Oct 22 2010

On This Day in History: October 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

October 22 is the 295th day of the year (296th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 70 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1975,Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, is given a “general” discharge by the air force after publicly declaring his homosexuality. Matlovich, who appeared in his air force uniform on the cover of Time magazine above the headline “I AM A HOMOSEXUAL,” was challenging the ban against homosexuals in the U.S. military. In 1979, after winning a much-publicized case against the air force, his discharge was upgraded to “honorable.”

Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich (1943 – June 22, 1988) was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Matlovich was the first gay service member to fight the ban on gays in the military, and perhaps the best-known gay man in America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause celebre around which the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. In October 2006, Matlovich was honored by LGBT History Month as a leader in the history of the LGBT community.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, he was the only son of a career Air Force sergeant. He spent his childhood living on military bases, primarily throughout the southern United States. Matlovich and his sister were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. He considered himself a “flag-waving patriot,” but always regretted that for several years he maintained the racist attitudes he’d been exposed to as a child of the South. Not long after he enlisted, the United States increased military action in Vietnam, about ten years after the French had abandoned active colonial rule there. Matlovich volunteered for service in Vietnam and served three tours of duty. He was seriously wounded when he stepped on a land mine in DA Nang.

While stationed in Florida near Fort Walton Beach, he began frequenting gay bars in nearby Pensacola. “I met a bank president, a gas station attendant – they were all homosexual,” Matlovich commented in a later interview. When he was 30, he slept with another man for the first time. He “came out” to his friends, but continued to conceal the fact from his commanding officer. Having realized that the racism he’d grown up around was wrong, he volunteered to teach Air Force Race Relations classes, which had been created after several racial incidents in the military in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He became so successful that the Air Force sent him around the country to coach other instructors. Matlovich gradually came to believe that the discrimination faced by gays was similar to that faced by African Americans.

In 1973, previously unaware of the organized gay movement, he read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny who had counseled several gays in the military over the years. He called Kameny in Washington DC and learned that Kameny had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect record to create a test case to challenge the military’s ban on gays. About a year later, he called Kameny again, telling him that he might be the person. After several months of discussion with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone during which they formulated a plan, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” – a reference to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools. For Matlovich, his test of the military’s ban on homosexuals would be equivalent to that case. . .

From the moment his case was revealed to the public, he was repeatedly called upon by gay groups to help them with fund raising and advocating against anti-gay discrimination, helping lead campaigns against Anita Bryant’s effort in Miami, Florida, to overturn a gay nondiscrimination ordinance and John Briggs’ attempt to ban gay teachers in California. Sometimes he was criticized by individuals more to the left than he had become. “I think many gays are forced into liberal camps only because that’s where they can find the kind of support they need to function in society” Matlovich once noted.

With the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in the late 1970s, Leonard’s personal life was caught up in the virus’ hysteria that peaked in the 1980s. He sold his Guerneville restaurant in 1984, moving to Europe for a few months. He returned briefly to Washington, D.C., in 1985 and, then, to San Francisco where he sold Ford cars and once again became heavily involved in gay rights causes and the fight for adequate HIV-AIDS education and treatment.

During the summer of 1986, Matlovich felt fatigued, then contracted a prolonged chest cold he seemed unable to shake. When he finally saw a physician in September of that year, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Too weak to continue his work at the Ford dealership, he was among the first to receive AZT treatments, but his prognosis was not encouraging. He went on disability and became a champion for HIV/AIDS research for the disease which was claiming tens of thousands of lives in the Bay Area and nationally. He announced on Good Morning America in 1987 that he had contracted HIV, and was arrested with other demonstrators in front of the White House that June protesting what they believed was an inadequate response to HIV-AIDS by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.

On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died of complications from HIV/AIDS beneath a large photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” Matlovich’s tombstone at Congressional Cemetery is on the same row as that of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

A Website has been created in his honor and that of other gay veterans, and includes a history of the ban on gays in the military both before and after its transformation into Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and illustrates the role that gay veterans fighting the ban played in the earliest development of the gay rights movement in the United States.

 362 – A mysterious fire destroys the temple of Apollo at Daphne outside Antioch.

794 – Emperor Kanmu relocates the Japanese capital to Heiankyo (now Kyoto).

1383 – The 1383-1385 Crisis in Portugal: King Fernando dies without a male heir to the Portuguese throne, sparking a period of civil war and disorder.

1575 – Foundation of Aguascalientes.

1633 – Battle of southern Fujian sea: The Ming dynasty defeats the Dutch East India Company.

