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Gay reparations are overdue

A flag of gay pride hangs on half of the staff during a memorial service for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida on June 12, 2016 in San Diego, California. SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP via Getty Images

It may seem surprising to American readers, but one of the most dynamic human rights movements in the world today is "homosexual reparation," or policies designed to redress the legacy of systemic discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the past decade alone, Canada, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain and the UK have all embraced reparations from homosexuals.

This article was adapted from The Case for Gay Reparations, Omar G. Encarnación, Oxford University Press, 216 pp, $ 24.95, June 1, 2021.

The guidelines hardly encompass a homogeneous experience, and they don't include giving people money just to be gay as some suggest. In most countries, homosexual reparations are limited to an apology from the government to the LGBTQ community for past mistakes and a promise to do better in the future. In other cases, they have brought to mind the victims of government-sponsored repression of homosexual citizens. In 2008 the federal government opened a memorial to gay victims of the Holocaust, an unknown number who perished in Nazi concentration camps. Many of them fell victim to cruel medical experiments aimed at eradicating their homosexuality. In yet other countries, homosexual reparations have centered on pardoning those convicted under laws that criminalize same-sex attraction, such as the UK, which issued a posthumous pardon in 2017 for those convicted of "gross indecency" convicted, including Alan Turing. the mathematician was credited with shortening the end of World War II; or even financial compensation for wages or pensions lost due to a homosexual crime in prison or in a psychiatric institution, as in Spain since 2009 and in Germany since 2016.

Gay German police officers in uniform laid a wreath at the memorial for homosexuals who were murdered by the Nazis in Berlin in the Holocaust on June 21, 2014. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Family members of World War II code breaker Alan Turing submit the Change.org petition to 10 Downing Street in London on February 23, 2015. The petition, which was signed by nearly half a million people, called for a pardon for more than 49,000 convicted British gay men under historic UK anti-gay laws. The pardons were granted two years later. Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

But none of that dynamic has reached the United States. The country came closest to redress for homosexuals when, in 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the New York Police Department issued a belated apology for the attack that sparked the riot. "The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong – plain and simple … and I apologize for that," said New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill. Certainly the lack of redress for homosexuals – or even discussion of it – in the United States is not from a rosy story devoid of systemic discrimination against the LGBTQ community, although a valid argument can be made that that story is not is particularly well known, except perhaps for "don't ask, don't tell". This infamous 1993 policy allowed gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve in the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation a secret. By the time the Obama administration lifted the policy in 2011, around 13,000 LGBTQ troops had been laid off.

Decades before “don't ask, don't tell” there was the policy of “entrapment” in the 1920s through at least 1960s, where undercover cops sent flirtatious signals to other men who they suspected were homosexual, hoping to turn them into illegal ones Engage in activities. According to the book The Deviant & # 39; s War, by historian Eric Cervini, which deals with gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, "gay arrests, including those for sodomy," occurred in the 15 years after World War II , Dancing, kissing, or holding hands "the rate of one every ten minutes" for a total of 1 million arrests. The arrest was followed by the Lavender Scare, the mid-century persecution of federal employees suspected of being homosexual.

Perhaps up to 10,000 people were laid off or banned from their federal jobs in the 1950s and 1960s for being homosexual or suspected of being homosexual based on evidence as weak as they dressed, talked, or looked. The trigger for this witch hunt was President Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1953 order to ban "perverts" from working in the federal government. Some of the victims of the Lavender Scare committed suicide, while others in government-run institutions, in particular They were taken to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, where they were forced to undergo dehumanizing treatments such as lobotomies, insulin-induced comas, and gay conversion therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation.

Gay activists have compared the treatments on offer at St. Elizabeths to the government's human experiments with syphilis on black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, in which hundreds of black men diagnosed with syphilis were left untreated between 1932 and 1972 so that doctors could follow the course of the disease. "As with the Tuskegee Experiment, those who were experimented by federal officials were a despised minority who never consented to treatment," noted Charles Francis, president of the Mattachine Society in Washington, DC, the main US organization advocating them Uses gay redress – specifically a formal apology from Congress.

Members of the San Francisco gay community protest the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a sodomy law in Georgia on July 17, 1986. Tom Levy / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

In addition to such abuse, there were a number of court decisions that stigmatized homosexual people for decades. Two decisions in particular reveal the animus American jurisprudence has shown in the past towards gays, lesbians and bisexuals. In Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), a US Supreme Court ruling that upheld Georgia's sodomy laws, the court found that the constitution does not protect the right of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to engage in private, consensual sexual relations. because, according to the judges, homosexual sex is unrelated to family, marriage, abortion or procreation. In his unanimous opinion, Attorney General Warren E. Burger cited 18th century English lawyer William Blackstone's characterization of homosexual sex as "a notorious crime against nature", worse than rape and "a crime that cannot be named". Homosexuality remained a criminal offense in the United States until the 2003 Supreme Court overturned the Hardwick ruling. In Bottoms v. Bottoms (1995), the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling granting a grandmother custody of a child because of the child Sharon Bottoms was in a lesbian relationship that at the time was a crime under Virginia law was. This decision was not a deviation; At the time, it was common for the courts to deny LGBTQ persons the right to raise and adopt their own biological children.

Acts of state sponsored discrimination against homosexuals sent a clear message to ordinary Americans that it was acceptable to humiliate, demonize, and even commit acts of violence against LGBTQ people. The infamous and bloody history of social attacks on the American LGBTQ community includes singer and spokeswoman Anita Bryant's 1977 crusade Save Our Children, which portrayed gay men as pedophiles. Evangelist Jerry Falwell's "declaration of war" on homosexuality, a rhetorical tactic used in the 1980s to raise funds for Falwell's moral majority organization; and the 2016 attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, 49 people were killed and 53 injured, including many young Spanish men, in the attack on Pulse. Before Pulse, there was the now largely forgotten arson fire in Upstairs, a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1973, in which 32 people died. The strong homophobia of the time even prevented the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana from recognizing the tragedy.

