Mainline Protestants and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage

By Heather White

Four days ago, a federal judge struck down North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. This ruling heralded a legal victory for the United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination, which had sued the state for the right to marry same-sex couples. Since 2005, the UCC has affirmed its support for “equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender.” Its lawsuit charged that the state’s DOMA legislation was an unconstitutional violation of their religious freedom.

Rev. Troy Perry performs a Holy Union ceremony for Larry Uhrig and Alan Fox, 1970s. (Courtesy of MCC Family Tree - The Archives of Metropolitan Community Churches)

Rev. Troy Perry performs a Holy Union ceremony for Larry Uhrig and Alan Fox, 1970s. (Courtesy of MCC Family Tree – The Archives of Metropolitan Community Churches)

The UCC’s victory in North Carolina has taken place against the backdrop of growing support among Mainline Protestant denominations for marriage equality. This past June, the Presbyterian Church (USA) formally voted to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriage, thus adding another denomination to a roster of supporters that includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Religious Society of Friends and Unitarian Universalists. Other denominations are battling issues of formal policy. The United Methodist Church recently opted to retain the credentials of two clergy who were brought under disciplinary review for performing same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Mennonite Church, also grappling with these questions for over a decade, is in the midst of a similar process. Mainline Protestants’ recent policy decisions on same-sex marriage, however, come out of a much longer history of religious debates over same-sex sexuality.

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Dispatch from The G-Spot: Gentrification, Transformation and Queer San Francisco

In keeping with our commitment of fostering a public and widespread discussion of the history of sexuality within and outside of the academy, we at Notches are pleased to introduce the first post in our “Dispatches” series. Here, we publish our readers’ critical accounts of the conferences, symposia, workshops and suchlike that they attend. Interested in writing a dispatch? Send an email to

By Megan Martenyi

On September 11, 2014, a crowd of around fifty people filled the San Francisco GLBT History Museum’s exhibition room to talk about one of the most divisive political issues in the city. The opening night of The G-Spot: Gentrification, Transformation and Queer San Francisco marked the first of several community seminars and art programs planned to take place over the next six months. Co-curated by Nan Alamilla Boyd, Raquel Gutiérrez, and Don Romesburg, the series is designed to complicate the way queerness figures in the discourse on gentrification by situating contemporary debates within legacies of struggle.

The theme of the first session – “Homelands and Safe Space” – brought the politics of history to the fore. Over the past decade, the Castro has become increasingly legible as a significant site of LGBTQ history. The city-funded “Castro Street Improvement Project” recently installed commemorative plazas, plaques, and rainbow crosswalks to celebrate the neighborhood’s prideful past. At the same time, evictions in the Castro hit a 12-year high as swarms of real estate speculators purchased multi-unit rental buildings to convert into condos and sell for tremendous profits. Many non-property owning residents have been displaced, including LGBTQ seniors and people living with AIDS. In this context, how San Francisco’s LGBTQ history gets told is a vibrant point of contention. Embedded in these debates and coupled with a provocative set of readings – a primary source from the Advocate, an interview with Lenn Keller, and an academic analysis by Christina Hanhardt – the “G-Spot” curators set out to probe the history of political organizing both for and against the creation of The Castro as a neighborhood, a homeland, a commons, and a commodity.

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Before Grindr, or, The Dangers of the “Gay Bachelor”

By Justin Bengry

In June 1967, opposition Conservative UK parliamentarians encountered a new and threatening queer danger. They feared that the Sexual Offences Bill then before them — a measure that would partially decriminalize male homosexual acts — might appear to sanction, and even promote, homosexual activity. Conservative MP Sir Cyril Osborne therefore proposed an amendment that would make publicizing and publishing lists of homosexuals, in other words printing “gay bachelor” or queer personal ads, a new “serious punishable offence.”


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Even if the government was on the verge of partially decriminalizing male homosexual acts, Osborne’s proposed amendment would nonetheless criminalize what he saw as the commercial promotion of homosexuality. It demanded that,

Anyone who indulges in activities tending to promote acts of homosexuality between consenting adults through the publication of lists of names and addresses of known homosexuals or otherwise, shall be guilty of a criminal offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of five years or a fine of £5,000.

In other words, were the act to pass, anyone who “promoted” entirely legal acts of consensual homosexuality would themselves be committing a criminal offence. Punishment for this new commercial crime would in fact be even more stringent than existing laws for most homosexual offences; acts of gross indecency were then punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

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History of Sexuality at the American Historical Association Conference

The conference schedule has been posted for the 129th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA), which takes place January 2-5, 2015 in New York City (register now!). The AHA has a number of wonderful panels on the history of sexuality, which we have listed for our readers below.

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Are you attending any of these panels? If so, we want to hear from you. Notches has a regular “Dispatches” feature where we publish our readers’ critical accounts of conferences, symposia, and workshops that they attend. Through this feature, we hope to keep you appraised of current events, ongoing debates, advances in scholarship, and general discussions on the history of sexuality. Interested in writing a dispatch on the AHA for us? Send an email to
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The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America

Reviewed by Bryan Pitts

Javier Corrales, Mario Pecheny, eds. The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010. xv + 454 pp. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8229-6062-1.

“We aren’t hiding anymore – it’s our rights that we’re fighting for,” exclaimed a participant at a July 2010 pro-same-sex marriage demonstration in Buenos Aires. A few weeks later the Argentine Senate voted to modify the country’s Civil Code to permit same-sex marriage. The landmark vote represented perhaps the most significant legislative victory for the LGBT movement in Latin America and made Argentina only the second country in the Western Hemisphere, after Canada, to legalize same-sex marriage. Recent developments like the legalization of same-sex marriage in Brazil, Uruguay, and several Mexican states; the institution of civil unions in Colombia and Ecuador; and a flurry of legislative and judicial victories for the transgendered in places like Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, and Uruguay render The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America a timely, pioneering contribution to the literature on non-heteronormative sexualities in Latin America.

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Historians are gossips who tease the dead

By Julia Laite

I have recently been pondering Voltaire’s much quoted but rarely contextualized observation that ‘historians are gossips who tease the dead’.

It goes to the heart of something that’s been bothering me ever since I dug further into the details of a case of a young woman who had appeared in my book as a victim of trafficking. I used her story of being procured in Wellington, New Zealand, to work in the casinos of Buenos Aires and later (briefly) the streets of London to illustrate some of my points about the UK’s approach to trafficking cases, the experiences of migrant sex workers, and the role of ‘repatriation’.

The Stuff of Gossip: A collection of photographs from the police investigation into Lydia H—–‘s trafficking case. (MEPO 3/197, The National Archives, London)

I encountered many small fragments of similar stories in my earlier research, but hers is the one I cannot get out of my head. As part of my new project, I resolved to delve more deeply into her story and tease out more details of her life, and the lives of her traffickers. In the files, she appeared under her real name, Lydia H—–,  but initially she had been identified as ‘Doris Williams’. I had assumed this was because a pseudonym had been given her by her traffickers to make her more difficult to trace. But it was while doing further research in New Zealand historical newspapers that I realised that she had in all likelihood requested this pseudonym herself, in order to protect her identity. In my keeness to tell her story–or perhaps mobilize her story to make a point — I had outed her.

I was a gossip, teasing the dead.

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