Joseph Norton

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Joseph Norton. Photo: Rick | 14184

The Times Union advises us of the passing of gay activist and pioneer Joseph Norton of Albany, New York, a former psychology professor, a World War II veteran and a leading figure in the gay rights movement, and a recipient of the Harvey Milk Award who died aged 92. In 1970, Norton was among a group of men who formed the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Council, now 41 years old and believed to be the oldest such continuously operating organization of its kind in the US.

“Norton recalled his surprise at the response after the group took the relatively risky step of advertising one of its meetings. “The next week,” Norton said, “there were so many people who came … that they couldn’t get in, there were almost 100 people the first time anybody in Albany had suggested something for gay folk. But, anyhow, that was the beginning of gay lib.”

The list of organizations Norton either helped found or lent his time to was lengthy, including the Association of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexuals in Counseling, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the New York State Coalition of Gay Organizations, National Association of Gay Psychologists and, locally, the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless and the Capital District Counselors Association.

In 2006, Norton summed up the importance of the movement this way:

“It’s important to be out and proud and visible,” he said. “People need to know the diversity of the people they live around.””

Facebook Page for Joseph L. Norton


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Hello Sailors

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Undated, Uncredited photographer | Copyright details being sought | 14185

In 2006 the National Maritime Museum at Liverpool had an exhibition called Hello Sailor about gay life at sea.

“It was a not-so-secret side of seafaring chronicled in private snapshots: male sailors, dressed in beautiful gowns, stockings and heels, mugging for the camera. Others made up as showgirls, revelling in the culture of being openly gay at sea that’s now the focus of an exhibit making its North American debut at a waterfront museum in Halifax. The U.K. component focuses on the life of gay sailors, particularly men, on board passenger and merchant ships beginning in the 1950s. U.K.-based researcher Jo Stanley says decades ago, when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, many homosexual men chose to go to sea where they could be open about their sexuality in a welcoming, liberal environment.

For camp men places such as the dining saloon were their stage, cruising place, playground, club and mini-theatre for informal entertainment all meal long. Gay dining room stewards minced, flirted with passengers and made a camp show of waiting tables.

Passengers, especially regulars, welcomed camp seafarers because they gave good service. Camp seafarers were aware of how far they could go, especially in passenger areas. They were on licence, but often pushed the boundaries.

Camp men adapted their uniforms in feminine ways. Waiters could be sent back by the head waiter if they were dressed too overtly femininely, but they still tried.”

Queen Mary Crew members dressed up | Oral History Unit, Southampton City Council | 14186

Updated 15 Nov 2014: link corrected, additional photo added


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Section 28

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An Outrage protest about section 28 at the London Oratory school, 1983 | Outrage | 14187

A public demonstration against Section 28 | Photo uncredited | Copyright details being sought | 14188

In 1983 there was controversy when the Greater London Council purchased a single copy of a book called Jenny lives with Eric and Martin by Susanne Bösche, originally published in Denmark.

Wikipedia | 14189

There was also another book which caused controversy, The Milkman’s on His Way by David Rees. The controversy led to some councils and local political parties adopting gay-positive policies including commitments to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Nationally, though, the Conservative government had other ideas but bigger fish than gay men and lesbians to fry – miners, for instance.

Amazon | 14190

Once the miners were dealt with they turned their attention to gays and lesbians. Right wingers such as Jill Knight started campaigning against gay-friendly policies and the spending of public money on related activities, and seized on publicity of the Gay Liberation Front, which was radical to Conservative eyes.

A number of defamatory and insulting statements were made in the House of Lords which resulted in the House becoming known popularly as the House of Bigots.

On 2 December 1987 an amendment was introduced to the Local Government Bill banning the promotion of homosexuality and it became law on 24 May 1988. There were protests which including lesbians abseiling into Parliament and invading the BBC’s Six O’Clock News.

The clause was baffling. Did it apply in schools or only to local authorities? Whilst head teachers and Boards of Governors were specifically exempt, schools and teachers became confused as to what was actually permitted and tended to err on the side of caution.

For the gay community it was a call to action and Stonewall and Outrage were formed, taking over from the Gay Liberation Front which was seen as too radical.

The discussion of the effects of the law – which did not introduce any criminal offences, so there were no prosecutions – went on for years and splits even emerged in the Conservative Party.

In May, 2000 the Christian Institute took Glasgow City Council to court for funding an AIDS support charity which the Institute alleged promoted homosexuality, but they lost the case.

The Scottish Assembly was the first assembly to repeal Section 28, in 2000.

The first attempt to repeal section 28 in England took place on 7 February 2000 by the new Labour Goverment, who had made an election commitment to repeal it. The repeal was thrown out by the Conservative dominated House of Lords. The measure went back and forth a few times and there were some outbursts of vitriolic homophobia in the Lords. In the end the Labour government had to pass another law which limited the ability of the House of Lords to stop a measure which had repeatedly been passed by the House of Commons.

The section was finally repealed on 18 November 2003.


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With Downcast Gays

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In 1974 a small pamphlet called With Downcast Gays by Andrew Hodges and David Hutter was published. The booklet dealt with all the issues that gay men in particular had to face in dealing with their sexuality and sexual identity – what sociologists of the time termed ‘self-oppression’, which is when you beleive all the lies about you and your value and life, and internalise them.

