Thursday, June 30, 2011

Memoirs & Thoughts of an Oklahoman Reporter — Part 2


In this article, former Oklahoman reporter Jim Kyle continues sharing his recollections about Oklahoma and Oklahoma City history — see Part 1 for his first installment and click here for his third article about the Korean war.

This time, Jim describes how I came to be able to purchase, legally, the fine W.L. Wellers Kentucky bourbon whiskey that I enjoy today — but, of course, the story that Jim tells here is about much more than that.

In this piece, he recollects his late-1940s/mid-1950s personal experiences both before and during his time with the Oklahoman in this fascinating period of Oklahoma's, and Oklahoma City's, history.

Jump to Jim Kyle's Article

INTRODUCTION. Following the April 22, 1889, Land Run, Oklahoma City, and probably Oklahoma Territory, generally, was wide open as far as liquor issues were concerned. The Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce's 1903 publication promoting the city to those outside of Oklahoma featured the city's whiskey wholesalers as well as the fine Southern Club.


About that establishment, the Chamber said,
        METROPOLITAN in all things is Oklahoma City — in its professions, trades, commerce, arts, science, and last, but not least, its bar rooms. First and foremost among the elegant and high class resorts of this kind for the convenience of business men ranks the beautiful place of Barnes & Stout, known as the Southern Club Bar, at 28 West Grand Avenue. It was established February the first of the whole of a two-story and basement brick building twenty-five by one hundred and forty feet in dimensions.
        Ever since its inception this house has made a record for excellent management, superior quality of goods and eminent respectability, which have gained for it the large and popular patronage it enjoys. The apartments occupied are elegant and luxurious, the bar being carved and finished in mahogany. The floor is of tile, and the shelving handsomely fitted with large mirrors of French plate glass and handsome decorations, the finest glassware, and only the finest qualities of wines, liquors, whiskies, brandies, ale, mineral water and cigars are kept on hand. *** The firm [that owns the business] are members of our Chamber of Commerce, and are men of business ability and are prominent among those who promote our business interests as a city.
At that time, it is more than evident that the whiskey business, wholesale and retail, had the blessing of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and probably of the city's elected leaders.

1906-1907 — The Drought Begins. All that would change if Oklahoma and Indian Territories wanted to become a state. Congress's 1906 Enabling Act authorizing the admission of Oklahoma and Indian Territories as a state came with strings and one of them was prohibition. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture says, "Prohibition of the manufacture, sale, barter, or gift of liquor was mandated for twenty-one years, after which time the constitution could be amended for or against." The territories complied, adopted its constitution inclusive of prohibition, and Oklahoma was admitted to the Union on November 16, 1907.

That's pretty much where Jim's article begins with the rest of the story.

JIM KYLE'S ARTICLE. Below, enjoy the personal recollections of Jim Kyle before, during, and after the 1959 "Prairie Fire" campaign of Governor J. Howard Edmondson and his prohibition enforcement czar Joe Cannon.

