Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Hate Crimes Activist and Queer Theologian Gets Promotion

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, promoted to Full Professor (Phoebe Sexton photo, Cathedral of Hope)

Fort Worth, Texas – By vote of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle has been promoted to the rank of Full Professor in the Brite Divinity School faculty.  Sprinkle, author of three books and many articles on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, theology, practice of ministry, and liturgy is now Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry in the Fort Worth seminary.

Sprinkle, a native North Carolinian, came to Brite in 1994.  He has taught and directed the ministerial formation of thousands of students.  In 2008, he founded the Unfinished Lives Project, an organization aimed at changing the national conversation on LGBTQ hate crimes murder.  Dr. Sprinkle is a member of the Academy of Religious Leadership, where he serves on the Board of Directors, and he holds membership in the Association of Theological Field Education. In 2010, he received the Hero of Hope Award for his advocacy for LGBTQ equality from the Cathedral of Hope, the largest gay-predominant congregation of Christians in the world.  In the same year, the Cathedral named him Theologian in Residence, a post which he still occupies. Texas Christian University’s 2012 edition of Image Magazine recognizes Sprinkle as “one of America’s prominent experts on queer theology–the exploration of man’s relationship with God through the LGBTQ experience.”

In the summer of 2009, Sprinkle took a leading role in the protests arising from the Raid on the Rainbow Lounge, a noted gay bar in Fort Worth.  He is one of the few theologians who has integrated his work as an academic and church leader with social justice advocacy.  Dean Nancy J. Ramsay, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Divinity School, said in a congratulatory email to Dr. Sprinkle that the motion to promote him “sailed through in committee and in the Board.”

The process leading to promotion at the Divinity School is a year-long round of applications, votes by the school’s Faculty Committee, the Tenured Senior Faculty, the Dean, and the President.  Two outside scholars evaluate the academic work of the nominee for excellence in scholarship and national significance in the church and the academy. Dr. Sprinkle is a graduate of Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, and received his M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School, and his Ph.D. degree in systematic theology from Duke University Graduate School.  He and his partner Rob live in Dallas, Texas.

April 29, 2012 Posted by | Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments | , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Crimes Activist and Queer Theologian Gets Promotion

Gay Utah Teen Bullied To Death: Emergency Community Summit Called

Jack Reese, 18, latest victim of school bullying against LGBT students.

Ogden, Utah – Last Monday, another gay teenager from Utah took his life in response to intolerable bullying because of his sexual orientation.  Q Salt Lake reports that Jack Reese, 18, of Mountain Green is the latest casualty in the war on gay teenagers taking place in the nation’s schools.  With heartbreaking coincidence, Reese’s boyfriend, Alex Smith, spoke on Reese’s experiences with school bullying to a community event focused on the problem of bullying–without the knowledge that the love of his life had already taken his own life earlier that day. Details of Reese’s death have not been released to the public at this time.

According to Ogden OUTreach, a local LGBT youth service organization, the rate of gay teen suicide in Utah is fully 8 times the national average.  A North Utah mother of a gay son appeals to parents in the community the community in the wake of Reese’s bullycide to wake up and take action against the epidemic of suicide sweeping so many queer youth away.  Allison Black writes to her fellow parents, in part: “Our local community and churches do not always make it easy to openly accept our LGBT (lesbian, gay, transgender, and bi-sexual) friends, family members, and loved ones.  The bullying and suicides need to stop. Parents please do not let outside influences tell you that your gay child is evil or broken.  Follow your heart.”

The Rev. Marian Edmonds, director of Ogden OUTreach, says that in an “off-the-record” comment by a local official, a gay teen takes his or her life at the rate of once a week, though it does not get reported that way to the press.  In a statement to the media, Edmonds said: “The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both. These youth are bright, creative and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family. It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children. Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now.”

An emergency community summit aimed at stopping the spread of gay teen suicides due to bullying has been called in Ogden for May 1.  Speakers will include parents from Ogden PFLAG, local opinion leaders, faith leaders, and active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the predominant religious influence throughout the area.  At Alex Smith’s request, a candlelight vigil will be held at the end of the summit in memory of Reese. Rev. Edmonds decries the situation that is robbing Ogden and North Utah of its young people.  “Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now,” she said. Liz Owen, director of PFLAG national, summed up the challenge facing us all: “Sadly, the death of Jack Reese is a reminder that there is still much work to be done.”

