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The 1993 March on Washington remembered (Photo Essay)

A paradigm shifting event in LGBTQ history

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The 1993 March on Washington, as seem from the stage as The Flirtations perform (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

An estimated 1,000,000 LGBT people and straight allies attended the “visionary, aspirational, and unapologetically bold” 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Freedom. It was “one of the most significant mass protests in the history of the United States,” say speakers in San Francisco and Washington, DC gathered for a bi-coastal telecast forum Sept. 18 honoring the March’s 25th anniversary.

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith, then a March co-director, marveled at how so many people were mobilized before the age of cell phones and social media networks. “I realize how much of that experience continues to be a touchstone 25 years later. What was remarkable was the grassroots nature of it,” she said.

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith and Kate Kendell, former Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (Photo courtesy Nixon Peabody, LLP)

Smith recalled the March’s emotional and political power, including the historic pre-March Oval Office meeting with President Clinton, who had promised to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the US military.

ANGLE’s David Mixner being acknowledged by his friend, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Clinton was made aware of the discrimination through his anti-Vietnam War friend David Mixner, who helped win the then-Arkansas governor and presidential candidate the endorsement of the Los Angeles-based gay political group ANGLE. Mixner and friends went on to raise $3.1 million in early GAY money for the dark horse candidates, stuck by him through the Gennifer Flowers tabloid accusations, and organized the first-ever gay voting bloc for his election. Throughout, Clinton insisted to skeptical reporters he would lift the ban and provide more AIDS funding, perhaps symbolized by the participation of gays and portions of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in his inauguration parade.

The display of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt during the 1993 March on Washington (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Tony Varona, vice dean and professor at the American University Washington College of Law (Photo courtesy Nixon Peabody, LLP)

America was also in the throes of the second wave of the AIDS crisis. Demonstrators held candlelight vigils to honor friends and loved ones who were struck down by the disease. “We were angry, we were frustrated, and we were mourning,” said Tony Varona, vice dean and professor at the American University Washington College of Law.

Tim McFeeley, former Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund (Photo courtesy Nixon Peabody, LLP)

Tim McFeeley, who until 1995 served as executive director of the then-Human Rights Campaign Fund, recalled how the gay leaders were emotionally overcome with exhaustion and hope outside the Oval Office after the meeting with Clinton —and how HIV/AIDS was front-and-center at the 1993 March and in his professional life. “From the time I got to HRC in 1987,” he said, “it was all about AIDS. Eight men on my Board of Directors died of AIDS. In addition, my staff was dying.” At that time, HRC did not have the resources it has today. “We struggled to make payroll,” McFeeley said.

Keith Boykin, Billy Hileman, Andrew Barrar, Torie Osborn, President Bill Clinton (holding autographed copy of Randy Shilts’ book “Conduct Unbecoming,” Phill Wilson, Nadine Smith, Williams Wayburn, Tom Stoddard, Tim McFeeley (Photo via National Archives)

Progress in the fight against the disease over the past 25 years represents a game-changing development—a product of scientific advancement, as well as political organizing and the formation of networks of selfless community members and allies who volunteered to help patients and advocated for change of the healthcare landscape.

“Out of nothing,” said Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, “we built an entire infrastructure to protect our men—and women—affected by this virus.” Referencing San Francisco’s public health initiative that aims to eliminate HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths, and stigma, Kendall said, “Now, we’re talking about Getting to Zero.”

Michael Callen singing “Love Don’t Need a Reason” during 1993 March on Washington (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Miraculously, in the throes of the AIDS crisis, love prevailed. Longtime AIDS activist and Flirtations singer Michael Callan sang “Love Don’t Need a Reason,” one of his last performances before his own death from AIDS seven months later.

Rev. Troy Perry officiating at mass same sex marriage ceremony. Onstage behind him are his partner Phillip Ray DeBlieck, with disabled Sharon Kowalski and her partner Karen Thompson who was seeking domestic partnership guardianship. (photo by Karen Ocamb)

LA couple Deborah Johnson and Zandra Rolon, who hired attorney Gloria Allred in 1983 and successfully sued Papa Choux restaurant for discriminating (for not seating them in a romantic booth), on their way to the mass wedding. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

One angle of the mass wedding officiated by Rev. Troy Perry. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

And Rev. Troy Perry ceremoniously married more than two thousand couples in front of the IRS headquarters. Marriage, at that time, seemed like a pipe dream to many LGBT people and activists. Still, in spite of opposition from moderates, Smith and her co-directors voiced their support.

