Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Tulsa Teen Savagely Attacked at House Party

Cody Rogers, 18, after his hate crime beating this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa, Oklahoma – A gay 18-year-old gay man, stepping in to keep a girl from being beaten by homophobes this weekend, was pinned down and beaten unconscious at a South Tulsa house party.  Cody Rogers, who had come out only 18 months ago, was told that the hands of the Tulsa Police Department “are tied” when it comes to hate crimes against gay people, since Oklahoma does not protect LGBTQ people from violence in its law code. Rogers’ attackers have been charged with simple assault, according to Fox News 23.  His friend, Jordan Garrett, said, “I believe 100 per cent this was a hate crime.”  Garrett went on to say, “They were just so angry just over someone’s sexual orientation that they would do something like this. (Cody) looked as if a truck hit him.”  The Fox news story on the bashing drew so many violent and abusive remarks online, the website has blocked all comments.

His assailants objected to gays being invited to the party by the host, and flew into a violent rage at one of the gay men’s female friends, yelling “Where are the f**king faggots?”  Continuing to yell epithets against gay people, one of the angry men began to assault Rogers’ 21-year-old girl friend, causing Rogers to intervene.  Rogers says that when he pulled the man off of the young woman, the man’s friends joined him in knocking Rogers down, stomping and beating him until he became unconscious.

As the Dallas Voice reports, Oklahoma is one of 19 states that refuse so far to include sexual orientation as a protected class.  In states where hate crimes legislation is on the books, what happened to Rogers would probably be charged and prosecuted as a felony.  The Unfinished Lives Project first got word of this hate crime through Facebook posts.  Rogers and his friends have now put up pictures of his ravaged face and chest on a Facebook page, Help Stop the Stomping, designed to spark change in Tulsa. Rogers courageously told Fox 23, “I am not ashamed as to what happened. I am proud to stand here and show the bruises.”  As his story goes viral around the web, Cody is mending physically and emotionally at home.

Toby Jenkins of Oklahomans for Equality says that attacks of this severity are unusual in Tulsa, but the law must be changed to protect LGBTQ people so that something like this will never occur again. The state, he said, is “behind the times.” 

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Oklahoma, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

East Texas Gay Basher Sentenced to 8 Years

James Mitchell Laster III, sentenced to eight years for gay bashing.

Lamar County, Texas – The first of three accused gay bashers has been sentenced to eight years in prison by a Paris, Texas court on Thursday, February 23, following a plea bargain agreement.  As reported in the Dallas Voice, James Mitchell Laster, 33, pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon in the October 30, 2011 attack on Burke Burnett, a gay man who was attending a pre-Halloween party with friends at the time of the hate crime assault.  Burnett, 26, was beaten, bruised, and burned when Laster and two other men yelling anti-gay slurs bodily threw him into a burning garbage barrel because he was gay.  The story made national news because of the graphic nature of Burnett’s injuries.  Gary Young, Lamar County District Attorney, released at statement to the Paris News, saying that Laster also pled guilty to the hate crime enhancement charge lodged against him for his role in the brutal attack.  Laster will have to serve at least four years of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

25-year-old Micky Joe Smith of Brookston, and 33-year-old Daniel Shawn Martin of Paris are still in jail pending trial for their part in the savage gay bashing of Burnett, who received 3o stitches to close his wounds, and suffered second-degree burns over a good portion of his body from being thrown in the burning trash barrel.  Burnett, who now lives in Houston, was unavailable for comment on the sentence at the time of this report.

Significantly, this case is one of the few recent instances when the Texas hate crimes law has been invoked in sentencing. The Austin American-Statesman reported in January 2012 that the Texas statute has had “little effect” in prosecuting bias-motivated crimes in the Lone Star State.  Since the law was passed in 2001, there have been no fewer than 2000 cases in the state which were bias-motivated, yet the hate crimes statute was invoked in only ten of these prosecutions.  The reluctance of Texas prosecutors to use the hate crimes statute stands in sharp contrast to California, where prosecutors filed hate crimes charges in 230 cases in 2010 alone, and New York, where around a dozen hate crimes are prosecuted a year.  The use of the Texas hate crime law in the Laster sentencing may set a precedent for its use by prosecutors in the two remaining trials stemming from the Burnett gay bashing.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Hate Bashings by Young Attackers Alarm Citizens of Massachusetts

Police sketch of assailants in gay bashing on the campus of Bridgewater State University.

