Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

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

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

“Bullycide” Claims Life of Gay Minnesota Teen

Alexandria, Minnesota – An 18-year-old openly gay teen was harassed to death on Saturday in Alexandria, a small, Central Minnesota town. Lance Lundsten, a senior at Alexandria Jefferson High School, took his life after relentless bullying because of his sexual orientation, according to reports posted by the local ABC affiliate, KSAX News.  At approximately 10 p.m., Douglas County Sheriff’s officers responded to an emergency call from the Lundsten home in Miltona where they found the gay teen near death.  Lundsten was transported to Douglas County Hospital, where he died. Shari Maloney, Facilitator of the Diversity Resource Action Alliance, told KSAX, “Bullying is a huge issue, particularly with the youth in our country now. I think because we’re in central Minnesota, and we aren’t as diverse as some of the larger Metropolitan areas are, someone who is different maybe draws more attention and it’s not always positive.” Maloney went on to say that attitudes toward LGBTQ youth are not keeping pace with the times in Alexandria.“I think we are a welcoming community, but I think we are also a very traditional community as well,” Maloney said. “As the world changes, I’m not sure if we’re changing.” Friends created a memorial Facebook page in Lundsten’s honor, and indicate that bullies dogged their friend because of his sexual orientation. WDIO reports that fellow students believe the anti-gay harassment led to Lundsten’s suicide. Jefferson Anti-Bullying Coalition created a Facebook group over the weekend where Lunsten’s death by bullycide is a major topic of concern. The group administrator posted this chilling statement of student anger and despair concerning the Jefferson High School officials: “The school’s staff isn’t protecting us, it’s up to the students to help each other.”  Sexual orientation is left unmentioned in the Jefferson High School handbook on harassment policies. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) spoke out against bullycide in Miltona on Monday at a rally for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He called on the nation for more understanding and protection for LGBTQ students, according to KSAX:  “My heart goes out to Lance’s family, and friends and loved ones. It’s a tragic event, not only for them, but for the school, and the Alexandria community and really for all of us.” Franken continued,”LGBT kids really do need (more) protection. They’re two or three times more likely than straight kids to get bullied. Nine in ten LGBT students said they’ve been bullied or harassed and almost two-thirds say they don’t feel safe in school.” A service of remembrance for Lundsten is planned in Alexandria for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.  As a post on the Jefferson Anti-Bullying Coalition Facebook group says, “If this can happen in our small town of Alexandria, MN, it truly proves that this can happen anywhere. Stop another senseless death.” Any teen contemplating ending life because of harassment should contact the Trevor Lifeline at 866 4-U-TREVOR [866 488 7386].

January 18, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, Condolences, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Minnesota, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Student Non-Discrimination Act, suicide, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Bullycide” Claims Life of Gay Minnesota Teen

“Bullycide” Takes Life of Hoosier Teen

Fishers, Indiana – Hundreds of mourners gathered on Monday to remember a 14-year-old Hamilton Southeastern High School freshman whom his parents and friends say took his life in response to incessant bullying. WISH TV News 8 reports that Corey and Natalie Bell, the parents of Jamarcus “Bucko” Bell, who took his own life last Wednesday, want to send a strong message that bullying kills.  The Bells scheduled an emergency conference with the dean of students at Hamilton Southeastern before the suicide of their son because they were alarmed at the extent of the bullying Jamarcus admitted he was enduring at school.  The conference, put off for days, never happened, according to Jamarcus’s parents, who are calling for a full investigation into the bullying situation at HSE.  WTHR News 13 broadcast that the Superintendent of Schools is now speaking out to parents and the press, trying to impress upon the public that the school district “takes bullying very seriously.”  Many students, friends, and alumni of Hamilton Southeastern High, however, aren’t buying what the Superintendent says, since it is too little, too late.  Present and former students of HSE contend that they were bullied in the halls, gym, classrooms, and grounds of the school, and that while school officials and teachers knew about the problems with bullying, they did nothing to prevent it or to protect the targets of the harassment.  In Jamaracus’s case, his parents say that he was bullied from the time the family moved into the school district three years ago.  Corey Bell says that his son was singled out for torment first at Fishers Junior High School, and then this year at HSE.  The most graphic story the Bells are telling is how Jamarcus was bullied in welding class one day last week, when student antagonists threw fragments of steel at the back of Jamarcus’s head.  Student witnesses have corroborated the welding class account, according to Indystar.com.  Jamarcus is remembered as a good student and good friend by his peers.  He was 5′ 8″ tall, and an aspiring baseball player.  His father told the Indianapolis Star that he seldom talked about his troubles: “He shared bits and pieces, but he was more or less trying to hold it in,” Corey Moore said. “He wasn’t confrontational. He wasn’t aggressive. He was good at holding stuff in. We couldn’t tell how bad it was, but he didn’t seclude himself.” Bell is the second high-profile “bullycide” case in Indiana since September.  Last month, the suicide of gay teen Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, touched off national attention to the issue of anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools.  At the packed memorial service in the Eastern Star Church of Fishers, Jamaracus was remembered with tears and laughter.  He was also remembered by mourners who came from near and far as yet another victim of “bullycide.”  While news stories have not mentioned sexual innuendo or anti-gay slurs as part of the repertoire of Jamarcus’s harassers, such attacks on the masculinity of young teen men is the rule, rather than the exception in cases of school suicide.  Often a complex series of oppressions play a part in the desperate decision of a youth to take his own life–not just anti-gay epithets, but also racial, ethnic, and class factors are commonly found to torment young people as they face daily harassment in a school culture that tolerates bullies but not youth of difference.  At the end of the Monday memorial for Jamarcus, hundreds of multicolored balloons were released in the night air, carrying their memories of the gentle athlete who saw no other way out of his desperate situation in school.

