Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Breaking News: Unfinished Lives Project Founder Becomes Official Huffington Post Blogger

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle now blogs for Huffington Post (Keith Tew photo).

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle now blogs for Huffington Post (Keith Tew photo).

Dallas, Texas – The founder and director of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, has been officially accepted as a Blogger for the Huffington Post.  Dr. Sprinkle’s inaugural blog post on the civil disobedience of a gay Louisville, Kentucky Baptist preacher and his spouse may be found by clicking here. Josh Fleet, representing the Huffington Post Blog Team, informed Dr. Sprinkle that his post had been accepted and posted Sunday on the Religion Page of the highly respected and widely read progressive news and opinion source.  He will be a continuing Blogger for the Religion Page, which is overseen by the Rev. Dr. Paul Raushenbush as Senior Editor.

Sprinkle ventured into the cyber world as a blogger in June 2008 with the launch of Unfinishedlivesblog.com, a web forum for news, opinion, and discussion concerning the alarming rise of anti-LGBTQ violence in American life.  With nearly 500,000 hits on the site currently, a notable achievement for a blog done by an academic and a theologian, the future of Unfinishedlivesblog.com looks promising.  The continuing readership of the blog is, of course, largely due to the unabated rise in hate crimes murders perpetrated against the LGBTQ  community since the Matthew Shepard, James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama in October 2009.  Anti-violence programs throughout the United States, as well as the Hate Crimes Program of the FBI have registered higher numbers of bias-drivien murders perpetrated against LGBTQ people in each of the three years since the Shepard Act became the law of the land–and activists see no signs of these horrific statistics lessening in the near term. Sprinkle and the Unfinished Lives Project Team have chronicled this dismaying increase in anti-gay violence throughout the years.

Sprinkle.UnfinishedLives.98111Originally conceived as a supporting platform for the publication of Dr. Sprinkle’s IPPY award winning book on LGBTQ hate crimes murders in the U.S., Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), Unfinishedlivesblog quickly took on a life of its own, thanks to the cyber know-how of two savvy divinity school students, Todd W. Simmons of Houston, Texas, and Adam D.J. Brett of Syracuse, New York. As time passed, Huffington Post became an invaluable source of information on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the responses of the queer and religious communities to these outrages.  “Being named a Blogger for HuffPo brings the spiritual and cyber journey of my activist life to a new milestone,” Sprinkle said in response to the news of his selection.

The brave story of the non-violent protest against Kentucky’s repressive anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage laws by Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, and his spouse, Dominique James, sparked a passion in him to write about this news for a wider audience than a personal blog can reach, Sprinkle said.  The unflinching support offered by Blanchard and James’s pastor, the Rev. Joe Phelps, and the congregation of Highland Baptist Church, Lousiville, was also a feature of the story that begged to be shared broadly with the Baptist world, and beyond.  The parent blog post that gave rise to the Huffington Post piece can be found by clicking here.

Sprinkle is himself a openly gay man and an ordained Baptist preacher (with the Alliance of Baptists) who has recently celebrated his 36th year of ordination.  He is the Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School, a post that he has held since 1994.  Sprinkle is Professor of Practical Theology, and the first openly gay scholar to be tenured in the 99-year history of the school.  He also serves as Theologian-in-Residence for Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and the largest liberal Christian Church in the world with a primary outreach to the LGBTQ community.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Alliance of Baptists, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Highland Baptist Church, Huffington Post, Huffington Post Religion Page, Independent Book Awards (IPPYs), LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, Same-sex marriage, Social Justice Advocacy, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinishedlivesblog.com | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Breaking News: Unfinished Lives Project Founder Becomes Official Huffington Post Blogger

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

Matthew Shepard’s Fatal Beating, 14 Years Ago

Matthew Wayne Shepard, (1976 – 1998).

Laramie, Wyoming – October 7 marks the 14th anniversary of the fatal beating of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay man who became the icon of the movement to stop anti-gay hate crimes in the United States and around the world. Shepard was bludgeoned senseless with a .357 Magnum pistol and tied to the foot of a buck fence on a cold Wyoming night. Two local men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, picked Shepard up from the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, abducted him to a high ridge outside of the university town, and brutally attacked him.  They stole his shoes.  Blood spatter at the scene covered a fifty foot radius.  Drag marks investigators found indicate that Shepard had to be bodily forced out of the pickup truck cab by his victimizers.  After he was discovered nearly dead the next morning, Shepard was rushed first to Laramie’s emergency facility, and then to Fort Collins, Colorado where he lingered a full five days before dying on October 12, 1998.  He never recovered consciousness.

