Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Hate Crimes Blog Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Unfinishedlivesblog.com founder and director, speaks at Dallas Day of Decision Rally last week [Robbie Miller photo].

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Unfinishedlivesblog.com founder and director, speaks at Dallas Day of Decision Rally last week [Robbie Miller photo].

Dallas, Texas – Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the premier amateur academic blog dealing with anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the United States, marks its fifth birthday today.  Conceived on the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in 2008, the blog and its umbrella parent movement, The Unfinished Lives Project, sought to change the national conversation on acts of physical violence against the queer community.  A part-time labor of love, written as time permits between teaching responsibilities, speaking opportunities, and educational events around the nation, this cyber effort continues to widen and deepen the circle of readers worldwide who remember  and advocate for LGBTQ hate crimes victims. With nearly 500,000 visitors to date, Unfinished Lives Blog has reached more minds and hearts than its originator, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, could have possibly foreseen half a decade ago.

“Adding the responsibility of writing, monitoring networks of news sources, and updating the blog seemed daunting at first,” Sprinkle admits.  “Nevertheless, communicating with such a wide audience of concerned people on the injustice of murder and assault against LGBTQ people simply because of irrational prejudice and hatred, has become an enormously energizing dimension of my life’s work. And, we at the Unfinished Lives Project have learned how to do this as we went along,” Sprinkle noted.  “Remembering the victims of homophobic and transphobic violence must become second nature to the LGBTQ community if it ever is to become a People among the Peoples of this country, and of the world family of Peoples.  We like to think that we are making some contribution to the maturation of the LGBTQ community by our work.” 

Five years on gives the Unfinished Lives Project a chance to revisit some of its more notable achievements.  Since 2008, the blog has:

  • Posted 564 articles to date on hate crimes and told the stories of hate crimes victims throughout America and the world
  • Contributed to the struggle to enact the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into federal law in 2009
  • Provided local coverage of the Raid on the Rainbow Lounge and the events stemming from it in the summer of 2009
  • Pressed for the Repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) in 2010
  • Covered the alarming rise in transgender hate crimes, with a special focus on transgender youth of color
  • Chronicled the alarming stories of LGBTQ youth bullied in schools throughout the nation
  • Gained readership in more than 183 nations, principalities, territories, and protectorates worldwide
  • Built and maintained a searchable website available free of charge for research on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes
  • Supported the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Murder Victims (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2011)
  • Provided coverage of Unfinished Lives events in 9 states and the District of Columbia

1UnfinishedLivesSprinkle has continued to be Director and main writer for the blog, but says that he is indebted to the ongoing contributions of members of the Unfinished Lives Project Team.  “We could not be the player in the cyber world we are today without the hard work of friends like web masters Todd W. Simmons, Adam D.J. Brett, and the invaluable support of Sandra Jean Brandon,” Sprinkle said.  He also thanks the loyal readership that has lent their voices and advocacy to the struggle to eliminate hate crimes violence from society. “They are helping to change the national conversation on hate crimes,” Sprinkle said. “We are moving beyond dry statistics.  The stories of real human beings give life and passion to the ongoing effort to make our neighborhoods safe for love and life to bloom and flourish.”

The future offers opportunity to Unfinished Lives Blog as it enters its second decade of service.  LGBTQ hate crimes continue unabated in the United States, rising to record high numbers of murders each year since 2010.  Worldwide human rights efforts are spreading at breakneck speed, and the forces of repression and irrational hatred are mounting to squash them.  Unfinished Lives Blog intends to meet the challenges with creativity and passion.  In October 2013, the Unfinished Lives Project will visit the Republic of South Korea where Dr. Sprinkle’s book is being published in the Korean language by Alma, a division of Munhakdongne Publishing Group, to spread the word on hate crimes and hate crimes prevention. As Sprinkle says every time he is offered the chance, “We who believe in justice cannot rest.  We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes!”

Happy Fifth Anniversary, Unfinished Lives Blog!  Here’s to many more!

June 30, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Independent Book Awards (IPPYs), LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Rainbow Lounge Raid, Social Justice Advocacy, South Korea, Texas, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Crimes Blog Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Searching for LGBTQ Justice this Christmas 2012

"Magi," J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

“Magi,” J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

“O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.”

When the Reverend John Henry Hopkins Jr. wrote the lyrics for the universally loved, “We Three Kings,” in 1857, the term “homosexual” had not yet been coined, and would not be for another twelve years.  We know now that “homosexuality” was a socially created term, invented by European social scientists in the latter 19th century to describe a new species of person.  “Homosexuals” were a problem on the scene of the Industrial Revolution.  Men (especially, at the time) were singled out and scrutinized because they were not procreating, adding children to the labor forces of the era that manned the “dark Satanic mills” of Northern and Western Europe and the United States.  From the invention of homosexuality by the medico-political regimes of the age, gay men and lesbians were problems society had to examine, quarantine, and cure.  So, there never was a time that “homosexuality” as a term was not biased against the humanity and dignity of same-sex loving people.

Christmas 2012 offers us a stunning perspective of change.  In Europe, even as Pope Benedict XVI inveighs against gay relationships, much of the continent has embraced its LGBTQ citizens and secured their rights to live and love as the fully worthy human beings they always have been.  In the United States, major strides have been taken against anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been fully repealed, allowing fully open service in the U.S. military by LGBTQ servicepeople, and this election cycle has brought the election of the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator (Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin), three new states that have made same-sex marriage legal (Maryland, Maine, and Washington), and, for the first time, a state has refused to enact anti-LGBTQ bias into a state constitution by a public referendum (Minnesota).  But, on the other hand, the murder of LGBTQ people has never been higher, tensions across the nation concerning upcoming Supreme Court rulings on Prop 8 and the constitutionality of DOMA are mounting, and there is no comprehensive federal protection for LGBTQ persons in the labor force.  What are we to make of this moment in the struggle for human rights and full equality, then?

President Barack Obama who came out publicly for marriage equality in May 2012 said in an interview with Pink News“One of the things that I’m very proud of during my first four years is I think I’ve helped to solidify this incredibly rapid transformation in people’s attitudes around LGBT issues — how we think about gays and lesbians and transgender persons.” We are engaged in changing the minds of our fellow citizens about who LGBTQ people are, as the President suggests.  Instead of being a suspicious “species,” a variation of some straight ideal for human kind, we are neighbors, friends, relatives, loved ones, co-workers–in other words, everyday people as worthy of respect and acknowledgement as anyone else.  And, as the President says, we are closer to changing the collective American mind in this direction than ever. Speaking of his own daughters, President Obama said, “You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”  Looking back across the last four years of his presidency, Mr. Obama observed that the United States is “steadily become a more diverse and tolerant country.
There’s been the occasional backlash, and this is not to argue that somehow racism or sexism or homophobia are going to be eliminated or ever will be eliminated,” he went on to say. “It is to argue that our norms have changed in a way that prizes inclusion more than exclusion.”  

Magi, and activists, and clergy, and just plain people of good conscience still seek the Light of justice for LGBTQ people in this country and around the world. As we lean forward toward Bethlehem this Christmas season, may the searchers find courage in each other, and in the power of an idea whose time has come.

Merry Christmas to the Friends and Fans of Unfinished Lives!

