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 control | 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.”

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

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Section 28

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

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A public demonstration against Section 28 | Photo uncredited | Copyright control | 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.

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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.

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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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The Thatcher Family – Margaret Thatcher is, of course, on the right | BBC | 14223

Pink News has been talking to gay Tory MP Conor Burns about Lady Thatcher and Section 28. Her government’s decision to approve Section 28 of the Local Government Act in 1988 remains a sore point with the gay community.

Section 28 stated that a local authority

“shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” and that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

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The famous Roberts Corner Shop in Grantham | Daily Mirror | 14224

Did the policy, along with a line in her 1987 Conservative Party Conference speech which denounced local education authorities for teaching children that “they have an inalienable right to be gay” mean that Lady Thatcher herself was homophobic?

“No, I think she was a woman of her generation,” Conor Burns says. “She had a number of people, who you could identify by reading stuff about her, very close to her who were openly gay. She had no problem with that. … Section 28 was a backbench amendment to a Local Government Bill. This was not something that was hatched in the flat of Number 10 when she was making Denis his bacon and eggs in the morning.”

No indeed. It was introduced by the then Conservative backbencher Jill Knight, who now sits in the Lords. Now 90, she recently criticised the same-sex marriage bill, and made strange attempts to justify her opposition by suggesting gay people are “good with antiques”.

Conor says Lady Thatcher accepted Section 28, but he cites the vociferous political climate of the time as a reason for her doing so.

“She accepted it. When you go and look back at some of the stuff that local authorities were doing then – the ‘Jennie lives with Eric and Martin’ books – which were aimed at five-and-six-year-olds, there is a question as to whether that is an appropriate age to introduce any aspect of sexuality and sex. And for someone born in the northern town of Grantham in the 1920s she would have just thought passionately that it wasn’t.”

Conor Burns was elected as the MP for Bournemouth West in the 2010 general election.

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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

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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.

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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”.

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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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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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