Thursday, August 28, 2014

July 12, 1973 Fire at the Army Record Center in St, Louis,

...a day that will live in infamy....

December 7, 2011, KSFK.com, St. Louis facility has many Pearl Harbor documents, by Art Holliday,































http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/

Burnt in Memory: Looking back, looking forward at the 1973 St. Louis fire, Prologue (Spring 2013)

Painstaking Effort To Save The Past, Korean War Veteran's File Is Pulled From Ashes of 1973 Overland Fire, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 8, 2012
Preservation technicians with the National Personnel Records Center handle thousands of documents from a military records held in the center's burned files at the new north St. Louis County location. Millions of military personnel files were destroyed at the agency's Page Avenue building in a 1973 fire. An ambitious effort to restore millions of files that survived the fire is underway.


Fire Damage At The Military Personnel Records Center St ...
archive.gao.gov/otherpdf1/087480.pdf
Jul 12, 1973 - reporting on the fire at the Military Personnel Records. Center in St.Louis, Missouri, and the status of fire protection at other General Services ...


KSDK-TV - St. Louis facility has many Pearl Harbor documents

Special Commemorative NPRC New Building Publication, St. Louis Post Dispatch, October 2011

Personnel Records Are Consolidated at New Location in St. Louis, Prologue Magazine, Fall 2011

National Personnel Records Center fire- Wikipedia

National Archives 1973 NPRC Fire Information Page,

July 12, 2013, MissouriNet, 40 years ago today: St. Louis fire destroys millions of military ...
The fire destroyed up to 18 million records of veterans that served ... The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis after the 1973 fire.

November 13, 2008,  VetsFirst.org, Veterans Still Burned Over 35 Year Old Fire : VetsFirst
On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) in St. Louis destroyed ...

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Affected records[edit]

The losses to Federal military records collection included:
  • 80% loss to records of U.S. Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960[2]
  • 75% loss to records of U.S. Air Force personnel discharged September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964, with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.[2]
  • Some U.S. Army Reserve personnel who performed their initial active duty for training in the late 1950s but who received final discharge as late as 1964.
None of the records that were destroyed in the fire had duplicate copies made, nor had they been copied to microfilm. No index of these records was made prior to the fire, and millions of records were on loan to the Veterans Administration at the time of the fire. This made it difficult to precisely determine which records were lost.[2]

Navy and Marine Corps records[edit]

On the morning of the National Archives Fire, a very small number of U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps records were out of their normal file area being worked on as active requests by employees of the National Archives and Records Administration who maintained their offices on the 6th floor of the building. When the NPRC fire began, these Navy and Marine Corps records were caught in the section of the building which experienced the most damage in the fire.
The exact number of Navy and Marine Corps records destroyed in the fire is unknown, since such records were being removed only for a few days while information was retrieved from the record and were not normally stored in the area of the building which experienced the fire. Estimates indicate that the number of affected records was no more than two to three dozen. Such records are considered "special cases", and no accounting could be made of which records were affected, so the present policy of NPRC is to state that there were no Navy and Marine Corps records destroyed in the fire and to treat these records as records that had been lost in ordinary circumstances.

Damage and reconstruction[edit]

The 1973 fire destroyed the entire 6th floor of the National Personnel Records Center and greatly affected the 5th floor with water damage. Signs of the fire can still be seen today. A massive effort to restore destroyed service records began in 1974. In most cases where a military record has been presumed destroyed, NPRC is able to reconstruct basic service information, such as military date of entry, date of discharge, character of service, and final rank.


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December 7, 2011, KSFK.com, St. Louis facility has many Pearl Harbor documents, by Art Holliday,

St. Louis (KSDK) - It was 70 years ago Wednesday that Japanese bombs sank the U.S.S. Arizona during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Many of the crew members' personnel records survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Arizona. The records were in a file room, one deck below the main deck of the warship.

Those records have been here in St. Louis for decades at the National Personnel Records Center. And the race is on to save as many of them as possible.

Of the 2,400 people killed, 1,177 perished on the Arizona.

"There is something about touching a record of a serviceman who was in the U.S.S. Arizona," said preservationist Sara Holmes. "It's touching a piece of history."

In fact, many pieces of history. Many of them among the 1,100 who died when Japanese warplanes fired armor piercing bombs, sinking the battleship Dec 7, 1941. Somehow these records survived the attack,

"Paper can really show it's resilience even when it's been heavily damaged," said Holmes.

"We actually have a conservation effort underway to try to restore, to try to mend some of the documents that were recovered from the Arizona," said Director of the National Archives St. Louis Brian McGraw.

At the brand new National Archives building in Spanish Lake, in the preservation laboratory, Holmes tries to rescue history's paper trail.

"This may not have been totally submerged but you have damage from humidification of at least being near the water where the paper fused to the cover of the booklet itself," said Holmes.

Like a detective, Holmes carefully examines the documents.

Inside this service record booklet are 70-year-old pebbles.

"So a little bit of Pearl Harbor that got tossed into the records and has stayed there all these years," she said.

For McGraw, these documents represent the price of freedom.

"That's something we should never forget 6:36 because we enjoy the freedoms today because of that," said McGraw.

It's still unclear how many U.S.S. Arizona personnel files survived the Pearl Harbor bombing. Many of them are still filed amid millions of other navy records. The goal is to gather, restore, and preserve the Arizona documents, photograph and digitize them, and keep them in a vault.

KSDK
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June 24, 1988, AP - New York Times, Duplicates of Lost Files Found in Veteran Cases,

The Veterans Administration today announced the discovery of 10 million military medical records that duplicate some lost in a 1973 fire and said it would review disability claims that were rejected because of the lost files.

Thomas K. Turnage, administrator of the agency, called the development ''very important'' but said that because the agency had become aware of the records only last week officials had not yet determined how many people would be affected.

''It opens up new vistas for us,'' Mr. Turnage said. ''People who before had difficulty establishing a basis for their disability compensation, or the degree of it'' may end up with different ruling, he said. Duplicates From 1940's and 1950's

A fire at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Mo., destroyed or seriously damaged 18 million military personnel records. The lost records spanned the years 1912 through 1959 for United States Army personnel and 1947 through 1963 for United States Air Force personnel with surnames from Hubbard through the end of the alphabet.

The duplicate records cover the years 1942 to 1945 and 1950 to 1954, so will primarily affect veterans of World War II and the Korean War.

The records were collected by the National Research Council, a private research organization, during the 1950s as part of its analysis of Army hospital records. A researcher at the council came across the records and notified the National Archives, said Jill Brett, a spokeswoman for the archives. Veterans' Difficulties Cited

John Sommer, the director of the American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, whose office helps veterans with their disability claims, said the development could affect thousands of former servicemen.

''We've handled many cases where there were no records because of the fire and it's very difficult to develop additional evidence on which to try to get these claims allowed,'' Mr. Sommer said in an interview.

''You'd be amazed at the number of people, World War II veterans in particular, who waited until they retired to file a claim with the VA, and then found the records had been destroyed,'' he said. ''Many of them felt they just didn't want to take anything from the government. ... Then, as they aged, they decided to file a claim and discovered their records had been burned.'' Immediate Review Planned

The administration said it would immediately begin reviewing disability claims rejected because of the lost records. The agency said it also expected many veterans to come forward seeking information about their claims. It said those people should contact their VA regional offices.

Veterans applying for monthly disability benefits as a result of an injury or illness suffered while on active duty must have verification of their claims.

Ms. Brett said the duplicate records are on computer tapes created by the council from punch cards prepared by the office of the Surgeon General from hopspital admissions. She said the archives paid the council $8,662 for the tapes and would adapt them for cross-referencing. #3.5 Million Files for 1944 The records were not listed by the military officer's name, but contained the officer's serial number, grade and rank, age, date and place of admission as well as disease and diagnosis, Ms. Brett said.

About 3.5 million files turned up for the year 1944 alone, Mr. Turnage said, covering about 2.4 million people. For 1945, 2 million files were discovered, covering about 1.4 million people.

But officials cautioned against the notion that millions of veterans would be affected by the discovery. R.J. Vogel, the chief benefits director for the Veterans Administration, said that most of the veterans who made disability claims did so during their initial years after service and probably would have filed claims before 1973.

Most likely to be affected by the discovery of the records are people with an injury suffered during active duty which was aggravated over the years, such as a back or heart ailment, Mr. Vogel said.
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Jim Garrison, Courtesy of jfk.hood.edu


February 27, 1967, National Observer, The Kennedy Case; Flamboyant Jim. Garrison: What's Behind the Furor in New Orleans, by Jack Wardlaw,
December 29, 1967, The Washington Post, page A1, Garrison Left Army As 'Unfit', by Russell Freeburg Chicago Tribune,
September 16, 1973, The Washington Post, page E10, Garrison Planned To Link General To JFK Slaying, by Iris Kelso,
October 2, 1973, The States-Item, Garrison case subdues prosecutors, by Bill Lynch,
April 28, 1976, The Evening Bulletin, Jim Garrison Finds Warmth in the Cold Glare of Post-Watergate Revelations; A Warrior Worn Down; His Quest Just a Footnote, by Leslie Bennetts,
n.d. Publisher's Weekly, Jim Garrison,
May 9, 1976, New York Times Book Review, Joint Chiefs, C.I.A. and other villains, by Larry McMurtry, (The Star Spangled Contract, by Jim Garrison)



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February 27, 1967, National Observer, The Kennedy Case; Flamboyant Jim. Garrison: What's Behind the Furor in New Orleans, by Jack Wardlaw,

Interest in the story 2- ad begun to wane by Wednesday. Then a police call from a disheveled,New Orleans apartment revived and reinforced it: There, amid a clutter of books and pill bottles, police
found the body of a pathetic figure named David Ferrie. Nearby was a note saying death would be welcome.

Ferrie had been arrested three days after the President's assassination on the suspicion that he was to have piloted a plane to get Oswald out of Dallas. At one time Ferrie had been a commercial airline pilot but he was fired; in his youth he was dismissed from a seminary in Ohio; he was twice arrested on morals charges in New Orleans, but never convicted.

 
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December 29, 1967, The Washington Post, page A1, Garrison Left Army As 'Unfit', by Russell Freeburg Chicago Tribune,
Army Record Center in St, Louis,
"This patient has a severe and disabling psychoneurosis of long duration. It has interfered with his social and professional adjustment to a marked degree. He is considered totally disabled from the standpoint of military duty and moderately incapacitated in civilian adaptability. Hs illness existed long before his call to active duty July 24, 1951, and is of the type that will require long-term psychotherapeutic approach, which is not feasible in a military hospital."


