Stonewall anti-homophobic resistance, forty years later


This video from the USA says about itself:

Documentary on the impact of the City of Columbus, Ohio’s City Council vote in 1984 on adding the words “sexual orientation” to the existing job protection legislation. Posting Permission obtained by The Ohio Historical Society’s Gay Ohio History Initiative and Stonewall Columbus.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Jun 27, 9:46 AM EDT

Stonewall rebel reflects 40 years after NYC riots

By MARCUS FRANKLIN
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK — Raymond Castro was a regular at The Stonewall Inn in 1969, finding it a haven from a world where gay men and women could be arrested for kissing or holding hands in public. Inside the bar, where plywood covered the windows, warning lights served as a signal for couples to stop dancing.

When police raided the bar in the past for selling liquor without a license, patrons normally submitted to arrest or dispersed quietly. But on June 28, Castro recalled, people fought back.

As officers tried to throw him in a police wagon, Castro used the vehicle as a spring to push back, knocking them to the ground.

“They literally carried me into the … wagon and threw me in there,” recalled Castro, now 67. “It must’ve been the motivation of the crowd that inspired me to resist. Or maybe at that point enough was enough.”

The several days of disturbances that followed the uprising at the bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village became one of the defining moment of the gay rights movement. Thousands of people are converging on the city for gay pride events to mark the riots’ 40th anniversary, while a bill is pending in the Legislature to make New York the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Castro said the demonstrations became a catalyst for years of progress allowing gays and lesbians to live more open lives – although he didn’t see it at the time.

“I never thought 40 years ago that it would turn out to be much of anything,” he said in a phone interview. “I had no clue of history being made.”

Castro, who now lives in Madeira Beach, Fla., outside St. Petersburg, is far removed from Stonewall. But his name surfaced in newly released NYPD police reports documenting arrests during the riots. The reports had previously redacted names of some arrested on the first night, but were obtained in May under the Freedom of Information Law by OutHistory.Org, a Web site run by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York.

Another name that appears in police reports for the first time is that of Marilyn Fowler, confirming earlier accounts that a woman was one of the main instigators of initial resistance to police.

“There are many witnesses to the Stonewall riots who say a woman, a lesbian presumably, played an important role in intensifying the resistance when they tried to arrest her and put her in the wagon,” said Jonathan Ned Katz, the Web site’s director, who recently obtained the documents. “It’s a very important name to be discovered.”

And for Castro, the name refutes other long-held beliefs that the Stonewall demonstrators were all white gay men.

“It wasn’t just gays,” said Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico and left in 1945. “It wasn’t just white gays.”

“You had straight people sympathetic to gays. People of the arts. You had people who had had enough (of the police). You had Latinos, you had blacks, you had whites, Chinese, you had everything. It was a melting pot. Young, old. Fems, butches.”

Castro recalled being arrested with a woman on June 28 but didn’t remember her name. He was arrested on a harassment charge, according to the police report, that was later dismissed.

“Defendants … did shove and kick the officer …” reads the report, one of nine NYPD documents Katz posted on the Web site.

It was hot and humid the night police officers raided the inn for selling liquor without a license. Police estimated 200 patrons were thrown out of Stonewall, according to a June 29, 1969, New York Times article.

After the raid, the crowd outside the Stonewall swelled to about 400, according to the Times account, citing police estimates.

Police were “attempting to leave premises with prisoners” when “they were confronted by a large crowd who attempted to stop them from removing prisoners. The crowd became disorderly,” read a copy of the NYPD complaint.

Four police officers were injured, including one with a broken wrist, according to the Times, which described the scene as a “rampage” by hundreds of young men. Thirteen people were arrested that first night on charges including harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest, the story says.

As the raid moved outside, with people hurling coins, stones, garbage and insults at the police, Castro was somehow pushed back inside the bar, where police held him and others. After a while, two police officers escorted him out of the bar in handcuffs, he said, before he pushed back as he was escorted into the wagon.