Left: Singer and anti-gay activist Anita Bryant speaks about her "Save Our Children" crusade to repeal gay rights ordinance in Miami Beach, Florida on February 15, 1977. Right: Phyllis Schlafly and Rev. Jerry Falwell hold a press conference about the "Moral Majority" in San Francisco on July 12, 1984. The Associated Press and Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Given the dire history of LGBTQ repression in the United States, the lack of redress for homosexuals is puzzling. Canada, a country with a significantly less problematic history of homosexuality, apologized to the gay community in 2017. The apology came with a multi-million dollar payout to compensate “gay cleansing” victims who were fired from the military for their sexual orientation and approved a memorial to the victims of those persecuted for their sexual orientation in the capital, Ottawa.

An obvious factor behind the late arrival of reparations for homosexuals in the United States is that the issue of reparation is particularly angry in American society and stems from the as yet unsolved legacy of slavery and racism.

Some critics of gay reparations, like conservative political commentator Michael Medved, have argued that gay people don't deserve reparation because, unlike black Americans, gay people are not victims of multi-generational harm, which means that these diseases may in the past be due to homophobia Diseases caused are not the same as those left behind by slavery because they are not transmitted from generation to generation. Medved also points to the economic success of some members of the American LGBTQ community (which has spawned the mythical notion that LGBTQ Americans are more affluent than the general population) as a reason why homosexual reparations are superfluous.

Others are against any form of reparation, racial or otherwise, and believe that reparations are inherently divisive and lead to a slippery slope scenario in which all groups consider themselves victims and in need of reparation. As an author of the right-wing website RedState argued, gay redress would allow redress claims from the “obese, disfigured, disabled, short, bald” and also from “(m) emigrants who weren't, treated kindly when they tried to enter illegally To enter the USA ”and by“ really smart Asians rejected from Harvard ”.

From a global perspective, however, there seem to be more compelling reasons why the United States is a gay reparations delay. The first is the poor response to human rights in American politics and society. Homosexual reparations movements abroad, particularly in Spain, Britain and Germany – countries that pioneered the homosexual reparations movement – have fought their struggles as a human rights crusade. This has resulted in the rhetoric and strategies of the international human rights movement being adopted to advance its claims and advance its agenda. Inspired by human rights activists, gay reparation activists have highlighted the need for reparation as a moral obligation to restore the dignity of LGBTQ people. They have also used historical narratives of homosexual oppression to influence public opinion and politics towards the LGBTQ community, such as the oppression of gays and lesbians under Nazi Germany or under the homophobic laws of the Francisco Franco regime in Spain, and shamed officials, because they failed to stand up for the human rights of LGBTQ people.

In the United States, however, there isn't much precedent for social movements that emerge (are much less successful) with human rights as a primary focus. Even the American civil rights movement failed in its attempt to link its struggle for civil rights with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was due in no small part to the effective demonization of human rights by American Conservatives during the Cold War as un-American, regardless of the fact that Americans such as the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were among the main drafters of the 1948 Declaration, which was based on landmark American documents such as this the declaration of Independence.

Firefighters walk through the charred ruins of Upstairs, a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans where 32 people died on June 24, 1973. Bettmann / Getty Images

In response to the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, Florida people embrace in front of the Stonewall Inn near a vigil for the victims in New York on June 12, 2016. BRYAN R. SMITH / AFP via Getty Images

Strangely enough, the perception of human rights as un-American persists to this day. For example, the Trump administration tried to transform the promotion of human rights on a global level so that it exclusively includes property rights and freedom of religion. This was the mission of the Inalienable Rights Commission of then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Predictably, the Commission's final report resulted in women's groups and LGBTQ activists accusing President Donald Trump's State Department of choosing to promote human rights while undermining those who did not support them, such as: B. LGBTQ rights.

A less obvious factor in the US's delay in redressing homosexuals is the American LGBTQ rights movement itself. The United States may have started the gay liberation movement that arose after the Stonewall riots. For the past few decades, activism for gay rights in the United States has been relatively conservative from an international perspective. Since at least the late 1990s, the legal battle for same-sex marriage has consumed American activists at almost everything else. And this fight was less than radical. While activists in countries like Argentina, Germany, and Spain stressed how same-sex marriages would serve to transform society and culture at large by expanding freedom and equality and deepening citizenship and democracy, activists in the United States were more inclined to do so Emphasize How a same-sex marriage would push same-sex couples to existing norms and even tame their sexuality. This latter argument came to be known as the "Conservative Gay Marriage Case," which stated that American society, including Conservatives, should support same-sex marriage because it would strengthen traditional values.

Dealing with same-sex marriages to shape goals as humble as strengthening homosexual households provided a great opportunity to involve society in a broad debate about the role of LGBTQ people in society. It also made it harder for gay activists to extend the fight for LGBTQ rights beyond marriage to areas such as transgender rights and homosexual reparation. However, these shortcomings should not mean the end of the reparation of homosexuals in the United States beyond Stonewall's apology. International experience shows that it is never too late for nations to correct past mistakes. It took the UK more than a century to face its own persecution of gay men on charges of gross indecency. And the payout is more than worth it. Aside from restoring the dignity of victims of government sponsored action against discrimination and violence against homosexuals, the reparations of homosexuals promise to end the history of oppression of LGBTQ people and to remind future generations of the victims and struggles that lay before them.

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