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September 16, 1973, The Washington Post, page E10, Garrison Planned To Link General To JFK Slaying, by Iris Kelso,

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October 2, 1973, The States-Item, Garrison case subdues prosecutors, by Bill Lynch,

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April 28, 1976, The Evening Bulletin, Jim Garrison Finds Warmth in the Cold Glare of Post-Watergate Revelations; A Warrior Worn Down; His Quest Just a Footnote, by Leslie Bennetts,


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n.d. Publisher's Weekly, Jim Garrison

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May 9, 1976, New York Times Book Review, Joint Chiefs, C.I.A. and other villains, by Larry McMurtry, (The Star Spangled Contract, by Jim Garrison)

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1974 - 1993



February 1974, Vector, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fire!, by Mike Newman,
February 16, 1974, The Times-Picayune, Church Strives Following Fire,
June 20, 1974, The Times-Picayune,Upstairs Is Hit By Biggest Suit,
July 11, 1974, The Times-Picayune,Bar Fight Suit Is Charging 11,
December 25, 1974, The Times-Picayune, Upstairs Suit at $1.1,
January 5, 1975, AP - The Sunday [New Orleans] Advocate, New Orleans Faces Large Damage Suit,
February 25, 1975, The State-Times, 2 BR Women Exchange Vows in 'Gay Wedding',
June 23, 1975, The Times-Picayune,Memorial Rites Honor Lounge Blaze Victims, by Valerie M. Raynes
September 18, 1976, The Times-Picayune, Pannell to Be New Pastor,
January 13, 1977, The Times-Picayune, Appeals Court Rules City Not Liable in Lounge Fire,
June 6, 1977, St. Petersburg Times,Battle lines drawn, nation awaits gay rights verdict in Dade, by Ardith Hilliard,
June 9, 1977, UPI - The Deseret News, Gays, Straights Close Ranks
June 9, 1977, UPI - Frederick Daily Leader, page 3, Lines Drawn On Gay Issue, by Kenneth R. Clark,
June 27, 1977, The Miami News, page 1A, Gays Parade Coast-To-Coast,
January 14, 1978, The Times-Picayune, Metropolitan Community Church,
May 13, 1979, AP - The Tuscaloosa News, page 3, New Orleans fire may be arson,
October 14, 1983, AP - Lawrence Journal-World, page 2, 2nd fire strikes in New Orleans,
December 1, 1983, AP - The Hour [Norwalk, CT] page 50, Execution Doesn't Put Alibi Rumor To Rest,
December 3, 1987, Chicago Tribune, Bishop Denies 'Brotherhood' To The End, Reprinted with permission from the October issue of Texas Monthly, by Emily Yoffe,
June 24, 1993, The Times-Picayune, page 1, Fire of '73: Tragedy united gays, by Susan Finch, Staff Writer,


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February 1974, Vector, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fire!, by Mike Newman,

oops
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February 16, 1974, The Times-Picayune, Church Strives Following Fire,


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June 20, 1974, The Times-Picayune, Upstairs Is Hit By Biggest Suit,

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July 11, 1974, The Times-Picayune, Bar Fight Suit Is Charging 11,


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December 25, 1974, The Times-Picayune, Upstairs Suit at $1.1,

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January 5, 1975, AP - The Sunday [New Orleans] Advocate, New Orleans Faces Large Damage Suit,
 

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February 25, 1975, The State-Times, 2 BR Women Exchange Vows in 'Gay Wedding',


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June 23, 1975, The Times-Picayune, Memorial Rites Honor Lounge Blaze Victims, by Valerie M. Raynes,

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November 3, 1975, Times-Picayune, Additional Gay Youth Ring Charges Hinted, by Ed Anderson,
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August 17, 1976, Times-Picayune, Police Crackdown on Gays in Park is 'Due to Calls', by Bob Ussery,
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September 18, 1976, The Times-Picayune, Pannell to Be New Pastor,


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January 13, 1977, The Times-Picayune, Appeals Court Rules City Not Liable in Lounge Fire,


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April 10, 1977, Times-Picayune, Quarterites Ask Protection from Slasher,
About a serial killer targeting gay men.
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June 6, 1977, St. Petersburg Times, Battle lines drawn, nation awaits gay rights verdict in Dade, by Ardith Hilliard,

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June 9, 1977, UPI - The Deseret News, Gays, Straights Close Ranks,
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June 9, 1977, UPI - Frederick Daily Leader, page 3, Lines Drawn On Gay Issue, by Kenneth R. Clark,

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June 27, 1977, The Miami News, page 1A, Gays Parade Coast-To-Coast,

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January 14, 1978, The Times-Picayune, Metropolitan Community Church,

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May 13, 1979, AP - The Tuscaloosa News, page 3, New Orleans fire may be arson,


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October 14, 1983, AP - Lawrence Journal-World, page 2, 2nd fire strikes in New Orleans,


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December 1, 1983, AP - The Hour [Norwalk, CT] page 50, Execution Doesn't Put Alibi Rumor To Rest,


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December 3, 1987, Chicago Tribune, Bishop Denies 'Brotherhood' To The End, Reprinted with permission from the October issue of Texas Monthly, by Emily Yoffe,


June 24, 1993, The Times-Picayune, page 1, Fire of '73: Tragedy united gays, by Susan Finch, Staff Writer,

Thieves, Queers and Fruit Jars: The Community and Media Responses to the Fire At the Up Stairs Lounge, by Clayton Delery,

Thieves, Queers and Fruit Jars: The Community and Media Responses to the Fire At the Up Stairs Lounge, by Clayton Delery,

It was a grisly time in New Orleans.

In November of 1972, a fire had broken out in the Rault Center, a seventeen-story office building in the Central Business District. The fire started on the fifteenth floor, spreading rapidly. Although between three and four hundred people made it to the safety of the street, many people on the top three floors were trapped (Ball 1, 10). Eight men were able to get to the roof where, incredibly, they were rescued by a private helicopter pilot who had responded to distress calls. He lifted these men off the roof a few at a time, bringing the last two to safety only minutes before the roof caved in (Treadway 1,16).

Others were not so lucky. Five women in a beauty parlor on the fifteenth floor stood in a window, waving and screaming for help, until the fire spread into their room. Faced with certain death by fire, or an uncertain fate if they jumped, they leapt from the window, falling to the roof of a neighboring office building eight floors below. Three of the five did not survive the fall (Lee and LaFourcade 1, 5).

The six deaths in the Rault Center included these three women, a man on the fourteenth floor who died of smoke inhalation, and two other men who escaped the fire at first, but who reentered the building to try to rescue others ("Rault Tragedy Claims Sixth Victim" 6).

The spectacular tragedy elicited an outpouring of sympathy and grief. Mayor Moon Landrieu was out of town at the time of the fire. When he heard the news, he held a press conference in Indiana, and ended his trip a day early to come home ("Landrieu Leaves" 1). The day after the fire, he said that the dead were "mourned not only by those who knew them, but by New Orleanians in all walks of life." On behalf of the city, he offered "heartfelt prayers for those who were injured," and thanks to all those who risked their lives to save others ("Mayor Offers Sympathy, Prayers" 11). The next day, Governor Edwin Edwards drove to the city from Baton Rouge. While touring the Rault, he, too, issued a statement of sympathy to the survivors and the families of all the victims (Ball 1).

In the early 1970's, the New Orleans area was about 47 percent Catholic.1 Not quite a majority, perhaps, but a very substantial plurality. Thus, while the Pope is sometimes known as the Bishop of Rome, it isn't too much of a stretch to call the city's Archbishop the Pope of New Orleans. Philip Hannan took his duties as Archbishop very seriously, writing a weekly column for the archdiocesan newspaper, The Clarion Herald, and issuing public statements in other papers and on the television news when significant events occurred. The day after the Rault Center blaze, he issued a press release in which he, like the mayor and the governor, offered condolences and sympathy to the survivors as well as to the families and friends of all the victims. He also requested "that prayers be recited in all our churches, begging God's mercy on the deceased and His grace and support of their families as well as of those hospitalized by the fire" ("Condolences to Victims Families" 3).

Less than six weeks later, tragedy struck again. On the morning of Sunday, January 7, a young black militant by the name of Mark Essex infiltrated the downtown Howard Johnson's Hotel at the corner of Loyola Avenue and Gravier Street. Essex was a former member of the New York chapter of the Black Panthers, and was on mission to kill as many white people-—especially as many white police-—as he could. He climbed the stairs to the eighteenth floor of the hotel, where he killed two young newlyweds from Virginia. He then set fire to their room and several other rooms to create a disturbance, shooting at guests and hotel personnel as they tried to escape, and at policemen and firefighters as they tried to put out the flames and rescue guests.

The police eventually pursued Essex to the roof, where he took cover behind a concrete structure housing mechanical equipment. With nearly one hundred police on the scene and a Marine helicopter sweeping the area, Essex had no chance of escape (Segura "100 Policemen Fire at Sniper" 1). He finally emerged from cover at around ten o'clock, at which point the police shot him dozens, perhaps hundreds of times.

Based on eyewitness reports, police believed that other terrorists were involved. For the next seventeen hours, they periodically charged the bunker and fired upon it, retreating when officers were wounded by what they believed to be fire from Essex's accomplices, but what was actually friendly fire or police bullets that ricocheted off the bunker (Segura "Incident Begins in Chaos" 6; see also Lafourcade 5). When it was all over, there was a total of eight dead, including Deputy Police Superintendent Louis Sirgo, two patrolmen, the young married couple, the manager and assistant manager of the Howard Johnson"s hotel,2 and Mark Essex himself, who turned out to be acting alone.

Once again, the community rallied behind the victims. Charity Hospital was overrun with people eager to donate blood for the wounded, and so the hospital called upon the 4010 Army Hospital Reserve Unit for assistance. Other hospitals and blood banks opened their doors to the willing donors as well (LaPlace 2). Mayor Moon Landrieu issued public statements of sympathy for the victims and their families. He declared a city-wide period of mourning until January 14, the date of the last victim's funeral ("N.O. Mourning is Proclaimed" 9). In honor of the police killed in the incident, Mayor Landrieu started a tragedy fund for the wives and families of all police and fire personnel killed in the line of duty, effective from January 1, 1973, and continuing in perpetuity (Lewis 1-2).

Archbishop Hannan himself celebrated the funeral mass of two of the three slain policemen: Deputy Superintendent Louis Sirgo, and Patrolman Paul Persigo. The Times Picayune covered this event in detail, and a photograph on the front page of the January 11, 1973 edition shows Hannan embracing Sirgo's widow after the funeral service. The Clarion Herald's Executive Editor, Father Elmo L. Romagosa, wrote a lengthy piece, documenting all of the Archbishop's participation in the crisis: how he “spent almost nine hours…at Charity Hospital as a shepherd consoling his flock"; how he "went in person to the homes of Mrs. Louis Sirgo and Mrs. Paul Persigo to comfort them in the loss of their husbands"; how he even offered himself to the mayor and the police superintendent as an intermediary or an exchange for hostages being held by the snipers, an offer that was respectfully vetoed by both men, and which was ultimately unnecessary, since no hostages were ever taken (1, 3).

