Morris Kight Interview (Sept 2000)

Originally published on metroG.com
Special Interview:

CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST HONORED IN PALM SPRINGS
By: Crusader, Exclusive to metroG

The Father of Gay Liberation may be 80-something, and need the assistance of a walker to get around, but Morris Kight keeps on going strong like the Energizer bunny!

 

On September 8, 2000, Morris was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Palm Springs, California by the California Gay Veterans Memorial Association (CGVMA), a not-for-profit organization working to build California's first lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans memorial. The dinner was held at the Marquis Resort in downtown Palm Springs, where more than 150 people from all over the nation were in attendance.

 

During the awards dinner, openly gay State Assemblymember Sheila James Kuehl presented Morris with a resolution. An aide from California Governor Gray Davis' office presented Morris with a proclamation, and congratulatory letters from openly gay State Assemblymember Carole Migden and President Bill Clinton were read during the dinner. The Lifetime Achievement Award from CGVMA was presented to Morris by Kuehl and Eric Bauman from the governor's office.

 

The CGVMA also honored openly gay Palm Springs City Councilmember Ron Oden, who is opposing incumbent Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs) in the upcoming election.

 

In the banquet room, Morris displayed more than 20 pieces from "The Morris Kight Collection," including the original Time Magazine cover of the late Leonard Matlovich, who was the first openly gay member of the armed services. Also on display was a copy of the May 23, 1975 letter to the organizers of the gay pride parade in Los Angeles from then-Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis, which stated, in part: "I would much rather celebrate 'GAY CONVERSION WEEK' which I will gladly sponsor when the medical practitioners in this country find a way to convert gays to heterosexuals." The Davis letter was in response to Christopher Street West Association's invitation to the Davis to participate in "Gay Pride Week."

 

In an exclusive interview with metroG shortly before the cocktail party was to begin, Morris shared his thoughts about the award, his activities, and many social issues.

 

THE AWARD:

 

I have lived a long and interesting lifetime, and so they are noticing that by giving me a lifetime achievement award. I think it's wonderful, and I am honored and terribly touched. [Morris will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award on September 16 in Orange County from the political group ECCO.]

 

LOS ANGELES COUNTY HUMAN RELATIONS COMMITTEE:

 

I have been a commissioner for 21 years. I am the senior commissioner, and I really enjoy it a lot. I go to all the meetings and have only missed five in 21 years. We invented the rhetoric 'hate crimes' and are defining that. We work on intergroup relations, trying to make them better, trying to get people to communicate. We are a massive non-violent enterprise. Since I am a longtime pacifist, it suits my non-violent notion.

 

DR. LAURA:

 

I am a passionate defender of the First Amendment; however, I have the need to modify my thinking of the First Amendment to say that irresponsible, destructive, hostile, hate crime inducing things are not covered by the First Amendment.

 

RAPPER EMINEM:

 

I am not hip enough to know a lot about Eminem, so I shouldn't discuss that; however, if Eminem uses hostile words to describe us, we feel those words are out-of-style, and we worked to kill them off. He has every right to use the word, and we have every right in the world to complain. I think we should balance it all with conversation.

 

MOST SERIOUS ISSUE FOR GLBT COMMUNITY:

 

The same problem facing everyone: overpopulation. There are simply more people being created than the world can accommodate. We don't have land, soil, air, water; groceries; foodstuffs; plants; animals. We don't have enough of anything. Around the world, one-third of the people go to bed hungry every night. Not undernourished, but screamingly hungry! It's not fair, it's not true, and it's not wise. I think sex is a wonderful thing and should certainly be encouraged, whether it's non-gay or gay, but the overpopulation should be our first priority and it isn't.

 

TWO-PARTY SYSTEM & RALPH NADER:

 

I hope that the two parties [Democrats and Republicans] might start picking up on some things he [Nader] is saying. If that is going to happen, it would probably be the Democratic party because the Republican party is just totally out of it. The Democratic party has been slow to pick up on it. Vice President Gore is a distinguished environmentalist. Some of his agenda is the same as Ralph Nader's, but he hasn't said it very well, so he needs to be saying it. Anyone who wants to vote for Ralph Nader, I applaud them. I'll be voting for Gore, simply because I think he is the best of the candidates.

 

GORE'S PRIOR VOTING RECORD AGAINST GAYS & ABORTION:

 

He is not perfect and, yes, he did those things, and those should be called to attention, and he should deal with it. I still believe that the majority of Americans will be better off under his administration, despite his failings.

 

INCLUDING TRANSGENDER IN GAY COMMUNITY:

 

I believe we have done that all these years. We have included cross-dressers, transsexuals, transvestites. Some in the gay community [including some gay rights organizations] are resentful of cross-dressers. I am not. I have recognized cross-dressers for being an important part of our world and I think we should include them in everything. However, inclusion involves much more than just lip service. It involves actually physically including. And, when we get to that, we must also bring in bisexuals, and we haven't dealt with that very well, either.

 

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metroG also caught up with openly gay Cathedral City Councilmember Greg Pettis and CGVMA president Tom Swann, a resident of nearby Rancho Mirage.

 

"This is a marvelous opporuntity for people to show their appreciation and gratitude to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who have served in the armed forces," said Pettis. He said the building of the GLBT veterans memorial will be significant for California and the entire United States. metroG asked Pettis what he thought about the local congressional campaign between Rep. Mary Bono and Palm Springs City Councilmember Ron Oden. "It is amazing that there is no difference in Mary's voting record and her husband's [the late Sonny] voting record. We have no representation now. Ron Oden will represent gays and lesbians well, and he will do good service for the entire country."

 

Swann shared the letter from President Bill Clinton, which read, in part: "I am pleased to join you in congratulating Morris Kight...and in paying tribute to all the men and women who are receiving awards for their efforts and accomplishments on behalf of gay and lesbian Americans...Your memorial will stand as a lasting reminder of the great debt we owe to these patriots whose selfless service and devotion to our country have helped preserve the blessings of freedom."

 

metroG asked Swann if he was at all surprised to receive a letter from President Clinton. "No, because we have built a relationship with him," he said. "This is the first, to my knowledge, that he has ever done this. I know he is concerned about his legacy because he didn't lift the ban. We would not have gotten this letter four or five years ago."

 

Swann's prior experience with the federal government surrounding his employment as a gay man in the armed services was atrocious. "I was hung out to dry. I lost my job. I was assaulted. They canceled my medical insurance, even though I had AIDS." As a result, he won a civil rights lawsuit filed by longtime Los Angeles civil rights attorney Jon Davidson, who was also honored at the dinner.

 

According to Swann, the dinner was the largest one-time fundraiser in the history of the gay and lesbian veterans civil rights movement.