Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

Carolyn Wagner (1953-2011), Human Rights Champion

Tulsa, Oklahoma – Pioneer activist, Carolyn Wagner, co-founder of Families United Against Hate (FUAH), passed away January 18 after a protracted battle with cancer, liver failure, and hepatitis. Widely admired for her courageous work on behalf of LGBTQ civil rights, Wagner became involved in the human rights struggle in 1996 when her son William, 16,  was brutally harassed and attacked by homophobic students while attending school in northwest Arkansas. Young William survived, but compelled by a need for justice, Carolyn and Bill Wagner waged a successful legal campaign against the Fayetteville, AR school district under Title IX.  The United States Office for Civil Rights ruled against the school district thanks to a complaint lodged by the Wagners on behalf of their son–the first time in U.S. history that Title IX was used to address anti-gay harassment and the bullying of gay and lesbian students, according to the ACLU.  Because of her experience as the parent of a gay-bashed son, Carolyn joined forces with Gabi Clayton to found FUAH so other parents in similar situations could benefit from what she had learned. In 1999, Bill Wagner with Carolyn at his side, became a plaintiff in the history case, Howard v. Child Welfare Agency Review Board, argued by the ACLU to challenge the Arkansas Department of Human Services regulation that foster children could not be housed where adult gays and lesbians reside. Wagner qualified as a plaintiff since their son William, by then an adult, sometimes came home to stay with his parents. After learning about the plight of youth, straight and gay, who were abused because of the perception that they were gay, Carolyn and Bill Wagner took in scores of children through the years as foster parents. In August 2006, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the ban against gay and lesbian foster parents thanks to the litigation initiated by the Wagners and others. But the victory was not without cost for Carolyn, according to a tribute by the ACLU. In the same year as the ruling that struck down discrimination against gay and lesbian foster parents, Carolyn was brutally assaulted on her own property by a man posing as a police officer, who told her he did not like “queer-loving ACLU types.” Though shaken by the beating, she continued working tirelessly for LGBTQ human rights until the end of her life.  FUAH issued this statement: “On January 18, 2011 the world lost a civil rights pioneer and strong voice for equality. Carolyn Wagner fought every day to create a world where equality would become a reality for all, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or life circumstances. Her path in life was difficult but she never wavered in her dedication and love for the many communities she advocated so powerfully for until she took her last breath. Nothing could ever stop her from fighting for her family, her friends and her community. Plenty of people tried to stop her, but never with any success. Carolyn’s heart, mind and arms were always open and we will miss her powerful embrace, we know her legacy will never die as long as we carry the spirit of her love within us, and take action with as much courage, humor, and wisdom as she did. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and children and the hundreds and thousands of people whose lives she touched. She will always be with us.” Carolyn is survived by her husband Bill, a her daughter, and two granddaughters. To hundreds of thousands, she was a champion of their rights, a compassionate, strong, and determined advocate for justice. But it is well to remember that Carolyn Wagner was first and foremost a wife and mother who acted to right a wrong that initially struck her own family, and then opened her eyes to the plight of countless others like her boy. As Bill Wagner said: “Carolyn will be remembered as an activist and civil rights hero to many, but for me she was simply the love of my life, my best friend and an amazing mother to our children. I will miss her beautiful smile, her raucous and infectious laugh and most of all her loving heart.”  Her memorial service was held in Tulsa on January 22 at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. Rest in Peace, Carolyn. We will miss you.

January 31, 2011 Posted by | ACLU, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, Carolyn Wagner, Condolences, Families United Against Hate (FUAH), funerals, gay and lesbian foster parents, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Mistaken as LGBT, Oklahoma, Parenting equality, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

Unfinished Lives: It Gets Better Videos

Unfinished Lives Project would like to recognize author Dan Savage for founding the It Gets Better Project (http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject) in response to the tragic increase in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teen suicides.  The point of this project is for people to upload videos to let these teens know that, yes, it does get better.

