Connect with us

Why “The New Civil Rights”?



Stonewall, Mattachine, World War II:
Where We Came From



Editor’s note: I am honored to announce a new addition to The New Civil Rights Movement. Author and editor Dr. William B. Turner, known for his work on “Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy”, among other books, and a regular contributor to the Daily Kos, will be writing occasionally here as well.

William B. Turner is a student of the history of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement.  He holds a Ph.D. in history from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin.  He has written on the statutory exclusion of lesbian/gay aliens from the United States from 1917 to 1990, Wisconsin’s pioneering legislation prohibiting sexual-orientation discrimination, and on lesbian/gay rights issues in the Carter and Reagan presidential administrations in Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, which he co-edited with John D’Emilio and Urvashi Vaid.  He edited the section on the LGBT movement for The Encyclopedia of American Social Movements and wrote the entries on the Defense of Marriage Act, sexuality, and sexual orientation for The Dictionary of American History.  He posts regularly on the Daily Kos web site. He has also published A Genealogy of Queer Theory, as well as various other articles in law reviews on LGBT civil rights and African American civil rights.

I know you’ll enjoy Dr. Turner’s first contribution.

Why “The New Civil Rights”?

The name of this web site is “The New Civil Rights Movement.” The title of the book I’m writing is The New Civil Rights: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Politics and Policy in the United States, 1973-2000. Why do we use the phrase, “new civil rights”? The short answer is that the LGBT movement emerged at the end of a period of dramatic expansion of American civil rights law, and because the LGBT movement is in fact about civil rights issues – equality of opportunity and treatment in all areas of American life – without regard for sexual orientation or gender identity. There is a strategic as well as an empirical component to this choice: the African American civil rights movement has accumulated an enormous fund of moral authority that attaches generally to the concept of civil rights; LGBT activists hope to invoke that moral authority for their own movement by calling it a “civil rights” movement.

As a historian of that movement, I plan to offer a series of short articles on my research into the history of the LGBT civil rights movement. This is the first of those essays. It places the LGBT movement into the larger historical context of the United States.

Virtually everyone points to the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 as the birth point of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. The Stonewall Riots occurred when a group of angry queers fought back against a police raid at a queer bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It was a remarkable display of revolt by a group that usually accepted police harassment without much protest. To this day, Pride celebrations around the country and the world commemorate the Stonewall Riots.

As important as Stonewall undoubtedly was, we should not allow it to blind us to the important organizing by LGBT persons that predated the Riots. In his groundbreaking work on the subject, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1945-1970, historian John D’Emilio traces the efforts of “homophile” activists, as they called themselves. Started by a Communist, Harry Hay, in 1952, by 1969 the Mattachine Society was clearly the leading gay rights group in the country, but conservatives had long since taken over the Mattachine Society and pursued a program of trying to work with various authorities, psychiatrists, legal officials, and political leaders to persuade them that discrimination against gay people was morally wrong and a violation of this nation’s founding political and legal principles.

Mattachine eschewed protest politics for the most part, although they did sponsor occasional picketing, against discrimination in federal hiring, for example. They insisted that their picketers wear business clothes to prove their respectability to observers. After the first night of the Stonewall Riots, they posted a sign at the site of the bar calling on queers to reject more rioting.

But Mattachine was behind the times. By 1969, informed Americans knew that various forms of protest could be very effective for civil rights movements. Just as the Mattachine Society called for an end to the Stonewall Riots, so had the NAACP, the leading African American civil rights group at the time, expressed reservations when African American students began conducting sit-in protests against racial segregation in 1960. But the students would not be deterred, and sit-ins worked much better and more quickly than anything the NAACP or anyone else had ever come up with before.

Similarly, the Stonewall Riots produced an amazing outpouring of organizing by and for lesbians and gay men (bisexuals and transgender persons would only become visible parts of the movement in the late 1980s and 1990s, even though many of the participants in the Riots were either bisexual in some important sense, or gender variant, or both). D’Emilio explains that the burst of lesbian/gay organizing in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall was a historical puzzle given the prevailing stereotype at the time of gay people as lonely, isolated individuals who typically did not foster significant communities or relationships. If this stereotype were true, it would have been impossible for such persons to have created the number and variety of lesbian/gay rights groups that emerged almost overnight after Stonewall.

Still, lesbians and gay men had to be educated to see their situation in political terms. D’Emilio means “the making of a homosexual minority” quite literally. He documents the efforts by the Mattachine Society and other homophile organizations to persuade lesbians and gay men to see themselves as an oppressed minority, which many of them did not do automatically. Whatever their significant differences in terms of underlying political beliefs or organizing strategies, the conservatives who took over the Mattachine Society shared one important characteristic with the Communist Harry Hay – the belief that oppression of lesbians and gay men was, at base, a political issue that demanded a political solution.

