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Why “The New Civil Rights”?

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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.

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Nikki Haley Continues Her IVF Evolution With Yet Another Policy Position 

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Nikki Haley is now on her fourth in-vitro fertilization (IVF) policy position. In a period of less than two weeks the trailing Republican presidential candidate has gone from saying embryos are “babies,” to distancing herself from the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that claims embryos are “children,” to saying she supports IVF but it’s an issue for the states, to calling for federal protections for IVF.

After the extreme Alabama Supreme Court ruling that declared human embryos to be “children,” the former Trump UN Ambassador quickly announced she agreed that embryos are “babies.”

“When you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life. And so I do see where that’s coming from when they talk about that,” Haley had said.

But public sentiment runs strongly against the Alabama Court’s February 16 ruling and Haley’s concurrence February 21.

Haley, who is trailing Trump in the polls by strong double digits, pulled back from aligning herself with the toxic Alabama decision.

RELATED: Republicans Kill Bill to Protect IVF After Claiming They Fully Support It

“Well first off all, this is, again, I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. The question that I was asked is, ‘Do I believe an embryo is a baby?’” Haley told CNN, as The New Republic reported. “I do think that if you look in the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby. And so yes, I believe, from my stance, that that is.”

That appears to not have been sufficient, because she quickly switched her stance yet again.

“We don’t want fertility treatment to shut down, we don’t want them to stop doing IVF treatment, we don’t want them to stop doing artificial insemination,” said Haley, again to CNN, on February 22. “But I think this needs to be decided by the people in every state. Don’t take away the rights of these physicians and these parents to have these conversations.”

And now, another switch.

“We don’t need government getting involved in an issue where we don’t have a problem,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash on Friday. “We don’t have a problem with IVF facilities. If you have a certain case, let that case play out the way it’s supposed to but don’t create issues and that’s what I feel like it’s happened with this.”

READ MORE: ‘Trump’s Lawyers Got It Dead Wrong’: Espionage Act Trial Will Not Be Stalled by DOJ Rule

But there is a problem, and it was caused by Republicans. Specifically, by the Dobbs case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Alabama Supreme Court majority opinion mentioned Dobbs over a dozen times.

“I think we want IVF to be as accessible as possible to parents who are wanting those blessings of having a baby,” she also said Friday, adding a religious element to her remarks. “I don’t know the details of any of the bills, so I can’t weigh to that. But what I can tell you is, we don’t want to take that away from parents who desperately want to have a child.”

“Michael and I got our children from fertility processes. We need to make sure that those are available, that they’re protected, that it’s personal, and that the whole situation is dealt with respect,” she added, echoing pro-choice concepts while applying them to IVF.

Asked, “should there be a federal protection” for IVF, “or do you think it should be left to the states?” Haley replied: “Well, I think there should be federal protection that we allow for IVF places to be able to function.”

She added, “I think that the people need to decide if they want to get into the details of it or not. It’s the same thing of, do they want to decide, you know, exactly how many embryos or anything like that. I hope they don’t get into that. I want to see that decision between the parents and the doctors. But I think the only thing that the federal government should do is make sure that IVF places are protected and available.”

Professor of law Joyce Vance said recently, “It’s pretty simple. If life begins at conception, IVF is off the table. If you make an exception for IVF then we’re just having a conversation about who you’re willing to make exceptions for.”

Watch the video above or at this link.

READ MORE: Tuberville: Secure the Border Because Immigrants ‘Know Nothing About God’

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‘Trump’s Lawyers Got It Dead Wrong’: Espionage Act Trial Will Not Be Stalled by DOJ Rule

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Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of Donald Trump in the Espionage Act case, which will be tried in Florida, will not be stalled by the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s policy on not taking certain actions 60 days before an election. The case, often referred to as the classified documents case, includes 31 charges under the Espionage Act.

MSNBC legal analyst and contributor Katie Phang Friday afternoon reports on the “BIG news out of Ft. Pierce.”

