Blackmailer’s Charter

The 1990s began with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and ended with the dissolution of the Khmer Rouge. Although LGBT rights had come far since the dark ages, in many places gay rights legislation was still living in the Dark Ages.

The year 1990 started off positive with the prohibiting of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in San Diego, California, in the private sector (the state of California still allowed employment discrimination for state jobs). On 2 February, however, backwards went the United States. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided, in the case of High Tech Gays v. Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office. The case debated whether DISCO (a unit of the US DoD) had the right to deny security clearances to persons known, or suspected, to be homosexual. The 9th Circuit concluded that, in fact, it did have the right to deny security clearances based on sexual orientation, arguing the precedent established in the SCOTUS ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick which argued that the Constitution didn’t protect the right to homosexuality. In March, activist group Queen Nation was founded by members of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP). Queen Nation was founded in response to the violence facing homosexuals on the street, and the discrimination seen in arts and the media. Queen Nation is known mostly for their policy of outing, which was controversial when Queen Nation began and remains controversial today. In July 1990, the UK saw the murder of 4 gay men. As a result of the increasing violence, the group OutRage was formed and UK Crown Dependency of Jersey decriminalised homosexuality.

On 27 October, US Congress repealed a law which prohibited homosexuals from seeking admittance to the United States. Also repealed was a law which prohibited Visas or green cards for gay men convicted of ‘immorality,’ a term used to denote a conviction for sodomy; and on 10 December the governor of Colorado issued an executive order which prohibited employment discrimination, in the private sector, based on sexual orientation. The executive order did not apply to state, federal, or military jobs.

In 1991, Derek Jarman remade Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (1590) into a film. Edward II utilised modern dress, location and language, and placed the background directly in the gay rights movements of the 1960s, including the Stonewall Riots. Also in 1991, for the first time, the red ribbon is used as a symbol of the campaign against AIDS. Also in 1991, Bahamas, Hong Kong and Ukraine decriminalised homosexuality.

Early in 1992, the World Health Organisation joined the American Psychological Association in removing homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses; in Nicaragua, a statute repealing the ban on sodomy was re-instated; and Iceland, Luxembourg and Switzerland equalise the age of consent. In June 1992 the first Europride was held in London,  bringing a crowd of over 100,000 people. Estonia, Latvia and UK Crown Dependency Isle of Man decriminalised homosexuality (although sodomy would still be illegal on the Isle of Man until 1994).

In 1993, the US state of Minnesota and New Zealand both passed laws preventing the discrimination based on sexual orientation and Bermuda, Germany and Serbia decriminalised homosexuality. In the United States, the most publicised sexual orientation related murder happened in the state of Nebraska. Brandon Teena’s rape and murder, along with the beating, torture and murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard’s murder in 1998, led to increased lobbying for hate crime legislation based on sexual orientation in the United States.

The American Medical Association, in 1994, joined the APA and the WHO in declassifying homosexuality as an illness. In both Canada and the US, refuge status was extended to include fear of persecution in a home country based on sexual orientation. In 21 March 1994, the case of Toonen v. Australia was decided by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The UNHRC decided that a sodomy law in Tasmania violated the antidiscrimination provision of protected status (of which the committee decided homosexuality counted) under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UNHRC  decision in Toonen decided, essential, that all anti-sodomy laws violated the ICCPRs antidiscrimination provision. Ostensibly this meant that every nation which still criminalised sodomy, and by design homosexuality, was committing human rights violations. Also in 1994, Bermuda, Germany and Serbia decriminalised homosexuality.

Between 1990 and 1994 the following nations ended bans on openly serving homosexuals in the military: Australia and Canada (1992); New Zealand (1993); Romania and South Africa (1994). In the United States, however, gay rights went backward for solders, sailors and airmen. On 21 December 1993, President Clinton issued Defence Directive 1304.26, which would become known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT), and took effect 28 February 1994. The point of the policy (which was passed by Congress and signed by Clinton as Pub.L 103-160) ostensibly was to prevent the harassment of homosexuals by other service members, prevent discrimination by superior offices, and prevent superiors from pursuing rumours of homosexuality. In reality, what it did was prevent openly homosexual persons from joining the US military. DADT was a reaction, by the Clinton administration, the conservative tint the US had taken…but it was also, in its own strange way, an attempt by the DoD to protect closeted homosexuals in the US armed forces. Because of the nature of military culture, the Clinton administration believed that a direct ban on the discussing, knowledge, and pursuing of homosexuality would, in effect, make it a safer place for homosexuals…provided no one knew they were gay. Those efforts were in vain, as all DADT accomplished was loathing, fear and homophobia. Any member of the armed services who was subject to courts-martial under DADT, and found guilt, was subsequently dishonourably discharged…the reasons ranging from Failure to Obey a Direct Order to Conduct Unbecoming.

Although, in many areas of the world, homosexual rights began to see the light of day, in other places homosexuality remained squarely in the dark. In particular, the United States’ contradiction federal and state stances on various homosexual laws were just beginning.

Part XXV- Homosexuality, Politics and the 1990s- part 2

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