Rather than leave Matthew as a two-dimensional icon, no matter how compelling, this anniversary, the Unfinished Lives Project offers a video of him taken two years before his death while he was attending Catawba College, a small United Church of Christ affiliated school in Salisbury, North Carolina.  Ironically from our present time, Matthew was interviewed briefly along with his then-boyfriend, Lewis Krider, about the anti-gay policies of North Carolina U.S. Senator, Jesse Helms. For a brief moment, we see and hear the young man whose death raised the world’s consciousness to the horror of hate crimes. Today, the Matthew Shepard Foundation continues the work Matthew surely would have longed to see done for the sake of peace, justice, and human freedom to love and be loved.  An award winning book authored by the founder and director of the Unfinished Lives Project, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims, opens with a chapter on the struggle to maintain Matthew’s legacy and witness against the forces of right wing revisionism.  Matthew lives on in the hate crimes prevention act that bears his name and the name of James Byrd Jr.  His memory is strong in the LGBTQ community, and he is a continuing inspiration to everyone who loves peace and justice in a violent world.  Rest in peace, Little Brother.  Rest in peace.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Catawba College, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, North Carolina, Senator Jesse Helms, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Senate, Unfinished Lives Book, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Matthew Shepard’s Fatal Beating, 14 Years Ago

Transgender Murder in Cincinnati Part of Alarming National Trend

Kendall L. Hampton, 26, gender variant person killed by gunshots in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati, Ohio – A 26-year-old gender-nonconforming person was found shot to death late last Saturday night.  Transgender and anti-violence advocates are drawing attention to the brutal murder of Kendall L. Hampton as they highlight the alarming increase in transgender and gender non-conforming violence in the country, especially against people of color.

Your Black World says that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has identified nine gender non-conforming or transgender homicides this year so far.  Of the 30 documented murders of LGBTQ people registered by the NCAVP, 87% are either transgender or gender variant people of color.

WXIX TV 19 reports that Hampton, an alleged sex worker, was found fatally shot in a parking lot between a McDonald’s fast food restaurant and a Dairy Mart.  He was transported to nearby University Hospital where he was pronounced dead later that night. Police say that Hampton was shot twice by an unknown assailant.

The NCAVP and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization are calling on lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate Hampton’s murder for signs of gender, race, and sexual orientation bias.  An increasing chorus of advocates and everyday citizens is calling for better enforcement of hate crimes statutes, especially the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October of 2009.  Social Justice activists note that since increased publicity has been focused on LGBTQ people since the Shepard Act became law, the rate of violence has increased each year. Some are calling for the passage of tougher anti-queer legislation to protect the vulnerable LGBTQ community.

Often news reports of prostitution are published by the media in gender variant homicide cases, not because gender non-conforming people are apt to be sex workers, but rather because the sensational titillation associated with the murder of prostitutes sells more copy.  The effect of such reports is to downplay the public’s sympathy for the victim, and to lessen the impact of the news of a murder on a wider readership or listening audience. It is a sometimes no-so-subtle means of blaming the victim for his own demise. Whether Kendall Hampton was actively working in the sex industry is beside the point.  He was a human being of worth, perceived to be different enough that someone acted out of hatred and killed him.  Whether the killer gets to own the story of his victim’s death will be up to a more informed public, and a media establishment less interested in sensationalism and more intent on stopping violence against Americans.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Ohio, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Murder in Cincinnati Part of Alarming National Trend

Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Murders Skyrocket; Highest Hate Crime Murder Rate Ever Recorded

Burke Burnett, 26, of Paris, Texas narrowly missed being murdered in an October 2011 anti-gay hate crime (Dallas Voice photo). Two of the three persons who assaulted him have received long prison sentences with hate crimes enhancements.

