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.
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.
Washington, 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
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.