The publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 was a landmark in the movement that led to the destigmatization of homosexuality across the Western world in that it brought about the decriminalization of male homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. The repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c.69) accomplished this. Section 11 of the Act, in particular the clause known as the Labouchere Amendment, applied to male homosexuality. In short, the clause provided for a term of imprisonment “not exceeding two years”, with or without hard labour, for any man found guilty of “gross indecency” with another male, whether “in public or in private”. In 1953 the Home Secretary, David Maxwell Fyffe, referred to male homosexuality as a “plague over England,” and vowed to wipe it out. In 1954, the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution was convened with John Wolfenden appointed chairman. Continue reading
The story of the life and love shared by Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone resonates with me to this day. I learned of their life together and the tragedy that befell them in viewing It could happen to you, the YouTube video produced by Shane Bitney Crone in memory of Thomas Lee Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accident on May 7, 2011. Though I do not know either of these men, I was so moved in a way that I normally am not upon hearing of a personal tragedy that strikes people who are strangers to me. Watching It could happen to you had a profound effect on me; I felt grief and outrage well up inside me upon learning of the injustice and iniquity that was heaped on Shane Bitney Crone following the death of his partner, Thomas Lee Bridegroom. As same sex couples could not marry in California at the time of Tom’s death, Shane had no legal standing as Tom’s partner and could do nothing as the Bridegroom family claimed Tom’s body, his assets and barred Shane from attending his funeral. This is so wrong and it happens to other couples. From the grief and outrage I experienced I was inspired to join in the effort to advocate for full civil rights for gay people, marriage rights in particular. Continue reading
The 2014 Rose Bowl Parade included a float “Love Is the Best Protection,” sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The reasoning behind the inclusion of the float, according to Ged Kenslea, Foundation President, is, “by showing the dream of lesbians and gay men fulfilled, the float is perfect with this year’s Rose Parade theme of ‘Dreams Come True.’” (as cited in Breitbart) The decision to include the float drew a mixed response. One impassioned response comes from a woman who was deeply offended. Angela Wingenroth offered the following comment:
“We don’t care what the states say about it — God is clear that this isn’t right and I will NOT have this SHOVED DOWN MY CHILDREN’S THROATS!! The intolerance is theirs. They will not accept peoples’ objections to their lifestyle — you HAVE to accept that it’s not just ok, but GOOD or you’re a bigot! If they want to get ‘married,’ that’s their choice, but my kids don’t need to see it.” (as cited in American Power)
I expect this is what she was told to think by her pastor and various anti-gay commentators about the fact that gay people are being granted full civil rights in US society. Still, I wonder who, if anyone, called this woman a bigot for feeling this way. Continue reading
There has been a great deal of heated discussion recently concerning an organization called GLAAD. GLAAD was founded in New York City in 1985 “… to protest against what it saw as the New York Post’s defamatory and sensationalized AIDS coverage, GLAAD put pressure on media organizations to end what it saw as homophobic reporting.” (Wikipedia) In 2012 GLAAD founded the Commentator Accountability Project (CAP). GLAAD maintains the purpose of CAP is to give a public airing of what various anti-gay commentators are saying and have said when they are not speaking through the mainstream media. Critics in the United States, generally those anti-gay commentators singled out in CAP and their supporters, accuse GLAAD of trying to impose censorship, that is, to stifle 1st Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. As a gay man, the anti-gay commentary GLAAD brings to light concerns me. I agree it needs to be challenged. However, censorship is an issue that resonates with me also, as I am a librarian and as such have a mandate to uphold intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. Continue reading
Mika and I enjoy reading and viewing biographies in print and on film. The latest addition to our library collection is a copy on DVD of the documentary film Bridegroom A Love Story, Unequaled, produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. The documentary was inspired by the video It could happen to you, published on YouTube by Shane Bitney Crone in 2012. The video is a moving account of the loving relationship between Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, the untimely death of Tom Bridegroom in a tragic accident and the unfortunate events that followed. The story of the tragedy that struck these two young men has resonated with people across the world following publication of the YouTube video It could happen to you. The documentary film, Bridegroom A Love Story, Unequaled, while dealing with the disturbing events following Bridegroom’s death, presents a biography of both Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, giving more detailed accounts of their childhoods, formative years, how, as young men, they came to meet and become a couple.