Underscoring the arch of history and recognizing brave leadership on LGBT rights—the event honored longtime community ally, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor this November. Event sponsor Nixon Peabody, LLP, represented by Tom Gaynor, Managing Partner of the firm’s San Francisco office, and Tony Varona, vice dean and professor at the American University Washington College of Law, wanted to honor Newsom for his courage in having supported same-sex marriage before it was popular or politically expedient.

Tom Gaynor, Managing Partner of Nixon Peabody, LLP’s San Francisco office.

As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom ordered the city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in 2004. He spoke at a breakfast reception, then addressed the panel audience via videotape due to a last-minute obligation.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

Panelists suggested the same bold, forward-thinking approach to LGBT civil rights was evinced in the expansive 1993 March platform that called for protection from discrimination, more money for AIDS research and full civil rights for women and racial/ethnic minorities.

A collegial spirit was fundamental from the beginning stages of planning the march said Smith, who explained how the four co-chairs demanded racial justice and justice for women be included in the platform, despite pushback from activists who would have preferred a narrower agenda. Theirs was an intersectional approach that built on the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, an approach that drew a tenfold increase in participants from across the country.

The presence of marchers from areas outside major urban metropolises is credited with having helped to change the culture.

Cecelia Chung, senior director of strategic projects at the Transgender Law Center, with James Loduca, Director of Equality Programs, Salesforce

The 1993 March offered, in addition to social and political change, moments of personal discovery and joy. Many people came out of the closet for the first time there on the streets of Washington. Smith remembered watching a straight couple gradually realize, as they were surrounded by LGBT marchers, that they were in the minority. “They stopped holding hands,” she said, laughing, “and then we told them it was okay!”

“It was a watershed moment for us, because there were no real role models as we were coming out on the scene. We were coming out of a wicked, horrendous period in the 80s—AIDS, the political climate—and then, at the 1993 March, a period of blue skies,” Gaynor added.

That intangible feeling of belonging, the panelists said, is not possible in virtual spaces—but instead requires in-person, active participation.

Chris Rudisill, Executive Director, Stonewall National Museum & Archives; neuroscientist and entrepreneur Vivienne Ming; Tony Varona, vice dean and professor at the American University Washington College of Law

The panelists were asked whether another March would be useful or obsolete, provided the ways in which technology has influenced and changed social movements. Neuroscientist and entrepreneur Vivienne Ming, remembering the Berkley street protests after Prop 8 was passed, remarked, “It felt so good. You’re never going to get that on Facebook.”

Campaign for Military Service arrives at the March stage (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Today’s challenges, in areas that range from LGBT issues to the labor movement, the environment, and women’s rights, were also heightened then. Sam Nunn, the conservative Southern chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, promised hearings on the repercussions of lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. He threatened to hold up Clinton’s entire legislative agenda unless the new president backed down. Gays felt betrayed and scrambled to form a new group—Campaign For Military Service, headed by gay legal eagle Tom Stoddard. The Washington Blade raised the question  about whether the gay community failed to offer Clinton backup.

Navy top gun Tracy Thorne salutes fellow gay service members onstage at the 1993 March on Washington (Screen grab from “In The Life)

But by April 16, 1993, scores of gays and lesbians in the military took to the stage of the March on Washington, demonstrating patriotism and humor, and trust that Clinton would follow through on his promise. He failed and the resulting compromise was the harmful “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The anniversary panelists asked if there should be another March on Washington? Following the election of President Trump, they stressed the need for an intersectional mass demonstration that reflects the inclusivity, boldness, and ambition of the 1993 March.

“This moment cries out for another March on Washington,” Smith said. “This is a moment when we have an administration that wants to drag us backwards and is dramatically altering the legal structure of this country.”

Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, agreed: “We’re in the terror of an administration that every day demonstrates its capacity for dehumanizing individuals.”

And yet the love persists, as it did in 1993.