But the “political solution” has a wide range of meanings, from the low-key lobbying of authority figures that Mattachine leaders preferred to the street riots that erupted from the police raid at the Stonewell Bar. So what were the major historical factors that allowed for the Stonewall Riots themselves to occur, and for them to produce an outpouring of lesbian/gay rights organizing?

Among the most important was World War II. As Allan Berube explains in Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II, of course many lesbians and gay men served in the military during World War II. Although official military regulations called for the immediate discharge of any known lesbian or gay man, different commanders had varying approaches to dealing with the lesbians and gay men in their commands. Some immediately pursued discharges on learning of lesbians or gay men, while others appreciated the contributions of lesbians and gay men at a time of acute shortages of person power.

Of course military service during World War II created the ideal circumstances for discovering and acting on same-sex desires. Millions of young people lived away from their immediate families for the first time, usually in sex-segregated environments. After the War ended, many of these former soldiers found themselves discharged in major cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, where they could continue to organize their lives around their same-sex attraction in the anonymity of a large city that also contained many others like them. Protest actions such as the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and later, the ACT-UP protests of the late 1980s required a critical mass of pissed-off queers such as only New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles could produce. Thus, it is no surprise that the Riots occurred in New York City, or that the first openly lesbian/gay persons to hold public office in the United States served at the municipal level in Boston and San Francisco.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


Extremist Group Targets Florida High School’s Yearbook Over Inclusion of LGBTQ Students Section



The publication of a Florida high school yearbook that included an LGBTQ section has drawn rebuke from a conservative group, The Orlando Sentinel reports.

Lyman High School’s 256-page yearbook includes two pages that highlight the school’s LGBTQ students and features gender identity terms such as “genderfluid” and “nonbinary.”

The Seminole County Public Schools in response to the criticism is offering to issue refunds or reprint the yearbook without the LGBTQ section that the conservative Seminole County Moms for Liberty claims is offensive.

“They shouldn’t have any sexual definitions in a yearbook,” the group’s chapter chair Jessica Tillmann told The Sentinel.

“This is a yearbook that goes to every student as young as 14.”

The school’s yearbook is stirring controversy for a second straight year after the district in 2022 considered putting stickers over photos of a student walkout protesting the so-called “don’t say gay” law, the report said.

The Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher reports that “An LGBTQ+ section in this year’s yearbook includes a picture of members of the student’s Gay-Straight Alliance, definitions of key LGBTQ+ terms, a passage on the evolution of pronouns and a profile of a student who advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Danielle Pomeranz, the school yearbook’s faculty advisor, isn’t on board with the district’s decision to remove the LGBTQ content.

“They are definitions,” Pomeranz told The Sentinel.

“They are not teaching anything about sex at all. … Nobody is teaching anybody about sex acts. It is ridiculous.”

Pomeranz has since resigned from her position in the district, citing in part the Sunshine State’s political climate and an unsupportive district, the report said.

“We’ve always had the LGBTQ+ spread in there,” she said.

“Our job as journalists and members of the yearbook staff is to provide coverage of the entire school and that includes all of the communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.”

Read the full article here.

Image via Shutterstock

Continue Reading


‘No Longer the Lord’s Chicken’: ‘Christian Woman’ Says She’s ‘Grieving’ Over ‘Woke’ Chick-fil-A Hiring a Diversity Officer



A self-described “Christian woman” who is a contributor to the far-right wing students organization Turning Point USA, is being widely mocked for posting a video attacking Chick-fil-A over claims the conservative, privately-owned, faith-based fast food restaurant chain recently hired a diversity officer.

“So I’m grieving,” the video, apparently by Morgonn McMichael (below), begins. “It’s lunchtime. I’m here with Aubrey. And we really wanted some Chick-fil-A but because they decided to hire a diversity, equity and inclusion corporate position, and also bow down to the woke lord because their ESG scores, and also I found out do you know their chicken is funded by BlackRock and Vanguard? Yeah their farms, they use Tyson and this other farm, BlackRock and Vanguard funded chicken.”

If you think that’s a mouthful just wait, there’s more.

“Chick-fil-A,” Morgonn continues, “you are no longer the Lord’s chicken. You’re actually the woke chicken and I’m really upset about it as a Christian woman. All we wanted was some good fried chicken so now we’re gonna go to Cane’s, we’re going to try it out.”

READ MORE: Classified Pentagon ‘War Plans’ Document Trump Bragged About in Audio Recording Is Missing: Report

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers is a Louisiana-based fast food restaurant with 600 locations in the U.S. and Western Asia.