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Christmas, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Employment discrimination, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Pope Benedict XVI, President Barack Obama, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Searching for LGBTQ Justice this Christmas 2012

Your Rights and Ours This Hallowe’en Season: A Special Comment

Dallas, Texas- In this unprecedented year of tragedy and hope, in the aftermath of the worst nature can do to many of our readers and supporters, the Unfinished Lives Project Team wishes your family and loved ones a Happy and Safe Hallowe’en.  So much is at stake in this election season.  Too many have lost too much to turn back now.  The stance of this blog and this human rights project has been and will remain to be full of hope:

  • For a better world than the LGBTQ community has ever known until now
  • For the long arc of justice to bend toward all marginalized people, especially those whose lives have been touched with violence
  • For the laws and protections afforded to us to be enforced swiftly, fully, and justly
  • For all LGBTQ people to follow to admonition of Harvey Milk, burst down our closet doors, and begin to fight for the values we believe in

We have found allies and leaders who have our best interests at heart.  We still believe in hope.  That is what we are sticking with this holiday season.

  • President Barack Obama has signed the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law
  • President Obama has fought by our side for the full Repeal and Implementation of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
  • President Obama has directed our Justice Department to defend DOMA no longer
  • President Obama has nominated two outstanding women to the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Kegan and Justice Sotomayor
  • President Obama vigorously supports the DREAM Act, allowing many LGBTQ Latinas/Latinos to live, work, and prosper in the United States–the only nation home they have ever known
  • Vice President Joe Biden has blazed the trail for Transgender Rights, declaring this “The Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time”
  • Both President Obama and Vice President Biden have declared their public support for Marriage Equality
  • The President, therefore, deserves and has earned a second term

While we at Unfinished Lives respect choices to the contrary, to us the choice this election year could not be clearer.

Enjoy the day, then exercise your rights, and vote.  Again, friends, Happy Hallowe’en.   ~  The Unfinished Lives Project Team

October 31, 2012 Posted by | Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Dream Act, GLBTQ, hate crimes prevention, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, President Barack Obama, Repeal of DADT, Special Comments, U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Your Rights and Ours This Hallowe’en Season: A Special Comment

Anti-Gay Hazing Aboard Nuclear Submarine Leads To Top Non-Com Dismissal

USS Florida already had a “culture of homophobia” prior to the harassment of a crew member suspected of being gay.

Norfolk, Virginia – With little or no privacy, and nowhere to escape from his anti-gay torment, a sailor targeted for harassment aboard nuclear submarine USS Florida (SSBN/SSGN – 728), became the center of a homophobic hazing case that has created a public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy. The Associated Press revealed that the Navy released its report in March detailing months of anti-gay taunts against the unnamed submariner–leading to the dismissal of the Chief of the Boat, the submarine’s top non-commissioned officer.  Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry was fired by Captain Stephen Gillespie “for dereliction of duty” related to his failure to report and advise the commanding officer of the boat on issues arising among enlisted men.

The targeted sailor whose identity and sexual orientation have not be released in the investigative report, suffered incessant anti-gay jokes, was subjected to anti-gay epithets and nicknames, and was the victim of an alleged attempted rape at knife point by a  man while the Florida was in a foreign port of call–Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Prior the the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the sailor was constantly taunted to “come out of the closet” as a gay man and jeered at for having a Filipino boyfriend, the ethnicity of the attempted rapist. He was labeled “Brokeback” for the famous gay-themed motion picture, Brokeback Mountain. The Navy report said that the sailor endured the harassment because he thought it would cease at some point.  After eight months of constant homophobic harassment in 2011, the sailor finally passed along a note for help, saying that the combination of the attempted rape, the hounding, and the constant pressure put on him by crew members was driving him to suicide, or to an act of violence against his tormentors.

The Navy report says that sailors who participated in the hazing did not appreciate the psychological harm their actions caused their shipmate. The report also states that Chief Berry did not participate in the anti-gay hazing of the sailor, but did not report what was going on to his superior officers, either. As background to the embarrassing revelations of anti-gay abuse, the report also detailed that the Florida had developed a whole culture of heterosexist and homophobic prejudice, and detailed a number of examples.

