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Monday, December 16, 2013

Gay marriage discussion in 1953 vs. 1963 and today

ONE Magazine Aug. 1953 'Homosexual marriage?' cover headline PHOTO: ONE Magazine was ahead of its time when it mentioned the idea of "homosexual marriage" in 1953 long before "same-sex marriage" or "gay marriage" became a cause of some gay liberationists in the 1960s. The first article was by E. B. Saunders (pseudonym), "Reformer's Choice: Marriage License or Just license?" ONE, Aug. 1953, cover, p. 10-12. It was edited by the former Oregon State University Professor W. Dorr Legg and warned that if homosexuals obtained equal rights and acceptance of society, then they would be expected to follow the existing social conventions of marriage, including complying with the then common state laws forbidding cohabitation (living together without being legally married) and laws against adultery and extramarital (having sex outside your own marriage) or premarital sex, including sodomy, which under Oregon law forbid all oral and anal sex even for heterosexual married couples. Ten years later, the same ONE publication, also edited by Legg, featured an essay by Randy Lloyd (pseudonym), "Let's Push Homophile Marriage," Jun. 1963, cover, p. 5-10. It advocated a more proactive agenda to promote the advantages of "homophile marriage" to "gain the acceptance of society" and it described the author's personal experiences and advice on how to meet another "homophile" to marry, other than by using the "Pen Pal" classified advertising section of ONE magazine that was often used by men to solicit sex partners in their hometown (which was also the feature of "The Advocate" magazine's classified section that paid most of their bills to print this early gay rights magazine). Both of these articles are consistent with the conservative philosophy of its editor, W. Dorr Legg, who later founded the present-day Log Cabin Republicans, and therefore I suspect that Legg was very influential in the writing of both articles (if not actually writing them himself) and the articles probably represented Legg's own learning and evolution about the joys of being married during the ten years between the articles. (See James T. Sears, PhD, "1953: When ONE Magazine, Headlined 'Homosexual Marriage,'" posted Aug. 11, 2003 and my previous posts OSU W. Dorr Legg homosexual marriage 1953 vs. CA Prop 8 2010 (8/22/10), Gay free speech victory 50th anniversary (1/18/08), Jack Baker gay marriage theory was right (4/8/09)) and Slippery slope argument against marriage equality is predictable (6/22/12)

On Sept. 3 1971, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell were the first same-sex couple in history to be legally married. They married under the State of Minnesota marriage laws that did not specify gender at the time and despite court challenges to validate their marriage, no court has ever ordered the annulment of their legally performed marriage, including a 1972 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that marriage laws are only a matter of state law with no Federal interest.

A few months ago, in an email communication, Jack Baker mentioned that he and Mike had not been inspired by the 1963 ONE article advocating gay marriage and did not read it until much later. I only recalled reading the 1953 article, which today, in hindsight, was clearly written in a way that would satisfy both the conservative readers of ONE, who believed in marriage, and their readers who mostly used the magazine as a means of finding "pen-pals" nearby their hometown they could hookup with for sex.

UPDATE Dec. 21, 2013: quoted below is from an email Jack baker sent me with corrections or clarifications:

"(Jack quoted my post, added corrections and a comment:) "In Sept. 1971, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell were the first same-sex couple in history to be legally married. They married under the State of Minnesota marriage laws that did not specify gender at the time and despite [two] challenges to [invalidate] their marriage, no court has ever ordered the annulment of their legally performed marriage . . ." Comment - That marriage ignited a contentious political debate and defined the gay agenda worldwide for 40+ years. Proof is in the pudding. " (Quoted from Jack Baker, "Related articles: What others say," Now is the time blog posted Mar. 19, 2012 and as edited Dec. 18, 2013)

I hadn't read both articles in many years and so I was pleased to be emailed a scanned PDF copy of the original articles, but I was quickly disappointed when I realized the PDF copies did not have the OCR text included that I require for reading with my low vision blindness. So it took me awhile to find a friendly grad student to read me the text. Included below are some of the thoughts that occurred to me upon reading both the 1953 and 1963 articles:

First, I think it is too simple to ask, "Who Owns the bragging rights?" to being the first to inspire gay marriage as we know it today. In fact, in W. Dorr Legg's 1963 article, on p. 6, he takes a long view of history and credits the "modern concept" of "homophile marriage" as "a product of our current homophile movement that commenced in Germany in the 1800's." Gay marriage was discussed in the German books of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, until he died in the 1930's after the Nazis burned much of his work. Also, Legg's magazine cites the possible example of the "homosexually married" Englishman Edward Carpenter. (Note: between 1953 and 1963, Legg had adopted the editorial convention of using the term "homophile" instead of "homosexual" for two reasons. First was for the legal and political reason of trying to separate the discussion of being "gay" (a slang term he uses in the Jun. 1963 article on p. 8 while referring to a "gay park" used for those seeking illegal "promiscuous" gay sex) from the person's sexual orientation. Second, Legg was an intellectual purist and hated the etymological mash-up of Greek and Latin in the word "homosexual."

