poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Gay Agenda At 25
Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the First March on Washington
By John Emery

As a lesbian or gay, are you better off today than you were 25 years ago? Where were you in 1979? Do you remember going to your very, very first gay bar, and deciding to be gay anyway? 25 years ago, gays and lesbians lived in a very different cultural, political and legal climate. Until the 1960’s, some states even performed routine castration on gay men who surfaced thru the courts.

Today, a recent LA Times survey reported that 70% of Americans report knowing someone who is gay, up from 46% in 1985. Roughly 60% of Americans think favorably towards equal protection of gays. 60% also reported they would be upset if their child were gay, down from 90% in 1983. While we still have more work to do, it is clear that our efforts over the last 25 years are reaping results, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Marriage rights in Massachusetts and all other progress has materialized because we worked for it.

25 years ago, gay delegates from around the country were elected to represent their states on a National Steering Committee. This representative elected body was our country’s first “constitutional congress” of lesbians and gays. At national delegate meetings, a gay-rights constitutional charter was adopted and a national march on Washington was proposed. It was at this first march in 1979 where 250,000 gays and lesbians from every state came out and marched, demanding the “gay agenda” be ratified nationwide.

The watershed events leading up to the first march on Washington started in 1969 with the Stonewall riots, when gays nationally were awakened to a movement that existed and offered hope. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association formerly removed homosexuality as aberrant behavior and it was assumed by many, that this re-classification would change how we would be treated in law. As the years went by it became clear that this had little impact on the courts and the political climate seemed even more hopeless. In the mid 1970’s, gays in Dade County Florida lost an ugly war over gay rights with Anita Bryant and her Christian hate crusade leading the charge. Their successful jihad fundamentalism led to the inevitable power vacuum nationally. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority in the 1979 to capture this newly found Christian hate money. Fortunately on the west coast, a counter group “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” formed in 1979 as well. God apparently works in mysterious ways.


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