Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Man Charged with Hate Crime in Brutal Colorado Gay Beating

Jared Olson, victim of anti-gay hate crime, before and after the Labor Day Weekend assault.

Jared Olson, victim of anti-gay hate crime, before and after the Labor Day Weekend assault.

Denver, Colorado – After several weeks, a 20-year-old suspect in the savage beating of an openly gay man outside a hookah lounge has been formally charged with an anti-gay hate crime.  Tilo Sandoval, who turned himself in to police for attacking 23-year-old Jared Olson, was charged Thursday with second-degree assault, third-degree assault and bias-motivated crime, according to 9News.com.

The assault took place around 2 a.m. on September 2 outside Denver’s popular Sam’s Hookah Lounge at the corner of Alameda Avenue and Zuni Street.  Olson told police that he and his friends left the lounge to get in their car when two men, one of them Sandoval, approached them, cursing them and shouting anti-gay slurs.  Olson says that Sandoval yanked open the car door, yelling epithets, and hit him so hard that it dislodged some of his teeth.  KDVR.com reports Olsen’s account of what happened:  “They were just cussing at us and slurring, then one guy walked to my door and opened it and hit me in the face,” Olsen said. “We drove off right after that.”  Besides losing and chipping his teeth, Olson’s face sustained severe injuries which, though not life-threatening, will likely require plastic and reconstructive surgery. The cost of the surgery to set his face right again may cost as much as $50,000–a health care crisis for Olson who does not have insurance to cover the expenses. Commenting on the attack on her son, Melody Olson told KDVR, “It’s so disheartening and disgusting that anyone would do that to anybody. Not just my child, but anybody’s. And it’s just because they don’t approve of (their sexual orientation).”  

The severity of his wounds shocked Olson, he told 7News.  “I didn’t think that I looked that bad, until my mother had taken the picture and shown me. I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I thought people were more sensible than that in this day in age,” he said. “I just remember looking over, and looking up at the guy and getting hit square in the face right here. And you can clearly tell my nose is like over here,” said Olson.

Tilo Sandoval, charged with bias motivated hate crime against Olson.

Tilo Sandoval, charged with bias motivated hate crime against Olson.

Scott Levin, Mountain States Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed his dismay and outrage over the attack against Olson.  In a prepared statement, Levin said:  “The Anti-Defamation League is disheartened to learn of this tragic instance where a victim was allegedly targeted because of his sexual orientation. We applaud law enforcement officials for taking quick and decisive action to investigate whether this was a bias-motivated attack, and if the evidence supports it, we urge them to prosecute this crime to the full extent permitted under Colorado’s hate crimes law.”

Levin went on to say, “Hate crimes have an impact far beyond the individual victim of the crime. When a victim is chosen because of his or her sexual orientation, other members of that group feel unsafe and unwelcome. Hate crimes resonate throughout the victim’s community and threaten the safety and well-being of every member of that group. ADL calls upon the Denver community to speak out loudly against hate crimes and declare Denver no place for hate.”

Sandoval has been released on $30,000 bond. While the hate crimes charges are in place now, it will be up the Denver District Attorney to determine how to prosecute the case, and whether this particular situation meets the criteria of the Colorado Bias Crimes Law.

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Colorado, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

President Obama Calls for Prayer, Solidarity, and Justice in Wake of Aurora Massacre

“We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”  ~ President Barack Obama

We at the Unfinished Lives Project join with Americans everywhere in support and solidarity for the families and loved ones of the fallen in Aurora, Colorado.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Colorado, Condolences, gun violence, President Barack Obama, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on President Obama Calls for Prayer, Solidarity, and Justice in Wake of Aurora Massacre

Lives of Colorado Lesbian Couple Threatened in Hate Crime

Lesbian couple threatened with death

Parker, Colorado – A lesbian couple were tagged by a death threat on two consecutive days last week in Parker, a town southeast of Denver.  On Friday, Aimee Whitchurch and Christel Conklin found a target symbol spray painted on their condo door and the phrase, “KILL THE GAYS,” tagged on their garage door in bright red paint for all the neighbors to see. The next morning, they opened their front door to find a noose laid on their door mat.  Whitchurch said that when they discovered the noose, they knew their lives really were at risk.

