elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Faygele Ben-Miriam & Paul Barwick

Faygele Ben-Miriam (born John F. Singer, October 21, 1944, in New York City – June 5, 2000) was a U.S. activist, particularly for LGBT rights, and a gay marriage pioneer, filing one of the first gay marriage lawsuits in American history after being denied a marriage license at the King County Administration Building in Seattle, Washington in 1971. (Photo: Faygele ben Miriam takes a smoking break during a Kadima meeting. (Photographs by Geoff Manasse))

Paul Barwick (born 1946) is an American former LGBT rights activist and same-sex marriage pioneer. In 1971, he filed one of the first lawsuits in the history of the United States regarding the right of gays and lesbians to marry, after he and fellow activist John Singer were denied a civil marriage license at the King County Administration Building in Seattle, Washington. The case, Singer v. Hara, was the best-known gay marriage case in the state of Washington until Andersen v. King County in 2006.

Born in Washington, Barwick served three years in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, working as a military policeman. Later, he became an emergency dispatcher for the Washington State Patrol, and attended Olympic College in Bremerton. He currently lives in San Francisco, California, his residence for the last 30 years.

In December 2012, as hundreds of gay couples waited for marriage licenses at the King County Administration building early Thursday morning, some workers there noted it was the same place where a pioneering gay couple was denied one 41 years ago. The previous November, after a seattlepi.com story about Referendum 74 ran on the San Francisco Chronicle website, Barwick noted that "awesome" victory. Another reader thanked Barwick for the efforts he and Singer made. "Thanks," he wrote back. "You wouldn't believe just how sweet it is after all these years."

John Singer was born New York City to Jewish parents of Lithuanian and Polish background Irving and Miriam Singer. He and his two younger brothers Michael and Thomas and his younger sister Judith were raised in a non-religious, politically aware household in Mount Vernon, New York. He came out to his parents in 1963 or 1964, to the initial consternation and eventual acceptance of his mother and the long-running anger of his father.

Faygele ben Miriam (left), then known as John Singer, applies for a marriage license with Paul Barwick at the King County Administration Building in Seattle in 1971. (Seattlepi.com archives, Photo Tom Barlet)

Faygele with friends Dean Hayes (left) and John Mifsud (right). (Photographs by Geoff Manasse)

Faygele ben Miriam with his mother, Miriam Singer. (Photographs by Geoff Manasse)

He served as a VISTA volunteer for civil-rights causes in the mid-1960s, applied for conscientious-objector status and served as an Army medic in Germany. Studying at City College of New York, he received his liberal arts degree in 1970. Later that year, he left for San Francisco and, later, went to Seattle.

On September 20, 1971, Singer and fellow activist Paul Barwick applied for a marriage license at the King County Administration Building in Seattle, not being keen on actually getting married but wanting "to make a point about having the same rights as heterosexuals." Their request was refused by then-county auditor (and current County Assessor) Lloyd Hara. They were among the first same-sex couples in the United States to apply for a marriage license, causing a flurry of media coverage and leading to a lawsuit, Singer v. Hara, which ended in 1974 with a unanimous rejection by the Washington State Court of Appeals.

Singer worked as a typist for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but his taste for women's clothing and his open disclosure of his homosexuality resulted in him being fired after one year in 1972, despite the protests of co-workers. He sued the EEOC with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor in 1974, with the U.S. Supreme Court remanding the case back to the Ninth Circuit, essentially instructing it to rule in ben Miriam's favor, resulting in his receiving back pay from the entire span of the lawsuit. The suit also resulted in the EEOC enforcing prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. While Ben-Miriam did not go back to the EEOC, he took up a job with the U.S. Department of Labor, from which he retired in 1995.

In 1973, Singer changed his name to Faygele Ben-Miriam, Faygele being the Yiddish word for "little bird", used both as a woman's first name and a derogatory Yiddish term for "faggot", "ben" meaning "son of" in Hebrew and Yiddish, and Miriam being his mother's name, thus stressing both his Jewish and his gay identity.

Ben-Miriam also participated in the Radical Faeries in Wolf Creek, Oregon and for a while published its newsletter, RFD, virtually single-handedly] He was active on the National Board of the New Jewish Agenda, worked with the International Jewish Peace Union and was active in Kadima of Seattle.

He died on June 5, 2000, at the age of 55. According to his sister, he died of lung cancer (he had been a heavy smoker) which metastasized to his brain. Although he had been HIV positive for several years, he did not die of AIDS, a fact which, again according to his sister, annoyed him: he would have preferred that his death be as political as his life.

Ben-Miriam helped found the Gay Community Social Services of Seattle and also produced the first gay country music album, Lavender Country.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faygele_Ben-Miriam

Further Readings:

Same-Sex Marriage in the United States by Jason Pierceson
Hardcover: 266 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1 edition (March 8, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442212047
ISBN-13: 978-1442212046
Amazon: Same-Sex Marriage in the United States
Amazon Kindle: Same-Sex Marriage in the United States

Same-sex marriage has become one of the defining social issues in contemporary U.S. politics. State court decisions finding in favor of same-sex relationship equality claims have been central to the issue’s ascent from nowhere to near the top of the national political agenda. Same Sex Marriage in the United States tells the story of the legal and cultural shift, its backlash, and how it has evolved over the past 15 years.
There is a clear story of jurisprudential evolution with regards to same-sex marriage from Hawaii, through Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, and, remarkably, Iowa in 2009. This book aids in a classroom examination of the legal, political, and social developments surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States. While books about same-sex marriage have proliferated in recent years, few, if any, have provided a clear and comprehensive account of the litigation for same-sex marriage, and its successes and failures, as this book does.

More LGBT Couples at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance

This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/3637506.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: activist: john singer, activist: paul barwick, days of love tb

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded