Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Illinois Teen Sentenced for Gay Bashing

Marquitte West, 18, sentenced in gay bashing attack (Kendall County photo)

Yorkville, Illinois- An 18-year-old man was sentenced by an Illinois court to two years in prison for his role in a violent attack upon a gay man.  Marquitte West was found guilty of hate crime related to sexual orientation for participating in a gang attack against 29-year-old gay man Bryce Stiff in June 2010.  Both men are from Oswego, Illinois, a city of 30,000 in the northern part of the state.  Two other Oswego men, Jabari Tuggles and Robert Franklin, are being held in prison awaiting their trials for the same offense. A third man is still being sought by the police.

Stiff suffered severe injuries in the attack, leaving him with nerve damage to his face, and a lip so harmed that he has required reconstructive surgery.  He has lingering psychological problems since the savage assault, as well.  In a letter to the court prior to West’s sentencing, Stiff wrote, “I used to be a happy, caring and loving person who would do anything to help anyone.  I was happy about me being gay … but now I’m filled with so much bitterness, hatred and I’m very depressed. I don’t like leaving my home. I don’t like doing things that excite me anymore. I feel like everyone is out to get me.”

According to Chicago Pride, West will serve out his sentence in conjunction with a theft charge.  He is required by the court to pay his victim’s medical costs.  The Kendall County District Attorney told Chicago Pride that this is the first hate crimes prosecution he can recall in county history.

November 10, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Celebrate Lesbian Pioneer, Phyllis Lyon!

Phyllis Lyon, hero of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement

Today is Phyllis Lyon’s 87th birthday, and we at the Unfinished Lives Project pause to celebrate her life and work as a pioneer of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement.  Born November 10, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phyllis earned a journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She, along with her spouse, Del Martin, founded the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco in 1955, the first lesbian social and political organization in the world, along with a handful of other courageous lesbians.  In 1956, Phyllis became the first Editor of the landmark lesbian paper, “The Ladder,” from 1956 until 1960 when Del took over from her.  In 1964, she and Del co-founded the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing religious leaders together for the first time to address the roles of queer women and men in communities of faith, and to encourage faith groups to accept LGBTQ people.  She and Del were active in the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, and were the first lesbian couple to join the National Organization for Women (NOW). In the 1960s and ’70s, they used their influence to de-criminalize lesbian and gay behavior.  In 1995, the couple were prominently active in the White House Council on the Aging.

Coming out in the 1950s was tricky and dangerous.  Originally, Phyllis used the pseudonym “Ann Ferguson” in her writing and editorial work, but dropped it to come out openly and fully as an encouragement to all LGBTQ people to speak the truth as who we are.  Interviewed by young queer journalists during the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C., Phyllis reflected on the courage it took to live openly as a lesbian or gay man in the Eisenhower Era. She told her teen interviewers for The Advocate“The time was not the time when you could wear a sign that said, ‘Hi, I’m a lesbian, be friendly with me!'” 

Phyllis and Del met in Seattle in 1950, and became lovers in 1952. In 1953, they moved to San Francisco. In February 2004, they were issued a Marriage License by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, and were married–only to have their marriage dissolved by the California Supreme Court that same year.  Not to be denied, Phyllis and Del were the first couple to be legally married in San Francisco City Hall on June 16, 2008 once the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in the Golden State–in fact the only couple married that day by the mayor. Del passed away later that year.

“We’ve come a long way from our goal in the 1950s, part of which was to get laws against sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex wiped off the books,” Phyllis told the Noe Valley Voice in February 2003. “The other part was to be considered part of society. We wanted our full rights and responsibilities.” She and Del succeeded, on our behalf.  The contribution they made to the full recognition and protection of LGBTQ people in America is beyond calculation.  So, we at the Unfinished Lives Project salute Phyllis Lyon today as a sign of hope and a hero of our work.  Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, California, Daughters of Bilitis, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Oklahoma, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington State, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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