Not the types to let such serious matters go, the couple responded by complaining to the Home Owners Association of their condo complex, whose president haphazardly splashed white paint over the red spray paint Saturday.  His less-than-professional job barely covered the graffiti, and exacerbated the problem.  Whitchurch and Conklin responded by taping a sign to the garage door that read, “Solve the problem; don’t paint over it.”  The couple told Channel 9 News that they were sure their sexual orientation was the reason for the hateful graffiti attack and the noose. Whitchurch said the neighbors figured out they were not “roommates,” and took homophobic action against them.  As Conklin said in the same interview, “Being lesbians is okay, until you start living together,” in Douglas County. “This is where we live. We should feel safe. I am afraid to walk outside my place now,” Whitchurch said.  The couple have lived in the condo for nearly six months.

A feud had been brewing between the neighbors and the lesbian couple, according to the women.  The Advocate reported that the HOA had complained that they were not picking up the feces after walking their dogs. Conklin answered the charges in detail to Channel 9: “It ridiculous. We have a Mastiff and a Great-Dane, two of the largest breed dogs, if we didn’t pick up after them this entire place would be covered. It’s completely invalid. That’s just common sense,” she said. The couple also own an English Bulldog puppy.  Since the initial attack, the lesbians’ car has been keyed, and dog feces has been scattered on their property.  Channel 9 reporters have repeatedly tried to contact the HOA officers for a statement, but no one has returned the calls.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office investigators have been on the case, but have surfaced no persons of interest.  Detective Ron Hanovan said to Channel 9: “Right now, we don’t have any leads and no one is in custody.” Two offenses are involved in this attack, Hanovan went on to say, criminal mischief over $1,000, and anti-LGBT crime.  Conklin and Whitchurch say they are taking this case to the FBI.

The HOA finally sent a reputable painter to cover the slipshod work the HOA president did on the couple’s garage door.  In the meanwhile, Whitchurch and Conklin are not going anywhere.  They still walk their adult dogs, and their little bulldog, Ellie May.  On electric green and pink poster board, they have put up new signs the neighbors cannot miss.  One of them declares, “We are not the gay couple!  We are Aimee and Christal!”

November 1, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Blame the victim, Colorado, FBI, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lives of Colorado Lesbian Couple Threatened in Hate Crime

Remembering Matthew Shepard on the 12th Anniversary of His Murder

Laramie, Wyoming – Matthew Shepard was brutally assaulted on a lonely ridge overlooking Laramie, Wyoming on this day twelve years ago. He died in a coma in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his family by his side.  Much has changed.  Much has not.  His hate crime murder has set the pattern by which all LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims are remembered, both for good and ill.  Good, in that many American’s are more keenly aware of the problem of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the issues surrounding the struggle for human rights equality because of his death.  Millions of people around the world came to know about other hate crimes murder victims through the lens of Matthew’s story.  His family foundation, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, has done untold good advocating for justice, equality and the embrace of diversity in American life.  His mother, Judy Shepard, has become one of the most visible and effective spokespeople for human rights in our time–a true conscience for the nation.  It is no mistake that the long-awaited federal hate crimes law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is named in honor of Matthew, largely through the dogged persistence of this estimable woman who will not take “no” for an answer.  It was a proud day for all of us when President Obama signed the bill protecting LGBTQ Americans from bias-motivated crimes last October, inclusive of transgender people and disabled persons, as well.  But there is a downside to the way Matthew Shepard’s story is remembered in this country too, one neither he nor his family are guilty of–and one we must all act to redress.  The story of Matthew Shepard has tended to overshadow the remembrance of any other LGBTQ hate crimes victim, especially if that person was non-white, older and therefore less attractive, disabled somehow, or feminine in gender presentation.  This has been true of the many gender variant youth of color who have died in staggering numbers as the 21st century has dawned.  In the case of 15-year-old Sakia LaTona Gunn, an African American lesbian Aggressive, murdered at a bus stop in Newark, New Jersey, relatively few media stories on her outrageous murder broke into the national press compared to the thousands that flooded the channels when Matt died.  Much ink has been spilled over why this was so, but in order to honor Matthew, we must demand that ALL LGBTQ stories are told with the passion and respect his has been.  Finally, following Judy Shepard’s example, we must use this anniversary to cry out for Safe Schools for all children.  As she wrote on the Matthew Shepard Foundation blog in early October, “Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect. Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.”  In October 2008, I spoke at “Hope Not Hate,” an anniversary service for the city of Austin, Texas, commemorating the deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., both unwitting martyrs to the cause of true equality in American life.  I said at that time, in part, “We who believe in justice cannot rest! We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes! When a mother like Judy Shepard challenges us to send a different message to America than the one delivered by the men who killed her son, we must embrace that memory with all its pain, and break out of defeat into action.”  I believe more fervently in the work of erasing hatred today than ever.  Rest in Peace, Matthew, Sakia, and all our sisters and brothers.

