Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Harvey Milk Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

supervisormilk1Washington, DC – Jennifer Vanesco of 365gay.com reports that Harvey Milk, slain San Francisco City Supervisor, will be among 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 12, according to the White House.  Milk, gay human rights icon, was shot to death by disgruntled former city supervisor Dan White along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978. Milk will be recognized along with Billie Jean King, lesbian tennis great, and a stellar list of others whom the White House calls “agents of change”: Nancy Goodman Brinker, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer awareness organization; Stephen Hawking, the internationally-recognized theoretical physicist; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; Desmund Tutu; Chita Rivera; Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland; and Sidney Poitier.  Harvey Milk’s profile has risen steadily in the nation since the release of the major motion picture, Milk, directed by gay film maker Gus Van Zandt, and written by gay screen play author Dustin Lance Black.  The timing of the film’s release, during the heat of the marriage equality battle in California over Proposition 8, introduced Milk to a whole new generation of emerging LGBT human rights Presidential-medal-of-freedomadvocates.  Milk’s refusal to “blend in,” his demand that gay people come out openly as a tool of social change, and his willingness to hold accommodationist gay and lesbian leaders as well as straight lawmakers accountable to the gay liberation movement has inspired street activism today on a scale not seen since the 1980s protests over the AIDS crisis during the Reagan Administration.  Now, Cleve Jones, a close associate of Milk’s who is also portrayed in the film, is organizing a national LGBT march on Washington, set for October 10-11, 2009, the first major queer march on the nation’s capitol since 1993.   The Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with the Congressional Gold Medal, are the highest awards that may be given to a civilian in the United States of America.  It is awarded to persons who in the estimation of the President have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”  Milk will be the first victim of an anti-LGBT hate crime murder to be awarded this honor, a significant gesture on President Obama’s part as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act moves toward enactment into law this fall.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, gay men, Hate Crimes, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another “Beyoncé” Killing: New Orleans Trans Murder Hate Motivated?

Beyoncé Knowles

Beyoncé Knowles

New Orleans, LA – The Times-Picayune and Advocate.com report the Sunday murder of a victim who presented femininely and referred to herself as “Beyoncé,” in tribute to the popular star of soul and pop/rock, Beyoncé Knowles.  The victim, Eric Lee, 21, was stabbed repeatedly at an apartment complex in the Algiers neighborhood.  Police found Lee’s slashed body inside a first-floor apartment.  Witnesses say they heard Lee arguing heatedly with a group of women before the time of the murder.  While police have not announced a suspected motive for the killing, the m.o. fits a transphobic hate crime pattern.  Residents who knew her say that Lee, who was in transition from male to female, often dressed in women’s clothing, and drew ridicule from the neighborhood because of it.  An unidentified source told the Times-Picayune that Lee “dressed to the nines.”  Carl Adams, who claimed that he did not know the victim well, told reporters that he had often heard Lee arguing with neighbors.  “Probably because they made fun of him,” he said.  In recent years, other trans and non-gender conforming African Americans who have identified with the megastar Knowles have died at the hands of phobic killers.  Simmie Lewis Williams, Jr., 17, who also called himself “Beyoncé,” died from gunshot wounds in 2007 in the 1000 block of Sistrunk Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Adolphus “Beyoncé” Simmons, 18, a talented female impersonator from North Charleston, South Carolina, similarly died outside his apartment while carrying out the trash to a bin, also in 2007.  Much like queer southern whites have idolized Dolly Parton, dressing like her and lip-syncing her hits, Beyoncé has entranced young black cross dressers and transgender women, and has legions of gay and lesbian fans, both black and white.  Yet she has not become the advocate for LGBT people that Ms. Parton has.  Ms. Knowles has occasionally reached out to her LGBT fans, especially after an international flap over her comments concerning the onstage kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears at the MTV Awards in 2003.  At the time, the British tabloid, The Sun, charged Knowles with homophobic statements based on her strict religious upbringing.  On her website, she refuted the claims of the tabloid, writing, “I’d like to clarify any confusion over some quotes that were attributed to me totally out of context in a recent interview. I have never judged anyone based on his or her sexual orientation and have no intention of starting now. I have a lot of gay and lesbian fans and I love them no differently than my straight fans.”  For an interview in Instinct reported on AfterElton.com, she revealed that she was raised by a gay uncle who died of AIDS-related complications.  “He helped me buy my prom dress. He made my clothes with my mother. He was like my nanny. He was my favorite person in the whole world,” she said.  To date, her love and respect for her uncle and her LGBT fans notwithstanding, she has not spoken out against the harm being perpetrated against queer fans who are suffering the ultimate price for paying her the ultimate tribute.  The murder of Eric “Beyoncé” Lee, while outrageous in its own right, underlines the need from some statement on Ms. Knowles’ part, condemning such killings.  Of course, Beyoncé Knowles is not responsible in any way for the killing of Lee, Williams, Simmons, or anyone who chooses to bear her name.  But the number of those dying to emulate her suggest that statements from her and other influential black entertainers against homophobia and transphobia is at least urgent, if not overdue.  ~ NB: Pronouns in this article reflect the usage of the source in quotations.  Williams and Simmons referred to themselves using masculine pronouns.  As is appropriate for an M to F transperson, Lee is referred to using feminine pronouns.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, Louisiana, South Carolina, Special Comments, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Senate Passes DOD Bill with Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Amendment Attached