How Two Men Ended ...
The 52-year Drought


By JIM KYLE

         In the mid-1950s, Oklahoma was one of the very few states that still prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages. It had been that way for its entire existence as a state, and few citizens expected the situation to ever change.
         Before statehood, things were different — at least they were in one of the Twin Territories. Oklahoma Territory was home to as many saloons and liquor stores as any other part of the great west. However Indian Territory, the southern area given over to the Five Civilized Tribes, had never allowed the sale of "firewater."
         That prohibition had, of course, given rise to an illicit industry of importing it into the area. One of the earliest means of doing so provided a name for the activity. An importer would stuff a few pint bottles into the leg of each of his boots. And "bootlegging" was born.
         Not all potables had to be imported. The Choctaws, in particular, honed brewing into a fine art, and "choc beer" was noted throughout both of the territories. It remains popular to this day, especially in "Little Dixie" (the southeastern quarter of the state and home of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations).
         However, to our north in Kansas the Temperance movement was strong. Carrie Nation brought her hatchet into Oklahoma quite often. Many of our early settlers were quite conservative, as well, and despised the "wild wild west" reputation we were earning. Consequently when our Constitutional Convention met to frame a constitution for the soon-to-be state, it wrote into the document an absolute prohibition on the sale of intoxicating beverages in any form. Not until 1933 did we permit even 3.2 percent beer, and the courts ruled that it was non-intoxicating despite ample evidence to the contrary.
         Exceptions existed for certain medicines, of course. Had they been tested, some patent medicines would have registered as 80 proof or higher. Still they were made so foul-tasting that few people used them as anything other than medicine. For a time, liquor itself was available by prescription as a medicine, but that option did not last long.
         But Oklahomans didn't stop drinking. The mere fact that its sale was illegal had absolutely no effect on the flow of alcohol into the state. The bootleggers simply expanded their operations to the north. Before long, every town in the state had at least one resident bootlegger, and everyone who cared knew exactly how to get his wares.
         My personal knowledge of the situation began about 1948, when I left home to attend OU down at Norman. My parents did not drink, and the only liquor in our home was a bottle of bourbon that my father mixed half and half with honey as a cough syrup. Sometime during my freshman year, I learned how easy it was to buy a half-pint of Black and White Scotch (the beverage favored by one of my favorite fictional characters, Simon Templar AKA The Saint). I didn't really like the taste of the stuff, but it seemed to be a part of growing up so I managed to get it down — not enough to even get a slight buzz, but enough to make me feel truly cosmopolitan.
         Because I had skipped a grade early in my school days, I was a year younger than most of my classmates — and because of that, had a worse case of adolescent angst than most of them. By my Junior year, my first puppy love had gone sour, and as the annual Journalism Day party approached I was in a foul and self-pitying mood. My two roommates and I pooled our pennies, drove out west along SH 9 to the resident bootlegging establishment, and bought a whole fifth of Seagram's Seven Crown. It accompanied us to the party; traditionally, the faculty chaperones always looked the other way at the affair, so there was no risk of discipline although none of us was even close to 21 years old.
         We all had moderately weak mixes with Seven-Up for our first round, but unlike my earlier experiments with Scotch they were strong enough to give us mild buzzes. I grew a bit maudlin, but my roommates grew mischievous. When I asked for a second, they left out the mixer and poured it straight. I drank it down and asked for another. And another. And ...
         I don't remember much about the rest of that evening. I do recall that I finished most of the bottle, and that they took me to an all-night restaurant and poured black coffee into me. I also remember discovering that my bed had the strange capacity to rotate up to the ceiling, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fall out of it. And I know that I was sicker than a whole pound full of dogs for the rest of the night, until there was nothing left in me to get rid of.
         By all rights the poisonous effects of that night should have killed me, but instead I developed a physical aversion to alcohol. I was, and still am, unable to force down a drink of any appreciable strength. While I didn't become a teetotaler at that point, I did learn to avoid drinking enough to lose control of myself — and only one other time, the afternoon of July 27, 1953, when the truce in Korea was signed, have I gone over that limit.
         I believe that the only unusual thing about my experience was that it had such a lasting effect in steering me away from the bottle. Far too many of my friends from high school days wound up as hopeless alcoholics, partly because it was so easy to come by.
         Here in OKC, bootleggers handed out business cards bearing their phone numbers all over the place. All anyone had to do was call one of those numbers, at any time, day or night, and place an order. Within a very few minutes, a car would pull up to the home, money would change hands, and the delivery was made. Neither the age nor the sobriety (or lack thereof) of the buyer made any difference. And the cost was actually lower than in surrounding states where sales were legal, because no state tax was collected.
         By the time I held my first reporting job, at Ardmore, I had become a firm opponent of the system of prohibition in our state — but held little hope of it ever changing. Attempts had been made regularly, and just as regularly they went down in flames. Even before his death in 1935, Will Rogers had quipped that "Oklahoma will stay dry as long as the voters can stagger to the polls," and history had proven him correct.
         My main objections to it were that it fostered corruption among law enforcement officers, and allowed no regulation to protect youngsters from making the same kinds of mistakes that I had. The prospect of additional state taxes also entered into it, but nowhere near as strongly.
         Again, I had a bit of personal experience with apparent corruption in law enforcement. Almost as soon as I arrived and made myself known to the people on my beat, the sheriff offered me a key to his offices — which also opened the evidence room where seized liquor was kept. The deputies advised me to visit whenever I got thirsty. I only used the key to visit the jail for supper occasionally; they had a chronic prisoner who was an excellent cook and who prepared all the meals!
         I remember accompanying a deputy and an OSBI investigator on a "raid" during the time that Perry White (later editor of The Daily Oklahoman) was my intern. They greeted the 'suspect" like old friends, searched, found a single bottle, and confiscated it. The OSBI agent then gave Perry and me a demonstration of his quick-draw expertise, shooting a half-dollar out of the air. I was certain the whole show had been rigged for our benefit, but saw no point whatsoever in saying so.
         I also found it totally illogical that candidates would spend tens of thousands of dollars campaigning for offices such as that of county sheriff, which would pay the winner at best a few thousand total over the entire term. I became ever more certain that the real payoff came under the table, but was also certain that any attempt to expose the situation would be futile.
         Some newspapers decried the situation, although few went so far as to openly support repeal of the constitutional provisions. While at Ardmore, I went on a 10-day tour of Europe provided by the Air Force, and in Frankfurt-au-Main I purchased a Minifon wire recorder. This was the device that gave rise to the phrase "'wearing a wire" since it was small enough to be concealed at the small of the wearer's back, and its microphone was disguised as a wrist watch. I wanted it primarily as a high-tech toy, but saw possibilities of using it should I ever encounter a situation where I could.
         After I came back to OKC and joined OPubCo, police reporter Jack Jones came up with an idea to dramatize how open bootlegging was in our city. We had two obviously under-age copy boys who volunteered for the job, and we put my recorder on one of them. We then gave the boys a hundred dollars or so, and Jack drove them (in an unmarked vehicle) to several open bootlegging locations. Their jobs were to buy a bottle at each, while recording the conversations.
         Many apologists for the bootleggers had claimed that they would not sell to minors. Our operation was intended to test those claims.
         It was a total success. Every place sold the boys their bottles, and none of them had questioned their ages. As the sting progressed, Jack suggested that the boys make it plain they were under age, but even so the bootleggers didn't care. We transcribed the wires, and went to press.
         Of course, nothing happened. The adults involved were arrested, paid minor fines, and went right back into business. There was some talk of charging them with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" and I had to maintain an evidence chain on the wires for a time, but that all faded away without any actual action.
         However, the problems with prohibition were becoming ever more obvious, and in 1958 a 33-year-old county attorney from Tulsa named J. Howard Edmondson ran for governor on a platform that promised yet another vote on the subject. He conducted a whirlwind campaign, and won election in a landslide, becoming the youngest governor the state has ever had.
         What few had anticipated was that Edmondson would use Will Rogers' quip as the basis of his strategy. He appointed childhood friend, fraternity brother, and Marine combat veteran Joe Cannon, just elected county attorney at Muskogee, as his commissioner of public safety, and immediately after taking office on January 12, 1959, the new governor and his Highway Patrol chieftain began enforcing existing laws to the hilt.
         Up until then, "private" clubs (that anyone could join for a dollar or two at the door) offered a safe way to enjoy a night out, with drinks. The courts had held that a private club was an extension of one's home, and as such was off limits to officers unless they had valid search warrants. The clubs kept members' "private bottles" and that evaded the prohibition on sales — the club merely offered the service of pouring or mixing the drinks, and nobody questioned how the members obtained those private bottles. Many, of course, had not done so at all; the bartender had simply tagged the bottle with the member's name.
         That changed when Edmondson and Cannon began their drive. Virtually every private club in the state, with two notable exceptions, was raided — with valid search warrants, requested at the last minute by Cannon and with the issuing judge being taken along on the raid so that he could not possibly warn anyone.
         The two exceptions were The Oklahoma City Press Club, and The Branding Iron. The press club was excluded for obvious reasons: bad publicity would be disastrous. The Branding Iron was the governor's own favorite hangout. However many others that had been considered immune were hit, including The Beacon Club atop the First National Building, and the Petroleum Club. And at each raided club, if the raiders found a single bottle of liquor, all the customers were herded off to jail and charged with frequenting a disorderly house.
         I witnessed one such raid, at the Chatterbox Club operated by Dick Dolph near the Capitol. The establishment, less than a block from the statehouse at 2440 N Lincoln Boulevard, was a favorite of state officials, and on the night of March 19 was filled with legislators and lobbyists. I got a strange message from the police dispatcher about 7 p.m. that evening, to meet a detective cruiser at the south side of the Capitol building. When I got there, the entire group was reviewing plans for the raid. I called for a photographer to meet me, and at about 9 p.m. we followed the raiding party to the night club.
         It took every paddy wagon that OCPD could muster to haul 96 customers and employees down to jail. They all gave fictitious names (including Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong), and that was the thrust of my story in the next morning's paper. One of the customers was the representative of a plastics company, who had arrived in Oklahoma City that afternoon to evaluate it as the possible site of a new plant. He left for Dallas the next morning after writing OKC off of his list.
         Cannon and Edmondson also went to extreme lengths to halt importation of liquor into the state. They set up roadblocks on all the main highways, stopping and searching all vehicles, including semi-trailers and cross-country buses. Of course it was a horrible inconvenience to travelers, and may well have been illegal interference with interstate commerce, but the searches continued right up until old laws were replaced, even after the special election called to decide the issue.
         Again I had personal experience. My wife, baby son (only about a month old), and I drove down to Whiskeyta Falls, Texas, to replenish the personal stocks of my family and immediate relatives. Knowing we would be stopped on the way home, we packed the 4 or 5 bottles in the baby's crib, beneath his blankets — and added additional blankets for padding. As we had hoped, he dozed off as soon as we began the trip back, and was totally out of it, snoozing peacefully atop the booze, when the Highway Patrol trooper pulled us over and looked into the car.
         The trooper saw nothing amiss, commented on how comfortable the baby looked, and waved us on through. Mission accomplished!
         Edmondson and Cannon continued the crackdown until the day of (and even a bit after) the special election to repeal prohibition. They made it very difficult for Oklahomans to stagger to the polls, and also illustrated exactly what the outdated laws were like when fully enforced. The result, of course, was inevitable. On April 7, 1959, Oklahoma's prohibition era came to an end by an overwhelming vote.
         At first it wasn't all rosy, though. The initial restrictions on liquor stores were rather extreme. Their advertising was limited to a single sign with letters no more than a few inches high, and the allowable shape and wording of the sign was written into the law. Sale of liquor by the drink was still outlawed. Minors were (and still are) not allowed on the premises for any reason; on our first visit to a legal liquor outlet in OKC, we had to leave our sons in the car although none were yet of school age. Fortunately their grandmother was there to keep them company.
         Many of the restrictions have been eased over the years, and it's now legal to order a drink over the bar — but only in some counties. Others still prohibit sale by the drink.
         Once the matter was settled, Cannon resigned the post of public safety commissioner to join Edmondson's staff as its legal assistant. A year later, he left that position to establish a private law practice in Oklahoma City but remained a close associate of the governor and still served part-time on his staff. He later became a district judge in Oklahoma County, retired in 1988, and passed away on February 23, 2003.
         Edmondson served two terms as governor, resigning shortly before the end of the second to be appointed to the U.S. Senate, filling the vacancy created by the death of Robert S. Kerr. During those two terms he made other significant changes to the state's governmental structure, including creation of the merit system for state employees — but the demise of prohibition remained his major accomplishment in the eyes of many Oklahomans.
         Sadly, he survived that milestone by little more than a dozen years, dying on November 17, 1971 at the age of 46.
         Edmondson and Cannon are both gone now, but they certainly earned their places in the ranks of Oklahoma officials who made significant changes to the state.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

On Being Excited About OKC's LGBT Citizens

Originally posted May 17; updated June 20-21 to complete the history and add new information about the US service men and women who will be honored this year.


"I'm So Excited" was initially released by the Pointer Sisters in 1982 — the video above is from a long-defunct TV show, "Solid Gold," in 1984, at a time that blacks were and had been breaking down racial barriers in America. I understand that their video of I'm So Excited was the 1st video by any black recording artists to appear on the then-fledgling MTV cable TV channel in 1983, 28 years ago.

But, what has the above video got to do with Oklahoma City, you ask.

Good question. The Pointer Sisters will headline the 24th annual OKC Pride activities (June 24-26) and parade (June 26) to occur in Oklahoma City next month. The parade which dates back to 1988 is commonly but inaccurately called the "Gay Pride Parade."

Yes, the Pointer Sisters are older than some of you who might not even know of them. But they are still singing their tunes (even though one deceased sister, June, was replaced by her grand-daughter, Sadako Johnson, in 2009 — whether that remains true, I don't know). The Pointer Sisters hit the pop stage in America in the 1970s and they remained high on the list of record sellers through the 1980s. Billboard Magazine gives a list of their hit tunes in America: "Yes We Can Can" (1973 #11), "Fairytale" (1974 #13), "How Long (1975 #20), "Fire" (1979 #2), "He's So Shy" (1980 #3), "Slow Hand" (1981 #2), "Should I Do It" (1982 #13), "American Music" (1982 #16), "Automatic" (1984 #5), "Jump (For My Love)" (1984 #3), "I'm So Excited" (remix) (1984 #9), "Neutron Dance" (1984 #6), and "Dare Me" (1985 #11).
The Pointer Sisters will be in town to support the activities of and people who are the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community and people in our city — your next-door neighbors, whether you know who they are or not.
If you're not excited about the progress of the LGBT community in Oklahoma City, it's time to update your personal computer — no, not the one that you are looking at right now but the computer that really matters, your own mind and heart — to a group of citizens quietly who contributes one heck of a lot of good things to this city, if you didn't know.

