Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Another Tennessee Gay Teen Bullied to Death

Phillip Parker, 14: Bullied for being gay, he felt life was not worth living.

Gordonsville, Tennessee – The body of a 14-year-old gay boy was found by his parents and grandparents Friday, along with a suicide note begging his mother to help him. Phillip Parker committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied for his sexual orientation at Gordonsville High School. WSMV reports that Parker’s parents learned the magnitude of the bullying problem in the school only after he took his life.

This latest gay teen suicide takes place in a state riven with anti-gay controversy.  Recent “Don’t Say Gay,” “License to Bully,” and anti-transgender “Bathroom” bills are making their way through the Tennessee State Legislature, all attempting to stigmatize and debase LGBTQ people. Correlations have been made between high profile anti-gay news stories and a heightened number of violent incidents involving LGBTQ people around the nation.

Young Phillip was the person most likely to tell friends they were beautiful.  His mom said he was energetic, loving, fun, and happy.  But his grandmother reported to WSMV that he confided to her that he was burdened by the bullying, “like he had a big rock on his chest.”  The family said they had complained about the bullying to school officials, but the problem only got worse.

News 5 reports that over a hundred contacts with the Parker family after Phillip’s death added details to the bullying situation at the school. The family said some of these stories showed just how obvious the anti-gay bullying had become there.  His grandfather, Paul Harris, said to News 5: “Because he was gay, he got mistreated physically, mentally by several people out there at the school, and I am very resentful as a result of it. A sweet kind person like Phillip took it out on himself, he killed himself to get out of the pain.” 

No cause of death has yet been officially released by law enforcement authorities.  School officials have not returned calls for comment to the press.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Tennessee, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our Pets are First Victims of Right-Wing Hate: Response to Arkansas Cat Murder

Pet cat killed because of hate. Picture provided by Blue Arkansas who wrote: "It is included here not for shock value, but to show just how heinous some people can be."

Russellville, Arkansas – Jake Burris, campaign manager for Democratic Congressional candidate Ken Aden, came home with his four children to find their pet cat slaughtered on the front porch.  “LIBERAL” was scrawled in magic marker on the lifeless body. In a clear example of terrorism, the innocent animal had been bashed in the head and left so that it could not be missed by Burris, who is locked in a tight campaign struggle against a right-wing Republican opponent to elect his candidate to the U.S. House of Representatives.  But instead of Burris finding the carcass of the family pet before his children, his little boy found their kitty first.  Blue Arkansas wrote movingly about this atrocity:

“This is terrorism.  There’s no other word for it.  A police report has been filed.  Jake said the kids seem to be handling it okay.  The one that discovered the cat was too young to be able to read and Jake had quickly gotten the others into the house before they saw it.  Pope County is an insanely conservative area and the Aden campaign has been shaking things up even there and it looks like another right wing sociopath with a taste for violence has come crawling out of the woodwork in response.  I asked Aden for a comment on the record:

‘“This is sickening.  To kill a child’s pet…I’m at a loss for words…I’ve seen the best and the worst of humanity, but this is something else.”’

Defenseless, innocent victims pay the price of hate ideology and violence first–our pets.  Violence against human victims is underreported, but statistics on this dimension of hate violence are non-existent. The numbers of pets slain in hate killings must be astronomical. Political liberals, progressives, LGBTQ people, women, racial/ethnic minorities have all experienced the terrible shock, anger, and raw fear Jake Burris and his family faced yesterday at the hands of irrational hate groups who send a message of terror by killing cats, dogs, birds and other family pets.

The murder of pet animals is often a prelude to anti-human violence.  Gay man Charlie Howard found his cat dead on the front steps of his apartment in Bangor, Maine with its neck broken shortly before a gang of Bangor’s youth threw him off the State Street Bridge. Friends of Charlie’s said that after he found his cat killed, he became depressed and fearful. He had every reason to be, as it turned out. Charlie drowned in Kenduskeag Stream because three boys hated him because of his sexual orientation.  The pet killing was a telegraphic message of homophobia, sent from people who warmed up to killing Charlie by taking the life of his companion.

I know the feeling that terrorized Charlie Howard and that the Jake Burris and his family face now.  In the early 1990’s, I came home from pastoral hospital visits to parishioners to find my English Bulldog Buck and my Basset Hound Beau butchered, hanging up in a tree in my Eastern NC parsonage yard.  Anonymous opponents suspected I was gay, and tried to drive me out of the church I was serving by slaughtering my pets.  In those days, I lived a single, closeted life, serving churches with the fear of discovery of my sexual orientation. My dogs were my only companions, and paid the ultimate price because cowards thought I would run.  I did not run.  I stayed at the church and fought back successfully.  But the loss is still with me.