Bridgewater and Boston, Massachusetts – Two recent attacks–one against a gay man on a Boston Transit train, and the other against a university journalist for writing a gay-supportive column in the Bridgewater State University Comment–suggest that young females are now attacking gay and gay-friendly allies with greater frequency and boldness than in the recent past.  The Patriot Ledger reported that a student journalist was attacked who wrote a supportive article on same-sex marriage after the California federal court ruling on Prop 8.  Destinie Mogg-Barkalow, who wrote the article entitled “Prop 8 Generates More Hate” told campus police that she was confronted by a young man with close-cropped hair and a red-haired young woman in a campus parking lot Thursday evening, February 16 who asked her if she wrote the pro-gay piece.  When Mogg-Barkalow said “yes,” the woman struck her in the face, bruising her badly.  She stumbled back to the offices of the Comment where staffers called for help. Mogg-Barkalow, who is a lesbian, has described her assailants, and the investigation is ongoing.  The university police, president, and campus community have rallied in Mogg-Barkalow’s support.  Bridgewater is south of the Boston metro area.

Huffington Post reports this week that Boston Transit Police are investigating an assault on a gay man by at least three teenage women who shouted slurs at him for his race and sexual orientation.  The victim, who remains unnamed, had his face badly cut, and his nose bloodied.  His backpack was stolen along with its contents: an iPod and a digital camera. A passenger on the T who witnessed the attack, Priscilla Ballou, told WHDH Channel 7 News“[The victim] was on the receiving end of two kinds of violence: one, the physical violence against his body, and the other, the hate violence against his spirit.”  Metro Boston Transit Authority spokesman, Deputy Chief Joseph O’Connor, said, “Some statements were made relative to his sexual orientation and we have conferred with the district attorney and the attorney general who have advised us to pursue that avenue.”  An 18-year-old suspect from Dorchester has been questioned so far.  The attackers, when apprehended, will be charged with assault and battery, and unarmed robbery, as well as a hate crime.

Bay State citizens, especially LGBTQ people, are deeply concerned about what this means for the safety and security of queer folk in a supposed liberal bastion of the nation.  Conventional wisdom holds that young people are more tolerant of LGBTQ people, and that females are seldom involved in gay bashings.  In both instances, younger women are alleged to have carried out physical attacks against gays and lesbians.  Though the majority of violent attacks on gay, lesbian, and transgender people are carried out by young Caucasian men, the disturbing evidence of female anti-gay violence seems to be mounting.  As hate crimes like this begin to pile up around New England and the nation, the conventional wisdom will have to be reconsidered.

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Massachusetts, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Bashings by Young Attackers Alarm Citizens of Massachusetts

Atlanta Gay Bashing Victim Indicts Homophobic “Monsters” for Brutal Attack

Homophobes attack gay 20-year-old Atlantan, Brandon White, Saturday, February 4 (Surveillance video capture).

Atlanta, Georgia – Brandon White was going to stay silent about the brutal attack of three, epithet-screaming attackers who assaulted him in broad daylight–until his assailants posted a video online bragging about what they did to him.  Three members of a gang named “1029 Jack City” took their homophobic rage out on Brandon White, 20, outside a southwest Atlanta convenience store on February 4.  Yelling “No Faggots in Jack City!” the trio threw a tire carcass at White, knocked him to the sidewalk, and repeatedly slapped and kicked him–all in the the presence of several bystanders who can be heard laughing and encouraging the assault in the video’s soundtrack.  The attack was a set-up so that the assault could be captured on video to allow the homophobes to revel in their barbarity.  But though tens of thousands have viewed the short clip on YouTube (which may be accessed here), the incident sparked outrage around the world at the unprovoked hatefulness of the assault.

White felt compelled to overcome his embarrassment and humiliation when so many began speaking out against the crime done him.  At a press conference called this Wednesday by leaders of the Pittsburgh area of Atlanta where the attack took place, White called for justice for himself and for all victims of anti-gay hate crimes.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that White called his attackers “monsters,” and said, “”If a straight person walks into a store and I have a problem, I should be able to do the same thing. I shouldn’t have to worry about if I should have to look over my shoulder, or if this person is going to attack me, or if that person is going to attack me, for just being a gay male.”  Encouraged by newfound support, White went on to urge victims of hate crimes to come forward the report them.  “Don’t wait until it’s too late to report it. Don’t hide it.”  White acknowledged that the beating made him fear for his life, and still does.  “The scars run deeper than anyone will know,” he said. “The physical pain, I can get over that. My thing is: Who’s to say they won’t come after me again? Who’s to say they won’t kill me?”