This article describes this year's OKC Pride events and gives a bit of history associated with the annual Oklahoma City event. As well, it invites the straight members of the Oklahoma City community to consider some of the more sobering aspects of being gay, or lesbian, or bi-sexual, or transgender, and your and my response to them, both as a group but more importantly simply as one human being looking into the eyes of another without malice or rancor and with care and respect.


Introduction   This Year's Events   Old Parade Photos
The Sobering Side   Political/Legal History
U.S. History   Oklahoma Criminal Law   Oklahoma Civil Law
National Legal Change   National Social Change
Oklahoma City History

INTRODUCTION. Let's get some definitions and distinctions out of the way. Commonly, the term "gay" is often used by those in the straight community to refer everyone included in each of the four elements of GLBT collectively, and I admit to having that tendency myself. But, strictly speaking, gays are guys who are disposed to engage in sexual conduct with guys; lesbians are the same except that the sexual disposition is girl-girl; and bi-sexuals are OK with either gender. Transgenders are people whose sexual anatomy does not correctly match up with other and more compelling elements of their genetic, physiological and/or psychological makeup which determine an individual's self-identification as being male or female — with this group, a male person could be trapped in a female body or vice versa. And, if my understanding is correct, such a trapped person might be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, pan-sexual, or uninterested in sex at all ... yes, this can get confusing for members of the straight community. Doubtless what I've just said is a superficial and inartful description of the transgender element of LGBT consortium, and maybe I don't have it exactly right, but it will have to do since it is not the object of this post to explore the distinctions present within the four components of LGBT. Comments are invited to explain this better than I have, and see this Wikipedia article. For ease of writing, I'll use the phrase, "sexual persona" instead of "sexual orientation" when referencing transgenders in this article.

Here, my intention is to focus upon the collection of people, LGTBs as a group, that straight people have had historic difficulty accepting as part of their community, without regard to sexuality issues of one kind or another. Much of the "historic" discussion which occurs later on in the article focuses on gays but that's only because males have actually been the stronger focus from the vantage point of history. My intention is to look at (1) the 24th annual LGBT events and parade, (2) some past parades, (3) the sobering side of being a member of the LGBT community, and (4) legal, political, and social history.

Historically, does it surprise you that our city has had at least one gay mayor, according to very strong and reliable rumor? No, it's not Mayor Mick or Mayor Kirk Humphreys, both of whom opposed allowing the local pride alliance group from having event signs which are affixed to OGE light poles around town, notably along Classen Boulevard, so you can scratch them off of the rumor list. Those mayors were of a different mindset, at least at the times described in the Oklahoma City history/political section of this article — but perhaps they're already different than they were before — that will be for each of them to say, and people do change their minds about things from time to time.

It's not only difficult for LGTB's to come out of their respective closets, it's also difficult for straight people to change their perceptions and announce the same in a public way and that is perhaps particularly true for politicians who might change their stance.

But, back to the Oklahoma City mayor ... no, the mayor in question never publicly said that he was gay, so I won't name him, either, but I'll say that he had a sister who wrote a textbook for the Oklahoma City school system back in the 1950s. And that's all I'm sayin' about that. For now. I may give another tip later in this article.

THIS YEAR'S EVENTS. The official press release for this year's event reads as follows:
OKC PRIDE BRINGS LEGENDARY MUSIC TRIO FOR OUTDOOR CONCERT AND BLOCK PARTY

Grammy Award Winning Pointer Sisters Will Headline Festivities at 2011 OKC Pride Weekend, Proceeds Benefiting a Future Community Health Center


        OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (May 10, 2011) - To celebrate the opening night of the 2011 OKC Pride Weekend, The Pointer Sisters will perform live during an outdoor block party and concert on Friday, June 24. The block party begins at 4:00 p.m. and will conclude with a performance
by the legendary pop trio at 9:30 p.m. The block party and festival will be located on The Strip near NW 39th and Pennsylvania Avenue.
        The Pointer Sisters are well known for their Billboard Hit’s, “I’m So Excited,” “He’s So Shy,” “Jump (for my love),” and “Slow Hand.”
        The 2011 OKC Pride Weekend is presented by OKC Pride, a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide leadership to meet the needs of the LGBT community through awareness, health, and educational services.
        All three days of festivities will feature a variety of entertainment, multiple food and beverage concessions, dozens of exhibitor booths, and other activities. The festival will conclude on Sunday, June 26, with festivities on The Strip and the traditional OKC Pride Parade.
        The theme for 2011 OKC Pride is “POWERED BY PRIDE.” Event coordinators expect approximately 70,000 people to get excited and party with a purpose during the three-day event. A suggested donation of $10 will include entry to the weekend events and special discounts at concession stands. All proceeds will benefit the future construction of a community health center.
        The future health center will cater to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community in central Oklahoma. OKC Pride vice president John Gibbons says the new community health center will provide individuals with a comfortable and safe environment for their health needs. OKC Pride plans to purchase land for the health center with the 2011 OKC Pride proceeds. The location of the land will be along The Strip.
        The week actually kicks off at OKC Pride's official announcement of its plan to initiate the health center project during a gala fundraising event at Coles Garden Event Center at 1415 NE 63rd Street on June 19:


More information about the gala is available at www.okcpride.org/. Also, see this Facebook page.
2nd PRESS RELEASE. A May 25 press release by the sponsoring organization adds this news:
OKC PRIDE TO MAKE HISTORY BY HONORING LGBT VETERANS

OKC Pride Board Votes Unanimously to Make LGBT Veterans Honorary Grand Marshals for the 24th Annual OKC Pride Parade


        OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (May 25, 2011) – In response to the federal repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' (DADT) last December, OKC Pride has declared all LGBT service veterans Honorary Grand Marshals during the 24th Annual OKC Pride Parade on June 26. Dozens of LGBT veterans from around the country will help lead the parade. The patriotic gesture makes OKC Pride 2011 one of the first organizations to honor LGBT veterans in such a way.
        According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 14,000 service men and women have been terminated from the military for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual since 1993. On December 22, 2010, President Obama signed legislation to repeal DADT. Five months later, the repeal still has not been fully enacted.
        OKC Pride president, Kirk Martin, says “OKC Pride is extremely proud to honor LGBT veterans who have served our nation with respect and dignity. We look forward to the day – and it’s coming soon – when our nation will give all LGBT servicemembers the respect and dignity they so well deserve.”
Schedule of Events. This year's main schedule is the following:

Friday, June 24:
  • 4:00 p.m.: Festival exhibitors and vendors open
  • 4:00 p.m.: Musical entertainment kicks off
  • 8:00 p.m.: Opening Act performance
  • 9:30 p.m.: The Pointer Sisters concert
Saturday, June 25:
  • 10:00 a.m.: Festival exhibitors and vendors open, games and festivities kick off, and musical entertainment begins. Entertainers include local and regional acts.
  • 9:30 p.m.: Special guest entertainer performs
Sunday, June 26:
  • 10:00 a.m.: Festival exhibitors and vendors open
  • 4:30 p.m.: Parade participants line-up at Memorial Park; pre-Parade entertainment on The Strip begins
  • 6:00 p.m.: Parade steps off
I don't have the parade route yet, but I'll update this article when I learn of it.

OLD PARADE PHOTOS. In this section, if and when I get them, I'll post photos of OKC Pride photos from parades gone by. I've personally taken no parade photos but I'll try to make this year's parade and get some 2011 pics. For now, I'll borrow a couple from a person who identifies him/herself as "taos3," taken during the June 25, 2006, parade, and embed the Webshots 39-picture slideshow that he/she kindly makes available here.





Taos3's Slideshow
Use the slider at bottom-left to change speed



The above is from Taos3's Gay Pride Parade Photos 6-25-06

Thanks for sharing, Taos3!

THE SOBERING SIDE. To their credit, the Cimarron Alliance and promoters of OKC Pride events in Oklahoma City have invariably focused upon the positive and upbeat elements of their typically week-long celebration of pride. They have never played a "poor pitiful me" card in their history that I'm aware of — all they seek is to be treated equally without regard to their sexual orientation or persona. Pride has sought to use the week in positive ways for themselves and for those who might be watching and they have done so without pandering to emotional sentiment.

