The Gay 80's In Review

from The Washington Blade 12/29/89
Courtesy of Rodney Jackson, HRCF Net

Bauman Bombs Out...In October, Maryland Rep. Robert Bauman is
arrested for sex with a 16-year-old male prostitute. After the
Republican lost his seat in November, he blames his downfall on his
"twin compulsions" of alcoholism and homosexuality; Gays blame it
on his hypocrisy.

Bryant Softens Her Stance...Anita Bryant, who started the movement
to repeal a Gay Rights law in Dade County, Florida, backs off a
little from her virulent anti-gay stance after divorcing her

Matlovich wins...A U.S. district court judge orders the Army to
reinstate Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, but instead, he accepts
$160,000  from the Army to stay out. Gay activists criticize him
for selling out.

Open Gay addresses Democrats...At the 1980 Democratic National
Convention, openly gay delegate Mel Boozer takes the podium as a
nominee for vice president in order to get the party's attention
to Gay issues. The Democratic platform, unlike those in later
years, backs Gay rights.

Gays give up Cruising...Gays picket Cruising, a film depicting New
York Gays as hard core S&M enthusiasts, in several cities because
of its negative stereotypes about gays. Those who predict it will
cause anti-Gay violence are right; a ministers son murders two Gay
men outside the bar in which the movie was filmed.


Watkins begins battle...Sergeant Perry Watkins files suit against
the U.S. Army challenging the revocation of his security clearance
and seeking an injunction barring his discharge for being gay. By
the end of the decade, his case is still being appealed in the 9th

Christians dont love Sidney...Tony Randall plays a middle-aged Gay
man who takes in an unwed mother in the telivison series Love,
Sidney. Religious groups complain, and the character is eventually

Rare cancer hits Gay men...The Centers for Disease Control reports
by the end of July, a total of 26 cases of a rare form of cancer
called Kaposi's Sarcoma, usually found in elderly men, having been
reported in young Gay men.

Sodomy repeal repealed...Congress votes to overturn D.C.'s sodomy
law repeal, leaving on the books a penalty of $1,000 or 10 years
in jail for homosexual intercourse. At the end of 1989, another
repeal effort is stuck in the D.C.'s Judiciary Committee.

Koop comes Around...Gays say President Ronald Reagans choice of C.
Everett Koop for Surgeon General spells doom. But Koop, whose main
proponent is Sen. Jesse Helms, later garners praise from Gays and
criticism from conservatives when he promotes the use of condoms
to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Marine mayhem...Two Marines are convicted of tear gassing a D.C.
Gay bar called Equus. One gets nine months in jail, the other gets
probation. Later in the year, three Marines who plead guilty to
assaulting two Gay men at the Iwo Jima Memorial, are both given


Mayor vetoes domestic partners bill...After the San Francisco Board
of Supervisors passes a domestic partners bill, Mayor Dianne
Feinstein vetoes it because of the potential cost to the city.
Angry Gays respond with a protest at City Hall. When the Board
passes a similar bill in 1989, voters repeal it.

Love stinks...Harry Hamlin and Michael Ontkean play lovers in the
well-intentioned film Making Love. Producers call it "a love story
for the '80s." Critics and audiences call it much worse.

Vaccine released...A long awaited vaccine for Hepatitis B is made 
available. Blood samples taken from Gay men who participated in a
study testing the vaccine soon prove to be helpful for researchers
tackling another disease-AIDS.

Lighting the torch...Founder Tom Waddell is pleasantly stunned when
more than 1,300 athletes participate in the first Gay Olympics in
San Francisco. He is stunned again when the United States Olympic
Committee wins an injunction barring Gays from using the word
"Olympics." Waddell dies of AIDS in 1988, but the games live on.

Wisconsin makes history...Wisconsin passes the nations first state
law prohibiting discrimination against Gays. The law, which
prohibits bias in housing, employment, and public accommodations,
is authored by State Rep. David Clarenbach.