Three men were identified as the assailants, and one of them, Christopher Cain, was arrested on February 11 in DeKalb County and charged with aggravated assault and robbery. Cain is being held in the Fulton County Jail pending his arraignment. A $15,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the other two attackers.  The FBI is co-operating in the investigation under the provisions of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, since Georgia does not have a state statute making anti-gay hate crimes punishable.  Activists and lawmakers see this widely-known outrage as an opportunity to introduce hate crimes protections in the state.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, FBI, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, Georgia, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transgender Woman of Color Slain in D.C.

Deoni Jones, 23, died of a stab wound to the face.

Washington, D.C.  The Washington Blade reports that over 200 attended a Tuesday vigil for a slain transgender woman at the bus stop where she died just the week before.  Members of the family of the victim, Deoni Jones, appealed to the large crowd to help develop leads for the police, an appeal that appears to have borne fruit.

Ms. Jones, 23, was waiting for a bus at approximately 8:15 p.m. on February 2 when a male stepped forward and stabbed her in the face, a wound the autopsy report says was the fatal blow.  The suspect was caught on a surveillance video, and according to breaking news from WJLA.com, Metropolitan Police have arrested 55-year-old Gary Niles Montgomery and charged him as Jones’s alleged murderer.  It has not yet been determined whether anti-transgender hate crimes charges will also be filed against Montgomery. He appeared in court for his arraignment on February 11, and is being held without bail.  His preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 24.

This horrible attack is the third murder of a transgender woman in Washington, D.C. in a little over a year.  The two previous transphobic murders remain unsolved, and the city’s transgender community has called for more comprehensive protection.

February 12, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Woman of Color Slain in D.C.

Homophobe Stabs Gay Waiter at Denny’s; Gets Big Jail Time

Curtis Martin, convicted for brutal homophobic stabbing (KCOY image).

Santa Maria, California – A 25-year-old man pled no contest on Wednesday to the attempted murder of a gay waiter, and received a 26-years-to-life sentence for the homophobic hate crime attack.  Curtis Martin gained entrance to Denny’s Restaurant on East Main Street in Santa Maria just before opening time on a day in mid-September 2010 on the pretense of using the restroom.  Once inside, Martin asked a waiter whether he was gay, and then stabbed him twice, once on the side of the neck and then in his throat, according to Central Coast News. Witnesses testified that Martin was yelling anti-gay epithets at his victim as he carried out the brutal attack.  He fled in a car, but Santa Maria Police apprehended him within a few blocks of the restaurant.  The victim survived, and is still recovering from the aftermath of his wounds.

Mercury News reports that Martin was charged with a hate crime which enhanced his sentence for attempted murder with a deadly weapon.  No other motive has been uncovered for the crime than irrational hatred of someone he perceived to be gay.  The assailant and his victim did not know each other prior to the savage attack. As Instinct Magazine suggests, now even an American dining icon like Denny’s is no longer exempt from hate crimes against LGBTQ people. We at Unfinished Lives hope Martin serves his full sentence.  No one should have to fear going out to eat because of their sexual orientation.

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School Makes Top 20 List of Most Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries

Fort Worth, Texas – According to the prestigious Religious Institute, Brite Divinity School has won a berth among the Top 20 “Most Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries” in the United States.  Brite, a non-sectarian progressive divinity school on the campus of Texas Christian University, is the only institution of theological higher education in the Southwestern United States to make the cut by fulfilling the criteria set out by the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice, based in Westport, Connecticut.  The rest of the Top 20 honorees are located in the North, on the Eastern Seaboard, and in California.  For the full list, click here.

This achievement puts Brite and the other 19 seminaries and divinity schools in the front ranks of addressing sexuality issues in the formation of religious professionals, according to the Religious Institute’s website.  Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director of the Religious Institute, said that the seminary list represents hard work and commitment on the part of each school in partnership with the Institute.  Though seminary education in the past offered virtually no help or instruction to prospective religious professionals in sexuality and sexual diversity, the landscape has changed in less than two years.  Haffner said, “These twenty seminaries are the vanguard in ensuring that tomorrow’s clergy are prepared to minister to their congregants, and to be effective advocates for sexual health and justice.” 