New York, New York – LGBTQH hate crimes murders in 2011 reached the highest number in recorded United States history, according to the annual report of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). The frightening statistics of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, and HIV-affected persons brutally murdered in homophobic hate crimes was released to the press on May 31. Among the highlights of the disturbing 2011 report:

  • The number of murders of LGBTQH people ROSE a full 11 per cent
  • 30 murders recorded; the highest number since the NCAVP has kept records
  • Transgender women, people of color, and gender variant youth are experiencing the most severe assault of violence against them
  • 87 per cent of these murders befell LGBTQH people of color
  • This high murder rate is the third year in a row (2009, 2010, and now 2011) that shows hate crimes killings rising
  • Youth and Young Adults were 2.41 times more likely to have been physically attacked in bias-related crimes than the general LGBTQH population
  • Transgender women comprised 40 per cent of the murder totals, making the second year in a row that Transwomen faced violence in outsized proportions to their numbers in the LGBTQH community

Even though the report shows a 16 per cent decrease in bias-related acts of violence against the LGBTQH community, an encouraging trend, the decrease is overthrown by the alarming jump in hate crimes murders. Detroit, Michigan, for example, showed a major increase in violence against transgender people, prompting Nusrat Ventimiglia of Equality Michigan to note that much of their budget was being consumed in response to the hike in the murder rate in the queer community. Rebecca Waggoner of OutFront Minnesota said that the outrage of youth murders and suicides demands more money and staff on the part of anti-violence programs nationwide to address the epidemic of death among gender variant young people.

Since the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama in October 2009, the incidence of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic murder has increased year by year, indicating that vigorous prosecution of killers is demanded by the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, and all branches of state and local law enforcement.  NCAVP’s New York City Anti-Violence Co-ordinator, Chai Jindasurat, said to the media: “NCAVP’s findings are a call to policymakers, advocates, and community members that the prevention of violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals needs to be a priority.” The report includes specific  policy changes that may reduce the increasing trend of these murders, including an increase in funding for LGBTQH anti-violence support and prevention, and a concentrated effort to bring an end of the homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic culture that fuels hate violence.

18 states do not currently include sexual orientation in their hate crimes statutes, and 22 states do not include gender identity or gender expression. This lack of state concern for LGBTQH victims of hate crime allows the suspects of anti-gay or anti-transgender acts to believe they can carry out their bias crimes against the queer community with impunity. Even when a state has a hate crimes law on the books, like Texas, the rarity of its use by local law enforcement and district attorneys emboldens homophobic killers to carry out their irrational violence without fearing prosecution.

 The media report condensing the massive 2011 NCAVP hate crimes report can be downloaded here.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bullycide, Equality Michigan, FBI, gay bashing, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, Minnesota, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, OutFront Minnesota, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Murders Skyrocket; Highest Hate Crime Murder Rate Ever Recorded

Two Women Plead Guilty to Gay Bashing and Kidnapping in Kentucky

Alexis Jenkins and (Mable) Ashley Jenkins, both 19, convicted of anti-gay hate crime in Eastern Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky – Two teenaged women pled guilty on Wednesday as accomplices in the kidnapping and assault of a gay man in Harlan, Kentucky. The women are the first persons convicted under the provisions of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2009.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky announced that Alexis LeAnn Jenkins and Mable Ashley Jenkins, both 19 years old, entered guilty pleas to assisting a pair of cousins, Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins, in a brutal assault and attempted murder against Kevin Pennington, an openly gay man whom the quartet abducted to Kingdom Come State Park on April 4, 2011.  The women’s pleas were sealed for another two days, according to LGBTQ Nation.  If they are found guilty of the charges, and no plea bargain agreement is in play, the women could face life sentences. It may be that they agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in order to receive lesser sentences, which will be handed down against them in August as the court schedule now stands. Alexis Jenkins is the spouse of Anthony Jenkins, and (Mable) Ashley Jenkins is his sister and a cousin of (David) Jason Jenkins.

The announcement of the guilty pleas come a day after a federal grand jury indicted Anthony and Jason Jenkins of kidnapping, conspiracy, and carrying out a deadly attack on Pennington because of his sexual orientation. The cousins have entered not guilty pleas to all charges, and will have their day in court on June 18.

In a statement issued Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the roles played by Alexis and Ashley Jenkins in the near-deadly attack on Pennington became clearer:  “The women admitted they lured [Kevin] Pennington into a truck with two other defendants, Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins. The truck was driven to an Eastern Kentucky state park where Pennington was allegedly assaulted by the male defendants,” the statement says. “Both women waived their right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to the charges brought by U.S. Attorney [Kerry B.] Harvey and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.”