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Anti-LGBTQ activist Judith Reisman dies at age 86

There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles

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Screenshot via JoeMyGod

Editor’s note: Judith Ann Reisman was a vocal opponent of women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and known for her criticism and condemnation of the work in sexual studies of Dr. Alfred Kinsey. Reisman, a prominent conservative, has been referred to as the “founder of the modern anti-Kinsey movement.”  New York-based LGBTQ journalist, activist and blogger Joe Jervis covered her for over a decade on his widely popular blogsite Joe.My.God.

By Joe Jervis | Longtime JMG readers will recall Reisman’s anti-LGBT claims as a regular feature here going back a decade or so. There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles:

We know that pedophilia, which was the original Greek they say it’s ‘love of’ but of course it isn’t, it’s ‘lust for’ boys. And there’s a strong, clear, cross-cultural, historical reality, people don’t want to do deal with, but the propaganda has been loud and strong to deny the fact, the aim of homosexual males and now increasingly females is not to have sex with other old guys and get married but to obtain sex with as many boys as possible. That’s the reality.

There was the time she called for a class action suit against groups that advocate for safer sex:

The reality is that condoms are manufactured and approved every day for natural, vaginal sex, not anal “sex.” They are not effectively designed to protect from disease those people who engage in sodomy. Such a lawsuit should target the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Planned Parenthood and a myriad of teachers and school systems, too many to count, that have taught that anal “sex” (traditionally termed “sodomy” or “buggery” under British-based legal codes) as not so different than natural coitus. Due to the lies that have told, people who practiced sodomy are under the tragically mistaken notion that a condom is effective protection from disease.

There was the time she went to Jamaica to advocate for keeping homosexuality criminalized:

American Religious Right leaders Mat Staver and Judith Reisman are scheduled to be featured speakers at a conference in Jamaica this weekend hosted by a group that has been working to preserve the country’s criminal ban on consensual gay sex. The annual conference, hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, will focus on how “[c]ontemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family” and Staver.

There was the time she blamed the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on a rise in reported sexual assaults in the military:

Why is the best-kept military secret that most soldierly sexual assaults are now definitively homo, not heterosexual, male-on-male sexual exploitation? While men are statistically more loathe to report their sexual victimization than are women, 10,700 male soldiers, sailors and airmen in 2010 actually reported their sexual assaults. What this means is not totally clear, since men are cannot technically be raped, despite the term being regularly used in the recent hearings on the matter.

There was the time she compared activists against school bullying to Hitler Youth:

Both the GLSEN youth and the Hitler Youth were trained to be revolutionary leaders of the brave new world order. GLSEN school clubs and their teacher sponsor/trainers are now funded by major corporations and by some state funds. GLESN’s Day of Silence and “GAY ALLY!” pledge cards for kindergartners and other children (left) are direct assaults on traditional parental, American values. German children’s literature historians document Hitler’s pioneering ban of both the Ten Commandments and biblical stories from Nazi school texts in favor of coarse and violent tales that ridiculed religious believers and their values.

There was the time she was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League:

Holocaust analogies generate headlines and get attention, they do little in the service of truth, history or memory. When [Peter] LaBarbera and Reisman suggest that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are “demonizing [Christians] like the Nazis used to do to the Jews,” they undermine the historical truth of the Holocaust as a singular event in human history that led to the murder of six million Jews and millions of others. Holocaust comparisons are deeply offensive and trivialize and distort the history and meaning of the Holocaust.

And let’s close with this notation from Rational Wiki:

Reisman is a supporter of Scott Lively and his completely insane screed, The Pink Swastika. She has claimed that she believes that a homosexual movement in Germany gave rise to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. She enthusiastically and unconditionally endorses criminalization of homosexuality, despite the fact that homosexuals were were one of the Nazis’ target groups for annihilation. Reisman has claimed that the homosexuals employ recruitment techniques that rival those of the United States Marine Corps to transform innocent children into raving homosexuals.

Reisman, passed away on Friday, April 9, 2021, two days before her 86th birthday. From the magazine of the far-right John Birch Society:

Like Judith the Biblical heroine, Dr. Reisman was fearless and stood against the great powers of the world in our time. When her countrymen were ready to surrender to the mighty Assyrian army, the Biblical Judith, trusting in God, walked into the enemy camp — and walked out with the head of Holofernes, the Assyrian general, thus saving her people. Likewise, Judith Reisman repeatedly, over the past several decades, strode into many hostile enemy camps around the world — colleges, universities, legislative bodies, media outlets — to speak truth to power and to expose vile works of darkness.