Given that race relations in the city are historically charged, and given that Essex was a black man out to kill white people, it is surprising that the incident did not ignite a racial crisis in the city (“Hate Attitude Noted by Cleric” 1, 19). Perhaps some of the credit is due to the Archbishop, who used his regular weekly column in the Clarionto offer up a prayer. Stating that "every member of this community [is] united in common tragedy," the prayer goes on to ask God "may we stand as a single family of every race, every culture, every religion; may we stand as brothers united under the fatherhood of God, dedicated to fulfilling His will. Give us Your strength to overcome the evil of this tragedy as you overcame death by the Resurrection of Your Son" (1).

Less than six months later, an arsonist set a fire in the stairwell of a gay bar called the Up Stairs Lounge. The fire quickly spread up the stairs and into the lounge itself. Phoned into the fire department at 7:56, and extinguished just eighteen minutes later, the blaze was as brief as it was ferocious. In those eighteen minutes, it killed twenty-nine people and sent thirteen to the hospital, where three more would later die. All but one of the dead were gay men. This fire still stands as the single deadliest fire-related incident in the history of New Orleans, and it’s worth noting that the death toll from the Up Stairs fire was double that of the Rault Center and the Howard Johnson's incidents combined. Faced with disaster of such magnitude, what was Archbishop Hannan's response?

Publicly, there wasn't any. He did not go to Charity Hospital to console the families of the dead or dying. He did not help break the news of a son's death to any mother. He did not write a prayer, urging "every member of the community…to stand as a single family," nor did he ask for God's mercy on the souls of the deceased. He didn't even issue a press release. Given his habit for making public statements, this was a rather stark omission. The mainstream news outlets either didn't notice, or chose not to report it. Only Bill Rushton, writing for an alternative weekly called the Vieux CarrĂ© Courier, was willing to confront the Archdiocese. He reports phoning the Archdiocesan Human Relations Committee to ask for a statement, only to be told that "they had seen no reason to issue any sort of statement on the matter and that they have no plans to issue one." Pressing forward, Rushton called the Chancery office and asked to speak to the Archbishop himself. The priest who answered the phone responded to Rushton's inquiries with long, embarrassed pauses, followed by evasive answers, but still made it very clear that the Archbishop would not be coming to the phone (6).

Though the Archbishop made no public statement, he apparently made some private ones. Anecdotal reports circulated at the time, and still circulate today, indicating that he had forbidden the priests in the archdiocese from conducting Catholic funeral services for the victims, or burying them in Catholic cemeteries. It is known that some of the Catholic victims of the fire were denied Catholic services, though it remains unclear whether individual priests made the decisions, or whether they were acting upon Archbishop Hannan's orders.3 Archbishop Hannan is now retired, though still active in church and community affairs. Given a recent chance to respond to this charge, he declined to comment.4

The Governor's office was as non-responsive as the Archdiocese, neither issuing a statement, nor responding to direct appeals for one (Perry 94). Nor was anything forthcoming from Mayor Landrieu. As was the case with the Rault Center fire, the mayor was out of town when the fire at the Up Stairs Lounge took place. In contrast to his response to the Rault Center, he did not hold a press conference from a remote location, nor did he abort his trip to come home and oversee the tragedy. Again, the mainstream news outlets made no mention of the conspicuous silence, but Bill Rushton of the Courier was willing to press the case. He documents multiple calls to the mayor's office, during which he was repeatedly told that the mayor was out of town, that he had made no statement on the Up Stairs to date, but that "he might say something at his press conference July 11," (emphasis added) which meant that his earliest statement would come seventeen days after the fire (Rushton 1). When the Mayor was finally questioned about the fire, and, in particular, questioned about the failure of the major power brokers to acknowledge its victims and their families, all he had to say was that he was "not aware of any lack of concern in the community" (Townsend "Black Momma/White Momma" 1).

Perhaps he had not been reading the paper, where the city's own chief of police, Major Henry Morris, said that it would be difficult to identify the bodies because the police didn't know if the identification found on the victims even belonged to them. Elaborating on that comment, he said, "Some thieves hung out there and you know this was a queer bar" (Nolan and Segura 1). As it happens, false identification was not a major difficulty in identifying the bodies. The little identification that was found belonged to people who died in the fire, but most bodies had no identification at all; it had been burned away, along with their clothing, their fingerprints, and their faces.5

Still, the dubious and prejudicial assertion that all gays, or at least large numbers of them, were in the habit of carrying false identification, was picked up by several news outlets, which passed it on to their readers and viewers without question.

The remark surfaces, for example, in a national broadcast by Bruce Hall of CBS News. This news broadcast is available on YouTube today. It includes a clip of New Orleans newsman, Bill Elders, as he speaks to two survivors who would only consent to the interview if he did not use their names or show their faces. Having managed to escape from the inferno, they were too afraid of hostile reactions from employers, families or townspeople to risk revealing their identity on television. Several people who used to go to the Up Stairs Lounge, who witnessed the fire, and who lost friends there, say today that one of the worst parts of the experience was going to work the next day and having to remain silent about their pain, because they were not out on the job (Butler; see also Marcel).

This was more caution than paranoia. Citizens of New Orleans were not overrunning Charity Hospital, volunteering to give blood. Instead, the Up Stairs fire became an occasion to vent blatant homophobia. One gay man, for example, went to a government office the very next day to conduct some personal business. The clerk waiting on him perceived he was gay, and with a look of hatred on her face, she said, “You should have died in that fire!” (Townsend "Miss Fury" 1). Other people were less confrontational, but were circulating jokes that revealed a great deal of deep-seated bigotry. One of them was:
Q: What major tragedy happened in New Orleans on June 24?

A: That only 30 faggots died—not more!
Another joke managed to blend set-up and punch line into one: Did you hear the one about the flaming queens? (Townsend "Bill Richardson" 5). Still another made reference to a children's cereal popular at the time, and said that the fire had turned a bunch of fairies into Crispy Critters (Raybourne). Probably the most wide-spread joke had to do with the problem of disposing of the bodies of over thirty gay men. The solution? Bury them in fruit jars (Townsend "Bill Richardson" 1; see also Perry 88).

This last joke, disgusting as it is, touched on a very real issue: Who would memorialize the victims, and where would this ceremony take place? The Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the gay-inclusive ministry, The Metropolitan Community Church, flew into New Orleans from Los Angeles the day after the fire, accompanied by several other MCC ministers and gay activists from across the country. Their goals were to give comfort to the survivors of the victims, and to take up the leadership role that nobody in the city was willing or able to assume. There was little organized gay leadership in the city at that time, and some of the people most likely to have accepted that role had died in the fire. Perry and the other MCC ministers worked with a local Episcopalian priest, Father Bill Richardson, and put together a hastily organized service at St. George's Episcopal Church. This memorial took place on Monday, June 25, exactly twenty-four hours after the fire. Father Richardson knew his conservative parishioners might not welcome his participation in the memorial, but was still unprepared for the level of hostility he encountered. The local Episcopal bishop received over one hundred telephone calls in protest, many demanding Father Richardson's resignation, and Richardson himself received both hate calls and hate mail (Townsend "Bill Richardson" 3).

And that was all due to a hastily organized event with little advance publicity, and only about fifty people in attendance (Nolan and Segura 1). Many people who lost friends, family or lovers in the Up Stairs fire had not been aware of the service at St. George's, and as the long process of identifying the bodies took place, new names were being released each day.

Troy Perry called church after church, minister after minister, asking that they be allowed to hold another memorial for the Up Stairs victims. He was repeatedly turned down. After several days the Reverend Edward Kennedy, a Methodist Minister, agreed to host, and volunteered to be a concelebrant. The church was St. Mark's Methodist on North Rampart, and the service was Sunday, July 1, exactly one week after the fire (Perry 95-96).

Kennedy's bishop, the Reverend Finis Crutchfield, attended the service as a show of support, and he encouraged other local Methodist ministers to attend as well (Winn). In all there were nearly two hundred people in attendance. Some were survivors of the fire, some had lost lovers, friends or relatives, and some were merely there to acknowledge the vast loss of life. After a week of shock, mourning, pain, homophobic jokes, hostile clergy, intrusive media coverage and indifferent public officials, there was, at last, a moment when people could sit peacefully together and share a common grief.

Near the end of the service, a message was passed to Troy Perry as he stood at the altar. It said that a group of television journalists with news cameras was waiting outside the church to cover the service, and to film people as they left. Perry announced that there was a rear exit which would enable people to leave without being filmed doing so. There was an anxious moment as the mourners looked to each other, trying to decide what to do. Many of the mourners were gay, lesbian or transgendered, and many were still in the closet. Should they go out the front? Would it be better to sneak out the back?

The tension broke as a woman, who has never been identified, stood up and shouted, "I'm not ashamed of who I am or who my friends are. I came in the front door, and I'm damn sure going out that way."6

She had made a collective decision. In stark contrast to just one week earlier, when survivors of the fire consented to a television interview only if they were filmed from behind, the entire congregation rose and walked out the front door to face the cameras.

End Notes

1 According to the Official Catholic Directory (2008 edition), in 1970, the Archdiocese of New Orleans included 1,380,400 people, of whom 655,285 were Catholic. The Archdiocese included the city, the suburbs, and many surrounding rural towns. These last, especially if in Cajun areas, were likely to be overwhelmingly Catholic. The city itself would have been more diverse, but Catholics were still the largest single religious denomination, by a wide margin.

2 Frank Schneider, the Assistant manager, died on the scene; Walter Collins, the Manager, was severely wounded and lingered in the hospital for several weeks before dying.

3 Paul Killgore, for example, had a lover named Frank Scarsone, now deceased. Scarsone was from an Italian Catholic family in New Orleans, and his mother received a tearful phone call from a friend whose son died in the fire, and who was not being permitted to give him a Catholic burial (Personal Interview. August 9, 2009). Slylar Fein, a New Orleans artist whose installation on the Up Stairs Lounge had great popular and critical acclaim, recalls viewers coming to see his exhibit who told him stories about how they had heard of the Archbishop’s prohibition, and how, even at the time, they felt the prohibition was wrong (Personal Interview. June 4, 2009). The Reverend Troy Perry tells a similar story in his memoir, Don't Be Afraid Anymore (95-96).

4 I contacted Archbishop Hannan by mail in August of 2009, informing him that I was writing a book about the fire at the Up Stairs Lounge, and that I would be including mention of the anecdotal report that he had forbidden Catholic rites to the victims. I offered him a chance to offer any comments, corrections or clarifications, and said that I would include those in the book. The letter was delivered August 12, 2009. To date, I have not received a response.