April 29, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Social Justice Advocacy, suicide, Utah, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gay Hate Crimes Victim Ryan Keith Skipper Lives On: A Special Comment

Ryan Keith Skipper (April 28, 1981 - March 14, 2007)

Wahneta, Florida – Today would have been Ryan Keith Skipper’s 31st birthday, had he not died at the hands of two reckless, homophobic men in Central Florida five years ago.  But Ryan lives on in the hearts and minds of his family, his friends, and countless supporters of human rights who commemorate his life and the lives of other hate crimes murder victims around the nation.

Ryan’s murderers are both sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.  William David “Bill-Bill” Brown Jr. and Joseph “Smiley” Bearden killed Ryan on the night of March 14, 2007 in cold blood, stole his car, and vainly attempted to fence it before desperately trying to burn it up in order to destroy evidence of the murder.  The Sheriff of Polk County, Grady Judd, capitalized on Ryan’s murder politically, and crassly blamed Ryan for his own death.  Sheriff Judd, as of this writing, still holds office, though every one of his innuendoes and allegations concerning Ryan have been categorically disproved.

In the five years since Ryan’s untimely death, his parents, Pat and Lynn Mulder, his brother Damien, and his host of friends have gotten on with their lives, dealing with their grief the best they can.  His family has become one of the foremost voices for justice for hate crimes victims in the nation.  A major documentary film, “Accessory to Murder: Our Culture’s Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper,” directed by Vicki Nantz, a former news director for Orlando’s WESH-TV, continues to open hearts and minds to the cause of human equality throughout Florida and beyond.  Damien, Ryan’s older brother, has married and moved away from Florida.  He and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Ryan, into the world this past year, so in an act of life in defiance of death, another Ryan Skipper lives and thrives in her uncle’s memory.

The Unfinished Lives Project was inspired by the life story of Ryan Skipper: his extraordinary capacity for love and friendship, his ability to make people feel appreciated and important, and his unconquerable spirit of life.  His story occupies a chapter in the recent book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), entitled “Keeper of Hearts.”

Every time Ryan is remembered and his story is retold, the intentions of his killers and their accomplices in today’s culture and politics are thwarted.  Ryan is precious in our memory on his birthday.  Our fight for equality and justice continues because Ryan lives on in our hearts.

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Florida, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Politics, Remembrances, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Lesbians Thrown Out of Texas Bar, Then Beaten in Possible Hate Crime

Julie Ward says she and her friends were held and beaten for being lesbians (KVUE News image)

Weir, Texas – A group of lesbians say that they were thrown out of a local bar and then held and beaten because of their sexual orientation. Weir, Texas is a town of 500+ souls in Northeast Williamson County, east of Georgetown and north of Austin. Julie Ward, her sister, sister-in-law, and another friend stopped in the Bunkhouse Bar, the only place to get an adult drink in the town, late on Sunday, according to the Dallas Voice. Ward, one of the victims in the crime, said to KVUE News that she and her party got beers and started playing pool.  A female employee of the Bunkhouse approached them to tell them the bar “didn’t serve [their] type,” that they were not welcome there, and to see them out the door. When the group of women moved outside, patrons of the bar followed them into the parking lot, seized them, and commenced to beat them while hurling anti-lesbian slurs at them.

Ward says that women held them while the men from the bar beat them.  She told KVUE: “As we came outside into the parking lot, we were followed by the patrons of the bar and our arms were held back by women and we were beaten by men. A man told me if I was going to look like a man, I better be able to take a hit like a man, and I was punched in the face at that moment and hit the ground.” Ward continued: “We’re just people too. We’re normal people that wanted to be in a bar. We wanted to spend our money there. We wanted to play pool there and because of our sexuality we weren’t welcome.”  Ward, her friend, and her sister suffered multiple scrapes, bruises, and cuts on their arms and legs from the beating.