“The DOJ advises Judge Cannon that the ’60-day rule’ does NOT apply in Trump’s case as he has already been indicted & the case is already being litigated,” Phang writes. “So, no reason to delay taking him to trial, even with elections in November.”

Phang notes professor of law and her fellow MSNBC contributor Joyce Vance has been making that point.

“Read the policy for yourself,” Vance added Friday. “it doesn’t apply after a case is indicted, when the judge, not DOJ, is in charge of the schedule. Trump’s lawyers got it dead wrong.”

Vance points to her own Substack newsletter’s commentary, where she explains: “At the start of his filing, Trump tries to invoke DOJ policy as a justification for not having a trial this year. But he gets the analysis dead wrong. Trump tries to claim the protection of a DOJ policy against interfering in elections—a huge irony in light of Trump’s efforts to corrupt DOJ after the 2020 election and get the Justice Department to legitimize his false election fraud claims.”

READ MORE: Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

“Trump argues that ‘Given President Trump’s status as the presumptive Republican nominee and President Biden’s chief political rival, a trial this year would also violate Justice Manual § 9-85.500, which applies to the Special Counsel’s Office, and prohibits ‘Actions that May Have an Impact on an Election.’ ‘”

“The provision Trump references reads as follows: ‘Federal prosecutors and agents may never select the timing of any action, including investigative steps, criminal charges, or statements, for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party,'” Vance notes.

She adds that the timing of a trial is controlled by a judge, not the DOJ.

READ MORE: ‘Injustice’: Experts Condemn Supreme Court’s ‘Fundamentally Corrupt’ Trump Decision

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Tuberville: Secure the Border Because Immigrants ‘Know Nothing About God’

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U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville says America must put God back into the country and the government, and right now the government isn’t honoring our “Judo” Christian values. The Alabama freshman Republican, a Christian nationalist, also says God cannot be put back into this nation currently because immigrants, who “know nothing about God,” are crossing the southern border illegally.

Sen. Tuberville is also calling for massive cuts to the federal government, saying only the “mentally unhealthy,” “elderly,” “veterans,” and “farmers” should be eligible for financial support from the government.

Tuberville told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that “the federal government is not here to take care of every person in this country. We have to take care of the mentally healthy, mentally – mentally unhealthy. We have to take care of our elderly, our veterans. Everybody else needs to go get a job. They need to get off that couch. We’re paying so many people. Maria, we have turned into so much of a socialist country headed to communism.”

He insisted there is no “free speech” in America. “They’re taking all of our rights away.”

READ MORE: Bartiromo Blasts Biden Administration for Encouraging Americans to Register to Vote

“We need to ask God for help, our country needs help,” Tuberville said in a separate interview. “We’re in a tough situation right now. I’m right here in the middle of it. I get to see it every day.”

“We live in a constitutional republic that’s trying to do things without our Judo-Christian [sic] values. And that’s how this country was built. And we got to get back to that. If we don’t, we won’t make it,” Tuberville claimed.

“The biggest thing right now I will tell you is what’s going on at our southern border. When you’ve got a country without borders, you don’t have a country. And it goes back to one thing: God is not in this building. We’ve got to get God back in this building and we’re gonna get God back in our country. We’ve got to get the God back in the nuclear family. We have to get moral values back into our country. And you can’t do that when you have a million people every couple of months come into this country that know nothing about God, that know nothing about our laws and constitution.”

Back in October, Tuberville said European countries have been “lost” to “immigration” as he praised Christian nationalist authoritarian Viktor Orbán of Hungary. Tuberville has a history of promoting white nationalism and has said he sees a white nationalist as a “Trump Republican.” The Senator also declared immigrants “don’t assimilate,” and are “globalists” who “don’t go by the laws.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Jaw Dropping’: Democratic Senator Slams Tuberville’s ‘Open’ Talk About ‘White Supremacy’

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