What a big night to be at the Q Center here, we were both moved and inspired and educated. No pics were taken by me, but Rodger may have a few. There was too much going on. 15-20 Portland Gay old timers (my age) were there including one the most popular gay-friendly former Oregon Governor, Barbara Roberts who gave a rousing speech near the end of this event. Probably 200 people attended.
This was rich stuff for us having only lived here 12 years. Mark HAD been here a mighty few times in the past (he was raised in distant SE Oregon Cow Country, so visiting Portland was a luxury…only once as a child, and the “few” times were being here as an adult in the early 80’s were mostly conducting business for Consolidated Freightways. I most distinctly remember a week here in that time I had been sent up to attend our fabulous Management Development Seminar for CF and was able to get out once or twice just to see what the nightlife was about. I remember the one “BI” bar that WAS simply a former garage in an old victorian…and the “Bi” guy who was SO intrigued talking to me but unable to let himself leave that safe public place with a stranger (Yes, I was single then). So I DID have the inkling that all was not as open here as it was in the bay area California where I was living then, but had no idea of the history being made up there at the time.
Davie Kohl who’s written a 430 page Gay Portland History Book (with 750 photos)moderated the evening introducing the 20 speakers who were assigned 4 minutes apiece, but spoke more like 10 or more….
Some were a bit dull, sure, but most were motivators who got cheers when describing the battles in the 50’s for equal rights here when Prim Mayor Dorothy McCullough Lee was trying to purify Portland into here own vision of moral whiteness. This picture looks like someone WHO WOULD run their re-election (which she lost) campaign on a promise to “cleanse the city of all moral deviates”:
I think you get the idea of the times…………… These battles re-curred in the 70’s, and then more famously in the 80’s with the OCA (Oregon Christian Alliance with Lon Mabon) who declared WAR on Homosexuality here. That fight grew up in to major battles including death threats, hazing, etc. These were vividly described by some of these old timers, and we loved it. His first campaign (Measure 8) passed and was later declared unconstitutional, but he didn’t give up. He attempted again with Measure 9 which was narroly defeated. The OCA has never quite fuller recovered but still mutters and growls in background political circles still whispering they’ll someday cleanse Oregon of its immoral queers. They were prominent in getting Measure 36 (marriage equaling one man – one woman) narrowly passed here.
I won’t forget Frank Schreckenberger saying that while sitting at an Old Town Bar that later became Darcelle’s (that’s still going strong today….and is another story entirely on its own) hearing a drag queen calling herself “Darcelle” yelling “We’re equal to anyone. We’re not asking for more rights or equal rights. We demand the SAME rights”. Frank’s life changed from then as he became an activist. Good LORD! That drag queen is now 77 years old and STILL running a two shows a night 4 nights a week.
You can read some detail on Portland’s Gay HIstory here: **Gay Archives Portland Boag**
I enjoyed with mixed feelings hearing near the end when a not so young guy held his hand up to “thank you all for inspiring me. This was thrilling to sit here and here you all speak, it just wasn’t the same as using my remote and clicking here and there“. (???? Yep, even our language skills are fading, eh?)
And just for a bit of motivation for you to do your OWN history research in your own towns, here’s a few snippets of what we learned that evening:
A new criminal code in Oregon makes sodomy a crime for the first time, with a penalty set at 15 years in prison.
The first person is tried for sodomy and sent to the Penitentiary for committing it.
A neighbor reports a Gay male couple in Portland to the police and both are jailed.
Lownesdale Square in Downtown Portland was well known as a gay cruising spot. The park was officially restricted to men (by default, adjacent Chapman square was reserved for women) after 1915.
Gay businessman T. Kruse purchases the Belvedere Hotel at 4th and Alder. Inside is the Louvre Restaurant, which Kruse turns into a “bohemian” place that becomes a thriving spot for Portland’s Gay men. The restaurant is cited frequently by Newspapers for liquor law violations and is called a “front” for “immoral activity”.
****and there are LOT more I don’t have time to write up*****
The Harbor Club, a popular de facto gathering spot for gays is declared off-limits by the U.S. Navy for sailors on shore leave (comeon guys, the war’s over!)
Mayor Dorothy Lee proposes a fivepoint program aimed at ridding Portland of all “sexual deviates.” Voters reject Lee’s bit for re-election. This is a rare picture of a few of the drag queen’s then going through this social battle:
Portland’s City Council asks the Oregon Liquor Commission to revoke all liquor licenses of all Portland’s Gay and Lesbian bars. OLCC refuses, noting the bars are operating within Oregon Law.
Oregon’s Supreme Court upholds the sodomy convictions of a Gay Male couple who’d been reported to police by the neighbor.
Woodstock in NY inspires local female impersonators to organize the Portland Forum to provide social and cultural activities for the gay community.
Oregon repeals the sodomy statute.
State representative Vera Katz (later Portland mayor) introduces a gay bill of rights that loses by one vote, a vote promised to her but denied when voting takes place.
About 200 attend Portland first Gay Pride celebration.
Anne & Bill Shepherd and Charles & Rita Knapp organize Parents of Gays, later to become Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays PFLAG. ***It was noted Anne spend years at her home phone after this taking calls from desperate and lonely gay kids talking them out of suicide or giving advice on dealing with family issues wherever they were.
Bud Clark elected mayor and introduces lots of ordinance prohibiting discrimination in any form.
OCA initiates Ballot Measure 8 and it’s approved by 54% of voters and was later overturned by the courts.
OCA initiates Ballot Measure 9 and the big fight begins…………….
OHSU employees petition for domestic partner rights setting the foundation for RODGER AND MARK’s sharing insurance and other rights today (Rodger works there).
Multnomah Country briefly marry 3000 gay couples………….. and in November, Oregon voters pass Measure 36 banning same sex marriage. SB1000, an anti-discrimination bill proposed by current gov Ted Kulongoski is symied in the house by Republican Fundamentalist Christian Speaker Karen Minnis who refuses to bring it to the floor for the entire season. (She was thrown out in 2004 and is now a “consultant” of course. She GAVE ALL her remaining campaign funds—some $20000 to her rigit Fundamentalist Church for “charity causes”….sure sure sure………
Mark & Rodger are newly inspired to do something to support the Gay Community here, something we haven’t done at all, and haven’t even been part of. Not that I kick myself. I DO feel our living out and open among our entire neighborhood does things to convert THESE people AND the friends they talk to realizing we’re NO different than they are.
There you have a tiny nutshell entry of what happened that night. Cheer ON and FIGHT ! ! ! ! !
I was conflicted about putting THIS picture in here, but believe it is worth it if ANY GAY person alive in this country is not aware of the importance of being able to live in a secular society without Fundamentalist Religion controlling what its citizens do and say. As I write, one of those very people is running for President of America, Mike Huckabee who represents very funadmentalists dream. Should they gain controlling power of the civil rights of this population, the scene below is something that could become possible. This is what happened to two young gay men caught “in the act” in a Muslim controlled Theocracy just last year: