Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Arthur Cyrus Warner, 1918-2007

Arthur Cyrus Warner, one of my closest friends, died on July 22 at his home in Princeton. He was one of the great unsung heroes of gay liberation. Living until the age of 89, his life encompassed the full trajectory of the gay movement. Fortunately, he lived to witness its most essential successes.

Educated in both the law and English history he saw early on, and more clearly than most others, that the sodomy laws were the linchpin of discrimination against gay and lesbian people. Inspired by the Wolfenden Report in England, and the subsequent decriminalization there, he sought to draw lessons for America.

Arthur Warner rightly perceived that this would be a long, long struggle, as indeed it was from the first state to decriminalize, Illinois, in 1961 to the final victory of the Supreme Court in the Lawrence case of 2002.

Arthur Warner was a member of The League, a somewhat shadowy homophile group formed in New York City in the immediate aftermath of World War II. After the appearance of Mattachine in California in 1950, he transferred his allegiance to that group, traveling the country tirelessly on behalf of gay rights. Eventually, he focused his efforts on his own group, the National Committee for Sexual Liberties.
Warner taught history at the University of Texas at El Paso. He probably withdrew from this activity too quickly, for a desire to teach informed all his conversations. Many complained of the length of his explanations, but we were usually grateful afterwards. I never had the privilege of legal training. Everything I know about this subject, central to a society like ours that is devoted to the rule of law, is due to Arthur.

Arthur Warner was stubborn, domineering and sometimes curmudgeonly. But he had to be these things in order to effect change in this crucial area. One of his favorite remarks was “now just a minute!” This served to introduce a vital point that his interlocutor had missed.

I consider myself most fortunate to have been the friend and disciple of Arthur Cyrus Warner.

5 Comments:

Blogger Michael in Norfolk said...

I am sorry to hear of your friend's passing. If you think highly of him, I am sure he was someone special.

6:32 PM  
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10:26 AM  
Blogger Avenue Road said...

Sorry to hear about the death of your friend.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Wayne,

I read your blog regarding the passing of Arthur Warner, your friend and mine, and wanted to thank you for your kind words. I spoke with Arthur some months before his passing, and new his end was near. I never new of his friends, mainly because during the time I knew him best was during the 80’s and it would seem as though he were running out of time to tell his story and change a few more laws, that one could barley get a word in edge wise. Never the less, I learned much from Arthur, and still carry a flicker of his torch. Unfortunately, the younger people have no idea of his contributions, and the liberty they take in vain break my heart, as they live in freedoms that Arthur never took for granted or at leisure.

Ed Cox
Miami

7:01 PM  
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