States vacated the Texas decision but strictly on jurisdictional grounds only. Sodomy (anal and/or oral sex) had been an  offence under common law (decisions by the courts) and had been a statutory offence in Texas for more than a hundred years.   I should that in 1967; Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

In NAACP v. Alabama, the Supreme Court said, “Such a law cannot stand in light of the familiar principle, so often applied by this Court, that a governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.”

 Sodomy of which anal and oral sex is involved is not an act which has the approval of all of the people. In fact such conduct is probably offensive to many of them, but such opinion is not sufficient reason for governments to encroach upon the liberty of married persons or homosexuals in their private conduct. Their conduct may comprise of good or bad taste to some people but such conduct in private must be protected from regulation. 


With respect to homosexuals working in Civil Service, the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) Circuit Court of Appeals in 1969 ruled that the government’s policy of automatically disqualifying homosexuals from employment, refused to uphold a lower court’s dismissal of employment of a budget analyst for the Space and Aeronautical Administration simply because he was a homosexual. The California Supreme Court ruled similarly when a public school teacher’s credentials were revoked because the teacher was a homosexual. The court said that homosexuality does not necessarily bear on an individual’s fitness to teach.


Perhaps the most controversial issue to reach the courts in the previous century was the issue of homosexual marriages. Jack Baker and James McConnell of Minneapolis filed suit upon being denied a marriage certificate. In their 1970 Minnesota case, the court in that state took the position that the tradition of civil marriage and of the laws permitting it, is limited to persons of the opposite sexes. For this reason, their suit was denied as was their appeal. Much has happened since then with respect to same sex marriages in the United States. President Obama said that he approves of same sex marriages. Legal experts have argued that same-sex marriages should not be prohibited constitutionally if the Equal Rights Amendment is ratified by the states. It was placed before Congress in March of 1972 and almost two years later, it had been approved by legislation in 33 of the 38 states requiring ratification.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage and defining marriage as ‘a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.’ While individual states may rule on the legality of same-sex unions, they aren't recognized on a federal level and in many other states.

In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court declared that gay and lesbian couples should be given the same rights as heterosexual couples. In 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and began performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in May 2004.

In February 2004, Sandoval County, New Mexico, issued 26 same-sex marriage licenses that were later nullified by the state attorney general that same day. Nearly 4,000 same-sex couples got marriage licenses in San Francisco until the next month when California Supreme Court ordered them to stop, and the mayor of New Paltz, New York, was issued a permanent injunction by the Ulster County Supreme Court after marrying about a dozen same-sex couples. That February, President George W. Bush announced support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The fight over same-sex marriages will reached a final decision in March 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled arguments on the State of  California's Proposition 8 and on the federal Defense of Marriage Act on consecutive days. I will keep my readers posted.  

The Military

“Don't ask, don't tell” was the official United States policy on gays serving in the military from December 21, 1993, to September 20, 2011. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants from military service. However,  if gay, lesbian or bisexual persons in the military were flouting their homosexuality or were caught in indulging in a homosexual act, they could be barred from the armed forces.   
 The law prohibited any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from disclosing any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. 

In 2010, as many as 69 percent of all armed forces personnel surveyed believed they had already worked with a gay or lesbian and of those, 92 percent reported that the impact of that person's presence was positive or neutral. 

President Obama signed the Repeal Act into law on December 22, 2010. The Repeal Act established a process for ending the “Don’t tell, don’t ask” (DADT) policy. The President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were required to certify in writing that they had reviewed the Pentagon's report on the effects of DADT repeal, that the appropriate regulations had been reviewed and drafted, and that implementation of repeal regulations “is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.” Once certification was given, DADT would be lifted after a 60-day waiting period.

In the weeks that followed the 60-day waiting period, a series of firsts attracted press attention to the impact of the repeal. Reservist Jeremy Johnson became the first person discharged under DADT to re-enlist. US Navy Lt. Gary Ross married Dan Swezy, thereby becoming the first same sex-military couple to legally marry in the United States armed forces. 

History of Homosexuality (Part III) which will follow soon, will be about the problems homosexuals face in other countries.

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