October 26, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, Condolences, funerals, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Indiana, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Racism, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Bullycide” Takes Life of Hoosier Teen

Phelps Funeral Protesters Assaulted with Pepper Spray: A Special Comment

Omaha, NE – Protesters picketing a military funeral in Omaha were assaulted by a man squirting pepper spray out his pickup truck window as he drove by them on August 28.  The assailant, George Vogel, 62, was arrested and charged with 16 counts of misdemeanor assault, and one felony count because the pepper spray hit a police officer.  A reporter was also affected by the spray. The motorist was also charged with child neglect since his own child was in the truck at the time of the assault, according to CNN.  Police confirmed that Vogel allegedly extended his arm from the cab of the Ford 150 pickup truck, and discharged a “large can” of pepper spray at the Westboro Baptist Church protesters.  The funeral was being held at First United Methodist Church for the late Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Bock, 26, who died in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province on August 13.  The WBC protest at Bock’s funeral is part of Phelps’s strategy to publicize his campaign against gays and lesbians by targeting fallen U.S. servicemembers, since the United States has become a “fag-enabling” nation that is under God’s wrathful judgment.  Members of the church at the Omaha protest carried signs reading “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “God Blew Up the Troops” and “AIDS Cures Fags.”  The pepper spray assault occurred while nearly 600 members of the Patriot Guard Riders ringed the church to prevent the protest and counter-protest from disturbing the funeral services.  No members of the Riders were affected by the spray.  A major case involving a challenge to free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment has grown from a 2006 protest carried out against the funeral of a soldier from Maryland, in which the father of the deceased soldier sued Phelps and the church for 5 million dollars for harassing the family during the funeral.  Albert Snyder, father of the fallen soldier from Maryland, accuses Phelps and his church of emotional distress and anguish.  A lower court imposed a fine of up to 8 million dollars against Westboro Baptist, which was later reduced to a 5 million dollar award to Mr. Snyder.  A court of appeals overturned the verdict, citing the protections afforded by the First Amendment.  The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in October of this year.  Supporters of the Snyders have lined up against defenders of freedom of speech as the case goes to the high court.  Phelps continues his schedule of protests with impunity.  While the content of Phelps’s protests is so disturbing that high emotions can be readily understood, the larger issue of freedom of speech and expression takes center stage for the Unfinished Lives Project.  We are under no illusions about the nature of Phelps’s work.  He is the most notorious homophobe of this age, and if a link could be successfully established between his hate speech and violence against LGBTQ people, as we believe does exist, he and his church members deserve the punishment of the law.  But freedom of speech is a defining right guaranteed all Americans under the provisions of the Constitution.  LGBTQ people are vouchsafed the right of protest and speech under the same provisions of the law, and to surrender to emotion, no matter how justified it seems in the short term would be to gag and throttle the struggle for human rights in this nation.  So, regretfully, the Unfinished Lives Project must support freedom of speech, even for one of the most noxious of our enemies.  We must believe that the rightness of full equality will win out in the end, no matter how spiteful the opposition becomes.  And, in the spirit of appreciation for the Snyders and all other families and friends of fallen U.S. servicemembers, we offer out sympathy and condolences.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | Condolences, Fred Phelps, funerals, harassment, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Maryland, military, Nebraska, Protests and Demonstrations, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Special Comments, U.S. Marines, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Phelps Funeral Protesters Assaulted with Pepper Spray: A Special Comment

