Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dallas had a checkered gay history in the 1980s, driven sometimes by elections

Ah, elections! A week or so after the midterms, I remember that “Elections” were a bad word in Dallas around 1980.   Bar owners dreaded them. Before elections, police were more likely to troll the bars and make arrests for “public lewdness” until a particular computer operator was acquitted in 1981. One unfortunate chap was almost forced to “leave Dallas” by the DA because he got targeted twice. One other problem: judges are elected in Texas (I know, I was called to jury duty four times in nine years).

On the other hand, the Dallas Gay Alliance was indeed very active in those days, particularly in “getting out the vote.” In those days (even before AIDS) we didn’t look for political equality, we just tried to be left alone. In 1982, a local federal judge (Jerry Buchmeyer) would overturn the Texas sodomy law 21.06 (the case was Baker v. Wade (website) link ), but the decision would eventually be vacated by the Fifth Circuit, and of course Bowers v. Hardwick upheld sodomy laws (including hetero, Georgia) in 1986. But in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas finally overturned 21.06 (gay only).

In 1983, representative Bill Ceverha from Amarillo tried to introduce a bill 21.06A aka 21.38 that would strengthened the sodomy law and prohibited gays from working in many occupations. Ceverha claimed that AIDS represented a “public health emergency.” This was a year before the discovery of HTLV-III (aka HIV) would be announced. Fortunately it died in committee in May 1983, but the DGA certainly had a scare. I remember Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo, owners of the Crossroads Market, from those days. Curiously, 1980 had started so optimistically with a party “The 80s are ours.”

History can move faster than we expect.

Wikipedia attribution link for EDS symphony hall

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