That said, it would be remiss of me, a straight but sympathetic, even empathetic, Oklahoma Citian who supports their cause, not to call to the attention of straight guys and gals a few of the sobering elements of what being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender, can mean and which might cause you to open your heart and minds to your friends who are not straight like you. Three of these elements are (1) the real and perceived isolation from mainstream straight society; (2) the horrific impact of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) upon the LGBT community; and (3) legal treatment. I'll cover the latter item in the history section at the end.

        Isolation. Although the LGBT group is not at all so small as not to have an abundance of support amongst themselves, being an island, large or small, is not the LGBT goal, as I understand it. They want nothing more than integration, respect, and equal treatment under the law. Although having similar goals of our black citizens whose attempts to achieve the same goals began much earlier, with the LGBT community it is different. With black citizens, mere skin color was the defining and plainly identifiable characteristic. No such simple eyeball identification is present for LGBTs, aside from occasional nuances of personal mannerisms and regardless of race. Being isolated is much more subtle for LGBT's whose sexual orientation or persona is not publicly known. In many ways they are already integrated but the integration is often betrayed by a protective mask which hides their sexual orientation or persona. I have friends in the legal, religious, arts, and other communities who are privately gay but who fear or have feared that public disclosure might be disastrous to them at one level or another. So do you. You have friends who fit the same description and that is true whether you know or don't know that their sexual orientation or persona is unlike your own.

        AIDS/HIV. The horrific impact of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) upon the LGBT community, particularly gay men is profound. Although the time will hopefully come that it is no longer true, today it is impossible not to associate homosexual activity with AIDS and HIV and it would be wrong of me in writing this article to leave this sobering reality unmentioned. Although no particular event needs to exist to justify considering the matter, the annual June OKC Pride events can also serve as a time for straight folk to think and ponder, and even reach out with care and affection to their brothers and sisters who have a different sexual orientation or persona different than their own. For some, doing so will be harder than for others. But perhaps some of you will pause and reflect upon your own personal attitudes and points of view.

The powerful 1993 movie, Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks (1994 Academy Awards, best actor), Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards, and others, gave the straight community in the United States and beyond a look at what being a homosexual male can mean to the lives of both that person and his straight family members as well as employers and work associates. If you've not seen this movie, I most strongly recommend that you do. As a straight person, perhaps you or your children or grandchildren will come to have an LGBT child, grandchild, brother, sister, nephew or neice. Joanne Woodward and the family-member cast evidenced what you would hopefully expect, an outpouring of familial love for the Tom Hanks character, even though that is not always the case. Perhaps you are the straight employer, or work in such an organization, and you either have your mind made up or, alternatively, don't really know how to respond when learning that a valued employee or co-worker is doesn't fit your comfortable sexuality mold. Perhaps you are the lawyer Denzel Washington who for the first time had to deal with a person who had AIDS at a close level but didn't really know how to respond until the passing of time, thought, and the acquisition of knowledge.

The song, Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen (1994 Academy Awards, best song), is shown in two versions below. The left version is a Spanish (I think) subtitled rendition which shows some poignant clips from the movie and ends with, "A pior violĂȘncia Ă© o preconceito," which, in English according to Google, is, "The worst violence is the prejudice." The right version is Bruce Springsteen's web video of the same song. Click on the "4-arrow" icon at the lower bottom right of either video for a full screen view.

Streets of Philadelphia, edited by Tessaro Mercantil and originally located at this location.
Streets of Philadelphia,originally posted by Bruce Springsteen at this location.

A BITE OUT OF LEGAL, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL HISTORY. Before getting "Oklahoma City specific," at least a glimpse at the overall American and Oklahoma background is needed to gain a proper context of what has occurred in the city proper. It helps to explain why the Oklahoma City Council acted as it did as described below concerning banners and parades.

        General U.S. History. I won't develop this section with any real depth, but a little background is helpful and may be interesting to read. According to The Sensibilities of Our Forefathers, The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States, we learn this interesting bit of information:
By a statute of 1647, sodomy was made a capital offense in Rhode Island. The wording was unique in the history of the United States. Under the heading "Touching Whoremongers," the statute read like a sermon.
First of sodomy, which is forbidden by this present Assembly throughout the whole colony, and by sundry statutes of England. 25 Hen. 8, 6; 5 Eliz. 17. It is a vile affection, whereby men given up thereto leave the natural use of woman and burn in their lusts one toward another, and so men with men work that which is unseemly, as that Doctor of the Gentiles in his letter to the Romans once spake, i. 27. The penalty concluded by that state under whose authority we are is felony of death without remedy. See 5 Eliz. 17.
A post-revolutionary Rhode Island statute was somewhat more merciful ...
A statute of 1798 again reworded the prohibitive language and lightened the penalty for a first offense.
That every person who shall be convicted of sodomy, or of being accessary thereto before the fact, shall, for the first offence, be carried to the gallows in a cart, and set upon the said gallows, for a space of time not exceeding four hours, and thence to the common gaol, there to be confined for a term not exceeding three years, and shall be grievously fined at the discretion of the Court; and for the second offense shall suffer death.
See the article for quite a bit of United States legal lore. The point to make is that laws of the type discussed in this section were commonplace and probably existed everywhere in the country well before the Land Run of April 22, 1889.

        Oklahoma Criminal Law. I've not researched Oklahoma's territorial laws but I'd be amazed if there were not criminal statutes on this topic adopted by territorial legislatures. Post-statehood, Oklahoma's 1910 Revised Laws, Section 2444, provided that,
Any person who is guilty of the detestable and abominable crime against nature, committed with mankind or with a beast, is punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary not exceeding ten years.
The phrase, "detestable and abominable crime against nature" can apparently be found in the United States at least as early as 1814, according to Wikipedia and was probably commonplace by the opening of Oklahoma for settlement beginning in 1889.

Ok Ok. The detestable and abominable crime against nature. What's that, and if a "pool" of such acts can be objectively identified, which one, you reasonably ask, since the word "crime" is a singular term and is not plural? Oral? Anal? Same sex (male/male, female/female) and/or any combined gender (male/female)? What? Lawyers began asking exactly that question at least as early as 1917. See Ex parte De Ford, 1917 OK CR 192, 168 P. 58, 14 Okl.Cr. 133, a case decided by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (then called the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals). Mr. De Ford had been convicted under the statute for having oral sex with someone named "F.H." ... the formal Information (legal name for formal charge) read, "The information to which the petitioner entered a plea of guilty alleged that he (petitioner) did "willfully, intentionally and feloniously commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature, by then and there taking into his mouth the penis of one F.H., and sucking the same until a seminal emission ensued." Although he plead guilty and was sentenced, while incarcerated he had second thoughts and filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that the named offense did not include oral sex. One of the reasons that I mention this case is that it goes into somewhat meticulous detail as to the reasons why oral sex was determined to be included within the definition of the statute. The short version of the holding is the case's summary at the top: the statute "includes copulation between human beings per os [ed. note: Latin, meaning by mouth] as well as per anum [ed. note: Latin, meaning through or by way of the anus]." Read the case if you want all of gastronomical legal details, but, in a phrase, one could say that the opinion boils down to "food in, food out, same thing" in reaching the legal conclusions that it did.

Why didn't the Oklahoma Legislature just say exactly what it meant, which is normally required of statutes which define criminal behavior, so that an accused will know exactly what offense he/she is being charged? That's another good question. A 1927 decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals gave the explanation — it was an offense which was beneath the fitness level for actually being named by written word. That's kinda like one sportswriter not being willing to use the name, "Oklahoma City," when describing the city's NBA basketball team — it is a city which shall not be named. In Borden v. State, 1927 OK CR 7, 252 P. 446, 36 Okl.Cr. 69, the court said, "The statute gives no definition of the crime which the law with due regard to the sentiments of decent humanity has always treated as one not fit to be named."

A significant step was taken by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Post v. State, 1986 OK CR 30, 715 P.2d 1105, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 890, 107 S.Ct. 290, 93 L.Ed.2d 264 (1986):
¶6 We first deal with appellant's claim that his convictions for the Crime Against Nature, 21 O.S. 1981 § 886 [footnote 1], rest on an unconstitutional basis. Appellant has asserted his claim on two grounds: First, he claims the statute is unconstitutionally vague. Second, he claims the statute, as applied to non-violent consensual activity between adults in private, violates his right to privacy under the United States Constitution. Because we agree with appellant's second claim, we need not address the first.
***
¶11 For the above and foregoing reasons, we are compelled to hold that our decision in Warner v. State, supra, was based on the erroneous premise that the right to privacy is limited to decisions and acts arising in the marital relationship. It now appears to us that the right to privacy, as formulated by the Supreme Court, includes the right to select consensual adult sex partners. Exercise of this right cannot be proscribed by the State in the absense of a compelling justification. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 155, 93 S.Ct. 705, 728, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973). See also Griswold v. Connecticut, supra 381 U.S. at 497-498, 85 S.Ct. at 1688-1689 (Goldberg, J., concurring).