Remembering the Mothers of Our Dead: A Special Comment

Pat Mulder at her son Ryan's graveside (photo credit unknown)

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  For the women who have lost children to the unreasoning hatred of LGBT hate crimes, this may be the most trying holiday of the year.  Perhaps it is because I have met so many of them in the course of my travels and research, but I feel a particular debt of gratitude for the courage and loving tenacity of such great women, everyday, of course, but on this day of the year most of all.  I cannot tell you how much I admire these mothers, and the other women related by blood ties and choice to the women and men who died because of hatred.  All of them: the ones who kept their griefs private and out of the public eye, as well as those who found their voices to speak out for justice and against hate.  But is especially for those mothers and grandmothers, aunts and sisters who have become advocates for us that I feel a keener debt of gratitude.  None of these remarkable women dreamed they would ever become advocates for LGBT rights.  Outrageous fortune and the deeds of malevolent ignorance forced them to face the worst prospect a mother could possibly face: the loss of a child to hate crime violence.  All they wanted to do was grow old loving the children they brought into the world.  But the long, crooked arm of homophobia and transphobia reached into their family circles and broke those circles apart.  One by one, these brave women have found their voices, raised them in courtrooms, on the steps of city halls, in PFLAG meetings, at Pride events and vigils, before the glare of television klieg lights, and in the halls of Congress.  These are the redoubtable women who refuse to let us forget their children, and refuse to let themselves or us rest until justice for everybody’s child finally comes to pass in this nation.  They are the staunchest allies the LGBT community has, becoming the mothers of queer kids everywhere. Since they come from out of every class, religious tradition, ethnic background, status cohort, racial group, and region of the country, no single woman can possibly sum up them all.  But when Elke Kennedy speaks out in South Carolina for her son, Sean, when Pauline Mitchell appeals to us not to forget her two spirit boy, F.C. in her Navajo gentleness, when Billy Jack Gaither’s sister Kathy Jo pushes her scooter chair toward the podium in Montgomery, Alabama, and when Pat Kuteles refuses to let the U.S. Army get off lightly for the death of her dear Barry, somehow all the women united by such pain gather with them and stand beside them.  When Sylvia Guerrero, mother of transwoman Gwen Araujo, spoke in October 2009 on what would have been her daughter’s 25th birthday, she called upon us to honor our LGBT dead by reaching out to bring about a better world, “Light a candle, release a balloon, or do a good deed for someone less fortunate than yourself.  Thank you for keeping [Gwen’s] memory alive after 7 years” (Examiner.com).  The least that we can do is to honor the witness of these remarkable women by joining the struggle of justice and remembrance ourselves…and then one thing more.  We can reach out to these women with our love, as a Psychology Today article suggests we do: “People get so uncomfortable and often feel the need to ‘error on the side of caution’ so as to not upset the person they care so much about. This, however, often leaves the mom simply feeling forgotten. A card, a phone call – even an email – wishing her a happy Mother’s Day can go farther than you could ever know. While she’s on her own path of redefining where she now “fits” on this day, you are helping her to know. She fits where every other mother fits – in the spotlight. She’s still a mom, and she still needs to know that she is viewed this way by everyone else.”

Pat Mulder, Ryan Skipper’s mom, once told me that for a grieving mother who buried her slain child, “there is no closure.”  She and her husband, Lynn, soldier on, turning their sorrow into advocacy, wrapping their arms around gay and lesbian kids wherever they go to let them know everyone deserves to be remembered and loved.  On this Mother’s Day, reach out to the women (and men} who have borne so much, and remind them with acts of loving kindness that like their children, they, too, are not forgotten.  ~ Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

May 8, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Condolences, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Uncategorized, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Slaughtered Gay Puerto Rican Teen Laid to Rest by Family and Friends