Reuters reports that the campaign of Republican incumbent Steve Womack, Aden’s opponent in the heavily conservative 3rd District of Arkansas, has condemned the killing of Burris’s cat.  Candidate Aden and Burris said they do not believe anyone in the Womack campaign perpetrated the crime.  The Russellville Police Department is treating this incident as an animal cruelty case, and the investigation is ongoing. But the fact remains that the atmosphere of irrational hatred propounded by unreasoning prejudice is lethal.

Jake Burris told Blue Arkansas, “I’ve got a gun and I know how to use it. If I have to protect my kids I’ll do it without hesitation.”  

We have a duty to all life to find a cure for hate.  Our pets pay as terrible a price as we do because of hate violence.  Perhaps the shock of a story like this can awaken the consciences of our neighbors to work with us to create a world safe for all creatures to live without fear.    ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, Associate Prof at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arkansas, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Pet killings, Slurs and epithets, Special Comments, transphobia, U.S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Our Pets are First Victims of Right-Wing Hate: Response to Arkansas Cat Murder

Anti-Gay Hate Groups Protest Southern Poverty Law Center—For Intolerance!

Anti-gay hate groups and a few Black pastors protest outside SPLC offices last week.

Montgomery, Alabama – A dozen African American ministers and representatives of anti-gay hate groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) picketed and protested in front of the justice organization’s headquarters in Montgomery, according to a post by the SPLC.  Stung by being listed publicly as anti-gay hate groups because of many documented instances of spreading falsehoods and demonizing gay LGBTQ people, these groups are hitting back at the respected civil rights watchdog organization, calling its Intelligence Report campaign to expose anti-gay bigotry “lies” and part of a “liberal plot” to undermine the American family. Black Entertainment National News (BET) reported that the participation of African American pastors protesting the civil rights organization was “ironic.”

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, a well-financed cadre of right-wing attorneys affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, said: “The SPLC has moved from monitoring actual hate groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis to slandering mainstream Christian organizations with that very same hate group label.” Barber went on to charge that “billions” of Jewish and Christian people were being “smeared” by the SPLC as hateful because they teach traditional Judeo-Christian values.  Members of widely-known anti-gay hate organizations such as AFTAH, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and Abiding Truth Ministries also spoke.  The themes they and their African American clergy supporters sounded at a press conference related to the protests included charges of unfairness, hating God, and spreading lies about these groups, all as instruments of “pro-gay politicking.” 

SPLC’s Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, swiftly refuted the accusations of attacking these hate groups for their Christian or Jewish faith. Potok said, “Our listing of anti-gay hate groups is completely unrelated to religion, Christianity or the Bible. These groups are listed because they repeatedly lie in an effort to defame LGBT people, an exercise they’ve been extraordinarily successful at. The idea that we are criticizing these groups because they represent Judeo-Christian morality is simply ludicrous.”  Examples of the efforts to stigmatize and defame LGBTQ people by these groups include trumped up charges that gay men are largely pedophiles who prey on the young, are sex-addicted, and instigated the Holocaust against the Jews of Europe.

Abiding Truth Ministries founder, Scott Lively, who has actively sought to foment anti-gay attitudes in nations of the former Soviet Union and Sub-Saharan Africa, sent a written appeal to God to eliminate the SPLC.  Lively’s statement, read at the protest press conference, said, “My prayer, as one who really does hate irrational prejudice, is that the Lord by His sovereign power will remove this dangerous, hate-spreading organization from our nation and cause its leaders and members to repent for their wickedness. … I want to make clear that I am asking God himself to destroy their organization.”  Box Turtle Bulletin, a blog founded to monitor news affecting the LGBTQ community worldwide, maintains a massive dossier on Scott Lively’s hate mongering activities and statements, which can be accessed here.

The SPLC’s Winter 2010 issue of the Intelligence Report lists 18 anti-gay hate groups and their propaganda.  The award-winning  quarterly magazine gives comprehensive research updates on hate groups to law enforcement agencies, the media, and the general public. According to its Intelligence Files, “Opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians has been a central theme of Christian Right organizing and fundraising for the past three decades – a period that parallels the fundamentalist movement’s rise to political power.”

In response to the threat of divine retribution for labeling anti-gay hate organizations for what they are, the SPLC said that if the firebombing by the Ku Klux Klan did not destroy the organization, it is doubtful that anti-gay hate groups will have any better luck.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Alabama, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, GLBTQ, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, KKK, LGBTQ, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transphobic “Bathroom Bill” Introduced in TN Legislature

Nashville, Tennessee – A bill making the use of a bathroom by transgender persons a punishable offense is making its way through the Tennessee Legislation, according to Daily Kos.  Transgender people are put in an insidious double-bind by the proposed bill: if passed, it will fine a person for the use of a restroom if the sex on that person’s birth certificate does not match the assigned sex of the toilet, while Tennessee does not allow for the sex assignment on a person’s birth certificate to be changed.  The “Bathroom Bill” imposes a monetary fine on offenders – $50 – but the fine is the least of the legislation’s harm to transgender people.  As Daily Kos and the Huffington Post point out, this bill would embed structural discrimination against a class of people into state law, much as sodomy laws did before the Lawrence v. Texas ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court struck them down across the nation in 2003.

The Volunteer State has entertained some of the most regressive, homophobic laws in the nation, typified by the reprehensible “Don’t Say Gay” and “License to Bully” bills, and as long as the radical, extremist right wing is in power in the state, the cavalcade of bias-driven laws is unlikely to stop.  The “Don’t Say Gay” bill bans use of the words “gay” or “homosexual” in a Tennessee public school classroom (while, as Signorile says, “pervert” or “sodomite” are fine!) to prevent teaching or discussion about same-sex issues.  The “License to Bully” bill, if passed, would offer protections to students who attack the legitimacy of homosexuality as a normal human variation–in effect offering cover to people who wish to bully LGBTQ students.

In a major national survey issued in October 2011, the first of its kind, transgender people in the United States were shown to be the object of discrimination in every sector of life.  The Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Study, “Injustice at Every Turn,” noted that “It is a part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender non-conforming people within foundational institutions such as the family, schools, the workplace and healthcare settings, every day.”  This amounts to a colossal moral failure in American life, and the Tennessee bill is of a piece with this systematic and structural bias-attack on transgender people.

The ACLU decries anti-transgender “bathroom bills,” seeing such laws as fundamentally violating non-discrimination laws.  Social advocacy groups within the state, such as the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), are opposing the bill, which was introduced by State Senator Bo Watson (R) to make Tennessee, in the words of Think Progress, “a particularly unfriendly place for transgender people.” The text of the “Bathroom Bill” may be accessed here.

As transgender advocate Ryan Sallans, writes in his popular blogsite, “I’m thinking of all you folks down in Tennessee. When is this sh*t going to stop? I just wish politicians didn’t exist, the world would be a better place. Communities should just sit down and talk, get to know each other, respect their differences and understand we all are just trying to live and make it mean something in a challenging world.”  When will the sh*t stop, indeed! (Thanks for links to Dr. Jason Lamoreaux).

January 12, 2012 Posted by | Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lawrence v. Texas, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transphobic “Bathroom Bill” Introduced in TN Legislature

Hate Crimes Blog Marks Quarter-Million Milestone!

Celebrating 250,000 readers and more! Many thanks!

Dallas, Texas – A blog site created to change the conversation on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes hosted the 250K visitor today, marking a milestone in cyberspace.  Unfinished Lives Blog broke the quarter million hit barrier Tuesday morning, January 10, fueled by intense interest in gay bashing stories from Wisconsin, California, and the Republic of the Philippines.

Created by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, the author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011) as “a place of public discourse which remembers and honors LGBTQ hate crime victims, while also revealing the reality of unseen violence perpetrated against people whose only ‘offense’ is their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation,” the blog has to date posted 432 articles relating to overcoming violence against sexual and gender dissidents in 370 categories.  Assisted by the Unfinished Lives Project Team, the blog ginned up in June 2008, and gradually gained a loyal readership, becoming a trusted source on hate-crimes-related issues affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people.

Originally, the site appealed to colleagues at Brite Divinity School, students, and interested North Texans.  Early on, however, the blog began to gain a national and international constituency.  As of this date, the top ten U.S. states represented by hits are (in rank order) California, Texas, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey, with all 50 states, U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia represented. Internationally, readers from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Mexico, Italy, and Spain lead the pack, with the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Taiwan leading Asian visitors, and South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, and Nigeria contributing the most readers from Africa. In all, Unfinishedlivesblog.com counts readers and followers from 174 foreign countries and territories.

One distinctive feature of Unfinished Lives Blog is its combination of reportage, ethnography, theological orientation, and academic origins.  Few academically-originated blogs reach the number of people this one consistently does.

The month of January will be a time of appreciation and celebration in the life of this blog.  Highlighted for thanks and recognition are four groups: the Endorsers of this blog and the Unfinished Lives book, the growing number of Followers (now more than 470 official Followers!), the Unfinished Lives Project Team support staff, and, of course, the 250K readers without whom this effort would be a lone voice in the dark.

This effort has no paid staff, no advertising to defray expenses, and no full-time personnel.  Instead, this blog has been and remains a labor of love and remembrance.  No end to the violence perpetrated against LGBTQ people is yet in sight.  We cannot, will not forget the women, men, and youths cut down by irrational hatred because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender presentation. Their families, friends, and lovers are dear to us. Their attackers and murderers are in our prayers. The work of this blog is in no wise done–there is so much more remaining to do until hate violence is erased.  So, we who believe in Justice cannot rest–we who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes!

Thank you for your continuing readership, commentary, and support!

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Crimes Blog Marks Quarter-Million Milestone!

Wisconsin Queer Bashing Suspects Face Trial; Gay Panic Excuse Put to Test

PJ's Bar, Oshkosh, scene of brutal Christmas Day queer bashing (Facebook image)

Oshkosh, Wisconsin – Two suspects arrested in the bashing of a gay man outside a gay bar on Christmas Day will go to trial, according to reports from WTAQ News Talk.   Lyall Ziebell and Jacob “Jake” Immel-Rhode, both 20, waived their preliminary hearings on January 5. Ziebell entered no plea, and will face arraignment on January 12. Immel-Rhode pled not guilty to all charges, and is due back in court for a pre-trial conference on February 1. The alleged attackers are charged with battery causing great bodily harm, and burglary.  The battery charge for both men also carried a hate crime modifier, which increases the penalties for the crimes, if found guilty. If the maximum penalty is invoked, each man could serve 23-and-a-half years in prison and face $40,000 in fines.

The police complaint states that Immel-Rhode and Ziebell agreed to give a cigarette to the victim in exchange for a shot of liquor at PJ’s bar on Oregon Street in Oshkosh just before 2 a.m. on Christmas Day.  When the three men came out of the bar to smoke, the attack started almost immediately.  Ziebell, who characterized himself as “very homophobic,” hit the victim so hard he collapsed on a car hood, and then fell to the pavement, where Immel-Rhode set upon him, kicking the helpless man while shouting that he was a “stupid faggot.” The alleged assailants excused their actions because they say the victim “tried to hit on” Ziebell who threw the first punch. The complaint further states that the pair robbed a Mexican market on the way home to Ziebell’s house, stealing money and pre-paid cell phones.

The victim suffered a broken jaw and injury to his brain from the brutal attack, and underwent emergency surgery.  He was then admitted to Intensive Care.  Recently, he was released from the hospital to recuperate at home, and to deal with the emotional trauma of the assault.

The Wisconsin Gazette reports that James Combs, a friend of the victim, has started a petition on Change.org calling attention to the hate crime, and urging Winnebago County Assistant D.A. Adam Levine, Democratic State Senator Jessica King, and others in authority to make sure justice is done in this case, including pursuit of hate crimes charges.  The petition can be accessed by clicking here. Combs told the Gazette, “We really need to draw attention to this kind of thing. People have not really grown accustomed to gay people, and there is still violence and horrible things happening.”  He also said that a fund to help pay the victim’s hospital expenses is being set up.

Among the most important aspects of this case is the gay panic excuse the attackers gave for their violence against a gay man. In the gay panic defense, alleged homophobic assailants rely upon latent negative feelings in the general public to cloud the issue of the crime, and to lessen popular anger at their deeds.  The illogic of the gay panic excuse turns justice on its head: the victim is put under the spotlight, insinuating that he or she was somehow responsible or “had it coming” when violence is perpetrated against them. In its more extreme forms, the innuendo implies that the victims actually went out seeking punishment for their “perverse lifestyle.” When used in court, as by all indications will be done in this case, defense attorneys count on anti-gay prejudice buried in jurors to buy acquittal or a lesser sentence for their clients. Sadly, this has worked in the recent past in American courts, an amazing outcome in the 21st century. James Combs says in the narrative for the Change.org petition,  Hate Crime Tolerance in Wisconsin, “We need to let lawmakers know that Gay Panic Defense will never fly as an excuse, and any jury would agree. Let’s make sure they receive the full sentence.”

The gay panic defense is a discredited, out-of-date, and outworn attempt to sully the character of LGBTQ victims of hate crimes, and to obstruct justice.  No victim deserves physical attacks for being gay or lesbian in the United States of America. Neither should any victim of an anti-gay hate crime face the burden of emotional distress and public shame by having his character brought into question–an irrelevant point in cases such as these. For defendants to present such a “justification” for their actions in an American courtroom should, by itself, increase the penalty of law for false accusation.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, gay bashing, gay men, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Filipino Teen Drenched with Boiling Water–By His Own Father

Edmund Padilla in pain from scalding water attack by his own father--just because he was gay (video capture).

The Philippines – A 19-year-old gay youth from the Northern Philippines who came out to his family was attacked by his own father with a pot full of boiling water–because his father didn’t like the news.  Edmund Padilla suffered severe burns and blisters over much of his body as a consequence of the scalding water assault, according to Queerty, which broke the story in the United States. The Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch (PLHCW) reports that Padilla’s father, Erano, has been taken into custody as the investigation proceeds.

Erano Padilla, the assailant, was allegedly drunk when he threw the boiling water on his son.  The elder Padilla told authorities that he was enraged by the news that Edmund was gay.  Huffington Post reports that Edmund was the third child in the family who has self-identified as gay. The case is complicated by the age of the victim, and the absence of anti-gay hate crimes protections for Filipinos.  Since Edmund is over 18, national and United Nations child protection statutes may not apply to him.  The horrifying, homophobic attack has stirred the nation to come to a better understanding of its LGBTQ citizens, especially its youth.

Queerty published the statement of PLHCW spokesperson, Reighben Labilles:

“We plead to the government to initiate proactive programs that provides parents and LGBT children the opportunities to promote freedom of expression of sexuality and gender… We are born this way and you cannot punish us to change our sexuality. We fear that so many violent acts perpetrated by parents and legal guardians against their LGBT children go unreported. It is so urgent for Congress to find ways to protect sons and daughters of whatever age from family-based violence.”

There is no word as yet on the whereabouts of Edmund’s two gay siblings.  The PLHCW has embedded a video of the story on its blogsite, without English subtitles, which may be accessed here.  Be warned! The video of Edmund in agony is graphic and disturbing.

January 6, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Phillipines, Queerty.com, Social Justice Advocacy, United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Panic Murder of Homeless Disabled Man in Connecticut

Matthew O'Brien-Veader, on trial for the brutal murder of a homeless disabled man he believed made a sexual advance toward him.

Waterbury, Connecticut – Police officials say that a Waterbury man savagely murdered a homeless disabled man living in the same abandoned factory because of an alleged sexual advance.  Matthew O’Brien-Veader, 23, took shelter in the derelict warehouse along with his alleged victim, 39-year-old Joed Olivera, in June 2009.  During his sleep, O’Brien-Veader believed that the older disabled man attempted to have sex with him, and flew into a homophobic rage, according to the Republican American. Police arrested O’Brien-Veader June 12, 2009, and charged him with the grisly murder. He was bound over for trial in superior court, which finally began in Waterbury this week after a series of delays.

Court documents say that O’Brien-Veader attempted to throw Olivera down a flight of stairs, beat Olivera with his own pair of crutches until they shattered, and then repeatedly stabbed him with a dagger before throwing Olivera’s body through a jagged hole in the floor to the room below.  Others in the factory found Olivera’s body atop a jagged pile of junk, covered with a piece of plywood. One man who saw the mangled body of the homeless victim was so disturbed by the scene that he testified in in Waterbury Superior Court Tuesday to running out of the building and smoking marijuana to calm his nerves. O’Brien-Veader’s friend, Jason Benoit, testified that O’Brien-Veader had a deep aversion to LGBTQ people, and had told him that all gay people should be rounded up and dropped on a deserted island. According to the Hartford Courant, the defendant could receive a life sentence if found guilty.

