Sunday, July 01, 2012

I have been rethinking the contribution of my late friend  and mentor Arthur Cyrus Warner--as follows:

Arthur Cyrus Warner (February 14, 1918 - July 22, 2007).  Arthur Cyrus Warner was a prominent figure in the American gay-liberation movement, focusing his considerable energies on legal reform to protect the civil liberties of homosexuals. [John Lauritsen, “Arthur Cyrus Warner,”in Vern L. Bullough, ed., Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002, pp. 282-90.]   His work was crowned by successful efforts to overturn anti-sodomy and other laws used to persecute gay people in several US states. 

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Warner for almost the last half century of his life lived in the house built by his parents in Princeton. His mother was born in Paynesville, Minnesota, and his father belonged to a family engaged n the wholesale grocery business in Newark.  Both parents were of Russian-Jewish origin.

After receiving his AB degree from Princeton in 1938, Warner entered Harvard Law School.  His studies there were interrupted by World War II, and he served a stint in the United States Navy, attaining the rank of Second Lieutenant.  After being given an undesirable discharge stemming from homosexual conduct, he returned to Harvard Law school, where he earned his LLB degree in 1946.  Although he succeeded, after a long legal battle, in having the Navy discharge changed to the status of honorable, the damage was done, and he was never able to practice law as he had hoped.  He then entered Harvard Graduate School to study English history, receiving his AM degree in 1950 and his PhD in 1960. While he briefly taught history at the University of Texas, El Paso, he lived most of his life as an independent scholar, maintaining many contacts from his base in Princeton.

Arthur Warner’s engagement with issues of homosexual civil rights began early, when in the late 1940s he started to attend meetings of a New York City group known simply as The League.  From 1954 on he was active in the Mattachine Society of New York, serving as chairman of the legal department.  Initially he chose to mask his identity under the name of Austin Wade.  For a time Arthur Warner was associated with Frank Kameny of Washington, D.C.; later they had a falling out over strategy. Yet each continued to work in his own way in the service of the cause of gay rights.

In 1971 Warner founded the National Committee for Sexual Civil Liberties (later renamed the American Association for Personal Privacy), a high-level think tank comprising lawyers, historians, theologians, and other professionals.  From the beginning, Warner's focus, and that of the group he founded, was legal reform--especially the repeal of the sodomy statutes, which he rightly regarded as the linchpin of all discrimination against homosexuals.  He was encouraged by the recommendations for decriminalization of homosexual conduct embodied in the Wolfenden Report in England (1957), and the Model Penal Code (MPC), a statutory text approved by the American Law Institute (ALI) in 1962.  Among those closely associated with Warner in this work were Thomas F. Coleman, an attorney; Paul Hardman; and Wayne R. Dynes of the Gay Academic Union.

Working largely behind the scenes, Warner and his associates achieved success in several individual states, preparing the way for the eventual victory in the U. S. Supreme Court in the Lawrence case of 2002.

Warner's papers document his involvement in legal reform and other issues pertaining to homosexual civil rights. The majority of the papers consist of legislative and court documents about cases affecting gay civil liberties, and related memoranda, correspondence, and writings. The papers, mainly covering the period from 1946 to 2000, are preserved in the Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University Libraries ( 
His will directed that his funds be used to establish the Sentience Foundation, headquartered in Freehold, New Jersey (


John Lauritsen, writing of Warner in Before Stonewall, described Warner's upbringing:

“His mother came from a background which, although educated, reflected the Victorian ethos in matters of sex. A a child, Warner was not told myths about where babies came from, and he was allowed to see biology books showing the birth of animals, and so on, up to the point of fornication. However, when he was put to bed, his hands always had to be on top of the blanket, even on the coldest nights. Because the windows were always open for health reasons, his shoulders also would be cold.

“Nevertheless, as with virtually all boys, he discovered the pleasures of masturbation, and at the age of seven or eight he did this several times a day, although without ejaculation. On one such occasion he was apprehended by his governess, who felt dutifully obliged to tell his parents. Early the next morning the case was presented to his parents, who had just returned from a trip. His mother, "who wore the pants," took charge. She was in a frenzy and told him that if he ever did this again he would be taken to the state prison at Rahway, "where the bad boys go." He was also told that if he continued to do this, he would certainly become crazy. He was shaken by these warnings and for a year remained "good and pure."

“When nine, again found masturbating, he was driven the twelve miles to Rahway State Prison, ordered out of the car, and for about twenty minutes stood outside the car, screaming for forgiveness, finally given "one more chance."

“Warner's first sexual experience - mutual masturbation with a black man in an abandoned school yard - occurred when he was seventeen during his sophomore year at Princeton, and he ran away, terrified. In 42nd Street movies in 1938, he caught gonorrhea from a person he had met and gone home with - it was in the pre-penicillin days, and Warner suffered for eight weeks from sulfanilamide that was injected into the urethra.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A.D. 2012 the The Sentience Foundation is afraid of Arthur C. Warner's curriculum vitae:

“About Our Founder: Arthur C. Warner, a member of the Princeton University Class of 1938, distinguished himself scholastically (graduating from both Princeton and Harvard Universities and achieving LLM and PhD Degrees). He was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War II and a university history teacher thereafter. Prior to his death, he devoted himself to civil rights,, but in later years to the brain and its development. Late in life, he founded a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring research and programs exploring the expansion of the brain's capacities, its healthy maintenance, and its optimal health. His Last Will and Testament provided the initial funding for Sentience Foundation, for which the Trustees and recipients of Sentience's support, are very grateful.´”

Most revealing is this heavily edited sentence: “Prior to his death, he devoted himself to civil rights,, but in later years to the brain and its development.”

Warner neither devoted himself in his long life to civil rights only “prior to his death” nor did he study the brain after his death. The two commas after “civil rights” may be the remnant of a former explication of their sexual nature. Does it get better?

1:11 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home