“Good morning star shine, the earth says hello. You twinkle up above us. We twinkle below.”
As this hippie anthem climbed the Hit Parade Charts, the space craft Apollo 10 transmitted the first color pictures of Earth from space on May 10. These iconic images had such a profound effect on the youth movement that they became a catalyst for the first Earth Day events of 1970. The first Earth Day Rally in Utah was organized by University of Utah students, Douglas Epperson, Jeff Fox and Stephen Holbrook, members of the United Front to End the War. Its purpose was to protest against pollution and the Vietnam War. Stephen Holbrook is a gay man, and a former Utah state legislator who helped organize KRCL; Jeff Fox is the father of Ivy Fox, who helped organize Utah’s first gay-straight alliance at East High in the mid 1990s.
In Salt Lake City during May 1969, the city’s vice cops began running a sting operation on 2nd South, between the 400 and 500 West block. Its purpose was to crack down on prostitutes and “sex perverts” who solicited for sex in old Greek Town. Salt Lake City had just passed a city ordinance which demanded that sex offenders be held in the city jail for a series of venereal disease tests (today these diseases are called sexually transmitted diseases). On May 6, a Salt Lake Third District judge upheld the city’s right to hold known prostitutes for VD testing. The city attorney interpreted the ruling as applying not only to “known prostitutes,” but to all persons arrested on moral charges — which, of course, included homosexuals.
Around this time Salt Lake City Police Chief Dewey Fillis also announced that all persons arrested on moral charges would have to undergo an additional series of venereal disease tests six weeks from the day of their arrest. All suspects were required to post a $750 bond to insure their return for the serology and physical examinations. The Salt Lake City Health Commissioner stated that both men and women would be “quarantined” for 24 hours until the results were completed.
On the same day as the famous color picture of the earth was being transmitted to earth, the popular 60s singing group The Turtles was snorting cocaine off Abraham Lincoln’s desk in the White House, before singing “Happy Together” at Trish Nixon’s Young Republican Ball.
In South East Asia, U.S. troop begin an attack on Hill 937 that would be known after as “Hamburger Hill” for the many ground up and mutilated corpses. During the ten-day battle, 450 tons of bombs and 69 tons of napalm were dropped by the 101st Airborne Division, and five infantry battalions — about 1,800 men — hammered the Viet Cong. After the position was secured at the loss of 56 American soldiers and 421 others wounded, Hamburger Hill was abandoned on June 5 to the disbelief of a war-weary America. Hamburger Hill thus became symbolic of America’s lack of a military strategy for winning the war, and its loss was the breaking point for many Americans.
As American soldiers were slaughtering the Viet Cong in the jungles and rice paddies of South East Asia, the Monty Python comedy troupe formed in the United Kingdom on May 11. Their work would exemplify the absurdities of the status quo. One of the six founding members of the Pythons was Graham Chapman, an active homosexual.
Chapman kept his homosexuality a public secret until after the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series had run its course when he famously came out on a British chat show in the mid 1970s. After the outing, a member of the television audience wrote to the Pythons to complain that she had heard a member of the team was gay, and that the Bible said any man that lies with a man should be taken out and stoned. Fellow Python, Eric Idle replied, “We’ve found out who it was and we’ve had him shot.”
But back in Zion, an Ogden 2nd District judge sentenced a 28-year-old man to three to 20 years in state prison on May 12, after he plead of guilty to sodomy and assault with a deadly weapon. The man’s attorney argued for leniency, testifying that he had known the man and his family for nearly ten years and believed the young man “became homosexual because of pressures in prison during a previous sentence.” The sentence stood. On May 15, a Salt Lake City man was fined $100 with a suspended 20 day jail sentence for having pornography in his home.
On the same day, Associate Justice Abe Fortas resigned — or perhaps was forced to resign — from the United States Supreme Court due to information kept in a file on him by J. Edgar Hoover, the all-powerful cross-dressing director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Abe Fortas had only joined the court in October 1965, but was a key player in several sex-related rulings in the mid-1960s. In 1967 he was one of three dissenting justices in an early Supreme Court gay rights case. The case involved a Canadian “homosexual” named Boutilier who was being expelled from the United States on the grounds that, under U.S. immigration law, homosexual aliens were deportable because they were “afflicted with a psychopathic personality.”
In oral arguments, Fortas aggressively questioned the government lawyer on whether homosexuality was intrinsically psychopathological. He stated that the Public Health Service had advised Congress that not all homosexuals were psychopaths. However, the Court’s majority ruled against the gay Canadian, and he was sent packing. At the time, Fortas told another justice that the reason for his dissension was that “ordinarily a homo is a psycho, but many are not.” The court’s decision infamously allowed Congress to continue to define homosexuality as a psychopathology.
Two months after the Court announced its ruling in the Boutilier Case, J. Edgar Hoover sent some FBI agents to visit with Justice Fortas. The agents said they had a dossier on Fortas consisting of information given to them from “an active and aggressive homosexual” who had been an informant of the Washington Field Office. They told Fortas that this informer had “over the years” provided a great deal of reliable information, and claimed now that he had sex with Fortas on several occasions prior to Fortas becoming a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. There were more allegations, but Fortas maintained he had never committed homosexual acts at any time. Still, the justice expressed great appreciation for having been provided with these facts and asked that “his thanks be extended” to J. Edgar for having handled the matter discreetly.
Of course, the whole point of the FBI visit was for Hoover to intimidate the associate justice; to remind Fortas of who was really in charge. In 1968, J. Edgar Hoover had another team of FBI agents from the Washington Field Office pay a visit to Fortas. This time they informed him of Hoover’s ‘concern’ that Fortas had been seen at a homosexual bar.
Sometime after President Richard M. Nixon was elected, J. Edgar Hoover showed the President the file he had gathered on Fortas, which included allegations Fortas had once been involved in a sexual relationship with a teenage boy. Calls were made to Fortas and after only serving three and a half years, he resigned from the Supreme Court. His resignation allowed Tricky Dick to appoint a conservative successor which, in effect, delivered a history-changing “coup de grace” to the liberal Supreme Court that had ended the political doctrine of “separate but equal.”