5 Information derived from the autopsy protocol reports on file in the Louisiana Division of the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library. See NOPD General Case Report, file F-2149-73.

6 Toni Pizanie, who attended the memorial, believes the woman who made the statement, was Charlene Schneider, a woman who a few years later would own the lesbian bar, Charlene's (Personal Interview. June 1, 2009). Stewart Butler, who also attended the memorial service, does not recall it being Charlene, but says that "It would certainly have been in her character" (Personal Interview. July 2 200). Paul Killgore says that he saw the woman clearly, and says that it was definitely not Charlene Schneider (Personal Interview. August 9, 2009). Charlene Schneider herself is dead, and cannot comment. In the years after the fire, Toni Pizanie, Charlene Schneider, Stewart Butler and Paul Killgore would all become prominent gay activists in New Orleans.























































Wednesday, August 27, 2014

July 3, 2008, Huffington Post, Gay Weddings and 32 Funerals: Remembering the UpStairs Lounge Fire, by Erik Ose,

July 3, 2008, Huffington Post, Gay Weddings and 32 Funerals: Remembering the UpStairs Lounge Fire, by Erik Ose,
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July 3, 2008, Huffington Post, Gay Weddings and 32 Funerals: Remembering the UpStairs Lounge Fire, by Erik Ose,

Last month, California gave its stamp of approval to same-sex marriage, becoming only the second state after Massachusetts to do so. Gay couples in California lined up to tie the knot, welcomed with open arms by most city halls. Many Americans rejoiced, both gay and straight. Especially happy was the California wedding industry, which stands to gain an estimated additional $684 million over the next three years.

Fear of gay marriage has long been exploited by right-wingers as the ultimate homophobic weapon to scare up bigotry and votes. Predictably, a parade of anti-gay forces came out of the woodwork, howling in protest.

Some rural counties stopped issuing any marriage licenses to avoid implementing the California Supreme Court's ruling. Opponents have placed an initiative on the fall ballot that would once again shut the door on same-sex marriage.


Protestors at LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, June 8, 2008.

But they're on the wrong side of history. And to fully understand recent events, it's important to remember a tragedy that happened thirty-five years ago, and how much things have changed for gays and lesbians since then.

On the last Sunday in June, 1973, a gay bar in New Orleans called the UpStairs Lounge was firebombed. The resulting blaze killed 32 people. At the time, the bar had recently served as the temporary home for the fledgling New Orleans congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church. Founded in Los Angeles in 1968, the MCC was the nation's first gay church.

It was the third fire at a MCC church during the first half of 1973. The church's Los Angeles headquarters was destroyed on January 27, five days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its momentous decision in the case of Roe v. Wade.

That Sunday was the final day of Pride Weekend, the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Yet there was still no Gay Pride Parade in New Orleans. Almost two dozen gay bars dotted the French Quarter, but gay life in the city remained largely underground.

Located on the second floor of a three-story building at the corner of Chartres and Iberville Streets, the UpStairs Lounge had only one entrance, up a wooden flight of stairs. Nearly 125 regulars had jammed the bar earlier that afternoon for a free beer and all you could eat special. After the free beer ran out, about 60 stayed, mostly members of the MCC congregation.


Original site of the UpStairs Lounge at 141 Chartres Street as it looked in Spring, 2008.

Before moving worship services to their pastor's home earlier in June, congregation members had been holding services at the UpStairs on Sundays. But the bar was still a spiritual gathering place. There was a piano in one of the bar's three rooms, and a cabaret stage. Members would pray and sing in this room, and every Sunday night, they gathered around the piano for a song they had adopted as their anthem, United We Stand, by The Brotherhood of Man.
United we stand, divided we fall...
And if our backs should ever be against the wall,
We'll be together...
Together...you and I.
They sang the song that evening, with David Gary on the piano, a pianist who played regularly in the lounge of the Marriott Hotel across the street. The congregation members repeated the verses again and again, swaying back and forth, arm in arm, happy to be together at their former place of worship on Pride Sunday, still feeling the effects of the free beer special.

At 7:56 pm a buzzer from downstairs sounded, the one that signaled a cab had arrived. No one had called a cab, but when someone opened the second floor steel door to the stairwell, flames rushed in. An arsonist had deliberately set the wooden stairs ablaze, and the oxygen starved fire exploded. The still-crowded bar became an inferno within seconds.

The emergency exit was not marked, and the windows were boarded up or covered with iron bars. A few survivors managed to make it through, and jumped to the sidewalks, some in flames. Rev. Bill Larson, the local MCC pastor, got stuck halfway and burned to death wedged in a window, his corpse visible throughout the next day to witnesses below.


This photo appeared in wire stories about the tragedy. Rev. Larson's body was not removed from the window throughout the initial investigation, and symbolized the city's uncaring attitude towards the mostly gay victims.

Bartender Buddy Rasmussen led a group of fifteen to safety through the unmarked back door. One of them was MCC assistant pastor George "Mitch" Mitchell. Then Mitch ran back into the burning building trying to save his partner, Louis Broussard. Their bodies were discovered lying together.

29 lives were lost that night, and another three victims later died of injuries from the fire. The death toll was the worst in New Orleans history up to that time, including when the French Quarter burned to the ground in 1788. It was almost assuredly the largest mass murder of gays and lesbians to ever occur in the United States.

Yet the city tried mightily to ignore it. Public reaction was grossly out of proportion to what would have happened if the victims were straight. The fire exposed an ugly streak of homophobia and bigotry. It was the first time New Orleans had to openly confront the existence of its own gay community, and the results were not pretty.

Initial news coverage omitted mention that the fire had anything to do with gays, despite the fact that a gay church in a gay bar had been torched. What stories did appear used dehumanizing language to paint the scene, with stories in the States-Item, New Orleans' afternoon paper, describing "bodies stacked up like pancakes," and that "in one corner, workers stood knee deep in bodies...the heat had been so intense, many were cooked together." Other reports spoke of "mass charred flesh" and victims who were "literally cooked."

The press ran quotes from one cab driver who said, "I hope the fire burned their dress off," and a local woman who claimed "the Lord had something to do with this." The fire disappeared from headlines after the second day.

A joke made the rounds and was repeated by talk radio hosts asking, "What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars." Official statements by police were similarly offensive. Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the New Orleans Police Department, dismissed the importance of the investigation in an interview with the States-Item. Asked about identifying the victims, he said, "We don't even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar."

In the days that followed, other churches refused to allow survivors to hold a memorial service for the victims on their premises. Catholics, Lutherans, and Baptists all said no.

William "Father Bill" Richardson, the closeted rector of St. George's Episcopal Church, agreed to allow a small prayer service to be held on Monday evening. It was advertised only by word of mouth and drew about 80 mourners. The next day, Richardson was rebuked by Iveson Noland, the Episcopalian bishop of New Orleans, who forbade him to let the church be used again. Bishop Nolan said he had received over 100 angry phone calls from local parishioners, and Richardson's mailbox would later fill with hate letters.

Eventually, two ministers offered their sanctuaries - a Unitarian church, and St. Mark's United Methodist Church in the French Quarter. It was here that a July 1 memorial service was held attended by 250 people, including the state's Methodist bishop, Finis Crutchfield, who would die of AIDS fourteen years later at age 70.

Although called on to do so, no elected officials in all of Louisiana issued statements of sympathy or mourning. Even more stunning, some families refused to claim the bodies of their dead sons, too ashamed to admit they might be gay. The city would not release the remains of four unidentified persons for burial by the surviving MCC congregation members. They were dumped in mass graves at Potter's Field, New Orleans' pauper cemetery. No one was ever charged with the crime, and it remains unsolved.

Thirty-five years from now, let's hope we look back and wonder what the fuss over gay marriage was all about. But history won't remember anti-gay bigots kindly, whether they were cowardly murderers like the unknown arsonist who firebombed the UpStairs Lounge in 1973, or the people of New Orleans who callously disregarded a fire that took 32 of their fellow citizens' lives because it happened at a gay bar. Or today's misguided opponents of same-sex marriage.

Cross-posted at The Latest Outrage. Much of the research for this post came from Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Civil Rights Movement in America, by Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney (1999) and James Thomas Sears' book Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South (2001). Thanks also to Nashville writer Cole Wakefield for making news footage of the fire available on YouTube.

Special thanks to New Orleans community historian Robert Rickey, author of the recent University of New Orleans paper on the UpStairs Lounge tragedy, Fear and Loathing in the City that Forgot to Care, for taking the photos included here.

The complete list of the 32 people killed in the fire can be found at The UpStairs Fire: 25th Memorial Service website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rev. Troy Perry