Though the Jenkins cousins recruited the women to entice Pennington into their Silverado pickup, Alexis and Mable were equally as intent on the gay man’s murder as were the men, according to the details of the federal indictment filed against Anthony and Jason. Kentucky.com reports that the women allegedly cheered on the Jenkins men as they beat Pennington senseless, yelling “Kill the faggot!” Pennington, who is 28, suffered injuries to his chest, head, face, and neck.  Had he not escaped his attackers, he has no doubt he would have been killed. Prosecutors indicate that the savagery of the gay bashing is not what qualified it as a federal hate crimes case.  Instead, the fact that the defendants transported the victim in their vehicle on a federal roadway allowed the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to become involved in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.  The Kentucky Equality Federation appealed to the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the case, since local judges and other law enforcement officers were reluctant to carry the investigation forward in an effective way.

April 14, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, Kentucky Equality Federation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Justice Department, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Kentucky Men Charged By Feds With Anti-Gay Hate Crime: First Use of U.S. Hate Crimes Law

Cousins Anthony Ray Jenkins (l) and David Jason Jenkins (r), indicted under the Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Act for anti-gay attack.

Lexington, Kentucky – Two cousins face the first charges filed by the Federal Government under the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for attacking a gay man, as announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington.  According to the Associated Press, David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, Kentucky, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, Kentucky were indicted early this week by a federal grand jury for a savage April 2011 attack upon Kevin Pennington, a gay man who refused to perform sexual acts upon the cousins.  The Jenkins cousins were also indicted on federal kidnapping, assault, and conspiracy charges. Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, each defendant could face a life sentence in prison.

CNN quotes the indictment as saying that the cousins enlisted two women to entice Pennington to get into their pickup truck on April 4, 2011 for a trip into the pristine wilderness of the Kingdom Come State Park in Harlan.  “David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins made a plan to assault Pennington because of his sexual orientation,” the indictment reads. The men wore clothing that made it difficult to see who they were, and disabled the dome light inside the pickup to further obscure their identities.  The FBI affadavit says that when David Jason Jenkins demanded Pennington service him sexually, Pennington refused. Jenkins threatened to rape him. The cousins stopped the truck, dragged Pennington out of the cab, and brutally assaulted him while shouting, “How do you like this, Faggot?”  Pennington reported to human rights advocates, “The whole time I screamed and begged them to stop, I was screaming I’m sorry for whatever I had done to make them want to do this to me. I can remember seeing bright flashes of light every time one of them would stomp or punch me in the head with them telling me he was going to rape me asking me if I was going to suck his [edited] how they would hold me down if they had to and how he was going to [edited] me in the [edited] dry until I bled.” Knocked unconscious, he lay on the forest floor. He awoke and managed to escape while his assailants were debating how best to dispose of his body. Pennington ran to a ranger station, broke a window to gain access to phone, and called police. He suffered multiple injuries, including wounds to his neck, head, back, and face. After treatment, Pennington was released from hospital care, but says he still struggles emotionally with the effects of the attack. Though the two women, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins and Mable Ashley Jenkins, have been charged with kidnapping and aiding a kidnapping according to the authorities, Edgeonthenet says they have not been indicted by the federal grand jury.

This case is a landmark use of the Shepard/Byrd Act to prosecute an anti-gay hate crime in the nation, and interest around the nation is running high. Since the cousins used a truck and drove their victim on a federal roadway, the case fell under federal jurisdiction.  A U.S. Department of Justice statement read, in part, “The indictment marks the first federal case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Federal Hate Crimes Law.” Human Rights Campaign’s Michael Cole-Schwartz, who worked for the passage of the Shepard/Byrd Act, said, “It’s vindicating to see that the years of hard work that went into making sure this law was on the books is now being put into place.” Kentucky Equality Federation president, Jordan Palmer, commented on the larger context of the case. “The bigger picture here is that the U.S. attorney’s office is sending a message that you don’t try to hurt someone and you don’t injure them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. The Kentucky Equality Federation vigorously lobbied the U.S. Department of Justice to become involved in the case.

As a defense, the cousins claim that Pennington had approached them for illicit drugs, and the deal went bad, a common attempt on the part of perpetrators of hate crimes to deflect attention away from the heinous nature of their acts, and to defame the victim. The Jenkins cousins will face their day in court on June 18.

April 14, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, Kentucky Equality Federation, Kidnapping and sexual assault, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Atlanta Gay Bashing Victim Indicts Homophobic “Monsters” for Brutal Attack

Homophobes attack gay 20-year-old Atlantan, Brandon White, Saturday, February 4 (Surveillance video capture).