The film is a blend of still photos and video footage of Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, their families, friends and acquaintances taken throughout their lives. If also features interviews with Bitney Crone, members of his family, friends and acquaintances of both men. Thomas Lee Bridegroom’s family has consistently exercised their right to silence and refused any comment on the matter and appear only in still photos and snippets of video taken before their son’s untimely death. The look into their respective childhoods was particularly interesting. Before viewing the film, I surmised that Bridegroom came from a comfortable, middle-class background. He attended the Culver Military Academy, which commands rather hefty school fees and enrolled at Vassar College following his graduation. I learned in viewing the film his parents mounted an extraordinary effort, his mother took a job at Culver to help raise the money to pay the school fees. They saw to it he had the opportunity for a very good education. Shane Bitney Crone attended state schools and left for Los Angeles following his graduation from high school to seek his fortune in the entertainment industry. He had the support of his family in pursuing his dream.
The tone of the film is quite temperate and gets the point across very gently and eloquently that gay people fall in love, become couples and set up households together. It shows just how precarious it is for a gay couple when their relationship is not given the same legal standing of that of a heterosexual couple; thereby making a strong case for marriage equality. It is well worth viewing and though inspired by the personal tragedy that befell Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, it documents, as the title indicates, a love story, unequaled.
Posted by Geoffrey and Mika
Recently the question came to mind as to why so many religious folk and social conservatives hold such a prurient fixation on what they imagine goes on in other people’s bedrooms. Sex is a part of every conjugal relationship: gay and straight. Sex is natural, a part of living and to enjoy. Sodomy laws, as they were called, were repealed in Canada in 1969. Then Minister of Justice Pierre Elliott Trudeau famously declaring in 1967, “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” (CBC Digital Archives) Sodomy laws were repealed across the United States as of 2003 when U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, ruled that the state could not single out gay people for harassment and discriminatory treatment simply “because of ‘moral disapproval’ of homosexuality. He wrote of ‘respect’ for same-sex couples and warned that ‘the state cannot demean their existence,’ describing same-sex relationships as a ‘personal bond’ involving much more than just sex. Kennedy also wrote that reducing same-sex couples to ‘sex partners,’ as anti-gay organizations often do, is offensive in the same way that describing a husband and wife as nothing more than sex partners would be offensive.” (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) Continue reading
A good friend and hunting buddy of mine, Omer, is an observant Muslim whose family immigrated to Canada from Pakistan. Omer is an educated man as is the rest of his family. He is someone I have known several years and with whom I have enjoyed many in-depth discussions, learning about his faith and the culture in which he grew up before coming to Canada. He tells me that family honour and shame are taken very seriously by some elements of Pakistani society. The phenomenon of honour killing is a reality for these elements of Pakistani society, particularly in the rural and tribal regions. Family honour is taken so seriously in this culture that if a family member (typically a girl or young woman) brings shame on the family the whole family suffers. They become untouchables; they are deemed unfit to associate with and most certainly are not welcome to marry into other families. The only way family honour can be restored in such a case is in killing the family member who brought the shame onto the family. This understanding of family honour is bound up in religion (Islam) and a culture in which men dominate. He certainly does not approve of this behaviour. He recognizes it as a problem that Pakistani society must address. Continue reading
Mika and I are supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada. While we support the government led by Prime Minister Harper, we do not have membership in the Conservative Party of Canada, nor do we donate money to the Party. Neither do we agree with every position taken by the Conservative government and where instances of wrongdoing are exposed, we think those responsible should suffer the consequences. You may find odd that a gay couple identifies as conservative, but in our outlook and values, we see ourselves moderate centre-right politically. We value personal liberty, religious liberty (freedom of conscience), intellectual freedom, equality of opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. In our opinion, the Conservative Party of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper currently best represents these values. Continue reading
In a previously published essay, I discussed the life and career of Barry Goldwater, the Republican Senator from Arizona and his support of gays serving in the US military. Beyond this, he was in favour of gay rights in all of US society. This support was based on his conviction that there be a strict separation between religion and state. Goldwater’s position on gay rights and the separation of religion and state put him at odds with many conservatives, particularly the religious constituency known as the Christian right that supports the GOP and various socially conservative causes in the United States. The Christian right is composed primarily of the Moral Majority, renamed Moral Majority Coalition in 2004, the Christian Coalition of America, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. The most prominent figures in the Christian Right are Jerry Falwell (deceased), Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tony Perkins. Continue reading
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down rulings this week concerning marriage equality in law for same sex couples at the federal and state levels. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was declared unconstitutional and the court refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that changed the California Constitution to add a new section 7.5 to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012 and the government of California chose not to defend the law on its appeal to SCOTUS. Consequently, a majority of the Justices refused to hear the appeal on the grounds the appellants did not have the constitutional authority, or legal standing, to defend the law in higher courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial. These rulings are the latest in an interesting history of legal battles over the definition of marriage in the United States.