A bar spokeswoman says that “sexual preference” didn’t cause the attack.  In her version of the incident, the lesbians were “rough housing,” and were asked to leave.  No explanation was given of why patrons of the bar followed the victims outside, held and beat them. Weir residents are making the customary defense of their hometown, saying that things like a lesbian beat-down don’t occur in their close knit community.

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department says that the investigation is ongoing, and if a hate crime was perpetrated, then the case will be treated as a bias crime at that time. No arrests in the beating have yet been announced.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Philip Bushong, 23, called homophobic slur and stabbed to death by a fellow U.S. Marine

Washington, D.C. – A U.S. Marine was attacked and stabbed through the heart by a fellow Marine who allegedly ignited the fight by calling him an anti-gay slur.  Philip Bushong, 23, was fatally stabbed with a pocket knife on Saturday in the Barracks Row section of D.C. by 20-year-old Michael Poth, according to reports in WTNH News. Gravely wounded, Bushong was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died about an hour later. The stabbing took place near the Marine Barracks and the home of the U.S. Marines Commandant–a bustling section of the U.S. Capitol with shops, restaurants, and residences that is normally thought to be safe because of its proximity to the military barracks.

Witnesses told DC police that Poth called Bushong the homophobic slur as the two Marines passed each other on the sidewalk at about 2:40 a.m., according to the Washington Post.  Bushong, who apparently had never met Poth, took exception to the slur, and the fight erupted in front of a sporting goods store. The DC Metro Police are taking the lead on the investigation of Bushong’s murder, assisted by the Naval Crime Investigative Service.  Poth was charged Monday with second degree murder, according to WJLA News 7. Bail was denied at the request of representatives of the Marine Corps, and Poth will go to court the next time on May 15. Defense attorneys allege self-defense on their client’s part. When Poth was arrested by Marine guards and told that Bushong was on his way to the hospital, he allegedly told them, “Good! I hope he dies!” Carolyn Eaves, a worker a block away from the scene of the crime, told News 7, “Sad. Two families… now destroyed “We have to learn not to call people names, you know. Got to be on our Ps and Qs all the time. Sad.”

Because of the report of the homophobic slur, hate crimes protocols are being observed in the investigation, and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the Metro Police have been brought in.  The Advocate reports that OutServe, the first openly gay and lesbian active duty military advocacy organization in the nation, issued a statement on the killing over the weekend.  In part, the statement reads: “We are troubled by the specter that this might have been a hate crime; if so, we anticipate the authorities will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law. This is particularly upsetting since, overall, gay and lesbian Marines have been accepted and treated equally in the force since repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We look forward to the results of a swift and thorough investigation of this tragic incident.” 

Bushong, a Marine since 2007, was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  A native of Enfield, Connecticut, he was described by friends and fellow Marines as a fun-loving person who enjoyed his life. Funeral arrangements in Connecticut have not been released to the public at the time of this report.

Hate speech has the capacity to inflame young men, in particular. What prompted one Marine to sling an anti-gay epithet at the other is not known, but neither young man is believed to be gay. The language of violence attached to homophobia is still strong enough to infuriate people like no other speech in our time, and turn otherwise sensible people into combatants, as in this awful case in the nation’s capitol. The Marines have traditionally been felt to have a higher degree of homophobia than the other armed forces, but recent accounts seemed to indicate that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was going well in the Corps. It seems there is much work left to do, however, until young men like these no longer feel that accusations of homosexuality are intolerable to their manhood.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Connecticut, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), OutServe, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. Marines, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Transgender Woman of Color Murdered in Chicago

Paige Clay, transgender woman shot to death in Chicago (Brian Turner photo)

Chicago, Illinois – A young transgender woman of color was found shot in the head in the West Garfield Park area of Chicago.  Paige Clay, 23, was found dead in an alley in the early morning hours of April 16, according to the Windy City Times.  No one has been arrested in connection with her murder.  Police are still actively investigating the brutal shooting.

Members of the Chicago LGBTQ support community and participants in the Chicago Ball scene who knew and loved Ms. Clay identified the body for authorities. Mina Ross, Ms. Clay’s “ball mother” deeply mourns her protegé’s passing.  Ms. Ross describes Ms. Clay as “rambunctious,” beautiful, hard to get to know at first, but a strongly loyal friend to those who took the time to get behind Ms. Clay’s self-protective exterior.  Ms. Ross told reporters that Ms. Clay was just beginning to find herself. “She grew into a beautiful, beautiful young woman,” Ms. Ross said. “I was so devastated by this [loss] .”