Senate hate crimesWashington, DC – Last night the U.S. Senate passed the mammoth Department of Defense Appropriations Bill with the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act attached as an amendment.  HRC Backstory explains the process of reconciliation that this version of the bill will undergo in the Senate-House Conference Committee.  According to HRC Senior Policy Analyst David Stacy, “During the month of August, while the Congress is in recess, House and Senate staff will work out differences between the House and Senate bills. Most of these decisions are unrelated to hate crimes and can be worked out at the staff level. Key decisions will be made by Senators and Representatives when they return in September. Most important among these will be the final decision about whether to keep the Matthew Shepard Act. Beyond that threshold question, which we fully expect will be an emphatic “YES,” decisions will have to be made about the amendments passed by the Senate this week.”  This is great cause for celebration since LGBT people are very close to having federal protection in an unprecedented way in our history.  Not only does this legislation honor Matthew Shepard, for whom it is named.  It also remembers and honors thousands of other LGBT hate crimes victims for whom this legislative act is a vindication of sorts.  But while there is reason for rejoicing, the ultimate passage of anti-LGBT hate crimes legislation is not a done deal yet.  The DOD bill did attach other amendments, such as the Sessions Death Penalty amendments, designed to make the Matthew Shepard Act less palatable to sponsors and the public.  The protections provided in the bill for LGBT people are limited, if still important and historic.  Hate crimes against us are on the rise, and the old bromide activists rehearse, that as the younger generations take the reins of culture and government, the war against LGBT people will be over, is just not borne out by the facts.  If younger Americans are more open statistically toward LGBT people and our relationships, then why is the profile of the people who actually kill us men from teenage to mid-30s, for one thing?  So, we must keep at this work.  Those of us who believe in justice cannot rest.  Those of us who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes. [Illustration thanks to Advocate.com].

~  Stephen Sprinkle, Director, Unfinished Lives Project

July 24, 2009 Posted by | Hate Crimes, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Special Comments, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Decorated Sailor Charged with the Murder of Gay Sailor August Provost

August Provost pic on his MySpace page

August Provost pic on his MySpace page

San Diego, CA – The U.S. Navy says that a decorated petty officer has been charged with murder and other offenses in the June 30 slaying of gay Seaman August Provost at Camp Pendleton, California.  Jonathan Campos, 32, has been in military custody since July 1, when the smoldering remains of Seaman Provost were found inside the guard shack where he stood sentry on the night of his murder.  Campos, a Lancaster, CA native, enlisted in the Navy in 2001.  He is a military fuel-system technician who had received numerous decorations, including the Good Conduct Medal.  He has been charged with murder and arson, as well as charges of wrongful possession of a firearm, unlawful entry to a military base, carrying a concealed weapon and stealing military property.  Forensic evidence shows that Provost was shot multiple times with a .45 calibre pistol.  The sentry shack was then torched with Provost’s body inside in order to destroy evidence of the crime.  The Navy continues to deny that the victim was killed because of his sexual orientation.  Instead, naval investigators for NCIS contend that Provost surprised Campos as he was seeking to gain entry to the anchorage where hovercraft were docked in order to set one of them afire, and that Campos shot Provost at that time.  Provost’s family and friends, along with gay rights activists, believe that his sexual orientation played a factor in the murder.  His aunt has told the press that her nephew complained to her about being repeatedly harassed for his homosexuality, and that he had one prime antagonist on base at Camp Pendleton.  Though it is not known whether Campos is that antagonist, both he and Provost served in the same unit, Assault Craft 5.  Ben Gomez, head of the San Diego chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, a national LGBT servicemembers organization, said to San Diego 6 that he and other LGBT activists believe Seaman Provost’s murder was a hate crime.  They contend that he was killed after having an argument about his sexuality with an antagonist on base.  They do not find the Navy’s claim credible that Provost was a “random” victim.  While the Navy largely bases their claim that sexual orientation did not play a part in Provost’s murder since he had never filed a complaint with his superiors about being harassed for being gay, family and the LGBT community counter that he could not have felt safe approaching his commanders at Camp Pendleton because of the threat posed to his continuing military service because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).  Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from California and Provost’s native Texas are calling for a full investigation into the case.

July 23, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arson, California, DADT, gay men, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, military, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas, U.S. Navy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

15-Year-Old McInerney Will Be Tried as an Adult for the Murder of Larry King

Brandon McInerney, left, and Larry King, right

Brandon McInerney, left, and Larry King, right

Ventura County, CA – A judge reviewing the evidence against Brandon McInerney, 15, has ruled today that he will be tried “under special circumstances”  as an adult in the February 2008 shooting death of his 15-year-old gay classmate, Larry King, at a middle school in Oxnard, CA.  McInerney’s attorney has consistently argued that his client, 14 at the time of the shooting, should be tried as a juvenile rather than an adult.  But Judge Ken Riley ruled otherwise, on the basis of testimony in the three-day preliminary hearing that McInerney had threatened King’s life, and that on the morning of the shooting, he chose not to confront King on the playground or in the corridor before school, but “lay in wait” for 15 or 20 minutes inside the 8:30 am computer class he shared with his alleged victim before pulling the trigger, killing him in cold blood in front of their classmates.  The “executory nature” of the murder convinced Judge Riley to remand McInerney for trial as an adult, according to the Ventura County Star.  If convicted of all counts against him, McInerney could serve 53 years to life in prison.  The defendant’s mother, Kendra McInerney, broke out in tears as the judge issued his ruling.  The defense is expected to continue raising the “gay panic defense” as a mitigating factor in the slaying.  McInerney’s lawyer has said that his client cracked when King, who was openly gay and presented femininely, sent him a Valentine and blew him kisses.  Other evidence presented in the preliminary hearing suggests that McInerney was steeped in Neo-Nazi propaganda and had recently stayed over at the home of a white supremacist leader before the shooting, factors that may have influenced him to attack his gay classmate.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, gay men, gay panic defense, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Satendar Singh Remembered: Would Have Been 29 Today

Satendar Singh (July 21, 1980-July 5, 2007)

Satendar Singh (July 21, 1980-July 5, 2007)

Satendar Singh, gay Indo-Fijian immigrant to the United States, would have been 29 years old today.  He was fatally injured at California’s Lake Natoma State Park by Slavic fundamentalist Christians who shouted slurs at him on July 1, 2007, calling him “Hindu,” “7-11 Worker,” “Faggot,” and taunting him that he should “go to a good church” like they did.  Punched in the face by Andrey Vusik, a Russian car exporter who had just come from church that Sunday morning, Singh fell backward, striking his head on a concrete walk.  Though he regained consciousness for a short time, Singh went into a coma, losing all brain activity.  Since his parents lived 5,000 miles away in the South Pacific nation of Fiji, the decision to remove life support from him fell to his uncle and aunt, who like Singh, lived in Sacramento.  Vusik fled the United States, leaving his wife and three small children behind in West Sacramento, and is still at large.  An accomplice of his, Alexandr Shevchenko, stood trial in May 2008 for inciting a fight, assault, and a hate crime.  He was found guilty of the two misdemeanor charges, but the the jury deadlocked 7-5 on the hate crime charge.  Shevchenko was sentenced to 150 days in jail.  Singh’s fatal offense seems to have been dancing with both men and women friends who went to the lake with him to celebrate his promotion at work.  Friction between Slavic fundamentalist Christians who teach that homosexuality is a sin and the large LGBT population of Sacramento had been growing for over two years, with thousands of “Russian Baptists” and Pentecostals from Russia, Uzbekistan, the Ukraine, and Belorussia who emigrated to the US for religious freedom protesting any public LGBT celebration or event in the Sacramento Valley.  LGBT rights advocates feared that something deadly might happen one day, and they point to Satendar Singh’s murder as evidence that they were right.  The two men who attacked Singh and his party of friends had ties to the anti-gay extremist group, Watchmen On the Walls, featured in the Intelligence Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Singh, a Sikh and not a Hindu as his attackers falsely assumed, was transported back to Fiji for the last rites of his funeral.  Rest in peace, sweet brother!

July 21, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, California, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Administration Full Court Press Removes F-22 Funding, Clears Way for Passage of Matthew Shepard Act Amendment

Obama GayWashington, DC – In a lobbying effort that Senator John McCain, President Obama’s former rival for the White House, credited for the number of votes necessary to win, the Obama Administration influenced the Senate to cut funding for the controversial F-22 Raptor fighter jet program.  The DOD appropriations bill now is set for passage, inclusive of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Amendment, extending federal anti-bias protection to LGBT people for the first time in American law.  The Associated Press reports that Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates joined the President in lobbying the Senate, contending that the F-22 twin engine fighter is obsolete, and enough of them now exist to tide the country over until production of the F-35 fighter jet, now in the testing stage.  In a move opposed by the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocacy groups, however, three “unwelcome” death penalty amendments were attached to the Matthew Shepard Act yesterday by voice vote, angering gay and lesbian activists by weighting down anti-hate crime legislation with an extension of the death penalty which they say is opposed to the whole nature and intent of the legislation.  The offending amendments were proposed by right-wing Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.  The HRC has called for all these amendments to be removed from the final bill by the House and Senate conference committee that will reconcile the legislation passed by both houses of Congress, in the event that the DOD appropriations bill passes the Senate in its present death-penalty-amendment-inclusive form.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Hate Crimes, Matthew Shepard Act, military, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do The Right Thing on Hate Crimes Legislation: The F-22 Ploy

f-22-topAfter a hard review of the facts on the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act as a part of the DOD Appropriations Bill, the Unfinished Lives Team supports a Presidential veto if the final version is still inclusive of increased funding for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet program.  Conservative Republican U.S. Senators feel pretty good about now because of the bind they believe they have put President Obama in.  They cynically stonewall any attempt to remove the F-22 program from the DOD bill, citing “job creation” in hard economic times, and national defense.  As Emma Ruby-Sachs writes for 365gay.com, these Republican Senators are counting on LGBT Americans, for whom they do not care a whit, to become angry with Obama again for broken promises over the veto of a wasteful, obsolete fighter jet program that not only the President opposes, but the Pentagon as well.  Here is where the LGBT community can rise to the occasion, and eliminate the problem for the President on his left flank.  We at Unfinished Lives support the President if he needs to veto the bill, even inclusive of the Matthew Shepard Act Amendment.  We are not uncritical of this president.  He has given favors to the LGBT community with one hand, and taken them away with the other from the time of his election.  He and the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate must make good on their promises to us, not just because we  supported them heavily in this last election cycle, but because it is the right thing to do for the sake of our constitutional democracy.  This is a matter of justice.  One murder at the hands of homophobes is one death too many, and our community is suffering every day, as this blog site has demonstrated for over a year now.  But the cynicism of  the Republican conservative leadership apparently knows no bounds.   They believe LGBT people are not just perverse.  They must believe we are fools to boot.  They believe that they can pawn off death and destruction abroad in the guise of an F-22 project and in exchange enact hate crimes legislation that they should have passed 15 years ago.  This is a bargain we reject, and a crass gamble we want them to lose.  The Matthew Shepard Act must be passed by this Congress!  But on this one, we stand with the President.

