Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Hero Defies Anti-Gay Smear Campaign; DOJ Called to Investigate

President Obama congratulates gay hero Daniel Hernandez for his role in saving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life in 2011 [AP photo].

President Obama congratulates gay hero Daniel Hernandez for his role in saving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life in 2011 [AP photo].

Tucson, Arizona – One of the heroes to emerge from the horrific 2011 mass shooting in which Congresswoman Gabriel (Gabby) Giffords was gravely wounded has been subjected to a vile, anti-gay smear campaign.  The smear campaign coincides with an effort to recall him from public office.  Daniel Hernandez Jr., openly gay congressional intern who helped save Giffords’ life at peril to his own, is standing up against the anonymous smear campaign, and is calling out its originators.

Hernandez was elected to a vacant seat on the Sunnyside Unified School System governing board in 2011.  Huffington Post reports that at least two scurrilous flyers attacking Hernandez’s sexual orientation and his position on gun control appeared at the same time the recall conflict broke out on the school board.  While other school board members are being targeted for recall, Hernandez is the only recall target whose sexuality and character are being smeared.

Right Wing Watch first called attention to the smear flyers which were passed out to constituents anonymously.   The caption surrounding a flyer photograph of Hernandez speaking at an Equality Forum reads: “Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board. Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY.”  A second flyer attacks Hernandez’s position on guns, deeply ironic given the savage shooting that wounded Representative Giffords and killed several constituents at a Congressional town hall meeting.

The nasty, homophobic nature of the flyers is not news.  Tactics like these have been influencing votes and voters for decades in Arizona and around the nation.  What is newsworthy, however, is the forthright manner in which Hernandez, an openly gay man, is refusing to succumb to the smears.  According to LGBTQ Nation, Hernandez has called for his opponents in the recall effort to distance themselves totally from these anti-gay tactics, and denounce anyone who supports such underhanded politics.  Furthermore, in another unprecedented move, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has asked the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the attacks on Hernandez’s sexual orientation as a bias-motivated hate crime.

Hernandez’s recall opponents are scrambling to distance themselves from the hate attacks against a bona fide national hero who happens to be openly gay.  The investigation as it proceeds should uncover whatever links may exist between the recall effort and homophobic intent.

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arizona, Character assassination, Daniel Hernandez, Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Politics, President Barack Obama, Slurs and epithets, Tucson Shooting Rampage, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hero Defies Anti-Gay Smear Campaign; DOJ Called to Investigate

Hate-filled Climate Named as “Suspect” in Arizona Congresswoman’s Shooting

Tucson, Arizona – The toxic climate of hate speech in the United States has been named as a “suspect” in the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on Saturday. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois used former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s inflammatory rhetoric (“Don’t retreat, reload!”) as an example of the caustic political climate characteristic of political speech in America, and called for all parties to refrain from demonization and hate speech, according to the Huffington Post and AP reports. Giffords was shot through the head, six others were killed, and a total of 16 people wounded in an attack on the Congresswoman’s open-air “Congress On Your Corner” event held in Tucson at a Safeway Supermarket location. A 22-year-old, Jared Loughner, was tackled by two attendees, and subsequently arrested for the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords. While the investigation is proceeding against Loughner, who may have ties to an extremist political group called “American Renaissance,” officials across the nation are decrying the hate speech so prevalent in American discourse on virtually every level of the nation’s life. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona, where the shooting took place on Saturday, told the Associated Press: “I think that when the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates and to try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has impact on people especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.” Sheriff Dupnik went on to liken Arizona as the “Tombstone of the United States,” in apparent reference to the lawless legacy of violence in the Wild West of the late 19th century. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona has issued a complaint against Jared Lee Loughner, charging him with federal crimes, including the murder of individuals performing their duties as government officials, and the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Lawmakers are vociferously condemning the demonizing rhetoric of recent years in the wake of the shooting, but the roots of American hate speech and the culture of violence so rife in American life are being left untouched. For decades, minority groups like the LGBTQ community in the United States have suffered the effects of intolerance and hate speech, as well as the violence that such irresponsible language spawns. While pundits may debate the linkage between hate speech and hate violence, the dead in every state in the nation give mute testimony to the effects of bias-motivated acts carried out by individuals and groups espousing the sub-humanity of their targets. Hate speech leads to hateful deeds, as Sheriff Dupnik, making reference to the mental state of the assailant in Saturday’s attack, asserted to the Washington Post: “There’s reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol,” he said during his televised remarks. “People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.” U. S. Senator Diane Feinstein, who discovered the body of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk after his assassination, spoke to the consequences of hate-filled rhetoric: “I have seen firsthand the effects of assassination, and there is no place for this kind of violence in our political discourse. It must be universally condemned. We do not yet know the gunman’s motivations, but I am convinced that we must reject extremism and violent rhetoric.” Jared Lee Loughner is the prime suspect in the terror-attack on Congresswoman Giffords, Federal Judge Roll, and the other victims of the Tucson rampage. But bias-driven hate speech in American life, that terrorizes minorities, political opponents, and cultural adversaries, belongs in the dock in the wake of this outrage every bit as much as the man who was apparently motivated to kill and maim by the angry words he heard for most of his young life.