Ms. Clay was becoming a significant presence on the Chicago Ball scene, where her runway work, her innovative sense of style and fashion, and her charismatic persona were winning her friends and winning competitions.  She had even begun to win out-of-state competitions, according to Ms. Ross.  But she was also targeted by discrimination and violence according to her friends, as are so many transgender women of color in the Windy City and around the nation.

She had grown up in tough circumstances with little family support.  At an early age, Ms. Clay had found LGBTQ support services, and was a well-known client for many years. In recent years, she had found steady jobs with McDonald’s and Wendy’s restaurants, as well as Fashion 21. She had managed to secure her own apartment, a matter of considerable pride for her. Most importantly, she had attracted a large queer family of choice, one that is coming to her defense in the press, and clamoring for police action to solve her savage murder. Since few family members remained in touch with Ms. Clay, friends and ball scene associates stepped in to stand vigil over her memory while officials searched for next-of-kin to receive her remains.  Funeral arrangements are pending.

The Center on Halsted, where Ms. Clay had become a familiar presence through the years, issued a statement to the press concerning her murder, according to the Examiner.  Chief Executive Officer of the Center, Modesto Tico Valle, said, “Though we do not have all the details, this news is extremely disturbing, especially as severe violence against transgender women is all too common. Transgender women face some of the highest rates of violence and abuse in our nation. This is the third reported murder of a transgender woman in the U.S. in April alone. We must work together to create more safety in our world for all people, especially those most targeted.” 

A “Justice for Paige” Facebook site has been opened for the express purpose of gathering information on the murder, and to insure that “ANOTHER ONE OF OURS JUST WON’ T BE SWEPT UNDER THE RUG,” as the site creators say.

April 23, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Center on Halsted, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Illinois, LGBTQ, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Woman of Color Murdered in Chicago

East Texas Gay Basher Gets 10 Years for Savage Attack

Mickey Jo Smith, convicted of anti-gay hate crime in East Texas.

Paris, Texas – The second of three defendants in the Reno, Texas homophobic hate crime attack on a gay man received a 10 year sentence after pleading no contest to the charges against him. Mickey Jo Smith, 25, took his medicine for participating in the savage beating and burning of 28-year-old Burke Burnett that took place after an October 30, 2011 Halloween gathering gone seriously wrong.  Smith offered no defense Tuesday against charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, plus a hate crime enhancement, as reported in the Dallas Voice.

Burnett, who suffered multiple bruises, stab wounds, and cuts from a broken beer bottle, plus second degree burns from being bodily dumped in a blazing trash barrel, offered this statement on Wednesday to the Voice: “I am grateful and comforted to hear of the sentencing of Micky Joe Smith. So many people who have endured similar experiences of hate crimes have not been afforded the opportunity to see justice served. The gay community in North Texas is a safer place today.”

In February, James Mitchell Laster, 32, pled no contest, and was sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in the hate crime.  The third suspect in the attack, Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, who like the other defendants yelled homophobic slurs at his gay victim while prosecuting his assault, was scheduled to face trial on Wednesday, but according to court officials, his day in court has been postponed.

Texas prosecutors have been reluctant to invoke the state’s hate crimes law in cases involving gay or lesbian victims.  The fact that both men convicted in this brutal example of homophobia have been sentenced with a hate crimes enhancement is significant–perhaps indicating that the LGBTQ community’s protests have been heard by state and local officials.

April 19, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on East Texas Gay Basher Gets 10 Years for Savage Attack

Gay Iowa Teen Driven to Suicide by Bullying

Kenneth Weishuhn, 14, bullied to death by his schoolmates for being gay.

Primghar/Paullina, Iowa – An out gay teen took his life in Northwest Iowa on Saturday night because bullying in his high school had become intolerable for him.  Kenneth Weishuhn was just 14 years old.  After coming out as gay barely a month ago, the torrent of anti-gay harassment overwhelmed his gentle spirit. KTIV News reports that he had not anticipated how hated he would become after revealing his sexual orientation to his friends.  His sister Kayla told reporters that her brother was constantly harassed and bullied by boys in her class at South O’Brien High School where Kenneth was a freshman. “People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him,” she said.  Bullies set up an anti-gay Facebook page targeting Kenneth.  Then, Kenneth started receiving death threats on his phone.  “A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything,” Kayla concluded.