Black Gay involvement rises...There is a surge of activity in Black
Gay organizations. The D.C. Black Gay Men and Women's Community
Conference, chaired by activist Lawrence Washington, exceeds all
expectations by attracting more than 120 people of color. The
National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays hires it's first
full-time executive director, D.C. activist Gil Gerald.

Studds comes out...Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) comes out of the
closet on the floor of the House following his censure for sexual
improprieties with a 17-year-old male page. Thus he becomes the
first openly Gay member of Congress. His July announcement wins him
few friends in the national media-many editorials call for his
ouster-but made him a hero in the eyes of many Gays. Meanwhile,
former Republican Rep. Robert Bauman stuns the conservative
movement by announcing his intention to become a Gay rights
advocate. His announcement prompts the American Conservative Union-
an organization he helped form-to try to oust him.

Torch Song Trilogy wins top honors...Harvey Fierstein wins a Tony
Award for Torch Song Trilogy. The play is one of the first
successful Broadway plays to portray Gays in happy relationships.
By 1988, the popular play hits the silver screen.

Penguins rights...D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy raises a ruckus
when he opposes letting a Gay person speak at the Martin Luther
King Jr. anniversary march, saying that Gay rights are the
equivalent of "penguin rights."

Push begins outside the District line...Montgomery County Gays push
for inclusion in a human rights law. They win twice in the
following year. First they pass the bill. Then, opponents, fail to
collect enough signatures to get a repeal referendum on the ballot.
Later in the decade Alexandria passes Virginia's first human rights
law protecting Gays. Neighboring Arlington County tips its hat. And
Baltimore comes through after years of struggle.


"Probable cause" for AIDS found...Robert Gallo of the National
Institutes of Health, announces he has found the "probable cause"
for AIDS. He calls it "HTLV-III." At about the same time, Luc
Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in France announces he has
found the cause. He calls it "LAV." After a disagreement over who
discovered the cause first and what the name should be, they agree
to be "co-discoverers" and call it "HIV."

Bork bashes Gays...Robert Bork leads the U.S. Court of Appeals
panel in D.C. to a decision in Dronenburg v. Zech that says the
court finds it "impossible to conclude that a right to homosexual
conduct is 'fundamental'." Gays recall those words as the Senate
refuses to confirm Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court a few
years later.

Studds wins re-election...Voters in Massachusetts re-elect Rep.
Gerry Studds, who became the first congressman to openly
he is Gay just one year before. Gay activists say his victory
proves a candidates homosexuality does not necessarily spell

Milk hits the screen...Robert Epstein and Richard Schmiechens well-
received documentary about the slain San Francisco supervisor and
Gay rights activist hits the screen as The Life and Times of Harvey


Rock Hudson dies from AIDS...During the first few years of the
epidemic, most people have not personally known anyone with AIDS,
and many have never heard of someone with AIDS. This changes in
late July, when movie star Rock Hudson publicly acknowledges that
he had the disease. When Hudson makes one of his last television
appearances with former co-star Doris Day, the effects of the
disease on the once-handsome leading man are shocking to many
   Suddenly the four-year-old epidemic is news. Magazines such as
Newsweek and Time do cover stories on AIDS. Newspapers around the
country begin publishing a flood of articles about every aspect of
the epidemic.
   Hudson's death prompts many people to action. Activists praise
Hudson's close friend Elizabeth Taylor for using her influence to
start a major fundraising organization, the American Foundation for
AIDS research, to expedite research for treatments. Activists
criticize another of Hudson's close friends, President Ronald
Reagan, because some treatments that are available overseas have
not yet been made available through the U.S. federal government.
Activists question the Reagan administration's commitment to
fighting the epidemic when the president calls for fewer research
dollars for 1986 than in 1985.

Gay Rights National Lobby folds...Although the Gay Rights National
Lobby, headed by Nancy Roth, gets some large contributions, it can't
seem to shake it's $40,000 debt. The National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force negotiates for over a year but decides not to merge with the
organization because it too, has a huge debt. The Human Rights
Campaign Fund, a Gay political action committee, votes to absorb
GRNL and assume some of the decade-old organization's lobbying

Spider Woman breaks the mold...Kiss of the Spider Woman star
William Hurt wins an Academy Award for one of the first truly
positive portrayal of a Gay man to come out of Hollywood. This
political thriller about two men in a South American prison is not
perfect however. Some critics say Hurt's character, Molina,
reinforces stereotypes about Gay men being effeminate, but others
it breaks the mold by allowing him to be the most likable character
in the film.

Antibody test developed...A test is developed to detect the
presence of antibodies to the AIDS virus in the blood. Although it
is originally intended for screening at blood banks, activists warn
that the test will soon be used for other purposes. There fears are
realized by the end of the year when the Department of Defense
starts administering the test to all military personnel and


AZT becomes the first hope of survival...In September, the U.S.
Public Health Service announces that AZT appears to be
significantly effective in prolonging the lives of people with
AIDS. Limited drug trials are halted and the drug is released to
a defined group of people with AIDS. By 1989, it will be made
available to people early in the HIV-infection who have not
developed the disease.
   In other AIDS -related news, California voters soundly reject
a LaRouche backed proposal to quarantine people with AIDS; and the
D.C. City Council passes a law to prohibit insurance companies from
denying coverage to anyone believed to be at risk for AIDS. The
D.C. law is later repealed under pressure from Congress.

A bitterly divided Supreme Court sets the movement back...On June
30, the U.S. Supreme Court releases a 5 to 4 decision upholding the
right of states to enforce laws against homosexual sodomy. The
deciding vote in the case, originated by Atlanta bartender Michael
Hardwick, came from Justice Lewis Powell. The Washington Post later
reports Powell originally planned to oppose such laws. While the
decision becomes cannon fodder for Gay rights opponents, it is also
a rallying point, triggering renewed protests and activism in the

Pope John Paul II severs Gays from the church...In a 14-page letter
released in October 30, Pope John Paul II calls Gays "intrinsically
disordered" and "evil" and orders Catholic Church officials to
ensure that " all support" be withdrawn from Gay Catholic
organizations such as Dignity. Over the next several years,
Catholic churches across the U.S. systematically enforce the order
and throw out chapters which had been allowed to hold meetings

Lesbian love story hits mainstream screens...Lesbian film director
Donna Deitch brings her production of Jane Rule's Desert Hearts to
filmhouses in mainstream America.


March takes Washington by storm...There is a big dispute over how
many Gays converge on D.C. in October (organizers say 500,000,
while U.S. Park Police say 200,000), but most agree the National
March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the largest
demonstration for Gay rights in history, is a historic event. Two
days later, more than 600 Gays are arrested at the largest civil
disobedience ever held at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thats What Friends Are For...Dionne Warwick's chart topping single
"That's What Friends Are For" raises hundreds of thousands of
dollars for AIDS research.

Gays can't use the word "Olympics"...Gay Games founder Tom Waddell
and his attorney Mary Dunlap engage the U.S. Supreme Court in a
debate over whether the United States Olympic Committee can forbid
the Gay sports event from using the term "Olympics" in its title.
The court votes 5 to 4 that the USOC can prohibit Gays from using 
the word.

A little respect..."The banana is an important product and deserves
to be treated with respect," writes the head of the International
Banana Association in a letter criticizing a PBS program that used
the yellow fruit to demonstrate how to use a condom.