In response, the Navy ordered training and counseling up and down the line to prevent anything like this from happening again. Besides the chief of the boat, several junior crew members who participated in the anti-gay harassment have also faced disciplinary actions, including loss of rank and pay.  In its March 30 statement to the public, the Navy said: “The Navy’s standards for personal behavior are very high and it demands that sailors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. When individuals fall short of this standard of professionalism and personal behavior, the Navy will take swift and decisive action to stop undesirable behavior, protect victims and hold accountable those who do not meet its standards.” 

This week, Vice Admiral John Richardson who commands the Norfolk-based submarine force, issued a blog post in response to the scandal this incident had created in the submarine service in which he focuses attention on the importance of character in Navy life. “A violation by one seems to be a violation against all,” the admiral wrote.

The USS Florida, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine homeported at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Georgia, participated in action against Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi in March 2011 by launching scores of Tomahawk missiles, the only one of the four Ohio-class SSGNs available to serve in Operation Odyssey Dawn. Apparently, the senseless anti-gay torment of the sailor in question was going full tilt during the period of combat operations.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Georgia, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, military, rape, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Navy, Virginia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Philip Bushong, 23, called homophobic slur and stabbed to death by a fellow U.S. Marine

Washington, D.C. – A U.S. Marine was attacked and stabbed through the heart by a fellow Marine who allegedly ignited the fight by calling him an anti-gay slur.  Philip Bushong, 23, was fatally stabbed with a pocket knife on Saturday in the Barracks Row section of D.C. by 20-year-old Michael Poth, according to reports in WTNH News. Gravely wounded, Bushong was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died about an hour later. The stabbing took place near the Marine Barracks and the home of the U.S. Marines Commandant–a bustling section of the U.S. Capitol with shops, restaurants, and residences that is normally thought to be safe because of its proximity to the military barracks.

Witnesses told DC police that Poth called Bushong the homophobic slur as the two Marines passed each other on the sidewalk at about 2:40 a.m., according to the Washington Post.  Bushong, who apparently had never met Poth, took exception to the slur, and the fight erupted in front of a sporting goods store. The DC Metro Police are taking the lead on the investigation of Bushong’s murder, assisted by the Naval Crime Investigative Service.  Poth was charged Monday with second degree murder, according to WJLA News 7. Bail was denied at the request of representatives of the Marine Corps, and Poth will go to court the next time on May 15. Defense attorneys allege self-defense on their client’s part. When Poth was arrested by Marine guards and told that Bushong was on his way to the hospital, he allegedly told them, “Good! I hope he dies!” Carolyn Eaves, a worker a block away from the scene of the crime, told News 7, “Sad. Two families… now destroyed “We have to learn not to call people names, you know. Got to be on our Ps and Qs all the time. Sad.”

Because of the report of the homophobic slur, hate crimes protocols are being observed in the investigation, and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the Metro Police have been brought in.  The Advocate reports that OutServe, the first openly gay and lesbian active duty military advocacy organization in the nation, issued a statement on the killing over the weekend.  In part, the statement reads: “We are troubled by the specter that this might have been a hate crime; if so, we anticipate the authorities will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law. This is particularly upsetting since, overall, gay and lesbian Marines have been accepted and treated equally in the force since repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We look forward to the results of a swift and thorough investigation of this tragic incident.” 

Bushong, a Marine since 2007, was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  A native of Enfield, Connecticut, he was described by friends and fellow Marines as a fun-loving person who enjoyed his life. Funeral arrangements in Connecticut have not been released to the public at the time of this report.

Hate speech has the capacity to inflame young men, in particular. What prompted one Marine to sling an anti-gay epithet at the other is not known, but neither young man is believed to be gay. The language of violence attached to homophobia is still strong enough to infuriate people like no other speech in our time, and turn otherwise sensible people into combatants, as in this awful case in the nation’s capitol. The Marines have traditionally been felt to have a higher degree of homophobia than the other armed forces, but recent accounts seemed to indicate that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was going well in the Corps. It seems there is much work left to do, however, until young men like these no longer feel that accusations of homosexuality are intolerable to their manhood.