O’Brien-Veader sat quietly beside his attorney as the case, postponed until over two years after the homicide, unfolded in the Waterbury courtroom. By invoking the gay panic defense, suggesting that the victim was responsible for his own murder, the defense hopes to cloud the minds of jurors enough to lighten the sentence, should their client be found guilty.  The recent King-McInerney gay killing in Oxnard, California gave the gay panic defense new life in American courts.  Defense attorneys for McInerney, a teen who confessed to the execution-style shooting of his teenaged gay classmate, Larry King, in front of a room full of witnesses, argued that unwanted sexual advances pushed McInerney to pull the trigger.  The ploy succeeded in reducing the conviction from murder to manslaughter.  O’Brien-Veader’s defense team is hoping that enough residual heterosexism and homophobia exists in jurors to bring a similar result for their client.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Connecticut, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Skinheads Attack California Gay Men in New Year’s Hate Crime

Gay bashing in progress by Santa Barbara Skinheads on New Year's morning (video capture)

Santa Barbara, California – Three skinheads attacked a gay couple as they left a New Year’s Eve event early Sunday in Santa Barbara, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. The savage assault was captured on video, which the police are using in their hunt for the perpetrators. The Daily Sound reports that the three suspects are all in their 20s, are white males, and sport shaved heads.  As the two gay men left a party at a nightclub, headed toward their parked car, the three assailants called out derogatory anti-gay slurs, and then attacked.  One of the victims suffered a broken jaw, and needed staples to close a deep gash in his scalp. The second victim escaped with minor injuries.

Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez pledged to find and arrest the attackers, calling the assault a “hate crime.” Chief Sanchez said, “Hate crimes like these will not be tolerated and those responsible will be held accountable.” This horrific attack is one more indicator that hate crimes against gay people do not take a holiday–ever.

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, California, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Tennessee Teens Face Potential “License to Bully” Law

TN students protesting anti-gay legislation (Tennessean image)

Nashville, Tennessee – A “License to Bully” gay students bill will be on the Tennessee Legislature docket this winter–and is already facing criticism from progressives. The bill would protect anti-gay students when they frame their homophobic feelings in religious language. WSMV4  reports that conservative lawmakers are presenting the bill, SB 760/HB 1153,  making outspoken anti-gay statements in Tennessee schools legal “if that is what religious beliefs call for.”  Like opponents of human rights around the nation, Volunteer State conservatives such as FACT (Family Action Council of Tennessee) are framing the bill as a matter of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Fox News 17 quotes progressive high school student Emmanuelle Loyer in opposition to the “License to Bully” bill.  Loyer said anti-gay students will take advantage of the protections the bill offers: “They can say cruel things they want to say under that protection.”  Loyer went on to say that supporters of the bill are dangerously misinformed about realities in today’s public schools. “I don’t think they realize how cruel high school students can be,” she said.

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) opposes the bill and its intent. Jonathan Cole of the TEP said, “It’s time for Tennesseans to stop using children as pawns for social, religious and political agendas. We need to be focusing on ways to ensure that Tennessee students receive an education free from bullying, harassment and intimidation.”  In a statement to the press, the TEP said, “The religious liberty and free speech rights of students are already protected by the U.S. Constitution. This legislation would give special protections to students of a particular religious point of view. If made into law, FACT  would give students a ‘license to bully’ that allows them to hide their irrational biases behind an extreme religious belief.” 

Already under assault from the “Don’t Say Gay” (HB0229/SB0049) bill last year, LGBTQ students and their allies in public schools are organizing to fight for vulnerable youth and teachers who are targeted for harassment, slurs, and harm. The Tennessean warned that harassment of gay youth already has already proved lethal, as in the case of Jacob Rogers, Cheatham County Central High senior who took his own life in response to years of relentless bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation.

Against the claims of FACT and right-wing lawmakers, the Tennessee Equality Project quotes a recent study in the Journal Pediatrics showing “an association between an objective measure of the social environment and suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. The social environment appears to confer risk for suicide attempts over and above individual-level risk factors. These results have important implications for the development of policies and interventions to reduce sexual orientation–related disparities in suicide attempts.”

Conservatives ignore these documented connections and protest against using the stories of gay teen suicides in the debate on the “License to Bully” bill. At a time when Tennessee lawmakers should be offering more protections for LGBTQ students, they are poised to take Tennessee in the direction of shielding homophobic students and their right wing supporters.

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, License to Bully bill, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Tennessee | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Tennessee Teens Face Potential “License to Bully” Law

   

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