~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

October 12, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Colorado, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Media Issues, Remembrances, Sakia Gunn Film Project, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, transphobia, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Teen’s Murder Inspired Federal Student Non-Discrimination Act

Seattle students celebrate Pride, photo by jglsongs

Washington, DC – The execution-style murder of a 15-year-old gay boy inspired an openly gay Congressman to author the Student Non-Discrimination Act.  Lawrence “Larry” Fobes King was shot twice in the back of the head two years ago by a fellow computer class student, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney at E.O. Green Middle School in Oxnard, California.  Now, even before McInerney stands trial for murdering his gender non-conforming classmate, Congress will consider the proposed law which for the first time would make it unlawful throughout the country for a any school receiving federal aid to discriminate against a person because of a perception that the individual is gay or lesbian.  As VCStar.com reports, “Under the proposed law, known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, gay and lesbian students in public schools could not be excluded from participating in or be subject to discrimination under any educational program that receives federal assistance. Discrimination would include harassment, which is defined as acts of ‘verbal, nonverbal or physical aggression,’ as well as intimidation or hostility based upon a student’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.”  Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), the author and primary sponsor of the bill said that King’s death was foremost in his mind as he framed this legislation and promoted it among his colleagues. “I absolutely had Larry King in mind and other kids like him,” he told reporters.  In an interview with DCAgenda.com, Polis said the legislation would give schools across the country tools to fight against discrimination that includes “everything from exclusion from prom, to banning clubs, to lack of actions addressing bullying situations.” Polis continued, “Gays and lesbians across the country face discrimination and frequently institutionalized discrimination in many school districts, and giving them a federal remedy, just as girls do and minorities, will help address this.”  The bill, H.R. 4530, has good support in Congress, with 65 co-sponsors including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts).  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is reviewing the legislation which Polis introduced in late January 2010.  Nine out of ten LGBT students in middle and secondary schools throughout the nation report that they have been harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and 61 per cent of them say they feel unsafe in their schools because of attitudes about their sexuality, according to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.  According to his school friends, Larry King suffered repeated harassment because of his feminine self-presentation.  He sometimes wore jewelry and dressed in high heels and feminine apparel.  Students have confirmed that he had tense exchanges with McInerney in the weeks before the fatal shooting.  Rep. Lois Capps (D-California), one of the bill’s co-sponsors and the Congresswoman representing Oxnard where King was murdered, told the VC Star, “Larry’s murder was particularly painful because it happened at his school, a place that should have been a sacred space where he could grow and learn in a safe and supportive environment.”  School officials in Oxnard contend they did nothing wrong, so the proposed law would not affect them.  Their critics, among them LGBT activists in Southern California, counter that nothing substantive has been done to address the underlying hatred that permitted one of their students to act out his phobia on another, to the point of murder.  McInerney, who is to be tried as an adult because of indications of pre-meditation of the crime, has pleaded not guilty to murder and hate crimes charges in the case.