His mother Jeannie Chambers asked him about the menacing phone calls, but believed Kenneth was handling them well enough. Still, there were warning signs that the pressure was getting to much for the 14-year-old. EDGE On the Net reports that Kenneth told his mother “Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated.” Though the school was aware of the bullying and issued a warning to his tormentors, it seemed to do no good. Nothing stopped.  Kenneth’s mother says the school never contacted her about the problem.  Now she is contemplating bringing legal action against the students she feels drove her son to suicide.

The towns of Paullina and Primghar, approximately 50 miles from Sioux City, are having to come to grips with the ugliness of homophobia and hate crime, issues these communities of largely German Lutheran ancestry never thought they would have to face. Counselors have been working with Kenneth’s schoolmates who are devastated by the suicide of their friend.  Many saw him as a loving, loyal friend, and cannot understand how hateful other students have been.  His friends have created a tribute video to express their love and grief at his passing. According to Channel 4 News, authorities are investigating both the in-school and online bullying that targeted Kenneth for being gay.

Kayla says that she has lost her best friend, the only person she could completely trust. Hatred built to a point of no return, she believes. “Things get started, and then they get out of hand,” she told interviewers for Channel 4. “Then they go too far, and you can’t stop it.  He is gone now, and he is not coming back.”  Kenneth’s funeral was conducted on Thursday at Grace Lutheran Church in Primghar.

April 18, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bullying in schools, death threats, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Iowa, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soulforce Founders Leaving Virginia; Say It’s No Longer Safe for Gays — A Special Comment

Lynchburg, Virginia – In a wakeup call to gays and their allies, Mel White and Gary Nixon, co-founders of LGBTQ advocacy group Soulforce, are leaving their home in Virginia for California–because they believe the Old Dominion is not safe for LGBTQ people any longer.  Rev. Dr. White writes today in the News and Advance: “With a great deal of sadness and a real sense of failure, Gary and I are leaving this beautiful city and the wonderful new friends we’ve made here. We thought that in 10 years our witness would have helped in some small way to change Virginia for the better.” In fact, Dr. White goes on to say, it has gotten dangerously worse.  “During our 10 years in Virginia,” he writes, “we’ve watched this great state turn against its gay and lesbian residents. Not only are we denied the rights and protections of marriage, our relationships are no longer safe here even when “protected” by wills or powers of attorney.”

Dr. White and his partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, embody the heart and soul of advocacy for LGBTQ people in America.  After ghostwriting Jerry Falwell’s life story, Dr. White had to acknowledge the extremist homophobia generated by the so-called Moral Majority and the rest of the Religious Right Wing–coming out to the world as a gay man and ordained minister.  He and Gary established and led Soulforce to provide a voice countering religion-based bigotry throughout America’s faith communities–one based on the non-violent principles of Gandhi and King.  Their advocacy against hate crimes of violence against the LGBTQ community has been legendary, inspiring many gays and lesbians to resist the damnation cynical religious leaders wished on them.

But now this courageous, generous couple have seen things in Virginia cross the line for queer folk. As Dr. White goes on to say in the News and Advance, the long slide toward bigotry took off in 2006 when the citizens of Virginia gave in to hate and wrote anti-gay discrimination into the Virginia state constitution.  “Of all the states with constitutional amendments prohibiting marriage equality,” he writes, “Virginia became the most strident and mean-spirited.”  Most recently, legislation banning adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples in the Old Dominion passed into law: “When the General Assembly denies lesbians and gays the right to adopt or provide foster care, they are implying that we aren’t capable of being loving and trustworthy parents and even worse that we are a threat to children.”