There are little reminders of Stonewall in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village today. The building was designated a national landmark in 1999, and currently houses a bar unaffiliated with the inn.

At the time, Castro says, patrons would usually knock to get into the Christopher Street inn, while someone inside peered through a peephole to size up the visitor.

“If you were one of us they’d let you in,” Castro said. “If you were straight or you looked like a cop they’d say ‘private club.'”

In 1972 Castro left New York City for suburban Long Island, where he met his partner of 30 years, Frank Sturniolo, in a disco. By 1989, the couple had settled in Florida, said Castro, who retired from his job as a decorator in an Entenmann’s bakery specialty shop.

Castro, who is battling stomach cancer, marveled at the progress for gay rights over the past four decades. In the 1970s, major psychiatric associations removed homosexuality from their lists of mental disorders. The country has more than 400 openly gay and lesbian elected officials, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a political action committee.

Still, Castro and other gay rights advocates say, there’s more work to be done. For example, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” remains in place. So does a federal law allowing states to ban or refuse recognition of same-sex marriages.

To Castro’s disappointment, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment last November banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, as did voters in other states, including California.

“I hope that I see it in Florida some day,” he said.

One may add, as context to this article, that the Stonewall resistance came in the same period as other gay resistance elsewhere, the African American civil rights movement, a new wave of feminism, resistance against wars like in Vietnam, etc. Labels used for the first time then like “gay liberation movement” and “women’s liberation” were inspired by organizations with “liberation” in their names like in Algeria or Vietnam.

See also here. And here.

Thousands of people joined Scotland’s biggest gay pride march in Edinburgh on Saturday including for the first time serving police officers in uniform: here.

Ireland: Gay community must be afforded full marriage rights – Ó Snodaigh: here.

9 thoughts on “Stonewall anti-homophobic resistance, forty years later

  1. Jun 27, 2:11 PM EDT

    Amid Jewish revival, Poland gets openly gay rabbi

    By VANESSA GERA
    Associated Press Writer

    WARSAW, Poland (AP) — When Rabbi Aaron Katz walks the streets of Warsaw’s former Jewish quarter, scenes of that lost world fill his imagination: Families headed to synagogue, women in their kitchens cooking Sabbath meals, his father as a boy with the sidecurls of an Orthodox Jew.

    But Katz’s life could hardly be more different from that prewar eastern European culture, at least in one key respect: He is Poland’s first openly gay rabbi.

    Born in Argentina 53 years ago to parents who fled Poland before the Holocaust, Katz is the latest rabbi to play his part in reviving a once vibrant Jewish community that was all but wiped out by Hitler.

    He settled into Warsaw’s historic Jewish district in March with Kevin Gleason, a former Hollywood producer on such reality TV shows as “The Bachelor” and “Nanny 911,” with whom he entered into a registered domestic partnership in Los Angeles two years ago.

    They live only three streets from the birth home of Katz’s father in a modern and spacious apartment with their dogs, two gentle brown boxers. Katz says he is moved by the links to his past, but keeps his focus on the future.

    “I don’t think we will come back to this great Jewish life,” he said, referring to prewar Poland, a country where one person in 10 was Jewish and where synagogues, yeshivas and shtetls defined the landscape. “But I hope we will have a normal Jewish life in Poland.”

    Katz is certainly an anomaly in conservative Poland, where to be either Jewish or gay is challenge enough – at least outside the cities. Of a population of 38 million, about 5,000 are registered as Jews, while thousands more have part-Jewish ancestry, and some have returned to their roots since Poland shed its communist dictatorship.

    Katz is the second rabbi to serve Beit Warszawa, a Reform community with 250 members that was founded in the capital 10 years ago by Polish and American Jews who felt little affinity with some Orthodox practices, such as separating men and women during Sabbath services. The Reform movement ordains gay rabbis.

    Homosexuals have won acceptance at differing levels throughout post-communist Eastern Europe. The Czech Republic and Slovenia recognize same-sex partnerships, as will Hungary from July 1. Poland hasn’t gone that far. It has an active gay rights movement and gay nightclubs in the cities, but the Catholic church and some conservative politicians still publicly describe homosexuality as abnormal and immoral.