January 9, 2011 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arizona, death threats, gun violence, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Law and Order, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Sarah Palin, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, women | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Phoenix Transperson’s Murder Still Unsolved After Four Years

Phoenix, AZ – Maurice Dupree Green, known by friends in a gay support group as Melissa, was 22 when she was fatally shot in the back on the night of March 21, 2006.  Now, four years since the brutal shooting, Green’s murderer remains at large with no promising leads.  A candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of Green’s death was held Sunday in Phoenix, according to reports from ABC 15.  When interviewed by a reporter for ABC, Arizona TransAlliance Co-Chair Erica Keppler said that Green’s murder highlighted the fear trans youth and adults face every day in the Grand Canyon State: “I want to move through the world as a citizen and feel safe like anybody else does, but I can never know that I’m safe,” she said.  “I can never know that when I walk through a parking lot that I could be at risk of violence, of someone attacking me.”  Green was in transition from male to female.  According to a report filed near the date of her shooting, Melissa Green was wearing a long brown wig and women’s clothing as she walked alone in the neighborhood of an adult bookstore she sometimes frequented.  AZCentral.com reported that a man approached her from behind and fired a single shot into her back with no warning just after midnight.  She bled to death on the sidewalk before paramedics could reach her.  Police were originally reluctant to label Green’s murder a hate crime, but members of the Arizona trans community, local politicians like openly gay Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, and her youth support group friends have no doubt that hatred of LGBT people motivated the shooter.  Simplot, who donated a considerable sum of money back in 2006 to reward anyone identifying the killer, comes to honor Green every year, and believes the annual vigil is important for youth in metro Phoenix.  “This vigil every year is to tell our youth that the community does care about them, that we care what happens to them when they get kicked out of the house just for being gay,” Simplot said to ABC 15.  Since the murder, Green’s mother Ceda has been inconsolable.  She spoke to reporters at a previous vigil, confessing that her life could never be the same after the death of her child.  Each year, vigil supporters hope that renewed interest in Green and the trans youth of Arizona will prompt someone to come forward with information leading to an arrest.  Until then, the tenacious citizens of Phoenix will remember Melissa Green’s untimely, violent death, and work to improve the lot of the living.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arizona, gay men, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Phoenix Transperson’s Murder Still Unsolved After Four Years

WaPo: Anti-Latino/a and Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes Spiral Upward Together

briseniabutton2Washington, DC – The Washington Post reports in a late-breaking story that incidents of bias-related crimes against Latino/a people and LGBT people are rising sharply on seemingly parallel tracks, according to FBI findings.  In a June 16 article entitled “Hate Crimes Rise as Immigration Debate Heats Up,” Spencer Hsu, reporter for WaPo, writes that officials are concerned about the abrupt rise in violent crimes against both groups:  “The FBI reported in October that the number of [total] hate crime incidents dropped in 2007 by about 1 percent, to 7,624. But violence against Latinos and gay people bucked the trend. The number of hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians increased about 6 percent, from 1,195 to 1,265, the FBI reported.”   It should be noted that the actual rise in hate crimes against LGBT people is actually in excess of 28% in the last year, according to the more comprehensive statistics reported by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.  Shrill voices in the media and organization of xenophobic hate groups on the internet are contributing to this alarming trend.  Most recently, as Mariela Rosario writes for http://www.latina.com, Minutemen stand accused of the murder of a Latino immigrant family.  In a May 30th home invasion attack just now being shared widely in the national media, three members of the anti-immigrant group Minutemen American Defense (MAD) allegedly burst into the Arivaca, AZ house of Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, and shot them dead.  Flores’ wife using a shotgun returned fire, repelling the attackers, and wounding one of them.  Shawna Forde, 41, Jason Eugene Bush, 34, and Albert Robert Glaxiola, 42, stand accused of the crime.  The stated mission of the Minutemen American Defense is summed up in Forde’s own words, “We will expose and report what we know and find, we will recruit the serious and train the revolutionist, time for words have passed the time for bravery and conviction are now.”  The Pima County (AZ) Sheriff’s Department is still investigating.  The murder of Flores and his young daughter has sparked outrage among Latino/a rights groups.  As The Unfinished Lives Project has previously reported in numerous stories over several months, the tragic

Romel and Diego Sucuzhañay at Brooklyn DA's Press Conference

Romel and Diego Sucuzhañay at Brooklyn DA's Press Conference

victimization of Latino and Latina folk, gay, bi, transgender and straight often converges in a terrible way.  José Sucuzhañay, and his brother, Romel,  Ecuadorans visiting the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, NY were brutally assaulted on the night of December 7, 2008.  Hakim Scott, 25, and Keith Phoenix, 28, beat the Sucuzhañay brothers with a beer bottle and an aluminum ball bat shouting slurs at them for their ethnicity and their perceived sexual orientation.  The savage attack was apparently motivated by a toxic combined hatred of Latino immigrants and gay people.  The brothers, huddled together against the cold, were walking arm-in-arm from a party.  Ironically, José, who died from his wounds, and his brother Romel, are both heterosexual.  José leaves behind a 10-year-old son, Brian, and a 5-year-old daughter, Joanna, who is living with Down Syndrome.  As an attorney for the Sucuzhañay family told the New York Post, “The family has suffered tremendously. It was a brutal murder.”  Scott and Phoenix have been indicted for second-degree murder as a hate crime by the Brooklyn District Attorney, and await trial.  Often set at odds by “common wisdom” and the media, the Latino/a immigrant community and the LGBT community share a truly common need for unity in the face of irrational hatred of “the other.”  The Ecuadoran media covered the crime widely, putting an important face on anti-LGBT hate crimes in the United States.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arizona, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on WaPo: Anti-Latino/a and Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes Spiral Upward Together


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