July 20, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Matthew Shepard Act, Politics, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shoot Nudists Before They Bugger You”: Video Game That Targets LGBT People

HUNTERX390Advocate.com posts an article today on a video game arousing a furious debate in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.  The game features a hunter with a double barreled shotgun hunting down nude gay people, and shooting them before they “bugger” the game’s players.  The game, “Watch Out Behind You, Hunter!” was developed by an outfit named France 24.com, and was first launched in 2002, according to the author of the post, Neal Broverman.  Interestingly, the game has been banned in France for some time.  Defending the game, Jean Christophe Calvet who runs the Uzinagaz site that hosts the game, says, “The guy who came up with the game, Stéphane Aguie, wanted to mock hunters and rednecks, not gay men. Our games are not politically correct. They’re aimed at teenagers and it’s true that they’re of a juvenile humor. I realize now that this one in particular could be found shocking, but I believe that you should be able to make this kind of joke in the name of freedom of speech. Incidentally, not everyone in the gay community was supportive of banning the game.”  Gay Armenia, an LGBT rights group in the region, has stridently criticized the game for its playful and demeaning use of LGBT people as targets for gamers to “kill” in cyberspace.  While this is a foreign-developed and deployed video game, the virulent anti-gay culture present in many of the old Soviet republics, including the Russian Federation, makes this homophobic matter of concern even here in the United States.  The murder of Satendar Singh in July 2007 by Slavic fundamentalist Christians who emigrated to the U.S. is a notable case in point.  This is beyond twisted.  Young people are encouraged to think of gay men as sexual perverts, sub-humans, and worthy targets for murder whose very existence is a “threat” to the gamers and must be eliminated.  This is not free speech.  It is an endorsement of anti-LGBT bias, and an incitement to violence.  Bullying in middle and senior high schools is the seedbed of physical violence against gay and lesbian people later.  The infamous “gay panic defense” is also rooted in homophobic practices like this game, that teach fear and dehumanization and desensitizes youth to the exercise of physical violence.  The Unfinished Lives Project urges an international outcry against this detestable game, and any others similar to it.

July 19, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, gay men, gay panic defense, gun violence, harassment, Media Issues | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syracuse Jury Finds Slayer of Transwoman Guilty of Manslaughter Hate Crime

lateisha green3Syracuse, NY – In a closely watched case, a man charged with shooting an African American transgender woman to death outside a house party in November 2008 has been found guilty of anti-gay bias.  Dwight DeLee will be sentenced shortly for the murder of Lateisha Green, née Moses Cannon, a 22-year-old male-to-female transperson who commenced living as a girl at the age of 16.  Green frequently dressed in women’s clothing, but was dressed in a tee shirt and jeans on the night of her murder.  DeLee’s attorney argued that his client had no animus against LGBT people, but witnesses testified that he referred to Green as a “faggot” the evening he shot her to death with a .22 calibre pistol in her brother’s car.  The Onondaga County jury, charged by the presiding judge to consider possible conviction for murder or manslaughter with or without the hate crime charge delivered their verdict of guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime in six hours of deliberations over two days.  Earlier in the summer, Allen Ray Andrade was also found guilty of the bias-motivated murder of Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old Latina transwoman in Greeley, Colorado.  Now with this second prominent conviction for anti-gay hate crime bias in the nation, the argument marshaled by conservative law enforcement agencies that hate crimes enhancements are impractical because they seldom can be proven in court is increasingly discredited.  These hate crimes convictions not only demonstrate the bankruptcy of entrenched refusals to try defendants for anti-gay bias, but they also show the acknowledgment that hate crime murders differ substantially from other sorts of murders, giving the lie to the argument that all murders are somehow on a par.  LGBT advocates have been largely successful in educating the American populace that hate crimes not only target the specific victim of the murder, but also send a message of terror to a whole class of people in affinity with the victim of the homicide. Thanks to William Kates of the Associated Press for breaking this story.

July 17, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Colorado, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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