The 1953 article made the assumption that for homosexuals to gain acceptance by society that they would have to follow the same restrictive sex laws and gender roles of men being the dominant bread-winners and women being the submissive stay at home mother concerned only with procreation, reproduction and raising a family. The article did not anticipate the sexual revolution of the 1960's and the contemporaneous women's liberation movement that helped the gay liberation movement. When I talk to college-aged students today, I can tell it seems like a fantasy tale to them that at one time in America a male college student could be put in jail for shacking up with his girlfriend, and that laws on adultery, sodomy and monogamy were strictly enforced by society, even if only rarely did anybody end up in jail or other legal trouble. (See ONE, Aug. 1953, p. 10)

Of course, unknown to the gay liberationists of the 1960's and 1970's was that the 1960's "free love" freedom to have sex with a large number of partners would cause the AIDS virus to surface, which led to the discovery of the HIV and the politics of AIDS. The politics of AIDS is sometimes credited with causing a shift toward gay marriage rights instead of the agenda of some gay activists for sexual freedom. However, be warned that the politics of this subject are still too heated for many, today, and I can only briefly mention them in this post.

On page 11 of the Aug. 1953 article, Legg uses the idea of "special rights" that later became popular for Republican groups in America to use when arguing against homosexual marriage. He says the tension between promiscuity and marriage is an old one and explains how societal pressures against the sexual promiscuity of homosexuals works against homosexual marriages being publically visible and known. He also raises the idea that "heterosexual marriage must be protected" and could be threatened by the "acceptance of homosexuality without homosexual marriage ties . . ."

On page 12 of the Aug. 1953 article is an interesting legal declaimer at the end of the article, clearly it was written by an attorney, asserting that nothing in ONE should be construed as encouraging anybody to do criminal sex acts -- clearly this was probably part of their legal fight for their First Amendment freedom of speech rights, which was at the center of attempts by society to censor any discussion of even changing the laws against homosexual acts. This is why I started the timeline for my history of OSU gay groups with the 1964 free speech movement of the University of Berkeley students, which a Corvallis resident participated in before he became an early leader of gay rights activity in Corvallis, Oregon. He was arrested for just showing a public display of affection for another man, something heterosexuals were doing with impunity. (See "Featured links sidebar to my blog and Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1964-2002," printed to PDF from in 2010 is permanently stored by the OSU Scholars Archives@OSU.)

In the June 1963 article on p. 6, Legg talks about why there is a "lack of history regarding homophile marriage through history." He asserts there are no references to gay marriage in ancient literature, but much of it might have been intentionally censored or destroyed. The only thing surviving he says is the notion of the homosexual love between adolescent Greek Warriors that is only transient, and the Greek concept of ephebophiles (older man loving the post-puberty adolescent boy, not pedophiles as often mistakenly claimed) instead of two adult men who are married.

Also on page 7 he discusses the problems of gay men meeting somebody for marriage that he says is proven by the popularity of the "Pen Pal" section of ONE where gay men seek somebody to write to and meet in their area of interest. I note that the need to meet another gay person also helped to pay the bills in the 1970's for "The Advocate" magazine with the paid classified advertisements from men seeking men and this same need similarly helped to start up emerging internet technologies, including the dial-up modem precursors to the internet, such as AOL (America Online) chat rooms and bulletin boards that were often used by gay men to meet each other a few decades ago.

On p. 8, in the list of the author's advice for how to meet other gay men for marriage, the article mentions the now archaic "Wassermann" test for "VD" (venereal disease) and how to get one from a private doctor by telling him you want one because you met a woman and had too much to drink. Tragically, he could not have foreseen how then common sexually transmitted diseases would later morph into AIDS in the future. However, the author's advice to "keep clean" remains good today.

The writing in these two articles provides a glimpse into how things were for gay people over a half-century ago, but it may be hard for younger people who were not alive then to understand the social meaning of the laws and restrictions on sexual behavior, even though few people were arrested or put in jail. These laws were used as an excuse to deny gay people all of the normal rights in society, such as to be employed, much less married.

I am too blind and too weak to write anymore, but I hope to say more on this subject in the future.

See my previous posts