“This is really difficult because there’s a Chick-fil-A is across the street. Now eating chicken fingers instead of chicken nuggets. I know, first world Christian woman problems, but no one will ever understand the love that I had for Chick-fil-A.”

“You know, we’re taking this boycott Chick-fil-A thing seriously, and it’s really difficult.”

The video was posted to Twitter by the anonymous group PatriotTakes, which has been described as a liberal political action committee. It quickly went viral, garnering over 2 million views in just eight hours. Late Friday afternoon Morgonn tweeted, “sarcasm and satire are things the left doesn’t seem to understand.”

For those who don’t know, Turning Point USA, a far-right Christian nationalist organization, was founded by the ultra-MAGA Charlie Kirk, now a member of the highly-secretive Council for National Policy.

CNP’s membership list also includes former Trump attorney, ally, and advisor Cleta Mitchell, and Ginni Thomas.

“CNP members range from the leaders of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, to the Southern Poverty Law Center designated anti-LGBTQ hate groups Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom,” Documented reported last year.

Turning Point USA was in the news last week after Rolling Stone reported: “Charlie Kirk’s TPUSA Teamed Up With a Registered Sex Offender.”

Meanwhile, over at TPUSA, Morgonn McMichael’s bio says she is “a Gen Z social media influencer from Texas whose effort to empower and inspire America’s next generation of young conservative female leaders through patriotic online video content has amassed over 100,000 unique social media impressions every week on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and more.”

READ MORE: ‘I Don’t Want Reality’: Senate Republican Explodes Over Origin of Concept of Race – Calls to Teach ‘Jesus Loves Me’ Instead

“Morgonn has dedicated the last year promoting freedom of speech, religious liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government both online and across TPUSA campus chapters. Morgonn has also reached tens of thousands of viewers of all ages with her articles and appearances on Newsmax, Real America’s Voice, OAN, and Breitbart, offering insightful cultural commentary into the most pressing issues concerning young conservatives today.”

Apparently, Chick-fil-A’s diversity officer (more on that next) is one of “the most pressing issues concerning young conservatives today.”

Morgonn did claim Chick-fil-A “decided to hire a diversity, equity and inclusion” officer.

Well, stunningly, the company – long known for its hate-filled attacks on same-sex marriage – did, over a year ago.

A USA Today fact check found Chick-fil-A hired Erick McReynolds, its vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, more than a year and a half ago. The company even has a DEI page featuring him on its corporate website.

PatriotTakes also tweeted, “TPUSA Contributor Morgonn, who is now calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-a, previously said, Cancel culture is toxic’ and ‘needs to be canceled.'”

As some social media users pointed out, Cane’s Chicken Fingers is very pro-LGBTQ.

READ MORE: Decision to Not Charge Pence in Classified Docs Probe Is ‘Prelude to DOJ Seeking Charges Against Trump’: Legal Expert

“Since its inception in the early 2000s, Raising Cane’s has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community,” San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (SDGLN) reported in November. “The chicken chain was one of the first companies to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees and has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. In 2015, Raising Cane’s was named one of the best places to work for LGBT Equality by the Human Rights Campaign.”

In response to Morgonn’s video, Mississippi Free Press editor Ashton Pittman posted this screenshot from a Raising Cane’s tweet:

Over at TPUSA, Morgonn has written content including a piece titled, “Disney’s Male Employee in a Dress Sparks Outrage,” that begins, “At Disney, anyone can be a princess — even a grown man.”

Also, “Disney in Decline: Company Loses Billions Due to Woke Agenda.”

Noted actor and activist George Takei weighed in, tweeting simply, “They’ve lost their goddamned minds.”

Watch Morgonn below or at this link.

Continue Reading


Watch Live: President Biden to Deliver Rare Address to the Nation on Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Agreement



President Joe Biden will make a rare address to the nation Friday evening, to share with the American people the results of successful negotiations with Republicans to avert what could have been not only a national but global economic disaster had the debt ceiling crisis not been averted.

Biden is being credited for smart and savvy negotiations while keeping out of the public eye and allowing Republicans to control the narrative, while steering the agreement to one best for the American people.

Even Speaker Kevin McCarthy “conceded that he had been impressed with Biden’s negotiating team during the talks, calling them ‘very professional, very smart’ and ‘very tough at the same time,'” HuffPost reported Wednesday.

Many extremist House Republicans were hoping for a default, and over the past several weeks they made clear they did not understand what the consequences would have been.

RELATED: ‘Objectively Amazing’: Economists Cheer ‘Extraordinarily Robust’ and ‘Close to Unprecedented’ Jobs Report

Watch President Biden below at 7 PM ET, or at this link.

RELATED: ‘Republicans Got Outsmarted by a President Who Can’t Find His Pants’: GOP Congresswoman Throws Debt Ceiling Tantrum

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.