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Connecticut, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), OutServe, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. Marines, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Marine Murdered in Possible Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Gay Couple That Changed the World: John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner Remembered

Tyrone Garner (l) and John Lawrence celebrate Lawrence v. Texas.

Houston, Texas – Lawrence v. Texas, set in motion by a couple of accidental gay activists, broke the back of anti-sodomy laws in the United States. What they did amounts to the “Brown v. Board of Education for gay and lesbian America,” according to Harvard constitutional law expert, Laurence Tribe.  Yet when John Geddes Lawrence, aged 68, died on November 20 of heart disease at his home in Houston, no mention of the landmark Supreme Court decision was made in the obituary or at his funeral.  Tyrone Garner, the other half of this remarkable couple, had preceded Lawrence in death back in 2006. Only when a lawyer in the case, Mitchell Katine, called Lawrence to invite him to a ceremony commemorating the law-changing decision, did he receive word of Lawrence’s passing from his life-partner, according to the New York Times.  Katine let the rest of the world know that an inadvertent giant in the struggle of LGBTQ equality had died.

Lawrence and Garner were arrested on September 17, 1998 for sodomy in a private home by Houston Police.  The police had been called in to investigate a false weapons report by a jealous former lover of Lawrence’s, who admitted he had falsified the report as an act of revenge. Nonetheless, the arrest went down, and Lawrence and Garner, who had hooked up earlier that day, were thrust by events upon the stage of history.  Lawrence was angry at the arrest, feeling that his privacy had been violated unjustly. That anger was a fire in his belly that saw the case through lower courts to the U.S. Supreme Court for its decisive ruling of June 2003, striking down anti-sodomy laws in fourteen states.  Writing for five of the six Justices on the prevailing side, Justice Anthony Kennedy declared, “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state,” he continued, “cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”  A compilation of documents and the text of Lawrence v. Texas, provided by Justia.com, the U.S. Supreme Court Center, may be accessed here.

We cannot overestimate the significance of John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner’s decision to fight back against an unjust law.  So much hung in the balance. They were not professional activists, the rainbow-flag-waving kind.  They were simply two gay men, attracted to each other, whose right to privacy was trampled by a legal system that upheld a heterosexist status quo.  One black, one white, this gay couple set the wheels in motion for every forward step in human rights since 2003: the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010, and its full implementation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and President Barack Obama in 2011, and the whole raft of same-sex marriage laws passed on the state level around the nation.

Professor Dale Carpenter, who wrote a recent book on Lawrence v. Texas, interviewed John Lawrence.  In conversation, this unassuming naval veteran and obstinate gay man asked Carpenter, “Why should there be a law passed that only prosecutes certain people? Why build a law that only says, ‘Because you’re a gay man you can’t do this. But because you’re a heterosexual, you can do the same thing’?”  Tyrone Garner told the Houston Chronicle in 2004 that he took quiet pride in the role he played in history.  “I don’t really want to be a hero,” Garner said. “But I want to tell other gay people, ‘Be who you are, and don’t be afraid.’ ”

Sometimes a couple of men get mad, and dig in, and the world changes.  That is what the LGBTQ community owes John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner. Because of their courage, the United States justice system has changed forever.

December 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lawrence v. Texas, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

Washington, D.C. – Today marks the advent of full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law making gay and lesbian servicemembers liable for discharge if they admitted their sexual orientation.  While there will be celebrations and night watch parties throughout the nation marking this historic day in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, we cannot afford to forget the terrible cost anti-gay discrimination has wrought in the Armed Forces of the United States.  So, today, we lift up the lives and patriotic service of four gay men who died because of the ignorance and bigotry of other servicemembers, and the systemic bigotry of the services themselves which at best permitted these murders, and at worst encouraged them.

Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, was shot to death on duty in a Camp Pendleton guard shack, and his remains were burned to erase the evidence of the deed on June 30, 2009 in San Diego, California. He had recently complained to his family that a fellow servicemember was harassing him because of his sexual orientation.  He feared speaking with his superiors about the harassment because of the threat of discharge due to DADT.  His partner in life, Kaether Cordero of Houston, said, “People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew. He didn’t care that they knew. He trusted them.”  Seaman Provost joined the Navy in 2008 to gain benefits to finish school, where he was studying to become an architectural engineer.

Private First Class Michael Scott Goucher, a veteran of the Iraq War, was murdered near his home in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 2009 by an assailant who stabbed him at least twenty times. Known locally as “Mike on a Bike” by neighbors and friends, Goucher was an assistant organist for a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Captain of the neighborhood Crime Watch.  He also was a selectively closeted gay man, hiding his sexual orientation from his community. Goucher survived deployment in Iraq, only to meet death at the hands of homophobes back home.

Private First Class Barry Winchell of Kansas City, Missouri, was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his barracks by a member of his unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on July 6, 1999.  Winchell had fallen in love with a transgender woman, Calpurnia Adams, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.  In the fallout from his murder, President Bill Clinton ordered a review of DADT, which resulted in the addition of a “Don’t Harass” amendment to the policy, but little else. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who represented Winchell’s parents in litigation with the U.S. Army, demanded to know who in the upper ranks of Fort Campbell knew of the murder and its subsequent cover up.  The commandant of the fort was promoted over the objections of many human rights advocates. Winchell’s story has been immortalized by the 2003 film, “Soldier’s Girl.”

Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler Jr. of Chicago Heights, Illinois was murdered on October 27, 1992 in a public toilet on base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. His killer was a shipmate who despised Schindler for being gay. He had been outed while on board the U.S.S. Belleau Wood, and was supposedly under the protection of his superiors until he could be separated from the service.  Schindler had called his mother to tell her to expect him home by Christmas.  Instead, the Navy shipped his savaged remains home to Chicago Heights before Thanksgiving.  The only way family members could identify his remains was by a tattoo of the U.S.S. Midway on his forearm.  Otherwise, he was beaten so brutally that his uncle, sister, and mother could not tell he was their boy.  Schindler’s murder was presented as a reason DADT should never have been enacted, but authorities in Washington brushed his story aside and enacted the ban against gays in the military anyway. Schindler’s story is told at length in Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, authored by the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle.

We at Unfinished Lives celebrate the repeal of DADT tonight with thanksgiving for the courage of lesbian and gay servicemembers who chose to serve their country in the military though their country chose not to honor them.  More than 13,500 women and men were drummed out of the service under DADT.  But in addition to the thousands who faced discharge and shame, we cannot forget, we must not forget, the brave souls who died at the hands of irrational hatred and ignorance–the outworking of a blatantly discriminatory policy that never should have blighted the annals of American history.  The four lives we remember here are representative of hundreds, perhaps thousands more, whose stories demonstrate the lengths to which institutions and governments will go to preserve homophobia and heterosexism.  We will remember with thanksgiving our gay and lesbian dead, for to forget them would be to contribute to the ills wrought by DADT.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Illinois, immolation, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Tennessee, Texas, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History: We Must Not Forget Its Cost

DADT Repeal Certification Friday, July 22nd, But at What Cost to LGBTQ Americans? A Special Comment