February 20, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, California, Colorado, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Legislation, Lesbian women, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, School and church shootings, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hope for 2010: A New Year’s Special Comment

As the old year passes, and with it the old decade, those of us who believe in Justice for LGBTQ people have memories to preserve, work to do, thanks to express, and hope to rekindle.  The Unfinished Lives Project was conceived as a visual and verbal resource for the public to use in the on-going struggle for freedom from violence and fear that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer folk face every day in the United States.  Wordpress tallies show that as of this writing nearly 44,000 have visited this site since its first posting in June 2008: to educate themselves about the slow-rolling holocaust facing members of the sexual minority, to bring the stories of so many casualties of homophobia and heterosexism to light who would otherwise be forgotten, and to steel themselves for the long, difficult, painful work of changing the culture of violence against the different in which we must live.  While countless hours of writing and research have gone into creating and maintaining this web site, that is nothing compared to the stress and loss faced by so many families and loved ones who have experienced the horrors of hate crime murder during these years.  The backstory of this blog has been and continues to be the awe-inspiring courage of the bereaved mothers, fathers, lovers and friends who have been thrust into the harsh glare of activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community because they refuse to allow their loved ones to have died in vain.  We owe them, and you, Dear Reader, our thanks and our continuing labor until Justice comes.  It is to that end we at the Unfinished Lives Project keep telling these grim stories of real people who suffer in America for no other “crime” than being who they are.  The past decade, especially the past year, has seen substantive change–not enough, nor comprehensive enough, to be sure–but real change nonetheless.  Cultural, political, and religious attitudes toward LGBTQ people are changing in this country.  The passage of the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first comprehensive hate crimes law in federal history, is now law.  Convictions under state and federal hate crimes statutes, something conservative law makers and law enforcement officers said would never happen, are occurring already in bellweather states like Colorado and New York.   This trend will no doubt continue as the New Year dawns.  The infamous “gay panic” defense, and its evil twin, the “trans panic” defense are increasingly discredited and ineffective in American courts of law. Religious attitudes have thawed slightly, but the progress is real, if spotty.  Religion and Faith offices and activism, once thought to be the “third rail” of human rights politics, have been established in all the major advocacy organizations that lobby for change.  LGBTQ lives and practices are no longer viewed as criminal by the religious leaders of conscience in the United States, and tolerance toward queer folk in congregational life and leadership is on the rise: the Episcopal Church, the Alliance of Baptists, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America are cases in point.  Homophobia in churches, synagogues, mosques and schools is not going unchallenged in American daily life, and that is encouraging.  ENDA, DADT, and many other legislative initiatives are on the horizon for the new decade.  Marriage Equality, which heretofore has been fought for state-by-state (often attended by an alarming hike in anti-LGBT hate crime violence where the issue is most hotly contested), and now advocates are re-evaluating the tactics and strategies of equality.  There is nothing magic about the passage of the Shepard Act.  Every day, in every region of the nation, LGBTQ people and those mistakenly assumed to be like us, are suffering violence and death, and from our researches at the Unfinished Lives Project, these statistics are increasing alarmingly.  One more life lost is one too many.  Fear is no way to live in the Land of the Free.  So, we who believe in Justice will greet the New Year with resolve.  An African American spiritual lyric testifies, “We Ain’t in No Wise Tired,” and that is providential.  We cannot rest until Justice comes.  And, we are glad to be in the fight for true “peace on earth, goodwill to all,” with you.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Colorado, DADT, ENDA, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, military, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Popular Culture, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, trans-panic defense, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Suspect Arrested in Puerto Rican Gay Teen Hate Murder Case