July 19, 1971, New York Times, Religious Order Founded Here By One-Year-Old Gay Church, by Laurie Johnston,
March 6, 1972, L.A. Times - The Tuscaloosa News, page 11, Out Of Closets Into Streets Serious Slogan To Gay Libbers, by Dave Smith,
April 22, 1972, St. Petersburg Times, Ministers Shun Leader Of Homosexual Church, by Robert Fraser, Times Staff,
April 1, 1973, The Washington Post - Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 3E, Church Resists Liberating Homosexuals, by William R. Mackaye,
June 26, 1973, UPI - Eugene Register-Guard, page 5-A, Wall Hiding Windows Blamed For Many Deaths In Flash Fire,
June 26, 1973, AP - Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 4A, Arson Suspected In Bar Fire,
July 16, 1973, New York Times, Television; Morning Afternoon Cable TV Evening,
February 17, 1975, The Free Lance-Star [Fredericksburg, VA] page 4, Council Could Be In For Unusual Session, by Lester Kinsolving,
July 30, 1975, Florence Times Daily [AL] page 19, Gay Church Fills Need In Community,
Many homosexuals who go to their minister, priest or rabbi to talk about their situations usually are met with hysteria," said the Rev. Troy Perry, of Los Angeles, ...
December 25, 1975, The Tuscaloosa News, page 15B, Church For Homosexuals Continues To Grow In LA,
January 19, 1980, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, page 9, Church Celebrates Its 5th Anniversary,
January 29, 1980, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, page 3, Homosexual Minister Attributes Victories To Political Know-How, by Bohdan Hodiak, Post-Gazette Staff Writer,
July 26, 1981, New York Times, Church For Homosexuals Asks To Join Council, by Charles Austin,
August 16, 1981, New York Times, Church Council Likely To Reject An Applicant, by Charles Austin,
May 13, 1983, New York Times, Church Council Sees Paradox In Unity, by Charles Austin,
October 20, 1983, AP - Observer-Reporter [Washington, PA] page A-3, Bishops Vow To Secede If Gays Accepted,
October 20, 1983, AP - New York Times, Greek Orthodox Chief Warns Church Unit on Homosexuals,
November 20, 1983, Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 1A, Gay love's not easy in a land of straights, by Terry Head, [Continued page 24A]
December 25, 1984, Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 2C, Homosexual Church Leader Comes Home, by Terry Head,
January 26, 1985, Gainesville Sun, page B1, The Community Church: .This Congregation Wishes It Could Worship Elsewhere, by Harriet Ludwig, Sun Staff,
June 13, 1986, AP - The Daily Reporter [Spencer, IA] page 6A, Christian Church Ministering To Homosexuals Is Growing, by Joseph Garcia,
June 13, 1986, AP - The Nashua Telegraph, page 14, Christian Denomination Ministering To Gays Has Rapid Membership Growth, by Joseph Garcia,
June 21, 1986, AP - Lawrence Journal-World, page 8, Membership In Gay Churches Growing Rapidly, by Joseph Garcia,
July 20, 1987, The Miami News, page 9A, AIDS To Dominate Gay Churches' Convention,
May 21, 1988, The Toledo Blade, page 2, Christian Group Preaches Tolerance Of Gays, Lesbians, by Mark Zaborney, Blade Staff Writer,
July 27, 1991, New York Times, Religious Notes, by Ari L. Goldman,
August 31, 1991, AP - Kentucky New Era, page 6-B, Denomination Celebrates Homosexuality, by George W. Cornell, AP Religion Writer,
September 12, 1991, AP - Ludington Daily News, page 7, Denomination Celebrates Homosexuality .Other Churches Fret About It,
January 25, 1992, Herald-Journal [Spartanburg] page B7, Church ministering to gays celebrates anniversary; Metropolitan Community Church is 10 years old, by Ginger Lundy, Staff Writer,
April 11, 1992, The Toledo Blade, page 8, God loves us all, even homosexuals, gay minister says, by Judy Tarjanyi, Blade Religion Editor,
January 30, 1993, New York Times, Religion Notes, by Ari L. Goldman,
June 5, 1993, N.Y. Times News Service - The Free Lance-Star, Gay Chaplains Likely To Speak Out, by Ari L. Goldman,
November 13, 1994, AP - The Tuscaloosa News, page 12B, Growing Homosexual Church Is Meeting This Weekend In N.C.,
January 22, 1997, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page B1, Church Founder To Speak Tonight,
January 23, 1997, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page 1B, Church Founder: God Doesn't Discriminate, by Stephen G. Reed, Staff Writer,
June 5, 1997, AP - Gadsden Times, Minister Threatens Mass Gay Marriages At Capitol If State Imposes Ban,
April 30, 2000, New York Times, Gay Marchers Will Flex Political Muscle in Capital, by Elaine Sciolino,
May 2, 2000, New York Times, Editorial Notebook; Gay, Middle-Aged and Still Militant, by Dudley Clendinen,
May 16, 2003, New York Times, National Briefing | New England: Massachusetts: Honor For Gay Church Founder, by Katie Zezima
October 2, 2003, AP - The Nevada Daily Mail, page 7, Landmark Gay Church Beginning To Win Acceptance After 35 Years, by Nada El Sawy,
February 13, 2004, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page 3B, Local Gay Couples Join National Protest, Request Marriage Papers, by Earle Kimel,
August 16, 2004, Boca Raton News [FL] page 3, Boynton Beach Church Ministers To Local Gay Community, by Paige Stein,
June 25, 2007, New York Times, Pride On the Sunny Side,
September 18, 2010, New York Times, Haunted Man of the Cloth and Pioneer of Gay Rights, by Mark Oppenheimer,

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July 19, 1971, New York Times, Religious Order Founded Here By One-Year-Old Gay Church, by Laurie Johnston,
Rev. Troy Perry, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles, which he described as "the first gay church in the United States." The ceremony ...
View original in TimesMachine

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March 6, 1972, L.A. Times - The Tuscaloosa News, page 11, Out Of Closets Into Streets Serious Slogan To Gay Libbers, by Dave Smith,
They are the Rev. Troy Perry, pastor of the Homophile Metropolitan Community Church; Clifford Lettieri, president of the Homophile Effort for Legal Protection; ...

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April 22, 1972, St. Petersburg Times, Ministers Shun Leader Of Homosexual Church, by Robert Fraser, Times Staff,
TAMPA — The Metropolitan Community Church, a modest church by most measures, invited IS ministers and priests to join Rev. Troy Perry for breakfast last ...

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April 1, 1973, The Washington Post - Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 3E, Church Resists Liberating Homosexuals, by William R. Mackaye,
The Metropolitan Community Churches, started by the Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles, are in fact now a full-fledged national denomination. A scholarly defense ...
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June 26, 1973, UPI - Eugene Register-Guard, page 5-A, Wall Hiding Windows Blamed For Many Deaths In Flash Fire,
A service for the 10 was held Monday night in St George's Episcopal Church. The Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles, founder of the churches, said in a sermon the ...

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June 26, 1973, AP - Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 4A, Arson Suspected In Bar Fire,
And the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches, asked mourners at a Monday night memorial service to pray for the arsonists.

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July 16, 1973, New York Times, Television; Morning Afternoon Cable TV Evening,
4:30 p.m. (2) Mike Douglas Show: David Steinberg, co-host: guests include The Four Tops, Professor Irwin Corey, Connie Francis, Roger Moore, The Rev. Troy Perry
The Rev. Troy Perry
View original in TimesMachine

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February 17, 1975, The Free Lance-Star [Fredericksburg, VA] page 4, Council Could Be In For Unusual Session, by Lester Kinsolving,
The Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles is National Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches. As the author of Lord is My Shepherd And He Knows I'm ...

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July 30, 1975, Florence Times Daily [AL] page 19, Gay Church Fills Need In Community,
Many homosexuals who go to their minister, priest or rabbi to talk about their situations usually are met with hysteria," said the Rev. Troy Perry, of Los Angeles, ...

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December 25, 1975, The Tuscaloosa News, page 15B, Church For Homosexuals Continues To Grow In LA,
Started by the Rev. Troy Perry, the church only received its credentials as a bona fide denomination last May, after a long court struggle A three-judge federal ...

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January 19, 1980, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, page 9, Church Celebrates Its 5th Anniversary,
27 with the Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles preaching. Perry started the first homosexual church in Los Angeles 10 years ago which since has grown to 20,000 ...

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January 29, 1980, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, page 3, Homosexual Minister Attributes Victories To Political Know-How, by Bohdan Hodiak, Post-Gazette Staff Writer,
The Rev. Troy Perry, who founded the. 12 years ago. is in Pitts burgh tits week for the fifth anniversary of the Metropolitan Community Church of Pittsburgh.

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July 26, 1981, New York Times, Church For Homosexuals Asks To Join Council, by Charles Austin,

A church organized 13 years ago to accept practicing homosexuals has grown to more than 170 congregations in the United States and overseas, and is now applying for membership in the National Council of Churches.

The Rev. Karen Ziegler, pastor of the 90-member Manhattan congregation of the group, the Metropolitan Community Church, says many churches in her denomination feel isolated from the mainstream of Christianity and want to establish contacts with other believers.

The church began in 1968 when the Rev. Troy Perry, a Pentecostal minister, formed a congregation for Christians who were openly homosexual or supported homosexuality. Mr. Perry is now moderator of the board of elders of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, which claims about 26,000 members and has headquarters in Los Angeles.

Several hundred delegates and about 500 visitors are expected at the denomination's general conference in Houston from Aug. 3-9.

Declared Doctrines

The pastor of the Manhattan church is a member of the denomination's ecumenical affairs committee and has been on the National Council of Churches' commission on women in the ministry. Besides applying for membership in the National Council of Churches, the nation's largest ecumenical organization, the Metropolitan Community Churches are discussing whether to join the World Council of Churches, acording to Adam Debaugh, who directs the church's department of ecumenical relations in Washington.

The declared doctrines of the church would seem to make it eligible for membership in most ecumenical organizations. In its constitution, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches makes no specific reference to homosexuality; the matrimonial rite of the church is described as "the spiritual joining of two persons in a manner fitting and proper by a duly authorized minister of the church."

The church's constitution spells out a somewhat conservative Protestant doctrine, stressing the authority of the Scriptures and the historic creeds of Christianity. It defines a trinitarian view of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and prescribes baptism and Holy Communion as sacraments of the church.

Easing of Views Noted

Although homosexuality is under discussion in some denominations and some hostile views of homosexuality have eased in recent years, few churches openly support practicing homosexuals who refuse to try to change their sexual orientation. Most churches refuse to ordain a professed, practicing homosexual into the ministry.

"We had been told that the sacraments of the church were not for us," said the Manhattan minister. The fact that the church finds homosexuality an acceptable expression of Christian love could prove controversial in ecumenical circles, but most interchurch organizations, such as the National Council of Churches, have not insisted that members agree on all ethical issues.

The New York church was founded in 1972, and worships at Duane United Methodist Church, at 201 West 13th Street. Its offices are across the street at the former Food & Maritime Trades High School.

Not all members or clergymen in the denomination are homosexual. But for those who are, the church fulfills a need. "To suddenly be in a church where lesbians and gay men are accepted is an overwhelming experience," said Miss Ziegler. "You're surprised to find those others because you thought you were the only gay Christian in the world."

Miss Ziegler, a former Presbyterian, is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York and has been pastor of the church for three years. As an avowed lesbian, it would have been difficult for her to be ordained in any other denomination, and she said she had never considered being ordained without acknowledging her homosexuality.

Several years ago the congregation was received without debate into the Council of Churches of the City of New York, and its parishes are members of similar organizations in other cities.
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August 16, 1981, New York Times, Church Council Likely To Reject An Applicant, by Charles Austin,

Top staff members at the National Council of Churches, the nation's largest ecumenical organization, say they expect the council to reject a membership application by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination that endorses homosexuality.

''Considering the historical position and doctrinal practices of the communions that compose the National Council of Churches of Christ,'' said the Rev. Arleon Kelley, assistant general secretary of the council, ''it appears to me extremely doubtful that 21 of the necessary members would vote for the inclusion'' of Metropolitan Community Churches.

The denomination decided to apply for membership earlier this year and reaffirmed that decision during a conference in Houston this week. A spokesman for the denomination said a formal application for membership would be made within the next two months.

The National Council of Churches comprises 32 Protestant and Orthodox churches, and an application for membership must be approved by at least 21 of the denominations. Warren Day, director of news and information for the council, said, "It's not hard to think of 12 churches that would vote against the application, or abstain from voting." Churches need not explain why they vote to reject an applicant, he said.

Metropolitan Community Churches was founded in 1968 as a denomination that approved of homosexuality and provided ceremonies for homosexual marriages. Dr. Richard J. Follett, director of its Samaritan Theological Institute in Los Angeles, said he believed the church met the criteria for membership in the national council.

According to council bylaws, a member church must have a Christian statement of faith, show that it is an autonomous and stable body and have a definite form of church government. It must also have at least 20,000 members in at least 50 local churches and demonstrate a "spirit of cooperation with, and respect for, the convictions of other communions."