Atlanta, Georgia – Brandon White was going to stay silent about the brutal attack of three, epithet-screaming attackers who assaulted him in broad daylight–until his assailants posted a video online bragging about what they did to him.  Three members of a gang named “1029 Jack City” took their homophobic rage out on Brandon White, 20, outside a southwest Atlanta convenience store on February 4.  Yelling “No Faggots in Jack City!” the trio threw a tire carcass at White, knocked him to the sidewalk, and repeatedly slapped and kicked him–all in the the presence of several bystanders who can be heard laughing and encouraging the assault in the video’s soundtrack.  The attack was a set-up so that the assault could be captured on video to allow the homophobes to revel in their barbarity.  But though tens of thousands have viewed the short clip on YouTube (which may be accessed here), the incident sparked outrage around the world at the unprovoked hatefulness of the assault.

White felt compelled to overcome his embarrassment and humiliation when so many began speaking out against the crime done him.  At a press conference called this Wednesday by leaders of the Pittsburgh area of Atlanta where the attack took place, White called for justice for himself and for all victims of anti-gay hate crimes.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that White called his attackers “monsters,” and said, “”If a straight person walks into a store and I have a problem, I should be able to do the same thing. I shouldn’t have to worry about if I should have to look over my shoulder, or if this person is going to attack me, or if that person is going to attack me, for just being a gay male.”  Encouraged by newfound support, White went on to urge victims of hate crimes to come forward the report them.  “Don’t wait until it’s too late to report it. Don’t hide it.”  White acknowledged that the beating made him fear for his life, and still does.  “The scars run deeper than anyone will know,” he said. “The physical pain, I can get over that. My thing is: Who’s to say they won’t come after me again? Who’s to say they won’t kill me?”

Three men were identified as the assailants, and one of them, Christopher Cain, was arrested on February 11 in DeKalb County and charged with aggravated assault and robbery. Cain is being held in the Fulton County Jail pending his arraignment. A $15,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the other two attackers.  The FBI is co-operating in the investigation under the provisions of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, since Georgia does not have a state statute making anti-gay hate crimes punishable.  Activists and lawmakers see this widely-known outrage as an opportunity to introduce hate crimes protections in the state.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, FBI, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, Georgia, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Gay Men and Trans People in the Cross Hairs: Behind the FBI’s 2010 Hate Crimes Statistics

Washington, D.C. –  Hate crimes statistics for 2010 are out from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The good news is that, overall, the numbers of reported hate crimes last year held steady.  The FBI report, accessible here, documents 6,624 single-bias incidents, which range from acts of vandalism to cold blooded murder. Four more incidents encompassed multiple-biases, making for a grand total of 6,628 incidents reflecting 7,699 offenses as reported voluntarily by law enforcement agencies around the nation.  These data represent a serious undercount of the actual number of hate crimes perpetrated against Americans during the last year, since 1) reportage by local law enforcement is sheerly voluntary with no funding from the federal government to aid small jurisdictions to report, and 2) local law enforcement officials are often loathe to classify an incident as a hate crime because of a variety of reasons, such as how the community regards social groups and racial/sexual minorities.

Behind the statistics are the stories of flesh-and-blood victims and their families, and the news here is disturbing. 1,528 victims were targeted because of animus against sexual orientation.  Of these, 57.3 percent of victims were gay males, and 11.9 percent were lesbians. The numbers of violent attacks against transgender people are fragmentary at this point, since statistics of this particularly vulnerable group have only been recorded by the FBI since the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  But the news of brutalities against transgender people, especially transgender women of color, is alarming.  GLAAD reports that, of the people murdered for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression bias, 70 percent were persons of color, and 44 percent were transgender women [NCAVP figures]. Though suicides of LGBTQ teens due to homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools have captured the headlines repeatedly since 2010 began, no separate FBI statistical category yet exists for the collection of these data.

In the recent Civil Rights Conference on Hate Crimes at the University of Texas at Arlington, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez declared in his keynote address, “We are experiencing a headwind of hatred and intolerance in the United States.” FBI Special Agents appealed to local law enforcement, U.S. Attorney officials, and leaders from the North Texas LGBTQ community to co-operate in the reporting of hate crimes, underlining the difficulty feds are experiencing amassing accurate data.   In its 2010 report, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), widely held to offer more accurate statistics on anti-LGBT hate crimes than the FBI, noted a 13 percent rise in homophobic and transphobic violence from 2009 to 2010, and a 23 percent rise in the murders of LGBTQ people.

November 15, 2011 Posted by | Bullying in schools, FBI, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Men and Trans People in the Cross Hairs: Behind the FBI’s 2010 Hate Crimes Statistics

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