    Katz, a citizen of Argentina, Israel and Sweden, says so far he has not faced anti-Semitism or homophobia in Poland. But some community members, speaking in private, reveal a degree of discomfort.

    One woman at a Sabbath service whispered that she found Katz’s open sexuality too “aggressive.” A longtime male member counseled against writing about the rabbi, lest anti-Semites use it against the community.

    A third member, Piotr Lukasz, said he himself supports gay rights, and marched with an Israeli flag during a recent gay rights parade in Warsaw. But he said he had heard others complain that it would weaken an already small and fragile community.

    “They say that Poland is not a ready for a gay rabbi because the outside society is very conservative,” said Lukasz, a 23-year-old student of cultural anthropology. “An openly gay rabbi is something very controversial.”

    Others, though, seem comfortable, as evidenced by a recent string of dinners where Jews and non-Jews joined Katz and his partner at their home, digging into goulash or chicken-and-potato meals around the dining room table and socializing through the evening.

    Katz is the chief cook – it’s because he likes to be in charge, says Gleason, who instead welcomes guests warmly at the door and keeps their wine glasses filled through the evenings.

    “I think the rabbi’s home should be open,” Katz said. “The moment that you take a position, your family takes the position too. It’s a role.”

    Katz’s life as a rabbi has been an evolution from one world to another. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was Sweden’s chief Orthodox rabbi, married to a woman with whom he had five children now aged 16 to 31. Later he lived and worked in Berlin and Los Angeles. He had a dark beard, but today is clean-shaven.

    The only photograph in their living room shows Katz and Gleason on the day they sealed their partnership – which they refer to as a marriage – surrounded by both their families, including Katz’s sons and daughters, who are close to the couple and who showed their acceptance of the union with a gift of a ketubah, a traditional Jewish wedding certificate.

    Katz’s journey away from Orthodox Judaism was part of his “coming out process,” he explains, but also was influenced by the realization that some of his children were not attracted to Orthodox worship. He concluded that Reform Judaism was more attractive to the young.

    Still, he insists that as modern as he is, he loves tradition.

    He keeps a kosher home and has enthusiastically embraced the Jewish tradition of matchmaker, using his dinners to introduce singles – usually heterosexuals but not exclusively.

    Asked how many marriages have resulted, he said “a couple,” but Gleason jumped in to correct him: “You’re being modest,” he said.

    Gleason, 50, was born into a Catholic family but converted to Judaism for Katz. He left Hollywood and now does administrative and fundraising work for the synagogue. He attends services, sitting in the back and tapping on his watch when he feels the rabbi’s lively sermons are getting to long.

    Still, the openness of their relationship can catch people in Warsaw off guard.

    “I introduce him as my partner they say, ‘Oh he’s also a rabbi?'” Katz said. “When I say ‘my partner’ they think I mean like in business. So I say ‘no, no, no, we are living together.'”

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  2. CHURCH PLANS PROTEST OVER MALE PROM QUEEN

    LA Times
    June 18, 2009

    A Kansas based church known for celebrating at the funerals of American soldiers killed in combat plans to protest today at Fairfax Senior High School because the student body elected a gay male teen as its prom queen.

    Westboro Baptist Church, which has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, says it plans to picket at the school between 12:15 and 1p.m. Church members also will demonstrate outside a Jewish temple, community center and the Anti-Defamation League’s headquarters in Los Angeles.

    The school protest was prompted by Fairfax High students crowning Sergio Garcia, 18, prom queen last month. Counter-protestors are expected, and say they will use the church’s presence to raise donations for the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

    Westboro Baptist Church last protested at a Southern California school in April, when members picketed the staging of the musical “Rent” at an Orange County high school. The group routinely celebrates at soldiers’ funerals, saying that they are killed by God because America tolerates homosexuality.

    – Seema Mehta

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