The Rev. Troy Perry, who founded the Metropolitan Community denomination, said he felt it was time to challenge the national council on its membership criteria.

Mr. Day of the council said he was convinced that many member churches would consider the churches' endorsement of homosexuality and homosexual marriages as a "doctrinal issue."

The denomination headed by Mr. Perry, a former Pentecostal minister, is trying to broaden its ecumenical contacts and draw closer to the mainstream of American Christianity.

Churches belonging to the National Council of Churches, Mr. Day said, "have traditionally believed that sex belongs within marriage, and the only marriage they recognize is that between a man and a woman." The council, however, does not insist that its members agree on all moral or ethical issues.
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May 13, 1983, New York Times, Church Council Sees Paradox In Unity, by Charles Austin,

SAN FRANCISCO, May 12— The theological difficulties lying in the way of uniting Christian churches came into clearer view this week in a debate among the leaders of the National Council of Churches.

The issue was not steps toward uniting any of the churches federated in the council, but rather an application for membership submitted by a group of homosexual churches. It was clear from the start that the national council's leadership was not going to accept the application, but in discussing it this question came into focus: How much diversity in theology and practice can be tolerated in an organization seeking to unify churches?

The council's 260-member governing board made it clear that it would not approve the application of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a 27,000-member denomination formed largely of homosexual Christians.

'Limits of Diversity'

"We are raising basic questions about the Christian view of human nature," said Dr. Barbara Brown Zikmund, dean of the Pacific School of Religion. "We are really discussing the limits of legitimate diversity in the Christian faith and whether heresy does exist."

Bishop James Armstrong of the United Methodist Church, president of the council, said, "We need to recognize our serious differences as much as we rejoice at what we have in common."

The range of those differences was evident as speakers from Protestant and Orthodox denominations in the council addressed the governing board, which devoted nearly two days of its four-day meeting to the topic.

The membership application came to the council at a time when some of its social statements have been sharply criticized and it was under scrutiny by some churches that feel the organization is not attending to their concerns.

The governing board did not specifically discuss whether practicing homosexuals could be Christians. Churches have varying views on that question and, by trying to determine whether a denomination formed around homosexuality could be admitted, the council hoped to concentrate on the implication of the question for the fuller church unity they seek.

But the council's chief theological unit, the department of faith and order, reported that the council's own theology was not sharply enough defined to give a clear answer and that each church would have to consider the topic according to its own theology. Several major denominations are trying to deal with requests by homosexuals to be ordained.

Some Call Rejection Unjust

There is some support for admitting the Metropolitan Community Churches, mostly from those who say that rejection is unjust because the council has never required members to agree on ethical issues.

A few theologians say the church needs to reassess its traditional views on homosexuality. The Rev. Susan Turley-Moore of the Swedenborgian Church, in a talk on the the Bible, said, "Jesus does not seem to be concerned with judging the homosexual of his day."

But the Rev. Cecil Murray of the African Methodist Episcopal Church said his church viewed homosexuality as ''an aberration and perversion.''

The nine Eastern Orthodox denominations in the council made it clear that they would leave if the application was approved. "The Orthodox churches do not believe that fellowship with the Metropolitan Community Churches is possible on any level," said the Rev. Alexander Doumouras of the Greek Orthodox Church.

A few members of the governing board believe that the group could be admitted without endorsing its stand on homosexuality, but most feel that membership would impart some sort of validity to homosexual relations.

"I know it would be confusing to the majority of the Methodists in Indiana," Bishop Armstrong, who is from Indiana, said at a news conference after the discussion.

With such opposing views, many fear that even discussing the topic endangers the council and is confusing to lay people. To some, consideration of the topic at by the governing board means that the council's theological position is too vague and needs to be sharpened to conform to the doctrinal views of most member churches.

'New Insights' Aroused

But Dr. Roy Sano, a United Methodist minister who teaches at Pacific School of Religion, told the governing board the churches' study of the issue "aroused new insights within our Christian community."

Dr. Sano and others suggested that the council members needed to learn much more about the Metropolitan Community Churches before voting.

Fewer than a third of the members of the governing board attended a worship service sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Churches on Wednesday night. At that service, the Rev. Troy Perry, a former Baptist and Pentecostal who founded the denomination in 1968, said his church wanted to join the council "because we need the fellowship of our brothers and sisters." Congregations of the Metropolitan Community Churches are already members of some local councils.

Several members of the council's governing board said they worried about how homosexuals in the member denominations would feel when the application is formally rejected, probably at a November meeting.

'You Answer Questions'

"As you talk about our membership, you are answering questions for thousands in your churches," said the Rev. James Sandmire, pastor of a Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco, who addressed the board. "The reason people come to our church is because they can't come to yours."

This concern for the pastoral care of homosexuals was frequently voiced. In a paper, Dr. Paul Fries of the Reformed Church in America suggested that one reason for the existence of a church for homosexuals might be the failure of the traditional churches to give them pastoral care.

Leaders of the Metropolitan Community Churches, present during the discussions here, criticized some segments of the council for lacking an open mind. "Among some people there is no serious attempt to get to know us," said the Rev. Adam DeBaugh, chief ecumenical officer for the Metropolitan Community Churches.

He attributed the imminent defeat of the membership application to fear on the part of board members and called the theological studies a smoke screen.

"The National Council of churches is obsessed with sex," said Mr. DeBaugh. "We are not asking for endorsement of our life styles any more than we endorse the practices of churches that oppress women and minorities."
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October 20, 1983, AP - Observer-Reporter [Washington, PA] page A-3, Bishops Vow To Secede If Gays Accepted,
... if the gay congregations are admitted The Rev. Troy Perry, founder-moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, said he is "sadly disappointed" by the ...
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October 20, 1983, AP - New York Times, Greek Orthodox Chief Warns Church Unit on Homosexuals,

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 19— A Greek Orthodox Archbishop has warned the National Council of Churches that his church will secede from the council if it admits a homosexual denomination.

Archbishop Iakovos said Tuesday that his bishops found it "inconceivable" that the council was considering membership for the Hollywood-based Metropolitan Community Churches, which consists 27,000 members of 148 American congregations in which most of the congregants are male and female homosexuals.

The spiritual leader of two million Greek Orthodox people in North and South America told The Los Angeles Times the Orthodox and Eastern churches did not accept the Metropolitan organizations as "churches."

"They are completely un-Christian and contrary to accepted Christian ecclesiology," he told Claire Randall, general secretary of the 31-denomination National Council of Churches.

He said said the Coptic Church and Armenian Churches in America might also withdraw. The Rev. Troy Perry, founder and moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, said that he was "sadly disappointed" but that his church would not withdraw its application.
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November 20, 1983, Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 1A, Gay love's not easy in a land of straights, by Terry Head, [Continued page 24A]...was formed in 1968 in Los Angeles by the Rev. Troy Perry, a Pentecostal minister who discovered well into his career that he was homosexual. there is a ...

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December 25, 1984, Lakeland Ledger [FL] page 2C, Homosexual Church Leader Comes Home, by Terry Head,
Rev. Troy Perry is home for Christmas in Auburndale for the first time in 23 years. And while he is here, he has made time to preach at the local branch of his ...

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January 26, 1985, Gainesville Sun, page B1, The Community Church: .This Congregation Wishes It Could Worship Elsewhere, by Harriet Ludwig, Sun Staff,
In researching the church, she learned it was founded by the Rev. Troy Perry, originally from Perry, Fla. He had asked to leave his post as pastor of a Pentecostal ...
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June 13, 1986, AP - The Daily Reporter [Spencer, IA] page 6A, Christian Church Ministering To Homosexuals Is Growing, by Joseph Garcia,
In a recent telephone interview the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the national church, said its fast growth is easily explained other churches— are not ministering to ...
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June 13, 1986, AP - The Nashua Telegraph, page 14, Christian Denomination Ministering To Gays Has Rapid Membership Growth, by Joseph Garcia,
In a recent telephone interview, the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the national church, said its fast growth is easily explained — other churches are not ministering ...
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June 21, 1986, AP - Lawrence Journal-World, page 8, Membership In Gay Churches Growing Rapidly, by Joseph Garcia,
Dedication ceremonies are scheduled for June In a recent telephone interview, the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the national church, said its fast growth is easily ...

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July 20, 1987, The Miami News, page 9A, AIDS To Dominate Gay Churches' Convention,
The Rev. Troy Perry, who founded the church in 1968 said more than 2,000 people from across the Western hemisphere are likely to attend the gathering at the ...
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May 21, 1988, The Toledo Blade, page 2, Christian Group Preaches Tolerance Of Gays, Lesbians, by Mark Zaborney, Blade Staff Writer,
... and get away with," says the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, which ministers to gays and lesbians.

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August 31, 1991, AP - Kentucky New Era, page 6-B, Denomination Celebrates Homosexuality, by George W. Cornell, AP Religion Writer,
... our brother and friend, we are thankful for learning to love," said the Rev. Troy Perry, the church's founder and moderator. proclaim your word, your teachings ...

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July 27, 1991, New York Times, Religious Notes, by Ari L. Goldman,

While President Bush won overwhelming public endorsement for his leadership in the Persian Gulf war, he was unable to muster a show of support from the bishops of his denomination, the Episcopal Church.

The bishops, meeting last week in Phoenix, defeated by one vote a resolution to commend the President for his "commitment to prayer and his sensitivity to the needs of military personnel, their families and victims of warfare."

The resolution had been narrowly approved earlier by a separate gathering of the denomination's clergy and lay delegates.

The defeat, by a vote of 79 to 78, came after a lively debate among the Bishops. Bishop Sanford Hampton of Minnesota, a critic of the Administration's handling of the war, said that it was "most distressing" to be asked to agree with such a statement.

But a retired bishop, C. FitzSimons Allison of Charleston, S.C., declared, "We have every right to be grateful" for the destruction of Iraq's military might.

The outcome was not a total loss for the President. The bishops also rejected a proposal to condemn some of his policies as "evil" and "incompatible with the Gospel."

Gay Couples Blessed

This summer, as many denominations debate their church's position on homosexuality, 150 gay couples have received the public blessings of a largely homosexual denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church. In a ceremony last week at a Phoenix hotel a few miles from the Episcopal convention, the Rev. Troy Perry of the Community Church raised his hands and asked God to bless the couples.

Mr. Perry, a founder of the church, asked the couples to pledge to love one another "as long as there is love." When 300 voices responded "yes," Mr. Perry added, "This is my proof that despite all the lies told about us, we who are part of this denomination know we are in committed relationships."