Georgetown suit settled, but not over...In the spring, two Gay
student groups at Georgetown University agree to forego punitive
damages from their appeals court victory in return for the
university's agreement not to appeal the November 1987 decision to
the U.S. Supreme Court. In settlement, Georgetown also agree's to
pay more than $1 million in attorneys fees. But by the fall, the
conflict is haunting Gays once again. Congress approves an
amendment by Sen. William Armstrong that seeks to amend the D.C.
human rights law to allow religious educational institutions, such
as Georgetown, to be exempt from the law prohibiting discrimination
against Gays. The amendment fails when the D.C. Council challenges
it in court, but Armstrong simply rewrites his amendment in 1989
to evade legal problems and this time it appears successful.

White House ignores its own commission...The Presidential
Commission on HIV, headed by Admiral James Watkins, surprises many
in June when it called for laws prohibiting discrimination against
people with AIDS and AIDS education as early as kindergarten.
President Reagan ignored the recommendations. Meanwhile, hundreds
join a protest outside the FDA building in October, forcing the
agency to close its doors for one day. More than 170 protestors are

Baltimore's new mayor gives rights bill a boost...With the strong
backing of newly-elected Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Baltimore City Council
passes a law prohibiting discrimination against Gays.


No homoerotic art...By canning an exhibit of homoerotic photographs
by Robert Mapplethorpe, D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery of Art blows the
lid off the federal government's hesitancy to fund "controversial"
art. The exhibit is picked up by the Washington Project for the
Arts and draws record crowds.

Pentamidine Ok'd by feds...In June, the Food and Drug
Administration gives it's stamp of approval to aerosol pentamidine,
a drug used to ward off pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. This is
good news especially for thousands already using the drug, because
many insurance companies had previously refused to pay for it.

Just as good or better...In a report the Department of Defense
to squelch, Gay recruits are judged to be "just as good or better"
than their straight counterparts.

Something new...ABC breaks new ground in November when the
thirtysomething series shows a gay character in bed with another
man. The show loses $1.5 million when squeamish sponsors pulled out
of the episode at the last minute. Another groundbreaking show,
Heartbeat, also loses sponsors because of its Lesbian character.

Massachusetts' massive victory...After 17 years of hard work,
Massachusetts activists rejoice in November when Gov. Michael
Dukakis signs a bill protecting Gays from discrimination. Later,
they rejoice again when the state attorney general voids a repeal
effort because one of the new law's provisions, insisted upon by
conservatives and exempting religious groups, qualifies the measure
for another religious exemption-the state constitution says
religious bills cant be put up for referendum.

Frank gets Frank...At his request, an ethics committee investigates
Rep. Barney Frank after a prostitute he hired two years ago as a
personal assistant claims he ran a prostitution ring out of Frank's
Capitol Hill townhouse. Frank says he threw the prostitute out when
he learned what was going on and blamed his association with the
hustler on "poor judgement" and the fact that he was not yet out
of the closet when he retained the man's services.

Thompson, Kolwalski reunited...After being separated for more than
three years, Karen Thompson wins a court order that enables her to
visit her severely disabled lover Sharon Kolwalski. Kolwalski's
father had refused to allow the women to meet after he learned of
their Lesbian relationship. Thompson, who once led a very closeted
life, has since become a tireless activist promoting the legal
rights of Gay couples.

OUT! gains visibility...The local protest group OUT! gains greater
visibility in Gay and AIDS-related issues in D.C. In July, members
of the group confront D.C. Commissioner of Health Reed Tuckson
about the city's AIDS budget.

D.C. passes hate crimes bill...In December, the D.C. City Council
sends to Congress for review a bill upping the penalties for crimes
against Gays and other minorities.
Son of Armstrong...After Sen. William Armstrong's amendment to the
1988 D.C. appropriations bill fails to get the D.C. City Council
to water down its human rights law, Congress decides to do its own
dirty work. The 1989 amendment circumvents the Council by directly
amending the law to allow religious groups to discriminate against

Is she or isn't she?...Former boy toy Madonna make tongues wag when
she and gal pal Sandra Bernhardt frequent a New York Lesbian bar
called the Cubbyhole. "Dont believe the rumors," says Madonna.
"Believe them," counters Bernhardt.