Hundreds of friends and well-wishers have visited White and Nixon’s home to show their love, appreciation, and support of the work for justice they have done, as WSET-TV Channel 13 reported.  Ever gracious, Dr. White said to the gathering, “We’re starting a new chapter of our lives, we don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but we’re gonna be close to the family, we’re gonna be in our favorite church, All Saint’s Episcopal, we’re gonna be by my favorite beach, so we’re gonna let God do the rest.” He and Gary look forward to a new day in Virginia and the nation, when freedom and equality for LGBTQ people can flourish in safety.

Many LGBTQ people leave advocacy to people like Mel White and Gary Nixon.  Many live in a bubble of false security.  They persist to believe that if some must die or suffer violence and discrimination, it will always befall “the other guy,” and not them.  Straight allies of the queer community commit the same error, living in a fantasy that President Obama will surely be re-elected, and radical extremists who are besieging women, racial/ethnic minorities and immigrants will leave the LGBTQ population alone.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as White and Nixon’s decision to move back to California fairly shouts out to anyone who will listen.

We at the Unfinished Lives Project wish Mel and Gary well as they go on to the next chapter in their lives.  No couple deserves more appreciation for standing tall against anti-gay violence.  We can only hope they will find a safer, better place in the Golden State.  But to the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people who continue to live in Virginia, and to any queer person in a so-called “Red” state (like us in Texas), or in any “Purple” swing state, we say that the job of advocating for non-violence, justice and equality is now yours to do.  No more fantasies of safety.  No more passing the buck.  As White and Nixon warn us, we could lose everything in this political and spiritual climate if we do not step up and join the struggle for ourselves.  ~ Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, founder of the Unfinished Lives Project 

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Virginia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Two Women Plead Guilty to Gay Bashing and Kidnapping in Kentucky

Alexis Jenkins and (Mable) Ashley Jenkins, both 19, convicted of anti-gay hate crime in Eastern Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky – Two teenaged women pled guilty on Wednesday as accomplices in the kidnapping and assault of a gay man in Harlan, Kentucky. The women are the first persons convicted under the provisions of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2009.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky announced that Alexis LeAnn Jenkins and Mable Ashley Jenkins, both 19 years old, entered guilty pleas to assisting a pair of cousins, Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins, in a brutal assault and attempted murder against Kevin Pennington, an openly gay man whom the quartet abducted to Kingdom Come State Park on April 4, 2011.  The women’s pleas were sealed for another two days, according to LGBTQ Nation.  If they are found guilty of the charges, and no plea bargain agreement is in play, the women could face life sentences. It may be that they agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in order to receive lesser sentences, which will be handed down against them in August as the court schedule now stands. Alexis Jenkins is the spouse of Anthony Jenkins, and (Mable) Ashley Jenkins is his sister and a cousin of (David) Jason Jenkins.

The announcement of the guilty pleas come a day after a federal grand jury indicted Anthony and Jason Jenkins of kidnapping, conspiracy, and carrying out a deadly attack on Pennington because of his sexual orientation. The cousins have entered not guilty pleas to all charges, and will have their day in court on June 18.

In a statement issued Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the roles played by Alexis and Ashley Jenkins in the near-deadly attack on Pennington became clearer:  “The women admitted they lured [Kevin] Pennington into a truck with two other defendants, Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins. The truck was driven to an Eastern Kentucky state park where Pennington was allegedly assaulted by the male defendants,” the statement says. “Both women waived their right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to the charges brought by U.S. Attorney [Kerry B.] Harvey and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.”

Though the Jenkins cousins recruited the women to entice Pennington into their Silverado pickup, Alexis and Mable were equally as intent on the gay man’s murder as were the men, according to the details of the federal indictment filed against Anthony and Jason. Kentucky.com reports that the women allegedly cheered on the Jenkins men as they beat Pennington senseless, yelling “Kill the faggot!” Pennington, who is 28, suffered injuries to his chest, head, face, and neck.  Had he not escaped his attackers, he has no doubt he would have been killed. Prosecutors indicate that the savagery of the gay bashing is not what qualified it as a federal hate crimes case.  Instead, the fact that the defendants transported the victim in their vehicle on a federal roadway allowed the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to become involved in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.  The Kentucky Equality Federation appealed to the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the case, since local judges and other law enforcement officers were reluctant to carry the investigation forward in an effective way.

April 14, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, Kentucky Equality Federation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Justice Department, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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