¶12 We recognize it is the opinion of many that abnormal sexual acts, even those involving consenting adults, are morally reprehensible. However, this natural repugnance does not create a compelling justification for state regulation of these activities. The Supreme Court has determined that merely because the purchase and use of contraceptives by unmarried persons would arouse moral indignation among broad segments of the community, or that the use of pornographic materials in the privacy of one's own home would invoke general displeasure, does not provide a compelling justification to regulate either activity. See Eisenstadt v. Baird, supra, and Stanley v. Georgia, supra. The State has failed to demonstrate that private, consensual acts between adult persons could significantly harm society so as to provide a compelling state interest in the regulation of such activities. The fact that twenty-two states have decriminalized private consensual sodomy between adults further illustrates that no harm to society is presently caused by these sexual acts. See Rivera, Our Straight-Laced Judges: The Legal Position of Homosexual Persons in the United States, 30 Hastings L.J. 799, 950-951 (1979).

¶13 We stress that our decision today in no way affects the validity of 21 O.S. 1981 § 886 in its application to bestiality, forced sexual activity, sexual activity of the underaged, or public or commercial sexual acts. We do not reach the question of homosexuality since the application of the statute to such conduct is not an issue in this case. Our holding today is simply to declare unconstitutional the application of section 886 to the facts of this case. [Emphasis supplied]
***
Footnote 1  21 O.S. 1981 § 886 defines the Crime Against Nature as follows:
Every person who is guilty of the detestable and abominable crime against nature, committed with mankind or with a beast, is punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary not exceeding ten (10) years.
We have determined that the Crime Against Nature includes unnatural sex acts including copulation per os between females [Warner v. State, 489 P.2d 526 (Okl.Cr. 1971)], cunnilingus [Clayton v. State, 695 P.2d 3 (Okl.Cr. 1984)], fellatio [Ex Parte DeFord, 14 Okl.Cr. 133, 168 P. 538 (1917)], and rectal coitus (copulation per anus) [Berryman v. State, 283 P.2d 558 (Okl.Cr. 1955)].
However, as emphasized above, the case's impact was upon conduct by consenting heterosexual adults and expressly did not reach homosexual conduct and, so, as affects same-sex homosexual activity, can only be seen as step in the right direction, one which might bring the finish line a little closer in sight.

Since the above decision was published in 1986, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no later decisions by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals which address Oklahoma's statutes when it involves sexual contact between consenting homosexual adults.

However, the two principal statutes which deal with the abominable and detestable crime against nature have both received attention by the Oklahoma Legislature. As of this writing, Title 21 Oklahoma Statutes, Section 886 (the original being found in Oklahoma's Revised Laws, 1910, as noted above), was modified in 1992, 1997, 1999, 2002, and 2007. Title 21 Oklahoma Statutes, Section 888 was added in 1981, with modifications in 1982, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, and 2009.

The relevant part of Title 21 Oklahoma Statutes, Section 886 presently reads,
Every person who is guilty of the detestable and abominable crime against nature, committed with mankind or with a beast, is punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections not exceeding ten (10) years. ***
As relates to this discussion, the pertinent part of Title 21 Oklahoma Statutes, Section 888, reads,
A. Any person who forces another person to engage in the detestable and abominable crime against nature, pursuant to Section 886 of this title, upon conviction, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a period of not more than twenty (20) years. *** [Emphasis supplied]
Subsection B of the same statute further defines the crime of forceable sodomy to include conduct by adults upon minors, upon persons who are incapable of giving legal consent by reason of mental illness or unsoundness of mind, or accomplished by force or threat of violence, and some others. But the usage of "any person" seems to embrace everyone, straights, LGBTs, whatever, and the phrase, "who forces another person," clearly emphasizes the element of force or threat of the same, i.e., non-consensual conduct.

It would seem that the pair of statutes would be read together so that §888 is now the "offense" statute and §886 is the "punishment" statute for the offenses proscribed under §888. But, I'm not a person skilled in criminal law so it would be wise to get the opinions of those who are before reaching conclusions ... perhaps I am mistaken in my interpretation.

That's about enough Oklahoma criminal law legal history. You can glance over Fickle v. State, 1927 OK CR 330, 260 P. 513, 38 Okl.Cr. 289, if you want a bit more. Also, see this Wikipedia article. Also, see the discussion under "National Change," below.

        Oklahoma Civil Law. Being treated as criminals isn't the only part of the story. This section considers same-sex marriage or legal partnerships, and the right to adopt.

                Marriage and/or Same-Sex Partnerships. From its beginnings, Oklahoma has defined marriage as a civil contract between one man and one woman but in 2004 that position was bolstered by a constitutional provision added by referendum vote. Oklahoma was one of 11 states to adopt state constitution provisions banning same-sex marriage on November 2, 2004. The others were Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah. The Oklahoma referendum measure was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 75% – 1,069,150 to 344, 350, with 2,234 of 2,344 precincts reporting, according to this November 3, 2004, article. The new provision in Oklahoma Constitution, Article 2, Section 35 provides:
§ 35. "Marriage" Defined - Marriage Between Persons of Same Gender Not Valid or Recognized
     A. Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
     B. A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.
     C. Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
A related statute, adopted before the 2006 constitutional amendment, Title 43 Oklahoma Statutes, Section 3.1, was added in 1996, the statute becoming effective on January 1, 1997:
A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.
Before but in the same year as the constitutional amendment, W.A. Drew Edmonson, Attorney General of Oklahoma, and Sandra D. Rinehart, Senior Assistant Attorney General, gave their formal Attorney General Opinion, 2004 OK AG 10, that Oklahoma's 43 O.S. §3.1 as relates to same-sex marriages performed in another state not being recognized in Oklahoma would withstand challenge under U.S. Const. Art. IV, § 1, the full faith and credit provision of the U.S. constitution. I am aware of no legal challenge having been presented to either the above constitutional provision or the statute in the appellate courts of this state.

                Adoption of Children. This topic is a a stickier wicket and a distinction needs to be made about whether an adoption proceeding is presented under Oklahoma law or, instead, has already occurred under the law of another state.

Oklahoma Adoptions. As to in-state adoptions, under Title 10 Oklahoma Statutes, 7503-1.1, only the following are eligible to adopt a child: (1) a husband and wife jointly if both spouses are at least twenty-one (21) years of age; or (2) either the husband or wife if the other spouse is a parent or a relative of the child; or (3) an unmarried person who is at least twenty-one (21) years of age; or (4) a married person at least twenty-one (21) years of age who is legally separated from the other spouse.

Since same-sex marriages in or out of Oklahoma are not presently recognized under the Oklahoma law above discussed, what about an adoption by "an unmarried person who is at least twenty-one (21) years of age?" In theory at least, it appears to me that one but not both persons in a same-sex partnership could adopt a child under Oklahoma law.

Consider the case of In re the Adoption of M.C.D., 2002 OK CIV APP 27, 42 P.3d 873, even though the case does not involve a same-sex adoption — but it does involve adoption by two people, a male and a female, who are not married. So that you'll know, a child's real name is not used in adoption cases — just initials. Below, I refer to M.C.D. as MCD, for punctuation convenience.

This is the factual background of this case: James and Dawn Depew were divorced before the adoption litigation occurred. Neither James nor Dawn were the parents of MCD. — rather, MCD was a biological niece of Dawn. While Dawn and James were still married, physical and perhaps legal (the case isn't clear) custody of MCD was placed with James and Dawn shortly after MCD's birth for reasons not explained in the court's opinion. In the Depew's divorce case, James was awarded MCD's custody and Dawn was awarded visitation.