Jorge Steven López Mercado

San Juan, Puerto Rico – The Associated Press is reporting that the arrested suspect in Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado’s grisly murder is claiming the infamous “gay panic” defense to besmirch the character of the victim, and appeal to anti-gay machismo.  Regional Police Director Hector Agosto said, “This was a ruthless crime.  Whoever did this just wanted to make the person disappear.”  Gay rights advocates in the Caribbean United States Territory have carried out a number of memorial events for young Lopez Mercado, as well as protests in the capital, San Juan demanding that police investigate the murder as a bias-related hate crime.  “They are hurt and they are indignant,” gay activist Pedro Julio Serrano said to reporters. “They are calling for justice.”  Local island media are reporting that Juan Antonio Martínez Matos, 26, a father of four, was arrested by authorities for the murder.  Matos is alleging that he was in search of a woman for sex, and when he found out that Lopez Mercado was a gay youth instead of a female, he panicked.  Whether he is speaking under the direction of an attorney is not known at this time, but in any event, the suspect has appardently made the calculation that enough members of the public will buy his account that he will be more likely to receive a lighter sentence, if convicted.  On the mainland, the gay or trans-panic defense has been tried on many occasions in an attempt to cast enough aspersions on the character of the LGBT victim that public opinion will soften toward the defendant.  In recent court cases, such as the trial of Allen Ray Andrade, the murderer of trans Latina Angie Zapata in Greeley, Colorado, the panic defense has fallen flat.  Andrade, who made a similar claim, left both judge and jury unconvinced, and received life in prison without hope of parole.  According to Box Turtle Bulletin, Matos also claimed that Lopez Mercado demanded money from him. Police investigators have allegedly discovered a wig, a burned mattress, burned PVC pipe, and a knife at the suspect’s apartment.  Accounts also say that police found blood stains on the wall of the courtyard of the apartment.  Investigator José J. Bermúdez said to the press that he has no doubt that López’s murder can be prosecuted as a hate crime.  Since the public can easily be prejudiced by media accounts that are both uncritical of a suspect’s allegations about his victim, and unverified as to what actually may (or may not) have been found at a crime scene, the Unfinished Lives Project will pass these details along as currently unsubstantiated reports until properly and fully vetted.  Officials in Puerto Rico are now saying that the mutilated, beheaded and partially burned body of Lopez Mercado was discovered on Friday, November 13 in a wooded area near Cayey, only a few miles from his home in Caguas.  Both the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican population of New York City have expressed grave concern about the most savage murder of a gay person in Puerto Rico’s history.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Colorado, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Media Issues, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

19 Transgender Murders Per Month in 2009 To Be Remembered at TDOR

eleventh1On November 20, 2009, the international transgender community will observe the 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a memorial observance of the lives of transmen and transwomen who have been killed during the previous year due to anti-transgender hatred, violence, and prejudice.  According to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), Rita Hester’s murder in 1998 sparked the beginning of the TDOR which has evolved into hundreds of local events and memorials throughout the nation and the world.  This year the LGBT community will mourn more than 95 murdered transgender individuals internationally according to Ethan St. Pierre, amounting to an average of 19 per month.  In 2008, there were 47 transgender murder victims remembered at TDOR.  The murder rate has spiked nearly 100%, virtually doubling in just 12 months.  A more frightening assessment issued by Liminalis, a journal “For Sex/Gender Emancipation and Resistance,”  reports that in the year-and-a-half from January 2008 until the middle of 2009, better than 200 transgender people were murdered world-wide, with the bulk of these statistics coming from North and South America.  According to this report, Brazil is the most dangerous country in the world for transpeople accounting for 59 deaths in 2008, followed by the United States of America where 16 murders of transgender folk occurred.  Accurate data are notoriously hard to establish on the numbers of transgender murders domestically and world-wide.  Reporters and researchers have meticulously combed the internet for names and accounts, but many victims remain unnamed.  Reports of trans deaths in news sources with no internet presence are routinely missed.  While the most sensational murders of transpeople remain those of transwomen, the numbers of reported slayings of transmen and queer youths who present femininely are clearly on the rise.  In addition to memorials for the slain at this year’s TDOR, major political and legal victories for the transgender community will also be highlighted.  The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been signed into law by President Obama, extending protections from violent crimes to transgender people in the United States for the first time.  The past year has also seen the successful conviction and sentencing of two murderers who took the lives of transgender women under state anti-hate crime statutes, one in Colorado and another in New York.  The message of these convictions to reluctant local law enforcement officials is that convictions for bias-related hate crimes against transgender people are attainable from juries throughout the country, giving the lie to the often-repeated excuse that hate crimes are difficult to impossible to prosecute successfully.  Allen Ray Andrade was put away for life for the murder of Angie Zapata in Greeley, Colorado under such a statute, as well as Dwight DeLee, who received 25 years for the murder of Lateisha Green in Syracuse, New York.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Colorado, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Remembrances, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S. House Approves Matthew Shepard Act