Joseph “Joe” Jervis  is an American blogger and writer based out of New York City. He is the author of Joe.My.God., a personal blog which, since he first posted on April 27, 2004, has primarily covered LGBT news and opinion.

The preceding article was originally published at Joe.My.God and republished by permission.

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The Bay Area Reporter turns 50- Congrats from the Los Angeles Blade

The Los Angeles Blade congratulates the publisher, editor, and staff of the The Bay Area Reporter on its Golden Anniversary

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SAN FRANCISCO – An important and critical voice for the LGBTQ+ community in Northern California turns 50 this Spring as the venerable LGBTQ+ newspaper, The Bay Area Reporter, commences its fifth decade of service to San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

Not unlike the beginnings of the Los Angeles Blade’s sister publication, The Washington Blade, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, the Bay Area Reporter traces its roots to an ad hoc distribution- in B.A.R.’s case atop cigarette machines in the city’s gay and lesbian watering holes.

Since then according to Michael Yamashita, a gay man who has been the paper’s publisher since 2013, the paper has never missed an issue deadline — not even when threatened by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

The Los Angeles Blade congratulates the publisher, editor, and staff of the The Bay Area Reporter on its Golden Anniversary of service to the LGBTQ+ community.

Read B.A.R.’s own coverage of its 50th here: https://www.ebar.com/index.php?id=303476

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S.F. Jewish and LGBTQ icon Al Baum dies at 90 after ‘full, rich life’

You have to be willing to do it yourself or you’re just being hypocritical

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Al Baum, seen here at Miller’s Deli in San Francisco, died March 28 at the age of 90.
(Photo/Rajat Dutta)

By Maya Mirsky | SAN FRANCISCO – Alvin H. Baum Jr., a philanthropist and activist known as Al to his friends and admirers, died March 28 at home in San Francisco. He was 90.

“Al lived a full, rich life,” his husband, Robert Holgate, told J. “Through his example of giving, he taught many how to live, love and give back,”

As a philanthropist, Baum was a generous donor to Jewish and LGBTQ causes, the arts, civil liberties, and a host of other causes and interests. In 2019, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation awarded Baum its Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership, and a J. profile at the time painted a full picture of his background and his longtime activism on multiple fronts.

Born into an affluent Jewish family at the height of the Great Depression, Baum grew up mostly in Highland Park, which in the 1930s was emerging as one of Chicago’s most prosperous Jewish-identified suburbs. He went to Harvard University as an undergrad and again for law school, then spent two years in the Army, in Berlin, during the Korean War.

Al Baum (right) with husband Robert Holgate in 2014.

Upon his return, he visited San Francisco to see how he liked it; at the time, he was living his life as a closeted gay man. He came out publicly in 1975, when he was in his 40s and living in San Francisco. It was a momentous step and not really planned.

“You know they say, ‘When you’re drowning, your whole life passes before your eyes?’” he said in an interview with OUTWORDS, an LGBTQ history archive, in 2017. “Well, it was like that. But I had been telling people, friends, that they should come out. And I wasn’t. I said to myself, ‘You have to be willing to do it yourself or you’re just being hypocritical.’”

From there he became an activist, working with the ACLU and Lambda Legal and many other organizations. Also, he worked as a city planner and attorney for many years and then, late in life, began a third career as a therapist, getting a degree from UC Berkeley in social work. In later years, with his husband, whom he married in 2014, he devoted himself to philanthropy.

Baum served on the boards of many organizations, including S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the ACLU of Northern California, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. He also founded the Federation’s gay and lesbian task affinity group. He was a founding member of the New Israel Fund, and has been an active supporter of LGBTQ senior organization Openhouse. In 2014, he served as grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade, accompanied by Holgate.

Baum was a longtime member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. Holgate said details of a celebration of Baum’s life and a shiva would be forthcoming.

Al Baum as S.F. Pride Parade grand marshal in 2013. (Photo/Lisa Finkelstein)

Maya Mirsky is a staff writer for J. The Jewish News of Northern California and is based in Oakland.

The preceding article was published by J. The Jewish News of Northern California and was republished by permission.

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