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Lambda Lore

1960-62: Sex and the city

In the spring of 1960 Salt Lake City Mayor J. Bracken Lee firing the moral extremist Chief of Police, W. Cleon Skousen, for insubordination. With Skousen’s exit, the secular crusade against homosexuality ended. However, instead of filling the court dockets and city jails with homosexuals, the 1960’s concentrated primarily on prostitution, pornography, as well as vice in general.

Rose Carrier, who for the next 40 years was an ally and mother figure to the homosexual community, especially in the Royal Court, and began working at the Radio City Lounge as a bartender in 1960. The bar was owned by two straight businessmen, Lee Caputo and Elvin Gerrard, and was a straight bar during the day and a gay bar at night. During the 1950’s Salt Lake City passed an ordinance barring dancing in a beer bar which continued through much of the 1960’s.

The University of Utah’s Fall’s literary magazine, The Pen, published Utah’s first nonjudgmental description of same-sex persons in a homoerotic relationship: “A Corner of Winter” by author, Robert Foster, who was a heterosexual undergraduate student who also published poetry about his romantic love for women, wrote in the piece:  “He just said, Lawrence and I are in love and we will probably go away to Paris together. In fact he was sure. I did not know what to do. I did not feel like running, or being surprised, or anything. I just felt like saying alright. The two of them never kissed in front of me or touched. I just walked along with them and they took me with them most places.”

The Salt Lake Tribune police report had little sex crimes to report  in 1960 and 1961. One in 1961 mentioned the police anti-vice squad arresting six men and six women who were members of a “sunbathing group.” They were charged with “lewdness” in January but it wasn’t until October that the Tribune reported an article on homosexuality — and that was a national item.

The Tribune reported that the Motion Picture Association of America announced that it would permit homosexuality to be “treated with care, discretion, and restraint” in feature films which the Hayes Censorship Code had not permitted. It was in response to director Otto Preminger’s announcement by that he expected the MPAA to cooperate with his intention to film homosexual scenes involving the Mormon character in the novel “Advise and Consent.” This changed opened Hollywood to have more adult themes movies.

As 1962 began, on January 1, Illinois became the first state to eliminate its sodomy laws and establish the age of consent for sex at 18. Illinois had earlier in 1961 changed their state criminal code to eliminate the state’s consensual sodomy laws but the change did not become effective until 1962.

In the summer of 1962, a New Yorker named Randy Wicker, who was influenced by the Black Civil Rights struggles in the South, felt stifled by the Mattachine Society of NY, a homophile organization. So he created the Homosexual League of New York. Then, when WBAI radio had broadcast a panel of psychiatrists who espoused that homosexuality was a mental illness, Wicker persuaded the station manager to put him and several other openly gay people on the air to “rap” about their lives. The 90-minute program, believed to be the first in the United States, aired in July.

At the beginning of the 1962 fall term at Brigham Young University, Mormon Apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen met with the university president, Ernest Wilkinson, the school’s general counsel, Clyde Sandgren, the new dean of students, Elliott Cameron, and other university administrators to discuss the problem of homosexuals on campus.

The men decided that the number of homosexuals on campus was “a very small percentage of the whole” and therefore administrators “ought  not to dignify it by meeting with the men and women of the university in a public setting but handle each case on its own.” They then worked out a plan whereby Mormon general authorities and other church administrators would give BYU any information they had obtained about homosexuality on campus and BYU in return would give church administrators information about homosexual church members. The men decided as a general policy that “no one will be admitted as a student at BYU whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual.”

Shortly after this meeting, as newly appointed president of the West European Mission, Mark E. Petersen ruled that missionaries there had to sleep in separate beds and could no longer share a single bed. Those in Britain who housed missionaries complained of the financial hardship it caused them, but such complaints fell on deaf ears.

Also in the fall of 1962, the state of Utah and in particular Salt Lake City became alarmed at the growing number of sex offenses. Salt Lake police proposed that employers be notified when an employee has been arrested for a sex offense. The proposal was advanced as a means of protecting children from teachers and other adults suspected of sex crimes.

However the criminal section of the State Bar, chaired by Jim Matsunaga, opposed the plan as an invasion of constitutional rights to privacy. They suggested the law would give police the power to pass judgment without trial and agreed the proposal would bring more harm than good. The committee agreed an accused should have the right to trial before his employment is jeopardized by police action.

At this same time in early November, the Tribune printed the arrest of  a 37-year-old man “arrested in a Liberty Park restroom and charged with being a disorderly person.” After this time it became quite common to see the names of people arrested at Liberty Park in the paper. People who had their names printed in the paper in conjunction with disorderly arrests were in fact now being convicted by public opinion before a trial.

Also in November a state convention of the Utah Committee on Children and Youth was held at the State Capitol to discuss the problem of pornography and possible action to curb it. They asked the Utah Legislature to tighten the state’s lewdness and obscenity statutes and amend the current law to provide more protection against sale of obscene material to persons less than 18 years of age. The convention proposed a bill that would provide penalties against the introduction of material into “family or school” when the material is obscene by the standards of the average person in Utah communities.

In response to the public perception that sex offenses among youth were on the rise, in December the Salt Lake City Police Department created a special squad in the department’s youth bureau. Until the creation of this special squad, sex offenses involving juveniles were handled by the youth bureau, while homosexual offenses were handled by the vice squad, and cases involving rape were investigated by either homicide detail or the youth bureau.

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Ben Williams

Ben Williams

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