1707 – Scilly naval disaster: four British Royal Navy ships run aground near the Isles of Scilly because of faulty navigation. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and thousands of sailors drown.

1730 – Construction of the Ladoga Canal is completed.

1746 – The College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton University) receives its charter.

1784 – Russia founds a colony on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

1790 – Warriors of the Miami tribe under Chief Little Turtle defeat United States troops under General Josiah Harmar at the site of present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the Northwest Indian War.

1797 – One thousand meters (3,200 feet) above Paris, Andre-Jacques Garnerin makes the first recorded parachute jump.

1836 – Sam Houston is inaugurated as the first President of the Republic of Texas.

1844 – The Great Anticipation: Millerites, followers of William Miller, anticipate the end of the world in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ. The following day became known as the Great Disappointment.

1875 – First telegraphic connection in Argentina.

1877 – The Blantyre mining disaster in Scotland kills 207 miners.

1878 – The first rugby match under floodlights takes place in Salford, between Broughton and Swinton.

1883 – The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City opens with a performance of Gounod’s Faust.

1895 – In Paris an express train overruns a buffer stop and crosses more than 30 metres of concourse before plummeting through a window at Gare Montparnasse.

1907 – Panic of 1907: A run on the stock of the Knickerbocker Trust Company sets events in motion that will lead to a depression.

1910 – Dr. Crippen is convicted at the Old Bailey of poisoning his wife and is subsequently hanged at Pentonville Prison in London.

1924 – Toastmasters International is founded.

1926 – J. Gordon Whitehead sucker punches magician Harry Houdini in the stomach in Montreal.

1928 – Phi Sigma Alpha fraternity is founded at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus.

1934 – In East Liverpool, Ohio, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents shoot and kill notorious bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd.

1941 – World War II: French resistance member Guy Moquet and 29 other hostages are executed by the Germans in retaliation for the death of a German officer.

1943 – World War II: in the Second firestorm raid on Germany, the Royal Air Force conducts an air raid on the town of Kassel, killing 10,000 and rendering 150,000 homeless.

1944 – World War II: Battle of Aachen: The city of Aachen falls to American forces after three weeks of fighting, making it the first German city to fall to the Allies.

1953 – Laos gains independence from France.

1957 – Vietnam War: First United States casualties in Vietnam.

1960 – Independence of Mali from France.

1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis: US President John F. Kennedy, after internal counsel from Dwight D. Eisenhower, announces that American reconnaissance planes have discovered Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, and that he has ordered a naval “quarantine” of the Communist nation.

1963 – A BAC One-Eleven prototype airliner crashes in UK with the loss of all on board.

1964 – Jean-Paul Sartre is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but turns down the honor.

1964 – Canada: A Multi-Party Parliamentary Committee selects the design which becomes the new official Flag of Canada.

1966 – The Supremes become the first all-female music group to attain a No. 1 selling album (The Supremes A’ Go-Go).

1966 – The Soviet Union launches Luna 12.

1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 7 safely splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean after orbiting the Earth 163 times.

1972 – Vietnam War: In Saigon, Henry Kissinger and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu meet to discuss a proposed cease-fire that had been worked out between Americans and North Vietnamese in Paris.

1975 – The Soviet unmanned space mission Venera 9 lands on Venus.

1976 – Red Dye No. 4 is banned by the US Food and Drug Administration after it is discovered that it causes tumors in the bladders of dogs. The dye is still used in Canada.

1981 – The United States Federal Labor Relations Authority votes to decertify the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization for its strike the previous August.

1981 – The TGV railway service between Paris and Lyon is inaugurated.

1983 – Two correctional officers are killed by inmates at the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. The incident inspires the Supermax model of prisons.

1991 – Dimitrios Arhondonis, metropolitan of Chalcedon elected 270th Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch as Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Orthodox church.

1999 – Maurice Papon, an official in the Vichy France government during World War II, is jailed for crimes against humanity.

2005 – Tropical Storm Alpha forms in the Atlantic Basin, making the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record with 22 named storms.

2006 – A Panama Canal expansion proposal is approved by 77.8% of voters in a National referendum held in Panama.

2007 – Raid on Anuradhapura Air Force Base is carried out by 21 Tamil Tiger commandos. All except one died in this attack. Eight Sri Lankan Air Force planes are destroyed and 10 damaged.

2008 – India launches its first unmanned lunar mission Chandrayaan-1.

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    Compassion belongs to every sphere of activity, including, of course, the workplace.

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