Brite was cited for instituting “a full-semester course on sexuality and pastoral care issues; has revised their community inclusion statement to be inclusive of sex, gender identity, and orientation; and requires all field education supervisors, students, and lay committees to address sexuality-related training needs.” In addition, the Fort Worth school has created a model for seminary-wide dialogue with Christian denominations on the ordination and authorization of LGBTQ people for religious leadership.

The Carpenter Initiative on Gender, Sexuality and Justice was inaugurated at Brite in October 2011, and named openly lesbian Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall as its first director.  A grant of $250,000 over five years will advance teaching, dialogue and programming on sexuality and diversity.  Speaking at the Inaugural Service on October 4, Dr. Marshall, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling at Brite, said to a packed chapel, “For justice work to be carefully done, we must listen most clearly and closely to those whose very souls are at risk by the spirit of hate and rejection they experience in their churches.”  Dr. Marshall said that matters of sexuality and justice at Brite flow from “the recognition that God loves all people.”  She went on to say, “Being disruptive agents on behalf of justice requires support, both individual and collective, and the Carpenter Foundation and Brite are reminders that institutions can shape change.”

Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, an openly gay member of Brite’s faculty, is the 18-year Director of the Field Education and Supervised Ministry program that teaches practical ministry to all Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Arts in Christian Service (MACS) students on the Fort Worth campus.  Reflecting on this milestone in sexuality education and ministry, Dr. Sprinkle said, “While much more remains to be done in the areas of diversity and sexual justice at Brite, this honor gives us a moment to pause and thankfully remember the courageous LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff, who worked so hard for equality and sexual wholeness in what many would consider a difficult part of the country.”  

“Brite stands in sharp contrast to the world’s largest Southern Baptist seminary, just down the street from us, where reparative therapy for homosexuality is still thought to be appropriately Christian,” continued Sprinkle, who founded and directs the Unfinished Lives Project to combat anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. “Given the unique way Bible, church, and theology have been misused in American religion to justify anti-gay discrimination and physical violence, the work of all these top seminaries to break the link between religious-based sexual bigotry and faith leadership is one of the most important things they do.”

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DOMA Discrimination Against Lesbian Army Veteran Challenged in Court

Tracey Cooper-Harris, highly decorated Army veteran, denied spousal benefits because she is lesbian

Los Angeles, California – A highly decorated lesbian veteran of the U.S. Army is being denied disability benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and today the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed an important lawsuit to challenge DOMA on her behalf. Tracey Cooper-Harris served with honor in the U.S. Army for 12 years, and received an honorable discharge in 2003 after having received more than two dozen medals and commendations.  But because she married a person of her own sex in California, a perfectly legal marriage still in force, the United States government is denying her and her spouse Maggie equal disability benefits to those heterosexual spouses are receiving.

Cooper-Harris, who achieved the rank of Sergeant for her service in Kyrgyzstan and Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, was diagnosed in 2010 with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disabling disease of the brain and central nervous system for which there is no known cure. Government doctors determined that Cooper-Harris contracted MS as a result of her military service. Faced with a daunting future, she is trying to get her affairs in order as any responsible spouse would. Cooper-Harris received individual disability benefits, but since DOMA is still federal law, the government says that she and her spouse are not eligible for the spousal benefits her service truly entitles them too–all because of anti-gay discrimination, even after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).

Cooper-Harris said, “I dedicated 12 years of my life to serving the country I love. I’m asking only for the same benefits the brave men and women who served beside me enjoy. By refusing to recognize our marriage, the federal government has deprived Maggie and me of the peace of mind that such benefits are meant to provide to veterans and their families.”

The federal lawsuit, Cooper-Harris vs. United States, filed February 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the laws governing the Veterans Affairs policy that denies equal treatment before the law for Cooper-Harris and other married same-sex persons in the nation. Christine P. Sun, Deputy Legal Director of the SPLC, said, “The government’s refusal to grant these benefits is a slap in the face to the gay and lesbian service members who put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our freedoms. Especially given the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it’s shocking that the federal government continues to demean Tracey’s years of service and the service of many others in this way.”  The case is being litigated on Cooper-Harris’s behalf pro bono (at no charge) by the SPLC.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, California, DADT, DOMA, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, U.S. Army | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on DOMA Discrimination Against Lesbian Army Veteran Challenged in Court

   

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