|By Brandon Rolph -|
|The last Sunday of June holds more gay history in the U.S. than possibly any other day. On the fourth anniversary of Stonewall Riots 32 gay people burned to death by an act of arson at UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans. Important but graphic details and images after the jump.|
This Sunday will be the anniversary of the UpStairs Lounge fire which massacred 32 gay people. The Lounge had just hosted its regular services for the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church. In the evening about 60 patrons enjoyed David Gary’s piano playing and discussed the bar’s upcoming MCC fundraiser to help the Crippled Children’s Hospital, Queerty writes:
"At 7:56PM the bartender Buddy Rasmussen heard the downstairs buzzer and asked Luther Boggs to go check the door. Normally cabbies would ring the buzzer to tell people that they had arrived, but when Boggs went to answer the door, he found no cab driver. Instead he found the flames of a molotov cocktail engulfing the wooden staircase and climbing towards the bar.
Rasmussen led about twenty or thirty people out through an unmarked exit behind the bar where they emerged onto the roof and hopped from roof to roof until they found a way down.
But the thirty others remaining in the lounge ran confusedly to the barred windows where they tried to escape. One man managed to squeeze through the fourteen-inch gap between the bars and the sill—he jumped onto the street, his entire body in flames, and died there. The Reverend Bill Larson clung to the bars and slowly melted into the window frame where his charred body stayed visible for hours afterwards.
MCC assistant pastor George 'Mitch' Mitchell escaped but when he realized that his boyfriend Louis Broussard was still in the bar, he went back to save him—workers would later find their charred bodies holding each other among the charred wreckage.
The fire only lasted 16-minutes. It killed 29 people and three more who later died from their burns, including Boggs the man who had answered the door. New Orleans had never seen a larger death toll by fire up to that time nor had the United States seen such a large mass murder of gays and lesbians."
I had never heard this story until today. HuffPost remembered the largely forgotten tragedy in 2008 during Pride season:
"It was almost assuredly the largest mass murder of gays and lesbians to ever occur in the United States.
Yet the city tried mightily to ignore it. Public reaction was grossly out of proportion to what would have happened if the victims were straight. The fire exposed an ugly streak of homophobia and bigotry. It was the first time New Orleans had to openly confront the existence of its own gay community, and the results were not pretty.
Initial news coverage omitted mention that the fire had anything to do with gays, despite the fact that a gay church in a gay bar had been torched. What stories did appear used dehumanizing language to paint the scene, with stories in the States-Item, New Orleans' afternoon paper, describing 'bodies stacked up like pancakes,' and that 'in one corner, workers stood knee deep in bodies...the heat had been so intense, many were cooked together.' Other reports spoke of 'mass charred flesh' and victims who were 'literally cooked.'"
Furthermore, media was extremely unsympathetic and even mocked the victims, HuffPost recounts:
"The press ran quotes from one cab driver who said, 'I hope the fire burned their dress off,' and a local woman who claimed 'the Lord had something to do with this.' The fire disappeared from headlines after the second day.
A joke made the rounds and was repeated by talk radio hosts asking, 'What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars.' Official statements by police were similarly offensive. Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the New Orleans Police Department, dismissed the importance of the investigation in an interview with the States-Item. Asked about identifying the victims, he said, 'We don't even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.'
In the days that followed, other churches refused to allow survivors to hold a memorial service for the victims on their premises. Catholics, Lutherans, and Baptists all said no.
Even more stunning, some families refused to claim the bodies of their dead sons, too ashamed to admit they might be gay. The city would not release the remains of four unidentified persons for burial by the surviving MCC congregation members. They were dumped in mass graves at Potter's Field, New Orleans' pauper cemetery. No one was ever charged with the crime, and it remains unsolved."
This is a tragic reminder that fighting for our rights is the same as fighting for our lives, and dignity thereafter.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Gay Fathers To Use Father's Day To Encourage Adoptions
Father's Day events in Los Angeles County Sunday will include an organization of gay fathers holding a brunch celebration to encourage gays and lesbians to become adoptive and foster parents.
Representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Family Services Program will staff information tables during the celebration, which will be held from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at The Abbey in West Hollywood.
``Many gays and lesbians do not realize we can create our families through fostering and adoption,' said Rich Valenza, a co-president of the Pop Luck Club, which is organizing the celebration and bills itself as the largest known gay fathers group in the world.
``Bringing these resources to The Abbey, our communities favorite hot spot, will inspire prospective dads and moms to take the next step as they plan their families.'
The celebration will include a photo display of children in the foster care system in need of a family and a book signing by KTTV-TV Channel 11 anchor Christine Devine, whose ``Finding a Forever Family' was inspired by her ``Wednesday's Child' stories.
Allowing gays and lesbians to adopt has long drawn opposition from various churches and pro-family groups.
``God created fathers and mothers so that children could have the best chance at life,' Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families/SaveCalifornia.com, which bills itself as a leading California statewide pro-family organization, said in 2009 in response to a government-financed advertising campaign encouraging gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals to adopt.
``Studies show that children raised in homosexual and transsexual households are highly likely to experience sexual confusion and to act out homosexually, bisexually and transsexually when then otherwise would not. When the facts confirm that children do best with a married father and mother, there is no reason other than selfishness for anyone to advocate placing vulnerable children into these sexually confused and sexually charged environments.'
President Barack Obama began his Father's Day proclamation by declaring that ``parenthood is the ultimate gift and an incredible responsibility,' but later noted that ``today too many children in our country grow up' without the support of a father figure.
``A father's absence is felt by children, families and communities in countless ways, leaving a hole that can have lasting effects,' Obama wrote.
``Their absence is also felt by mothers, who work overtime and double shifts, put food on the table and care for children alone while trying to make ends meet. And it is felt in our communities when boys grow up without male leaders to inspire them.'
Father's Day began when Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to honor her father, William Jackson Smart, a single parent who raised six children in Spokane, Wash.
She initially suggested June 5, the anniversary of his death.
However, when that date would not provide organizers with enough time to make arrangements, the first Father's Day was celebrated in 1910 in Spokane on the third Sunday in June.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended Father's Day be a national holiday.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Father's Day as a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday in June, while President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law to do so in 1972.
Copyright © 2011 City News Service
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Millionaire gay fathers celebrate arrival of twins with triple christening ceremonyBy Daily Mail
A gay couple that made legal history when they fathered twins are celebrating the arrival of their fourth and fifth children.
Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow will be joined by more than 150 people at a christening service for five-month-old twins Dallas and Jasper tomorrow.
The millionaire couple, both businessmen in their 40s, said the boys were born to a surrogate mother in California in February, and would be christened at St John the Baptist Church in Danbury.
Family affair: Tony (left) and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow with twins Saffron and Aspen at the age of four and Orlando, pictured at five months
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow said he and his partner had 'angered church groups over the years'.
But he added: 'It is important for us to have the children all christened.
The Drewitt-Barlows, from Danbury, Essex, first hit the headlines in 1999 when they travelled to the U.S. and used donated eggs and a surrogate mother to become fathers to twins Aspen and Saffron, now ten.
Following a ruling by an American court, they became the first British children to be registered as having two fathers and no mother.
The couple used the same surrogate mother four years later when they went on to become fathers to Orlando, seven, who will also be christened at the service.
The couple, who live in a Grade II-listed home with their children, became multi-millionaires in 1998 when they sold their successful clinical research company.
But after the birth of their twins they were accused of creating 'designer' children and received death threats.
They fell out with the genetic mother of their children, Tracey McCune, who accused them of raising a bunch of spoilt brats.
She revealed the couple showered their brood with designer goods and told how Saffron wore Chanel No 5 perfume, diamonds and designer clothing.
The couple 'wed' in an extravagant civil ceremony in 2006 but later provoked anger by posting pictures of their children on a gay dating website.