Mr. Perry read passages from the Bible about love and commitment and then added, as if to address God, "You never told us we had to be opposite genders." Graham to Central Park

In the old days, when the Rev. Billy Graham would come to town for a rally to encourage people to come to Jesus, Roman Catholic pastors would see his presence as a threat. Some would encourage the faithful to stay away for fear they would be converted to a Protestant denomination. But with the new ecumenical spirit, the Baptist evangelist now presents an opportunity, not a threat. In an unusual gesture, John Cardinal O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York, has been urging priests and lay people to attend Mr. Graham's rally in Central Park on to assist Catholics who want to return to the faith.

The rally, which will be held on the Great Lawn from 4 to 6 P.M. on Sept. 22, will be the first Mr. Graham has held in New York City since he appeared at Shea Stadium in 1970. The Cardinal said he was responding to a request from the Billy Graham Organization, which asked for a Catholic presence at the rally to help "welcome back" alienated Catholics. Unlike some other Christian evangelists, Mr. Graham uses the rallies to get people to go back to their own churches rather than to build up his own.

In a letter to pastors, the Cardinal wrote, "As you might expect, many Catholics who have drifted away from the church may be present at the Central Park rally and may wish to return to church attendance and the reception of the sacraments." He called Dr. Graham "a dynamic preacher."

Sharing Torahs

For a small Jewish congregation, the acquisition of a Torah, the scroll that contains the five Books of Moses, can be expensive. Scripture read from a scroll, handwritten on parchment by a religious scribe, has greater meaning for Jews than text read from the Bible. A Torah can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The congregational arm of Reform Judaism announced a new effort this week to encourage large, affluent temples to donate or lend their extra scrolls to smaller congregations. The program grew out of a proposal by B. J. Tanenbaum, a member of a 20-family Reform temple in McGehee, Ark., at a convention of small congregations last spring in Nashville.

The congregational arm, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, will match up the temples with extra scrolls and those in need. Of its 850 member congregations, more than half have fewer than 100 families. The Scripture is read from the scroll on the Sabbath and at other religious services; if no scroll is available, the Scripture is read from a Bible.
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September 12, 1991, AP - Ludington Daily News, page 7, Denomination Celebrates Homosexuality .Other Churches Fret About It,... sweet Jesus, our brother and friend, we are thankful for learning to love," said the Rev. Troy Perry, the church's founder and moderator. pro claim your word, ...
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January 25, 1992, Herald-Journal [Spartanburg] page B7, Church ministering to gays celebrates anniversary; Metropolitan Community Church is 10 years old, by Ginger Lundy, Staff Writer,
Next weekend when the church holds its 10th anniversary celebration with its national founder, the Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles, as the featured guest, ...


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April 11, 1992, The Toledo Blade, page 8, God loves us all, even homosexuals, gay minister says, by Judy Tarjanyi, Blade Religion Editor,
A skeptical reporter once asked the Rev. Troy Perry how a series of evangelistic crusades he was planning would differ from those of Billy Graham. Without ...

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January 30, 1993, New York Times, Religion Notes, by Ari L. Goldman,

Next: Gay Chaplains?

With President Clinton making the first moves to lift a 50-year ban on homosexuals in the military, the Rev. Troy Perry says openly gay chaplains are sure to follow.

"There are already thousands of gays and lesbians in the military, and they need our ministry," said Mr. Perry, the head of a largely gay Christian denomination, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The denomination is based in Los Angeles and has 270 congregations worldwide.

Others would also benefit from the services of the gay chaplains, Mr. Perry said. "Just as a Catholic priest can counsel married couples, we are qualified to deal with all the emotional and spiritual problems of human beings, gay or straight."

The denomination's application to send a gay minister to serve in the military was turned down last year by the Armed Forces Chaplains Board on the ground that the candidate the church presented, the Rev. Carolyn D. Pruitt, was not eligible for service because of her declared homosexuality.

Ms. Pruitt, who was discharged from the Army in 1986 for being a lesbian, has gone to court to challenge the military policy against homosexuals.

Mr. Perry praised the new President for standing by his campaign pledge to end discrimination against homosexuals in the military despite opposition from Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and much of the public. "We are now confident that this discrimination is going to be reversed," Mr. Perry said. "At the minute it takes effect, we will resubmit our application, and we expect to see Rev. Pruitt as a chaplain in the U.S. military."

Investigation Over Ads

An evangelical church in Binghamton, N.Y., is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service after buying newspaper advertisements opposing Mr. Clinton's candidacy last year.

The investigation, which began before the Clinton Administration took office, was acknowledged by the pastor of the congregation, the Rev. Daniel J. Little. The revenue agency had no comment.

The congregation, the Church at Pierce Creek, sponsored advertisements charging that Mr. Clinton supported abortion on demand, rights for homosexuals and the distribution of condoms in public schools. It asked, "Do we really want as President and a role model for our children a man of this character who supports this type of behavior?"

Among the first to object to the ads, which were published in USA Today and The Washington Times in the closing days of the campaign, was a group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Barry Lynn, executive director of the group, noted that during the Presidential campaign the I.R.S. reiterated its policy that churches and other tax-exempt organizations should refrain from partisan politicking.

"In this instance," Mr. Lynn said, "the Church at Pierce Creek has gone beyond prophetic witness. We feel obligated to call on the I.R.S. to act."

Soon after he wrote a letter to the revenue agency expressing his objections, the church heard from I.R.S. officials. "They sent us a long, long list of things they wanted us to supply," Mr. Little said. "And we sent back what answers we felt were appropriate." That was a month ago; the church has heard nothing since.

Mr. Little added that his church acted in the tradition of the biblical prophets who were "the watchman on the wall," sounding the trumpet when "they saw danger coming."
Mr. Little said his church considered the possibility that its tax-exempt status could be jeopardized when it ran the ads, but he believed he was acting with the mandate of God. " I'd much rather face the consequences with the I.R.S. than the consequences with God," he said.

The consequences with the I.R.S. are uncertain because the courts in the past have been reluctant to take away a church's tax exemptions.

Fax It to Jerusalem

The Western Wall in Jerusalem, the last remnant of the biblical Jewish temple, has long been an object of veneration and prayer for Jews around the world. Over the years, a custom has developed to write out one's deepest wishes on a scrap of paper -- known as a k'vitel -- and insert it into the crevices of the ancient wall.

A man will write out the name of his ailing wife with prayers for her recovery. A widow will ask for sustenance, a young man for a bride. The k'vitels join one another in the cracks in the ancient wall.

In the latest union of tradition and technology, Bezek, the Israeli telecommunications company, announced this week that it had installed a fax machine near the wall so that Jews can send their prayers direct. When they are received, a Bezek employee puts the k'vitels into the wall. The direct dial number is (011) 972-2-612-222. The charge is the same as for an ordinary fax.

Rabbi A. James Rudin, a columnist for Religious News Service, contemplated the report of the k'vitel service together with another report, unconfirmed and apparently a hoax, that Roman Catholics will soon be able to fax confessions directly to the Vatican. While he wrote that there is clearly no way to stop the march of technology, he added, "I'll keep trying to reach God the old-fashioned way."
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June 5, 1993, N.Y. Times News Service - The Free Lance-Star, Gay Chaplains Likely To Speak Out, by Ari L. Goldman,....publicity over efforts to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military, the Rev. Troy Perry says openly gay chaplains are sure to come forward. there are already ...
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November 13, 1994, AP - The Tuscaloosa News, page 12B, Growing Homosexual Church Is Meeting This Weekend In N.C.,
The Rev. Troy Perry, who established 26 years ago, said that while the Bible Belt might not seem like friendly territory for homosexuals, it has been one of the ...
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January 22, 1997, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page B1, Church Founder To Speak Tonight,
Church founder to speak tonight . The Rev. Troy Perry, founder in 1968 of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, will speak in Venice ...

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January 23, 1997, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page 1B, Church Founder: God Doesn't Discriminate, by Stephen G. Reed, Staff Writer,
The Rev. Troy Perry was at the Suncoast Cathedral on Wednesday . In October 1968 12 people gathered for religious services in a home in Huntington Park, ...

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June 5, 1997, AP - Gadsden Times, Minister Threatens Mass Gay Marriages At Capitol If State Imposes Ban,
... munity, to join me on the steps of the Alabama Capitol for the largest mass wedding for the gay community ever seen in Alabama," said the Rev. Troy Perry.
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April 30, 2000, New York Times, Gay Marchers Will Flex Political Muscle in Capital, by Elaine Sciolino,

Throngs of gay men and lesbians and their supporters will march on Washington on Sunday to demand public legitimacy and to mobilize as a voting bloc this November.

The "Millennium March" is the fourth national gay march since one in 1979, which was attended by 25,000 people and marked the coming out of the gay rights movement on the political stage. It is also the first to be held in an election year. The last march, held in 1993 shortly after President Clinton took office, brought 300,000 to the Mall.

"Every kind of group is represented -- from the leather community to the parents," said Dianne Hardy-Garcia, 34, the head of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas and an organizer of the march. "We have teenagers and veterans, farmers and ranchers and city dwellers."

One primary goal of the march, Ms. Hardy-Garcia said, is to turn out the largest gay vote in American history "and prove that we are 5 percent of the vote."

Aware of the political ramifications of the march, Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore are expected to deliver videotaped remarks of support to the crowd during the six hours of speeches and entertainment on the Mall. Included in the dozens of scheduled speakers are Democratic Representatives Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, both of them gay; Mayor Anthony A. Williams of Washington and Senator Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota Democrat.

The families of Matthew Shepard, a gay student from Wyoming who was beaten to death by two men in 1998, and of James Byrd Jr., a black man dragged to death behind a truck by three whites in Jasper, Tex., that same year, will attend the march to lobby for laws against hate crimes.

Although tens of thousands are expected at the march on Sunday, one of the first events of the weekend, a protest today of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, drew only a handful of demonstrators to the Pentagon, including some who said they were on active duty or former military personnel and their partners.

Bob Kunst, president of Oral Majority, one of the groups involved in the march, attributed the turnout of about 10 people to poor planning by organizers, who he said placed the protest well down the official list of march activities.

Other gay groups have criticized the march, including a number of groups who are boycotting it, saying that its organizers have commercialized the event, have been exclusive in its planning and have failed to adequately turn the spotlight on AIDS and other pressing issues.

"National marches can be a very powerful tool to raise issues," said Bill Dobbs, who has organized the Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process. "Unfortunately the purpose and timing of this one are fuzzy. This has become a marketing event in search of a political purpose. This is supposed to be a civil rights struggle, not a corporate marketing event."

In particular, Mr. Dobbs said his group was protesting the visible sponsorship of the march by corporations like United Airlines, Showtime Network and Planet Out.

Ms. Hardy-Garcia countered, saying, "We have obligations to our community to be financially responsible and to find ways to fund these important events." She said the march cost "less than $2 million" to organize.

One focus of this march will be to underscore the family values of gay men and lesbians, organizers said. A number of speakers will call for legislation to help gay and lesbian couples legalize their unions and adopt and provide foster homes for children.