HATECRIMES_REPX390Washington, DC – In a vote that marks the first major expansion of protection under the law in 40 years, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Matthew Shepard Act on Thursday.  The Shepard Act, attached as an amendment to a Defense Appropriations Bill, extends protection to LGBT people from bias-related physical violence.  A similar provision faced the threat of a veto from President Bush in a recent Congress, even though it passed the House by a comfortable majority.  This time around, President Obama has signaled his eagerness to sign the Shepard Amendment into law, as soon as it receives a favorable vote in the U.S. Senate.  That vote is expect soon.  Protections from hate violence for LGBT Americans have been opposed by congressional Republicans and their allies, usually on the pretext that the addition of the Shepard Act to a defense bill is inappropriate “social engineering,” a “poison pill,” and that the provisions of the Act would serve as a sort of Trojan Horse, making LGBT behaviors “normative.”  Some religious critics have argued that the Shepard Act would gag ministers and priests who oppose homosexuality on moral or doctrinal grounds, abrogating their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to the free exercise of religion, making vocal opposition to LGBT behaviors criminal.  Proponents of the legislation counter that the language of the Shepard Act has been carefully crafted to criminalize only acts of physical violence, leaving all First Amendment rights fully intact.  The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and openly gay Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colorado) hailed the passage of the Act in the House.  Pelosi said, “It’s a very exciting day for us here in the Capitol,” noting that attempts to pass such a law had gone on for her 22-year tenure in the House of Representatives.  Polis argued that critics of the Shepard Act seem not to understand the impact of anti-LGBT hate violence beyond the individual victims. “What makes these crimes so bad is they are not just crimes against individuals; they are crimes against entire communities,” he said during the debate on the defense bill.  The measure passed the House by a vote of 281 to 146.  237 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted in the affirmative. 131 Republicans and 15 Democrats opposed the bill. “We are closer than ever before to protecting Americans from hate violence thanks to today’s action by the House,” said Joe Solmonese, head of the Washington, D.C.-based LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign. “The day is within sight when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will benefit from updating our nation’s hate crimes laws.”

October 9, 2009 Posted by | California, Colorado, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Politics, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on U.S. House Approves Matthew Shepard Act

Murder Most Foul: Transgender Holocaust in the United States

trans day of remembrance collageChicago, IL – The Great Lakes Regional Editor of EDGE reports that the slaughter of transgender persons in the United States has already gone 12 per cent higher than last year at this time, and the grim statistics are growing.  Joseph Erbentraut, in his important essay, “Violence Against the Transgendered Only Getting Worse,” published on edgeonthenet.com, notes that the silence and invisibility common to LGBT hate crime murders is intensified for transgender Americans.  As in the case of Paulina Ibarra, the lives of transgender victims are often ignored until a more culturally sensational aspect of the crime surfaces, as it did in the August stabbing death of the East Los Angeles Latina transwoman when a known parole jumper surfaced as a “person of interest” in the investigation.  Until then, Ibarra’s brutal murder was largely neglected, even by the LGBT press, and her life has been reduced to a string of seamy innuendoes and a few glam photos.  Other notorious instances this year have been the broad-daylight attack on Ty’lia “Nana Boo-Boo” Mack in D.C. last month, Lateisha Green, shot to death in Syracuse, NY last November, Angie Zapata, bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher in Greeley, CO last July, and Duanna Johnson and Ebony Whitaker who died on the streets of  Memphis, TN last November and July, respectively.  According to Erbentraut, the media are largely to blame for this stunning neglect of one of the most important human rights stories of 2009: “Underreporting from official statistics leaves the issue in the hands of media outlets, which have historically been known for problems identifying victims’ genders through using incorrect names and pronouns,” he writes.   “The past year has also seen a number of examples of media programs condoning violence against the community,” Erbentraut continues, “including a radio news program on KRXQ Sacramento which referred to gender dysphoric children as ‘idiots’ and ‘freaks.’ Co-host Arnie States said he ‘[looked] forward to when [transgender children] go out into society and society beats them down…'”  While 32 states have some form of hate crime legislation that increases the penalty for violence against LGB people, only 11 have statutes covering their transgender population.  Only Brazil, with 80 transgender murders this year, has a larger number of transgender killings than the United States.  Until gays, lesbians, and bisexual people and their allies begin to take violence against transgender people, especially transgender people of color, as seriously as they do crimes against themselves, this deplorable trend will surely continue.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bludgeoning, California, Colorado, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Illinois, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, New York, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Murder Most Foul: Transgender Holocaust in the United States

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