In post-divorce-decree litigation, James filed a motion to modify the visitation provisions in the parties' divorce decree and he also filed a petition to adopt MCD. Dawn responded with a petition to adopt MCD, as well. Apparently the cases were consolidated — divorce and adoption cases are ordinarily separate legal proceedings — and, among other things, the trial judge granted both James' and Dawn's respective adoption petitions. Since neither James nor Dawn were then married, the adoption could only withstand legal challenge under the eligibility to adopt provisions of 10 O.S. § 7503-1.1, subsection 3 — an unmarried person who is at least twenty-one (21) years of age. About this conundrum, the court said,
¶13 The question whether more than one unmarried person may adopt the same child(ren) has not been decided in Oklahoma. Other states have reached conflicting results when faced with the question.
In reviewing non-Oklahoma decisions which might help provide the question's answer, the court noted cases involving same-sex partners who sought to adopt a child. Particularly, see paragraphs 16-20. Although the court came down on the side of "unmarried person" means one, not more than one, the discussion in the foregoing paragraphs is nonetheless enlightening about how the Oklahoma Supreme Court may eventually rule upon the matter.
Note: Oklahoma Oklahoma Supreme Court decisions are "precedent" and binding upon how trial courts interpret Oklahoma law. Unless a Court of Civil Appeals decision also bears the Oklahoma Supreme Court's blessing, "Approved for publication by the Oklahoma Supreme Court," the COCA's opinion may be "persuasive" but not "precedent" upon district courts in reaching their own conclusions.
Out-of-State Adoptions. What if a same-sex couple adopts a child in another state, in compliance with that state's law, and moves to Oklahoma with the child. Is Oklahoma obligated to recognize that sister-state adoption and treat the same-sex partners as parents of that child? On this question, the answer appears to be, "Yes," due to US constitutional equal protection rules, but that topic will not be further discussed here.

        National Legal Change. In 2003, the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), declared a Texas statute which forbade same-sex conduct to be unconstitutional. The last link is to the case summary. This one is to the 5-member majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy; this one is to the concurring opinion written by Justice O'Connor; this link is to Justice Scalia's dissent joined in by two other justices; and this link is to Justice Thomas' separate dissenting opinion. The majority decision arguably leaves several unanswered questions, particularly as noted in Justice Scalia's dissent, but I won't get into that here.

When this decision was pronounced, a June 27, 2003, Oklahoman article reported as follows:
Of the 13 states with sodomy laws, four — Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri — prohibit oral and anal sex between same same-sex couples. ¶ The other nine ban consensual sodomy for everyone: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Thursday's ruling invalidates all of those laws, lawyers said. ¶ In strikingly broad and contrite language, the court overturned its 1986 ruling that had upheld sodomy laws on moral grounds. The Constitution's framers "knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact only serve to oppress," Kennedy wrote. ¶ This is a monumental ruling," said Keith Smith, co-chairman of the Stonewall Democrats of Central Oklahoma, a Democratic gay and lesbian political group. "It's a great day to be an American, but an even a greater day to be a gay American."
Oklahomans know full well how politically and religiously conservative, in many of its parts, that this state has become, even though, at least politically, that wasn't always the case — but that's another story. Could the present-day Republican agenda blend of control and biblical interpretation have had its origins in the great 1956 film staring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, movie preview at the right? Just kidding? No, Sally, I'm not.
In the above video clip, McCarthy was informed,
"Suddenly, while you're asleep, they'll absorb your minds, your memories." McCarthy replied, "I don't want any part of it." But he was advised, "You're forgetting something, Miles." "What's that?" "You have no choice."
Change relating to "what we've been taught" can come slowly, and with setbacks, just as it did for racial changes in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In the June 27, 2003, article, Bill Rogers was quoted as saying,
"We realize that prejudice is deep-rooted and it's not going to end," said Bill Rogers of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, an Oklahoma City organization that promotes tolerance and understanding of gay and lesbian issues. "We don't expect to be invited to dinner. We do expect equal treatment."
As discussed above, although an Oklahoma appellate court decision interpreting Oklahoma's "crimes against nature" statutes has not occurred since 1986, it seems to me that the Oklahoma Legislature's enactments, in their present form, have decriminalized previously forbidden activity between consenting adults, notwithstanding the continued tone of the statues in their continued use of the phrase, "the detestable and abominable crime against nature, committed with mankind or with a beast." The message from the Legislature seems to be, "You are still detestable and abominable if you do this, but, if you do, you are only engaging in criminal conduct if it involves underage or non-consensual partners or those who don't have the capacity or capability of giving legal consent."

        National Social Change. According to a June 19, 1989, Oklahoman article, "On June 27, 1969, patrons in the Stonewall Inn, a gay pub in New York City's Greenwich Village, were attacked with clubs, fist and knives by residents of the area. Police arrested several gays for inciting a riot. The Gay Rights National Lobby and the National Gay Task Force were formed soon after the Stonewall riots."

About this, Wikipedia gives a much greater description:
        The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. ***
        After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.
Later in the same article, among many other things, Wiki reads,
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and police departments kept lists of known homosexuals, their favored establishments, and friends; the U.S. Post Office kept track of addresses where material pertaining to homosexuality was mailed.[9] State and local governments followed suit: bars catering to homosexuals were shut down, and their customers were arrested and exposed in newspapers. Cities performed "sweeps" to rid neighborhoods, parks, bars, and beaches of gays. They outlawed the wearing of opposite gender clothes, and universities expelled instructors suspected of being homosexual.[10] Thousands of gay men and women were publicly humiliated, physically harassed, fired, jailed, or institutionalized in mental hospitals. Many lived double lives, keeping their private lives secret from their professional ones.
Has public perception as to "gay" (broadly speaking) rights changed since the 1969 Stonewall Riots? In March 2011, ABC/Washington Post released the results of its most recent survey of public opinion. In part, the report reads:
ABC News/Washington Post poll: Gay Marriage

Embargoed for release after 6 a.m. Friday, March 18, 2011

Support for Gay Marriage Reaches a Milestone

        More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.
        This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey.
        The issue remains divisive; as many adults “strongly” oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others – notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.
        The results reflect a changing albeit still polarized climate. Gay marriage has been legalized in five states and the District of Columbia, by court ruling or legislative action, since 2003, while many other states prohibit it. The Obama administration late last month said it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law banning federal recognition of gay marriages.
        GROUPS – While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.
        Adults 50 and older remain more skeptical, but even that’s seen change. Most notably, 33 percent of seniors now say gay marriage should be legal, up from 18 percent five years ago.

% supporting gay marriage
AgeNow8/05Change
18-2968%57%+11 points
30-396542+23
40-495235+17
50-644537+8
65+3318+15

Trends among other groups are equally striking. Compared with five years ago support for gay marriage has grown by 10 points among women, but by 18 points among men; it’s now at parity. Support has grown by 17 points among Democrats, but also by 13 points among independents, to a clear majority, 58 percent, in the crucial political center. And it’s 63 percent among moderates, up 21 points.
Even the Oklahoman carried a May 29, 2011, article related to recent polls. Keep in mind, the Oklahoman, like any other newspaper, only publishes what it decides to publish.
Gay-relationship debates at turning point?

By DAVID KLEPPER
Published: May 29, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A flurry of activity in efforts to legally recognize gay relationships or ban same-sex marriage is reminding advocates that even though polls indicate growing acceptance, the debate is far from settled.

        Rhode Island is pondering a proposal to allow civil unions, a compromise that arose after it became clear there weren’t enough votes to aim for marriage. Minnesota lawmakers voted to put a constitutional marriage ban on the ballot, and the mayor of New York spoke out strongly in favor of same-sex marriage.
        In Rhode Island, gay marriage advocates say they’re unsatisfied with the proposal to offer civil unions, which provide many of the same legal benefits of marriage.
        “There’s a special status when you say ‘my wife,’ and civil unions don’t give that,” said Annie Cronin-Silva, of West Warwick, who married a woman in Massachusetts in 2008. “But things are changing. It’s coming. It’s just so hard to wait.”
        Gay marriage is allowed in Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and the District of Columbia. Several other states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships instead. Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii enacted civil unions this year. The debate continues to rage in several other states.
        New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday warned lawmakers in his state that they will be remembered as civil rights obstructionists if they block attempts to pass gay marriage.
        Minnesota lawmakers voted to put a constitutional prohibition against gay marriage on the ballot.
The national trend is plain enough. But, what about Oklahoma City?

        Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City part of this section might well be called, "To ban(ner) or not to ban(ner), that is the question."

The research I've done for Oklahoma City consists of reviewing the on-line Oklahoman archives from 1980 forward. To read an Oklahoman article mentioned, click on the date-link, such as this one: March 20, 1991 ... and, by the way if you've been reading from the beginning, this is tip #2 ... no, it's not Ron Norick. You can also read, print, or save all articles. To see the articles as thumbnails, click here. To see the articles in a larger view, something like a slideshow, click here. The photo at right was taken by Oklahoman photographer Paul Hellstern, published June 2, 2004.

But let's begin a bit earlier than that with the city's first such parade, on June 19, 1988. The brief June 16 Oklahoman article didn't say much except when and where it would begin and end and identified a speaker who the article merely described as "Levi." The June 20 article after the parade was much larger, it saying that about 400 were in attendance. Apparently, the Ku Klux Klan had threatened opposition and at least implied violence but that did not occur. Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was the speaker, he having flown here from Stockholm, Sweden, to attend the event. Andy Southam, local group leader, said, "Here in Oklahoma, because it is the buckle of the Bible Belt, the gay rights movement has been very slow. We're hoping that with this first march people's thinking will start to move forward," and he also noted that city officials had been completely cooperative during the process.