A rally for gays ages 15 to 24 this afternoon will emphasize the need to help them avoid substance abuse and suicide.

On Friday night, the march organizers held a $250 to $500 black tie dinner honoring the entertainer Sir Elton John, the comedian Ellen DeGeneres and her partner, the actress Anne Heche. The dinner included a tribute to Jerry Herman, the composer of the musicals Hello Dolly, Mame and La Cage aux Folles, who has been diagnosed as H.I.V.-positive.

Other planned events today included a demonstration and ceremony celebrating same-sex marriages called ''The Wedding,'' with a $25 entry fee for those who wanted a certificate, was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles, the founder of a Christian Church called the Metropolitan Community Church with branches throughout the country, was to preside.

C-SPAN will present six hours of live coverage of the march on Sunday . The march will also be shown on a global Webcast. "I'm hoping that maybe somebody in Pakistan who's gay will be watching and say, 'Wow, I'm not alone in the world,'" Ms. Hardy-Garcia said.

Photo: Judy Shepard, greeting a guest at a party on Friday, with her husband, Dennis. The couple, parents of Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death in 1998, were honored for their work on behalf of gays. They planned to attend the gay rights march today. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
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May 2, 2000, New York Times, Editorial Notebook; Gay, Middle-Aged and Still Militant, by Dudley Clendinen,
There have been so many national marches on Washington by political movements in the last four decades that they have become more a tradition than a novelty. The Park and District police have stopped counting crowds because they found that neither boosters nor critics were ever satisfied. The events themselves no longer qualify as automatic front-page news.

But they remain uniquely important, not just for the sheer numbers involved but for what they tell the nation -- and the protesting populations themselves -- about the current state of each movement. There is no better litmus test of the political health and character of any group than how it responds to the inconvenience of being asked to march on Washington. That is especially true of homosexuals, who in times past tended to be invisible and therefore hard to organize. And the Millennium March on Washington this past weekend -- the fourth national gay rights march in the nation's capital in 31 years -- was significant for what it showed.

The modern movement was born as a radical expression of youth and sexual liberation in 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn in New York rioted against a police raid of the bar. But it was a middle-aged, middle-class movement that crowded the Mall in Washington with hundreds of thousands of people on Sunday, with grandparents in wheelchairs and children underfoot. There were more family, cultural, church and workplace events on the three-day weekend schedule than parties.

There were other differences, too. The cadaverous look of AIDS, visible on the faces of so many in the crowd in 1993, when people with H.I.V. were still routinely dying, was largely absent. In the new panels of the quilt laid on the Mall, memorializing those who have died of AIDS, the deaths taper off noticeably after 1998. Nor was there the same level of anger about the lack of treatment for AIDS, which helped produce a huge turnout at the last march. Even so, a vast throng showed up.

When Washington's mayor, Anthony Williams, welcomed them at noon, he told them they were a crowd of "310,000, on its way to half a million." Some, like Morris Kight, an old radical from Los Angeles now in his 80's, came for the sheer joy of the progress made in law and acceptance in the last three decades. "I'm the happiest old man in the world today," he said. Some, like the Rev. Troy Perry, who founded the gay Metropolitan Community Churches in 1968, came with a particular mission. Mr. Perry began performing symbolic marriages at the march in 1987, at the request of two men dying of AIDS, and at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday he joined 3,000 couples in vows. Many, like Robert Turlington, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who played clarinet in the 130-piece band that led the march, came out of habit and continuity. "This is my third march," he said. "The first was for awareness. The second for anger. This time I brought my family."

It is obvious that the gay rights movement has matured and mellowed. But what was also evident, as dozens of speakers took their turns at the microphone for six and a half hours Sunday afternoon, was the continuing anger and determination of a group that still feels discrimination. Employees can still be fired for being homosexual in 39 states. Homosexuals still get murdered for being gay. They cannot actually marry in any state, and in most places, the young cannot become Scouts, or even form their own groups in school.

The point of the gay rights march last weekend was to show the movement's strength in a presidential election year. Some of the strongest feelings came from the youngest speakers. "We will not be intimidated," said Ivy Fox, a Utah high school student, whose school board disbanded dozens of student groups rather than let gays form one. "And we will not give up."
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May 16, 2003, New York Times, National Briefing | New England: Massachusetts: Honor For Gay Church Founder, by Katie Zezima

The Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge will give an honorary degree to the Rev. Troy Perry, the gay founder of a predominantly homosexual church. The move has angered some members of the denomination. Episcopal bishops will decide this summer whether to recognize relationships between people of the same sex. Mr. Perry founded the predominantly homosexual church, Metropolitan Community Churches, in 1968. Bishop Steven Charleston, president of the seminary, said Mr. Perry was a ''figure of outstanding importance.'' The Rev. Dr. David L. Moyer, president of Forward in Faith, a conservative Episcopal group, said the invitation went against church doctrine. Katie Zezima (NYT)
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October 2, 2003, AP - The Nevada Daily Mail, page 7, Landmark Gay Church Beginning To Win Acceptance After 35 Years, by Nada El Sawy,The Rev. Troy Perry felt he had a simple mission when he gathered a dozen congregants in his living room in 1968 to sing hymns and take Communion: He ...
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February 13, 2004, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page 3B, Local Gay Couples Join National Protest, Request Marriage Papers, by Earle Kimel,
Their action was in response to a call by the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, for gay couples around the country to apply for ...

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August 16, 2004, Boca Raton News [FL] page 3, Boynton Beach Church Ministers To Local Gay Community, by Paige Stein,
Founded In 1968 by the Rev. Troy Perry it Is composed of more than 44.000 members In 300 congregations in 17 countries around the world. are a member of ..


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June 25, 2007, New York Times, Pride On the Sunny Side,

PHOTO: The 38th Gay Pride Parade was graced yesterday by beautiful weather, as well as by Tiffany E. Paraders marched down Fifth Avenue from 52nd Street to Greenwich Village. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who heads the world's largest predominantly gay synagogue, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, and who was a grand marshal of the parade, said she believed that those who use religion to advocate an anti-gay agenda ''are blaspheming God's name.'' The Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches, was the other grand marshal. (PHOTOGRAPH BY KITRA CAHANA/THE NEW YORK TIMES)
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September 18, 2010, New York Times, Haunted Man of the Cloth and Pioneer of Gay Rights, by Mark Oppenheimer,

James Stoll, in 1954.

The death this month of Seymour Pine, the vice officer who in June 1969 led a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, unwittingly galvanizing the gay rights movement, is a reminder that history has its forgotten actors, too. For every star in the history of gay rights — think the politician Harvey Milk, or the comedian Ellen DeGeneres — there are many more bit players, people whose names do not even make the credits.

In the world of religion, one of the great neglected actors, a man who had a marquee moment but then fell into obscurity, is the Rev. James Stoll, a Unitarian Universalist who died in 1994. Mr. Stoll, one of the first openly gay ministers in America, had a difficult life, and his demons seemed to follow him to an early grave.

But he was hugely responsible for introducing American churchgoers to gay rights. For those who support gay rights, he ought to be a hero; for those troubled by increased acceptance of homosexuality, he makes a vivid villain.

Mr. Stoll was born in 1936 in Connecticut. He was educated at Mount Hermon School, in Massachusetts, at San Francisco State University and, finally, at Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, Calif. After being ordained, he pastored a church in Kennewick, Wash., from 1962 until 1969. After leaving the church in Kennewick — church documents indicate that he was asked to resign — he moved back to the Bay Area.

In the words of Mr. Stoll's friend Leland Bond-Upson, who in 2005 first delivered a sermon about him at a church in Petaluma, Calif., Mr. Stoll took a flat in the Eureka Valley neighborhood of San Francisco "with three others (me the draft counselor, Nick the cabinetmaker and Peter the communist revolutionary), and for a full year we four hosted an unending stream of young visitors, all come to look for America or something."

Soon, in September 1969, Mr. Stoll drove Mr. Bond-Upson and two others in his Volkswagen Fastback to the La Foret conference center in Colorado Springs to attend a convention of about 100 college-age Unitarians.

"On the second or third night of the conference," according to Mr. Bond-Upson, "after dinner, Jim got up to speak. He told us that he'd been doing a lot of hard thinking that summer. Jim told us he could no longer live a lie. He’d been hiding his nature — his true self — from everyone except his closest friends. 'If the revolution we’re in means anything,' he said, 'it means we have the right to be ourselves, without shame or fear.'"

"Then he told us he was gay, and had always been gay, and it wasn’t a choice, and he wasn’t ashamed anymore and that he wasn’t going to hide it anymore, and from now on he was going to be himself in public. After he concluded, there was a dead silence, then a couple of the young women went up and hugged him, followed by general congratulations. The few who did not approve kept their peace."

Mr. Stoll was not the first openly gay minister. He had been preceded by at least one man, the Rev. Troy Perry, who the previous year had founded the Metropolitan Community Churches in Los Angeles. That denomination, which has straight members but has always specialized in ministry to queer communities, now claims 43,000 members in 22 countries.

But Mr. Stoll was a minister of an established denomination — a liberal one, often so diverse as to seem post-Christian, but nonetheless one with Christian roots. As such, he brought gay rights to the heterosexual Christian world. Over the next year, newly emboldened, Mr. Stoll wrote articles about gay rights and delivered guest sermons at several churches.

In July 1970, at their general assembly in Seattle, Unitarians passed a resolution condemning discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals. Other churches soon liberalized, too. In 1972, for example, the United Church of Christ ordained an openly gay man, and today there are openly gay Episcopal priests and Lutheran ministers.

Having pioneered an important change in American Christianity, Mr. Stoll never returned to the ministry. In fact, it seems that he could not. According to letters kept at Harvard, sent in 1970 between church members and Unitarian officials, Mr. Stoll had been suspected of drug use and of inappropriate sexual advances toward young people in the Kennewick congregation. The circumstances of his departure made it unlikely he would find another pulpit.

Over the next 25 years, Mr. Stoll had a varied career. He worked as a substance abuse counselor, started a hospice on Maui, in Hawaii, and served as secretary of the San Francisco chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"He died on Dec. 8, 1994," Mr. Bond-Upson said in his 2005 sermon, "a little short of age 59. He died not of AIDS, but of worn-out heart and lungs. He was never able to lose much weight, nor quit smoking. When it was known he was dying, a stream of friends came to say goodbye. Friends arrived from the A.C.L.U., from inner-city social services, from Hunters Point, from drug abuse treatment centers, from the ministry. Yet despite all this matchmaking, and though his romantic side often found expression, Jim never had for long the all-embracing love he longed for."

Mr. Stoll left no descendants, but he had many heirs.

E-mail: Mark.Oppenheimer@nytimes.com; twitter/markopp1
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