Pfc. Barry Winchell's grave

Both CNN and the San Diego Union-Tribune are reporting tonight that final certification of DADT repeal will take place Friday in Washington, D.C.  But our celebrations are sobered at the Unfinished Lives Project by the magnitude of the cost to the LGBTQ community in servicemembers’ lives and careers in order to get to this landmark moment. When Secretary Leon Panetta signs the documents of certification at the Pentagon, signifying that the chiefs of the Armed Services have previously reported to him that full and open service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, sailors, marines, airwomen and airmen, national guardsmen and women, and coast guardsmen and women poses no threat or harm to the morale, unit cohesion, or mission readiness of the Armed Forces, a giant step toward full equality for LGBTQ people will be made.  Seventeen years of the most oppressive and blatantly discriminatory anti-gay policy in contemporary memory will be over; but not before the incalculable cost of the lives of queer servicemembers who died before seeing this day dawn. At the Unfinished Lives Project, we have invoked the names and stories of some of them: Petty Officer Allen R. Schindler, U.S. Navy; Pfc. Barry Winchell, U.S. Army; Pfc. Michael Scott Goucher, U.S. Army Reserve; Seaman August Provost, U.S. Navy.  May they and all the others they represent rest in peace! These patriots died outrageous deaths at the hands of hatred and unreasoning bias, enabled by a military culture that either encouraged violence against suspected LGB servicemembers, or at the very least turned a blind eye toward such violence. Celebration of repeal is in order, and celebrate we will. The dead are honored by this act of justice, signifying that they have not died in vain. But we will also be mindful that no stroke of a pen, even one so powerful as the one wielded by the Secretary of Defense, will eliminate homophobia and heterosexism in the Armed Services. Ships, barracks, and foreign fields of service will be haunted with the hatred that has been passed down from generation to generation of American military personnel. Backlash is in full swing, as we have seen most graphically among right-wing conservative military chaplains whose appeals to exempt their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and teachings as freedom of religion served to be the last bastion of “homophobia-masquerading-as-liberty” in the armed services. Thankfully, as certification on Friday shows, the vast majority of servicemembers of all ranks reject discrimination for what it truly is: un-American. In memory of all our LGBTQ servicemembers (of all faiths and faith-free, as the case may be) who have died in part or in full because of the ravages of hate crimes, we dedicate a portion of Fr. Thomas Merton’s most famous poem, written in memory of his brother, John Paul, killed in action in World War II, entitled, “For My Brother, Reported Missing In Action, 1943” [The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, New Directions, 1977, p. 35-36]:
:

When all the men of war are shot

And flags have fallen into dust,

Your cross and mine shall tell men still

Christ died on each for both of us.

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,

And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring:

The money of Whose tears shall fall

Into your weak and friendless hand,

And buy you back to your own land:

The silence of Whose tears shall fall

Like bells upon your alien tomb.

Hear them and come: they call you home.

July 22, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Bisexual persons, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, military, Military Chaplaincy, National Guard, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

President Obama Officially Proclaims June 2011 “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month”

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2011

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2011

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

The story of America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law.  Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Since taking office, my Administration has made significant progress towards achieving equality for LGBT Americans.  Last December, I was proud to sign the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  With this repeal, gay and lesbian Americans will be able to serve openly in our Armed Forces for the first time in our Nation’s history.  Our national security will be strengthened and the heroic contributions these Americans make to our military, and have made throughout our history, will be fully recognized.

My Administration has also taken steps to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans in Federal housing programs and to give LGBT Americans the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital.  We have made clear through executive branch nondiscrimination policies that discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the Federal workplace will not be tolerated. I have continued to nominate and appoint highly qualified, openly LGBT individuals to executive branch and judicial positions.  Because we recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration stands with advocates of equality around the world in leading the fight against pernicious laws targeting LGBT persons and malicious attempts to exclude LGBT organizations from full participation in the international system.  We led a global campaign to ensure “sexual orientation” was included in the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial execution — the only United Nations resolution that specifically mentions LGBT people — to send the unequivocal message that no matter where it occurs, state-sanctioned killing of gays and lesbians is indefensible.  No one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love, and my Administration has mobilized unprecedented public commitments from countries around the world to join in the fight against hate and homophobia.

At home, we are working to address and eliminate violence against LGBT individuals through our enforcement and implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  We are also working to reduce the threat of bullying against young people, including LGBT youth. My Administration is actively engaged with educators and community leaders across America to reduce violence and discrimination in schools.  To help dispel the myth that bullying is a harmless or inevitable part of growing up, the First Lady and I hosted the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March. Many senior Administration officials have also joined me in reaching out to LGBT youth who have been bullied by recording “It Gets Better” video messages to assure them they are not alone.