Annual parades since then also seem to have gone off without a hitch as to the parade and associated events themselves. See these articles: June 10, 1989; June 19, 1989, the latter estimating parade attendance at 1,000. The Oklahoman didn't include much coverage in 1990, but what it did provide was enough to generate a smile from this reader: In a June 12 blurb it was said that state house speaker and gubernatorial candidate Steve Lewis (D- Shawnee) would be attending, however Mr. Lewis was apparently quick to say, "No, not me!" since a June 13 snippet, "Setting It Straight," reported that, in fact, Mr. Lewis had declined the group's invitation. I could locate no Oklahoman articles mentioning the annual event in 1991 or 1992. A June 28 article reported on the parade in 1993, it noting that Sgt. Jose Zuniga, the 6th US Army's Soldier or the Year and Desert Storm hero, but discharged from the military because he was gay, was a featured speaker, and local entertainer, Peggy Johnson, discharged from the navy because she was a lesbian, spoke as well. No Oklahoman articles appeared in 1994, almost none in 1995, and nothing showed up in the Oklahoman from 1996 through 2000 that I could locate.

An interesting story did appear in 2001. A anonymous letter had apparently found its way to Ward 1 voters that Mick Cornett, then city council candidate for that ward, had been endorsed by the Cimarron Alliance. In fact, the Alliance had endorsed Cornett against Frosty Peak, but it denied sending the letter. Cornett's ungracious response to the anonymous letter was to offer "a $500 reward to anyone who can offer proof of who sent the letter," the March 17, 2001, article said. "When Bashline heard that Cornett had spoken against gay rights, he said it made him reconsider the group's endorsement, but he said it was too late."

Mostly, though, 2001 was notable for the reason that Kirk Humphreys, mayor, proposed that the city's light-pole-banner policy be changed. The city began the banner program in 1989 as part of 1889 Land Run Centennial activities and the policy was broad enough to permit Cimarron Alliance's banner request. In this July 11 article, Jack Money reported that banners on 44 poles along Classen Boulevard featuring a torch with a rainbow flame over the name of Cimarron Alliance Foundation, placed there after being granted a city permit, had been been taken down after "city leaders" received complaints. After attorneys representing the foundation threatened litigation, the city put the banners back up. In that context, the article reported that,
        Humphreys said he believes the city's banner policy should prohibit all that don't contain "positive" community messages.
* * *
        [quoting Humphreys] "They (homosexuals) have a right to behave that way if they want to — although quite frankly some aspects of it are illegal, quite frankly," he said. "But I don't think they have the right to advance their philosophy for the same reasons that Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and religious groups don't."
In its July 17 editorial, the Oklahoman basically said, "Three cheers to the mayor!"
        A homosexual activist group insists that banners promoting "gay and lesbian pride" are protected by free speech. This is nonsense.
* * *
        The homosexual activists may succeed in doing away with the banner program altogether. This would be a shame, as the colorful banners are eye-catching and appealing. Mayor Kirk Humphreys likes the banners but dislikes using the banner program to promote a political "irrelegious" agenda. He's right.
The Oklahoman's editorial position was rejoined by Bill Rodgers, chairman of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation in Oklahoma City, in a June 21 letter to the editor which, to its credit, the Oklahoman chose to publish.

But, what action would the city council take? It was a hot potato with lots of possible legal possible (as well as other types of) ramifications. Jack Money's August 15 Oklahoman article reported that the following policy was given authorization to be considered by city council 8-0, even though with misgivings expressed by some council members. Money reported that,
The policy states that banners and bus bench advertising would be limited to items that would "promote or celebrate the city, its civic institutions, or public activities or events in the City of Oklahoma City and ... otherwise (would) promote the corporate interests and welfare of the city."
Once again, the editorial position of the Oklahoman weighed in. In its August 20 editorial, the Oklahoman chimed in and opined as follows:
        Unless members of the Oklahoma City Council are prepared to vote on the content of every banner or bus bench slogan that comes along, they should accept the proposed policy banning advocacy messages on the benches and banners. Yes, the policy would prohibit some messages that few would find objectionable, such as anti-drug appeals.
* * *
        * * * Based on the words of some council members last week when the policy was introduced for discussion, it's clear that there is some resistance to the proposal. Unfortunately, the city can't exclude some social advocacy positions while condoning others. The only way around the policy is to require council members to vote on individual messages as they're proposed. That's not practical.
        * * * The homosexual activist group forced this issue to the forefront with its banners. It will not accept being excluded while more popular advocacy positions are condoned.
More than 100 years ago in 1907, the blacks in our city weren't embraced or condoned by the mainstream white community or by the Oklahoman either, though they then had no voice or mainstream spokesperson. It is perhaps forgotten by many, but the Daily Oklahoman's position with regard to the civil liberties of our black citizens and not only in that time immediately slaps me in the face quite severely. Click the Oklahoman September 13, 1907, graphic at right to see the Oklahoman's front page on that day. The headline's sub-headline read, "Negro Must Be Made to Know His Place — Should Have Equal Privileges But Entirely Separate." So, as far as civil liberties are concerned, since when has "more popular" been the test? I almost hate to show this piece since it so blatantly vile, and as to that conclusion certainly almost all of us would today agree. But I will show it since coming from the mouth of the Oklahoman it reflects at least some part the Oklahoman's civil liberties history much more than any one of us would doubtless care to remember. My point is that the Oklahoman has no legitimate basis to claim a morally superior position or that it has ever been on the forefront of promoting civil liberties of any minority group that I'm aware. In my research of the Oklahoman's> archives, now spanning 10 or so years of time, I've yet to find a single apology from the Oklahoman for anything that it has ever placed in print. I'll also say that I've done no research into the women's suffrage movement as yet, so I'll add that qualification. That qualification aside, I'm quite certain that the Oklahoman has never apologized for its use of the term, "nigger," found scores if not hundreds of times in Oklahoman articles in days gone by. The Oklahoman doesn't ever apologize for its misdeeds.

Anyway, back to topic. What happened with Mayor Humphrey's 2001 initiative? Shortly before it was set to come before city council, on August 25, Jack Money wrote another article focusing upon former council member Eric Grove's thoughts that the measure would not withstand the test of legal challenge. Be that as it may, the proposed ordinance passed city council on August 29, 2001, and Jack Money's August 30 article gives the story. By a 6-3 vote, the proposed ordinance was adopted by city council, members Amy Brooks, Ann Simank, and Willa Johnson voting "No." Once again, the Oklahoman's editorial commentary gave its hearty, "Hoo-ahh."

But, that was not the end of it. After the council's action, the Alliance applied for a banner license for 2002, and the same was denied, which denial was upheld by City Manager Jim Couch. In response, federal court action was promised in October by the Alliance, and on November 30, it came. This time, Oklahoman reporter Jack Money was off the case and reporter Ed Godfrey gave his December 1 report of the litigation. 9-10 months later, federal judge Robin J. Cauthron ruled against the city, as reported by this David Zizzo September 17, 2002, article. But, that was still not the end of the 2001 story.

The question of damages in the federal litigation remained. How much had the Cimarron Alliance been damaged by the city's 2001 action led by Mayor Humphreys? Following the above decision, the city council voted 8-1 to accept the federal judge's ruling, per this October 17, 2002, article. According to that article, the city would be required to pay "nominal damages" of $3.00 to the Alliance, plus attorneys fees. Eventually, the city did settle, with the mayor paying $1 dollar of damages.

"But, wait — that's not all — there is more!" as Ron Popeil says. Indeed there was. The federal court decision could not have prohibited the city council from considering a revised ordinance. Oklahoman Reporter Steve Lackmeyer reported on the ordinance changes then pending in a January 14, 2003, article — even with the above history, the council simply did not know what to do with this hot potato.