The booklet became an international best seller and was one of the first gay liberation publications. Versions appeared in Swedish, Italian, French and German.

Text of With Downcast Gays


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New plaque for Dusty Springfield

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Dusty’s memorial plaque | Anorak UK | 14192

Dusty Springfield. Public domain | 14193

A replacement blue plaque commemmorating Dusty Springfield was unveiled on 28 May 2011. It replaced one put up in 2001 which had been damaged during renovations of her former home.

BBC | 14194

Unveiling the plaque at 38-40 Aubrey Walk in Kensington, Bee Gees star Robin Gibb described Springfield as “probably the greatest female popular singer in the modern pop rock era”.

This post was re-edited and new photos referenced on 15 Nov 2014


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Kameny archive on public show

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UPI File Photo taken on May 19, 1965 | 14195

Documents from gay rights history are on display for the first time at the Library of Congress as part of an exhibit on the nation’s constitutional history and civil rights protections. The documents come from gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who was fired as a government astronomer in 1957 because he was gay. The exhibit includes Kameny’s 1961 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court contesting his firing. The documents were placed on view at the end of April in an exhibit called “Creating the United States,” which traces the evolution of the nation’s founding documents and legal framework. The Kameny Papers Project which donated about 50,000 items to the library in 2006.

Frank Kameny attending a naming in his honour, 2010 | Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post | 14196

The library is also displaying a 1966 letter from the head of the U.S. Civil Service Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson, justifying the firing based on the “revulsion of other employees.” It was introduced last year as evidence in the battle over gay rights in California to show a long pattern of treatment by the federal government.


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Arthur Laurents

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Tom and Arthur. NY Magazine | 14197

Gay Activist is sad to note the death of Arthur Laurents, writer of such classic stage musicals as West Side Story and Gypsy, who has died in New York aged 93. Mr Laurent’s long time partner Tom Hatcher died in 2006.

Mr Laurents was blacklisted in the early 1950s after a review of an early work was printed in the Daily Worker. He appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. While abroad, his American passport was withdrawn and work in the US was denied him. He fought to have his name withdrawn from the blacklist and submitted a long letter to the authorities. They concluded his political thoughts did not represent a threat, renewed his passport and de-blacklisted him.

His autobiography Original Story By Arthur Laurents: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood, was published in 2000.


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Dorian Gray uncensored

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Condemned in the British press over 130 years ago as “vulgar”, “unclean”, “poisonous” and “discreditable”, now an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray has “come out”.

The public outcry which followed the novel’s appearance – “it is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction,” wrote the Daily Chronicle – forced Wilde to revise the novel still further before it appeared in book form in 1891.

“It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman,” Hallward tells Dorian, in one passage which was changed. The censored version read: “From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me”.

Updated 15 November 2014: Image Resource no longer available


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Frank Kameny’s legacy

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Frank Kameny and members of the Mattachine Society at a gay pride march in 1970 | Joe My God | 14198

In 1961, astronomer Frank Kameny wasn’t able to get legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union when he was fired from his federal job for being gay. At the time, the laws in all 50 states made sodomy a crime, and the ACLU did not help him file a petition for cert, later turned down by the Supreme Court. … The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund formed in 1973 to fight for legal rights for gays. At the same time, advocates lobbied law schools and groups like the ABA to adopt nondiscrimination policies. Law firms had to agree not to discriminate if they wanted to recruit at law schools, leading to new policies.

When the Supreme Court struck down a sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, large law firms and groups like the ABA supported the Lambda Legal challenge. … “Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation.”


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Admiral Duncan bombing

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The Admiral Duncan | Beer In The Evening | 14199

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The incident | Daily Mirror | 14200

The Incident | Press Agency/Daily Mail | 14201

David Copeland bombed the Admiral Duncan gay pub in Old Compton Street, Soho, London. Three people died, and no less than 86 people were injured. Andrea Dykes, 27, from Colchester, Essex, was killed when the bomb tore through the pub. Her husband Julian, 25, was seriously injured. John Light, 32, best man at their wedding, and friend Nik Moore, 31, also died. Copeland, 23, of Cove, Hampshire, was convicted of murder and sentenced to six life sentences in June 2000. He must serve fifty years in prison.

A memorial in the form of a hanging sculpture with a light for each person who died has been installed in the Admiral Duncan. The plaque reads: “The Admiral Duncan will always remember our friends who were killed or seriously injured on April 30, 1999.”

The London Authority have given £800 towards an outdoor memorial to be erected in ‘Soho Green’, a site round the corner from the Admiral Duncan, which is being redeveloped into a community park and to provide a green space for residents, schoolchildren, gardeners and visitors. The victims are remembered by a planting of cherry trees.

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The Memorial | West End Extra | 14202

Every year on the anniversary of the bombing there is a memorial service for the victims of the atrocity.

In a sad postscript to this tragedy, John Morley, the former manager of the Admiral Duncan, who survived the bomb attack, was attacked by a gang of thugs on London’s South Bank on the night of October 30/31 2004. John suffered multiple injuries in the attack and died later in hospital. A candlelit vigil was held for him on November 5th 2004. On 14 December 2005, Reece Sargeant, 21, Darren Case, 18, a youth, aged 17, and the girl, aged 15, were convicted at the Old Bailey of Manslaughter.

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