Toa Alto, Puerto Rico – Jorge Steven López Mercado was laid to rest by over a thousand family members and friends on Monday.  His mother, Miriam Mercado, and Pedro Julio Serrano, leading LGBT activist, made moving statements remembering Jorge Steven amidst bouquets of white roses and multicolored balloons.  The whole gathering offered a final tribute to the slain teenager by saluting his resting place with his signature hand gesture, captured in so many photos on happier days.  According to Boy from Bushwick, who has been covering the whole saga of young López Mercado’s brutal murder since the beginning, the youth’s maternal aunt, Ruby Mercado, told reporters present to cover the funeral mass, “The support we have received from the public and Steven’s friends has given us the strength to bear this moment of such horrible pain.  I asked Steven with his wings from heaven to help us carry on without having him by our side.”  One of his friends, José Alicia, said, “We definitely hope people and society wake up and demand justice.”  El Nuevo Dia reports that Jorge Steven’s aunt and his former boyfriend, Luis Rivera, opened the cask holding his ashes, and placed a small necklace bearing a cross and a white rose inside before the interment.  The service at Toa Alto bore the passion and style of the flamboyant young gay Puerto Rican from beginning to end.  Music accompanying his ashes to the grave was Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”: “I won’t tell you that I love you/Kiss or hug you/’Cause I’m bluffin’ with my muffin/I’m not lyin’ I’m just stunnin’ with my love-glue-gunning/Can’t read my, Can’t read my/No he can’t read my poker face.” Again and again during the funeral, family and friends called for respect for the LGBT community in Puerto Rico, and justice for Jorge Steven.  Rest in peace, mi amigo.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Condolences, funerals, gay men, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Puerto Rico, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Slaughtered Gay Puerto Rican Teen Laid to Rest by Family and Friends

Overflow Crowd Lays Jason Mattison, Jr. To Rest in Baltimore; Murder Investigation Continues

East Baltimore, Maryland – An overflow crowd packed the Unity United Methodist Church on Edmundson Avenue in Baltimore Thursday for the funeral of slain gay teenager, Jason Mattison, Jr.  The Baltimore Sun reports that the principal of Mattison’s high school announced the establishment of a scholarship in his memory at the service. “No one is truly gone if you carry them in your heart,” Principal Starletta Jackson said. “And Jason is a part of our heart. We all knew that Jason wanted to be a pediatrician. There was never a question of whether or not he was going to make it. Some children we have to pray over a lot — pray for grades that they pass, but we never worried about that with Jason.”  Rev. Patricia D. Johnson, speaking to the mourners, said that young Mattison’s brutal murder serves as a warning to parents to watch over their children in neighborhood of rundown row houses that the church serves.  At times during the 90-minute service, teen classmates who loved the sassy, joyous gay boy with his signature tight jeans and cool sweaters were so overcome with emotion they had to excuse themselves from the church sanctuary.  No doubt he left his mark on their lives and on the Harlem Park neighborhood where he lived.  Principal Jackson concluded her remarks, “We will miss you, Jason, but know that your memory will never be lost.”  Mystery surrounds the grisly murder.  Dante L. Parrish was arrested and confessed to the rape and slaughter of Mattison, and is being held without bail.  Mattison’s cousin described him as “an old family friend,” presumably of Mattison’s aunt, where the gay youth’s body was found in an upstairs closet, gagged with a pillowcase and savagely stabbed in the head and neck with a box cutter.  Conflicting accounts of why Mattison was at his aunts’ house have come from family members.  His cousin says that he was “visiting relatives.”  His paternal grandmother has said that her grandson was actually living in the home rather than in his parents’ home, suggesting some possible alienation or estrangement that Mattison kept under wraps at school.  While he was an open book insofar as his sexual orientation was concerned, he was tightlipped about his home life and his living situation around his classmates.  Family sources also suggest that Parrish had exhibited an unhealthy interest in Mattison for some time, one that allegedly made the gay youth uncomfortable.  As the investigation into one of Baltimore’s worst bias-related hate crimes continues, the search for answers about his family’s relationship with a convicted murderer and their attitude toward Mattison’s homosexuality goes on.  On Sunday, vigils and protests related to Jason’s horrific death and that of slain Puerto Rican gay teen, Jorge Steven López Mercado, took place in more than 20 cities around the country, from coast-to-coast.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Condolences, gay men, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Maryland, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, rape, Remembrances, stabbings, Torture and Mutilation, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Overflow Crowd Lays Jason Mattison, Jr. To Rest in Baltimore; Murder Investigation Continues