And here at Unfinished Lives, we are cognizant of the fact that part of this “better” is not just social love and acceptance, but spiritual love and acceptance.  To help meet this need, a group of Brite Divinity School students and faculty have recorded their own messages of hope for the It Gets Better Project:

Dr. Steve Sprinkle: Director of Field Education at Brite Divinity School

Sam Castleberry: Student at Brite Divinity School

Egon Cohen: Student at Brite Divinity School

DeSorrow: Student at Brite Divinity School

The Brite Student It Gets Better channel hopes to have more videos shortly. We would also like to encourage any and all LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students in graduate theological education to record videos and to let GLBTQ youth know that it does get better and faith can help not hinder the process. Also anyone else who wishes to record a video should do so as well. For more information on LGBTQ suicide prevention see The Trevor Project

In the meantime, please spread the word, and vote for your favorite video by sending an email with the video link as the subject line (just the link) to: IGBP@savagelove.net.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | ACLU, African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, Domestic Violence, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, PFLAG, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, suicide, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Miami Beach Police Disciplined for False Charges Against Gay Tourist Who Turned Them In For Beating

Flamingo Park Area of Miami Beach

Miami Beach, FL – “What is happening in Miami Beach?” —  Miami Herald reader Jeffrey Garcia questioned Miami Beach Police Chief  Carlos Noriega after reports that two MBPD officers falsely charged a gay tourist.  The officers were apparently unaware that the tourist was speaking on his cellphone to the 911 line to report them for beating a man on the street.  The large majority of the abusive arrest, shouts by the officers of anti-gay epithets, and their physical assault on gay tourist Harold Strickland were all recorded for the world to hear.  Once they realized the tourist was reporting them, they allegedly made up charges against him that have now been dropped. Under pressure from the ACLU of Florida, both MBPD Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi have been put on desk duty while the investigation against them proceeds.  The Chief’s assurances of good relations with the Miami Beach LGBT community to the contrary, a flurry of reports are emerging that Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach, and other Dade County locales once considered gay Meccas are no longer safe for queer folk.  The made up charges against Mr. Strickland are the most recent example.  According to Miami Herald reports, Mr. Strickland observed two men beating a person at about 1 a.m. on March 13, 2009 in the Flamingo Park area of Miami Beach.  As Steve Rothaus of the Herald reports, “Strickland called 911 when he saw a man being beaten by two men just outside the park. ‘I saw a guy running and then I saw two, what looked like undercover cops running. And they pushed this guy down on the ground, the one cop did, and the other cop came up as if he was kicking a football … and kicked the guy in the head,” Strickland told a dispatcher during a recorded phone call to 911.”  Rothaus continues his report, “For nearly five minutes, he talked to the dispatcher, who encouraged him to get closer for more detail ‘if it doesn’t put you in any danger.’ A few seconds later, Strickland told the dispatcher: “Now they’re coming after me!””  The officers, Forte and Hazzi, demanded to know what Mr. Strickland was doing.  According to a spokesperson for the ACLU,they then grabbed his cellphone away from him and said, “We know what you’re doing here. We’re sick of all the f—ing fags in the neighborhood.”  Pushing him to the ground, they bound Mr. Strickland’s hands and proceeded to kick and beat him, hurling anti-gay slurs at him.  The ACLU report continues, “While Strickland was on the ground, the officers continued to spew anti-gay epithets. They called him a ‘f—ing fag’ and told him he was going to ‘get it good in jail.”’  Though Mr. Strickland tried to tell the officers about his call to 911, they would not listen.  They arrested him on prowling-and-loitering charges.  A half hour later, Officer Forte in his arrest report charged Mr. Strickland with breaking into six cars in the area.  In a hearing the next morning, a judge advised Mr. Strickland that he would get out of jail quicker if he would plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.  He did, but as soon as he was free, he called the ACLU, and changed his plea to not guilty.  The State Attorney General’s Office has dropped all charges against Mr. Strickland, as well as loitering and resisting arrest charges against Mr. Oscar Mendoza, the man Mr. Strickland saw Officers Forte and Hazzi beat near Flamingo Park.  The ACLU has informed the mayor of Miami Beach that they will sue both the offending officers and the city for the incident.  Robert F. Rosenwald Jr., director of the ACLU Florida’s Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Advocacy Project, told the Herald’s Steve Rothaus, “This is an issue that we have hoped to address for a long time. Miami Beach Police have for a long time harassed gay men around Flamingo Park without probable cause.”

February 16, 2010 Posted by | ACLU, Anglo Americans, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Florida, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, police brutality, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Miami Beach Police Disciplined for False Charges Against Gay Tourist Who Turned Them In For Beating

   

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