Washington, DC – On a red letter day when lawmakers voted to end the most notorious anti-gay policy in the federal canon, LGBT servicemembers and veterans who have been murdered because of their sexual and gender non-conformity must not be forgotten during the celebrations over passage of repeal of DADT. In a historic vote in the history of the human rights movement, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to end the ban on LGBT patriots from serving openly in the armed services of the United States. Saturday afternoon, 65 Senators voted for repeal with 31 in opposition. A simple majority of 51 was all that was required for passage of the Senate bill, which is identical to the one passed earlier in the week by the House of Representatives. Eight GOP Senators joined their Democratic colleagues to pass the repeal of the 17-year-old discriminatory policy that ended the military careers of 13,500 women and men because of their sexual orientation. Joe Manchin, the freshman Senator for West Virginia, was the only Democrat not voting for passage. According to the New York Times, his office informed the public that he had a “family commitment” he could not break.The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature to set the repeal in motion. GOP opponents of the repeal criticized the Democratic leadership of the Senate for the vote in the lame duck session just before the Holiday recess. Senator Carl Levin, the chair of the Senate Armed Service Committee, disputed the Republican claims that Democrats were ramming legislation through just to please the so-called “gay lobby.” In remarks to the New York Times, Senator Levin (D-Michigan) said: “I’m not here for partisan reasons. I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.” Yet it is not only for the living that this vote is significant. Our military dead are honored by this historic vote to end anti-LGBT discrimination, among whom are far too many gay servicemembers who were killed because of their sexual orientation. Our gay military martyrs, murdered because of homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia in the armed services loom large in the memory of the LGBTQ community today because they are both a sign of hope and caution. They are a sign of hope that no more women and men need lose their lives in the military because of their sexual orientation and gender presentation. They are a sign of caution, because the passage of DADT repeal in no way guarantees the end of anti-gay violence in the military. We must name our LGBT military dead until violence against queer servicemembers ceases forever: Seaman Allen Schindler was beaten to death by shipmates in a public toilet in Sasebo, Japan. PFC Barry Winchell was murdered with a baseball bat in the Army barracks at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Seaman August Provost was shot to death on base in San Diego, and then his body was set afire in a guard shack in the vain attempt to destroy evidence of the murder. Army veteran Michael Scott Goucher was lured into a fatal ambush by local youths near his home in Pennsylvania. These four are representative of the many more slaughtered by ignorance and hate by fellow servicemembers and civilians. Pundits say that after President Obama signs the Repeal Act into law, it will still take at least sixty days for the military ban to be lifted for LGBT military personnel. Until that time, the current discriminatory law stays in effect. But the culture of violence that harasses and kills LGBT women and men who wear the uniform remains virulently poised to take more lives until the root of fear is eliminated in the armed services. To that end, the historic passage of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is simply the beginning of a new campaign, in the name of our gay military martyrs, to replace the fear and loathing of the sexual minority with education and respect.
Kansas City, MO – In a report issued by the Kansas City Police Department, the story of a straight man who wore pink to aid breast cancer charities was gay bashed by men at a Kansas City Chiefs game in October 2009. The victim, Sean McGarrigle, a father of three, had volunteered to wear pink clothing to draw attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. He was vending pink ribbons, shirts, hats and other items to raise money for the cause, and had been successful at the Chiefs game that day, raising in excess of $900, the most of any volunteer at the stadium. It was the third quarter when McGarrigle decided to go home after a good day full of pleasant contacts with the fans. The Kansas City Star reports that as he was leaving Arrowhead Stadium, two men who appeared to be drunk began harassing him because of his clothing which clearly bore the breast cancer logo. They used homophobic slurs as they badgered him, demanding that he take off his pink hat and shirt because it offended them. An onlooking fan tried to get the two men to leave McGarrigle alone, but they would not relent. Finally, McGarrigle turned to confront them, saying, “Listen, I’m doing this to raise money. You guys are giving Kansas City a bad name.” He turned to down a grassy embankment to his car when he heard footsteps overtaking him. The two men caught up to McGarrigle, and one of them punched him in the face. The second man grabbed him in a headlock and threw him to the ground. Both of them laughed as they kicked him in the ribs. McGarrigle managed to escape them, he told police, and hid in his car. His assailants continued to search for him in the rows of autos in the parking lot. McGarrigle got his car out on the road, only to be pursued by his attackers who raced behind him in their car. They followed him onto Interstate 435 all the way into Kansas, pulled up even with his car, and shouted slurs at him as they sped down the highway. McGarrigle slowed down until they passed, and he lost them. He suffered a bruised face, sore ribs, and an awful fright. Under other circumstances, the hate attack could have turned out much worse. KC police report that they have recorded triple the number of hate crimes in their city for 2009, over the same period in 2008.
St. Louis, Missouri – Local station News Channel 5, KSDK in St. Louis reports a possible hate crime attack against three gay men early Saturday morning that left them cut and bruised, but alive. One of the three lucky survivors, Jacob Piwowarczyk said to reporters, “I have a soft tissue bruise on my elbow. I have six stitches in my eye and I have a mild concussion.” The two other victims suffered a broken nose and a fractured cheekbone. Piwowarczyk went on to describe the attack that took place outside a popular local nightclub, The Complex. Four men who had just left an adjacent bar to The Complex jumped out of their car and confronted Piwowarczyk and his two friends as they crossed the parking area. “They came up out of the car and they start calling us ‘Faggots,'” Piwowarczyk said, showing the press the injuries he sustained in the attack. “We kept telling them please leave us alone, we’re fine,” young Piwowarczyk continued. “From there, the one kid didn’t like what we told them and decided to punch me in the eye and I fell to the ground. And at that time my friend was laying on the ground and they started kicking him in the face.” Club security were the first to respond, probably averting much worse injury to the three gay men. Then, police arrived at the scene. The attackers had fled, reportedly in a black SUV with Illinois plates. Missouri was one of the first states in the Union to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections for its citizens in 1999, according to Vital Voice, the leading LGBT newspaper in St. Louis. Authorities are searching for the suspects, and have yet to determine whether the attack qualifies as a hate crime under the Missouri statute or the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, recently enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. If determined to be a hate crime, the suspects could face severe penalties. The outcome could have been much worse, according to Piwowarczyk. “Health-wise we’re all fine,” he said. “We’re just lucky to be alive.”