Mother of Slain Gay Puerto Rican Teen Speaks Out; Protests and Vigils Break Out Worldwide

Miriam Mercado and Pedro Serrano show Jorge's Signature Gesture (Nueva Dia photo)

San Juan, Puerto Rico – The mother of brutally murdered gay teen, Jorge Steven López Mercado, has broken her silence concerning the social and religious environment in Puerto Rico that led to the loss of her son (see Nueva Dia photo, left).  In a statement issued to the press, Miriam Mercado said, “When my son told me he was gay, I told him, ‘Now, I love you more’. I want to tell the world that hatred is not born with human beings, it is a seed that is planted by adults and is fostered creating a climate of intolerance and violence. We must change our ways and understand that anyone… could have been my son. And I want everybody to know that Jorge Steven was a very much loved son.”  Meanwhile, the investigation into López Mercado’s murder continues, even as protests and vigils spring up on his home island and around the world, condemning the violence that took his life.  After Juan A. Martínez Matos confessed to the beheading, dismemberment, and burning of young López Mercado, his home was intensively searched.  Forensics experts recovered a knife believed to have been used in the murder that had been thrown into a septic tank.  Statements Matos has made about the events leading up to his savage crime make it likely that he will plead a form of the “gay panic defense,” claiming temporary insanity after ‘discovering’ López Mercado’s sexual identity.  Matos is being held in San Juan on $4 million bail.  At a large protest on the grounds of the Puerto Rican capitol on Thursday, Pedro Julio Serrano, a leading LGBT activist, called out political and religious leaders who have characterized gay and lesbian people as “perverts,” condemning their hate speech for contributing to lethal violence against members of the sexual minority.  Serrano also decried the refusal of these same leaders to extend condolences to López Mercado’s mother and family.  On Sunday, vigils took place around the United States, Latin America, and Europe in memory of the 19-year-old Puerto Rican and another gruesomely slain gay teen, African American Jason Mattison, Jr., who died within days of López Mercado, making last week one of the most shocking in recent anti-LGBT hate crime history.  Thousands of mourners gathered to remember the teens in Anchorage, Alaska, Los Angeles, West Hollywood, CA, San Francisco, Chicago, Terra Haute, IN, San Antonio, Dallas, Abilene, Lubbock, New Orleans, Atlanta, Durham, NC, Washington, DC, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City, as well as in San Juan and at others sites in Puerto Rico.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Condolences, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ted Kennedy, Tireless LGBT Advocate, Dies at Age 77

Ted KennedySenator Edward M. Kennedy, legendary liberal Lion of the United States Senate, has died of brain cancer at age 77 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.  The Kennedy family has issued this statement to the public: “Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port.  We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”  Kennedy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in May 2008.  The LGBT community has lost a great champion for human rights.  A true ally of sexual minorities, Kennedy lobbied for rights and protections for all Americans.  As recently as July 13, 2009, he made these remarks in favor of the Senate passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, of which he was a sponsor: “Violent attacks based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability deserve to be criminalized by federal law. Our nation must show that it will not permit these communities to be terrorized – one victim at a time. Over 10 years have passed since the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was first introduced in the Senate. Over 10 years have passed since Matthew Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay. I commend Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, for her years of inspiring advocacy that have brought us to this moment. Now is the time for the Senate to vote and show that we will not allow domestic terrorism to tear apart the fabric of our nation and take the lives of innocent Americans. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to follow their hearts and minds and vote in favor of this legislation.” Perhaps Kennedy will be best remembered for his unstinting advocacy for universal healthcare, “the cause of his life,” that was on his mind as he fought a losing battle with cancer.  He took responsibility for his personal appetites and flaws, showing the nation he loved that he deserved our respect and affection because imperfect people can do magnificent things.  He was born to privilege, but instead chose to serve, becoming one of the few greats in the history of the Senate.  When Webster, Clay, Calhoun and Taft are honored in years to come, Kennedy will be remembered among them.  Teddy Kennedy, the passionate defender of women, LGBT people, the poor, and the infirm, fought the good fight.  It would be only fitting to note on his epitaph that among his posthumous legislative achievements were the Matthew Shepard Act and the Universal Healthcare Act.  To inscribe them there must now be our labor of love and respect for Teddy, the People’s Lion.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Condolences, Legislation, Massachusetts, Matthew Shepard Act, Politics, Remembrances, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ted Kennedy, Tireless LGBT Advocate, Dies at Age 77

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