This month also marks the 30th anniversary of the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has had a profound impact on the LGBT community.  Though we have made strides in combating this devastating disease, more work remains to be done, and I am committed to expanding access to HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Last year, I announced the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States.  This strategy focuses on combinations of evidence-based approaches to decrease new HIV infections in high risk communities, improve care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and reduce health disparities. My Administration also increased domestic HIV/AIDS funding to support the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and HIV prevention, and to invest in HIV/AIDS-related research.  However, government cannot take on this disease alone.  This landmark anniversary is an opportunity for the LGBT community and allies to recommit to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and continuing the fight against this deadly pandemic.

Every generation of Americans has brought our Nation closer to fulfilling its promise of equality.  While progress has taken time, our achievements in advancing the rights of LGBT Americans remind us that history is on our side, and that the American people will never stop striving toward liberty and justice for all.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2011 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

June 1, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Asian Americans, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, Gay Pride Month, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, hate crimes prevention, HIV/AIDS, Housing Discrimination, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Native Americans, President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation, Repeal of DADT, transgender persons, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on President Obama Officially Proclaims June 2011 “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month”

Texans of Faith Storm U.S. Capitol for Human Rights

Washington, D.C. – The largest delegation of fair-minded Texas faith leaders since the conception of LGBT rights are on their way to the Nation’s Capitol to participate in the third Human Rights Campaign’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality, May 22 – 24.  Twenty-two clergy, theologians, and seminarians from across the Lone Star State are registered for this year’s lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.  The Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program mobilizes people of faith to advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people every other year, and among the important items on the agenda will be the full implementation of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), anti-bullying efforts across the nation (such as the one just passed by the Texas House, strengthening the penalties for harassment and bullying in public schools), and the status of the Dream Act. Texans have a particularly tall order as grassroots citizen lobbyists, since both U.S. Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, have consistently voted against human rights initiatives during their legislative careers in Washington. At the core of the Texas delegation are fifteen students, faculty, and alumni of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, the largest from any seminary or divinity school in the state.  Brite, founded in 1914 by an endowment from Marfa rancher Luke Brite, is located on the campus of Texas Christian University.  In former years, Brite was conservative on the issue of LGBTQ-inclusion, but now is the only accredited institution of theological higher education in Texas to extend welcome status to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons by action of its board of trustees.  Among the faculty are two openly gay and lesbian professors, and the number of LGBTQ students in the Fort Worth school is growing. “Students are learning how to take a stand for justice by becoming clergy for whom all people matter, and are eager to work for equality in public forums like Clergy Call. Our students are taking their roles as public theologians seriously,” said Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at the Divinity School, and Theologian in Residence at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. “Each of the students who have traveled to Washington chose voluntarily to participate in Clergy Call because they believe faith calls them to be here.”  Billed as the largest interfaith gathering of LGBTQ and Allied Clergy and Faith Leaders in the United States, Clergy Call will bring representatives of faith communities from all fifty states to the capitol for training in faith messaging, skill-building for advocacy with legislators, interfaith worship, and person-to-person lobbying of senators and congresspeople.  This year’s headline speakers include Rabbi Denise Egger, Rev. Harry Knox, Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Rabbi David Saperstein, Rev. Nancy Wilson, and Bishop Carlton Pearson.  Dr. Sharon Groves is the Director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program, based in Washington, D.C.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Asian Americans, Bisexual persons, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Cathedral of Hope, Clergy Call, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Dream Act, gay men, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, hate crimes prevention, Homosexuality and the Bible, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Media Issues, military, Military Chaplaincy, Politics, Public Theology, Queer, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Texans of Faith Storm U.S. Capitol for Human Rights

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