As reported by Steve Lackmeyer on February 5, 2003, the first response of city council was to pass the buck to OG&E, owner of the light poles, and let it deal with the problem. The vote was 6-3, Mayor Humphreys and council members Jerry Foshee, MickCornett, Larry McAtee, Brent Rinehart, and Guy Liebmann voting yes; Willa Johnson, Ann Simank, and Amy Brooks voting no. OG&E was given until July 5 to accept that status, but it promptly said, "No, not me," more quickly than that. Finally, on June 17, 2003, the city council unanimously approved a policy permitting banners without regard to without any restriction on sponsor's messages. Steve Lackmeyer's June 18 article said,
Bill Rogers, past president of the Cimarron Alliance which sued the city over its previous policy, said he was surprised by the lack of debate over the new policy. "It's a turnaround," Rogers said. "I think it's a real victory for the city."
After that decision, the issue of banners went away, and the Oklahoman resumed coverage of the parade which has been increasingly good since that time. The map shown here was part of a June 21, 2003, article by Ann DeFrange, and another in 2003 showing color photos from the parade. For other Oklahoman articles, see June 2, 2004; June 28, 2004; June 22, 2005; a series of articles by Judy Gibbs Robinson — June 28, 2004, June 22, 2005, June 27, 2005, June 29, 2005, February 2, 2006, June 22, 2006, and June 26, 2006. The Oklahoman even began carrying related articles like this June 23, 2006, article on gay marriage. It was in 2006 that Carrie Coppernoll began covering the events for the Oklahoman, and, in fact, one might say that she has become a favorite of the event hosts themselves, she having been an event judge in 2009 and 2010. In her June 27, 2006, article, she said, about her 1st attendance at the parade,
When I first walked up, I was nervous. I was in the minority. Would people look at me funny? I felt uncomfortable for a minute, like I didn't belong and didn't fit in. I felt a little shy. ¶ Do many of the people at the parade feel like that every day? How daunting. How intimidating. I hope I never make someone feel uncomfortable for his or her sexuality the way I felt uncomfortable about mine.
In a June 9, 1995, Oklahoman article by Jack Money concerning a council debate and decision concerning continuing or terminating the city's Human Rights Commission, he reported that NAACP member Fannie Bates said to the city council that, "If Timothy McVeigh were on this council, he would vote to eliminate the Human Rights Commission." Council members Jerry Foshee and Frosty Peak sought to terminate the commission and its city funding, and council members Jack Cornett and Frances Lowrey supported that position. Guy Liebmann said that he wanted to give the commission a chance and he suggested a compromise that would save some funding for the group. Peak wanted to eliminate $77,000 of the federal Community Block Grant used to pay for the commission's staff, but Liebmann wanted to leave $20,000. On a 5-4 vote, Liebmann's position carried the council's vote. Those voting with Liebmann were Mayor Ron Norick and council members Mark Schwartz, Ann Simank, and Willa Johnson. Schwartz, particularly, had been a staunch supporter of the commission and supported adoption of ordinances which would "declare a protected status for persons discriminated against because of their sexual orientation," Money said. He reported, "The heavy criticism left council members who favored disbanding the group reeling." He also reported that, "Councilman Peak said he supports many of the educational activities the commission has done on an annual basis, but he indicated he could not tolerate the commission's stance on homosexuality. 'There is this Gay Pride Parade,' he said. 'I would encourage all of the council members who vote against this to go ride in a convertible in that parade,' Peak said. 'That is the kind of commission you are supporting.' "

Over time, Oklahoman articles have come to have a sensitive and perhaps approving tone. John David Sutter's June 17, 2007, article provides such an example. In it, he said,
        Many in attendance took a moment on this anniversary, the 20th year of gay pride events here, to talk about how much more responsive the city has become to gay culture. While many still see the event as controversial, attendees said, the death threats and protesters are gone.
        [Paul] Thompson said the city has become much more accepting of gay life. He once received death threats by telephone for being an advocate of gay rights, he said. Now, Thompson feels that Oklahoma City is beginning to accept gay culture. ¶ "Oklahoma City is going to have to wake up and get with this century, or it's going to have to be a quaint, Western kind of cow town," he said. ¶Margaret Cox, 68, a board member of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, a gay rights group, said that the transition has already happened. People in the city "know that a vibrant city also has a vibrant gay community," she said.
* * *
        The event is meant to be an inclusive celebration for anyone to take part in, attendee Jay Hollenbeck said. "I think they (people in Oklahoma City) realize that we are not trying to become more separate. We're trying to become more integrated into the city," said Hollenbeck, 42. "We have a lot to offer."
To round out the decade, other articles also appeared: June 25, 2007, showing a pair of paraders; June 22, 2008, showing some protesters; June 30, 2009, finding favor at the White House; July 2, 2009, and June 29, 2010, Carrie Coppernoll writing the last pair of articles and a 2011 article that I'll mention below.

All that said, does the city and state have a long way to go in respecting the rights of the LGBT community? Of course they/we do. Oklahoma laws on marriage and adoption, discussed previously, almost singularly mark our state as one of a kind in this country. We've got pip-squeaks, small minded people who are in positions of authority, such as Sally Kern, Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, shown at right and below. She represents a west-center Oklahoma City state district, near Bethany. She maintains that homosexuals are a greater threat to this country than are Islamic extremists (such as those who destroyed the twin towers in New York City, above left).

As long as the likes of Sally Kern are in positions of authority, and as long as the majority of citizens in this state persist in imposing upon others their narrow view of what the world should be, there is a problem. In this March 11, 2008, article, the local, state, and national furor she sparked brought ridicule on the city and state from around the world. Listen for yourself, when she didn't thinking others were listening. Well, they were. Worry about your 2-year olds, she says ...
... and she is right about that.

But about what should we worry? About our children being taught that blacks, women, or gay people are inferior to white non-religiously conservative people like she is and represents? Deja vu, I'm thinking, to what we heard in Germany during World War II. You figure out what you should be most worried about. If Ms. Kern has a saving grace, it is that her views are so extreme as to embarrass even her fellow Republicans in the Republican-controlled state legislature, so much so that she was recently reprimanded by the state House of Representatives for her untoward remarks about blacks and women as being lazy by a vote of 76-16. See the official vote.

As to this year's parade and events,the parade kicks off this coming Sunday, June 26, with earlier events featuring the Pointer Sisters beginning on June 24. In this May 31, 2011, article by Carrie Coppernoll, she reports:
Oklahoma City gay pride event to launch health clinic efforts

The annual Oklahoma City Pride festivities will raise money to build a medical clinic in the gay district. Sexuality isn’t something gay patients often tell their doctors about, but the gay community is at higher risk for certain medical conditions, such as lung cancer.

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL
Published: May 31, 2011

        Kirk Martin’s doctor knew a lot of things about him, but there was one thing Martin kept a secret: His sexuality.
        “For many years,” Martin said, “I didn’t think it was any of my doctor’s business. That was a piece of information I was keeping secret. It still is not a comfortable thing for many people.”
        That’s why Martin and other leaders in the gay community are turning the annual OKC Pride festivities into a fundraiser they hope will lead to a new health care center in the gay district.
        “There are a lot of people in Oklahoma without health care insurance,” said Martin, president of OKC Pride. “Those in the gay community who do have access to care, many times don’t feel comfortable telling their doctor that they’re gay.”

Block party

        This year, OKC Pride will be June 19-26 and will include a gala, block party, festival and parade. Activities are normally free, but this year organizers are asking people to donate $10 for admission to the block party, which will include a performance by the Pointer Sisters.
        Block party donations will be combined with booth rental fees, drink sales and other income to fund the clinic, Martin said. The land alone will cost $150,000.
        “The tab of the property is 10 times what Pride has ever cleared,” Martin said. “That’s a pretty ambitious goal.”
        But, Pride officials hope to raise enough to buy the land and more, said Pride Vice President John Gibbons, who is a mortgage banker and a club owner. The goal this year is to raise $350,000 above festival costs.
        “We decided to have a party that raises funds instead of the other way around,” Gibbons said.
        In the long term, the project will cost in the millions, and it will take a few years, Gibbons said.
        “Everyone is onboard here,” Gibbons said. “And it will take everyone to get it done.”

Specific needs

        The goal is to provide a welcoming atmosphere where medical staff members have the specific health care needs of the gay community in mind, Gibbons said.
        “When you walk into this clinic, they’re going to assume they’re seeing a gay or lesbian person,” Gibbons said.
        “It changes the whole dynamic.”
        For example, the gay community is more likely to be affected by certain types of cancers, such as breast, lung and those caused by human papillomavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gay men are also at a higher risk for suicide.
        The clinic will lead to better health care, said Pride board member Matt Harney, a political consultant.
        “It’s a demographic like gender or age,” Harney said. “Sexual orientation is every bit as relevant.”
Finally, before this week's events occur, it is fitting to note that the OKC Pride events occur in Oklahoma City's Ward 2. Former Ward 2 council member Sam Bowman was very supportive of these events and of the LGTB community, generally. His successor, Ed Shadid, is the same. These are his remarks made at the June 21, 2011, city council meeting.
He said, "It's just people celebrating life and accepting everyone for who they are. Accepting our diversity, that's indicative of a big league city, to celebrate our diversity ..."

That's it for this article. My health permitting, I hope to see you at the parade, and I encourage skeptics, disbelievers, fence-sitters, and friends, to be there as well.

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