Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

Carolyn Wagner (1953-2011), Human Rights Champion

Tulsa, Oklahoma – Pioneer activist, Carolyn Wagner, co-founder of Families United Against Hate (FUAH), passed away January 18 after a protracted battle with cancer, liver failure, and hepatitis. Widely admired for her courageous work on behalf of LGBTQ civil rights, Wagner became involved in the human rights struggle in 1996 when her son William, 16,  was brutally harassed and attacked by homophobic students while attending school in northwest Arkansas. Young William survived, but compelled by a need for justice, Carolyn and Bill Wagner waged a successful legal campaign against the Fayetteville, AR school district under Title IX.  The United States Office for Civil Rights ruled against the school district thanks to a complaint lodged by the Wagners on behalf of their son–the first time in U.S. history that Title IX was used to address anti-gay harassment and the bullying of gay and lesbian students, according to the ACLU.  Because of her experience as the parent of a gay-bashed son, Carolyn joined forces with Gabi Clayton to found FUAH so other parents in similar situations could benefit from what she had learned. In 1999, Bill Wagner with Carolyn at his side, became a plaintiff in the history case, Howard v. Child Welfare Agency Review Board, argued by the ACLU to challenge the Arkansas Department of Human Services regulation that foster children could not be housed where adult gays and lesbians reside. Wagner qualified as a plaintiff since their son William, by then an adult, sometimes came home to stay with his parents. After learning about the plight of youth, straight and gay, who were abused because of the perception that they were gay, Carolyn and Bill Wagner took in scores of children through the years as foster parents. In August 2006, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the ban against gay and lesbian foster parents thanks to the litigation initiated by the Wagners and others. But the victory was not without cost for Carolyn, according to a tribute by the ACLU. In the same year as the ruling that struck down discrimination against gay and lesbian foster parents, Carolyn was brutally assaulted on her own property by a man posing as a police officer, who told her he did not like “queer-loving ACLU types.” Though shaken by the beating, she continued working tirelessly for LGBTQ human rights until the end of her life.  FUAH issued this statement: “On January 18, 2011 the world lost a civil rights pioneer and strong voice for equality. Carolyn Wagner fought every day to create a world where equality would become a reality for all, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or life circumstances. Her path in life was difficult but she never wavered in her dedication and love for the many communities she advocated so powerfully for until she took her last breath. Nothing could ever stop her from fighting for her family, her friends and her community. Plenty of people tried to stop her, but never with any success. Carolyn’s heart, mind and arms were always open and we will miss her powerful embrace, we know her legacy will never die as long as we carry the spirit of her love within us, and take action with as much courage, humor, and wisdom as she did. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and children and the hundreds and thousands of people whose lives she touched. She will always be with us.” Carolyn is survived by her husband Bill, a her daughter, and two granddaughters. To hundreds of thousands, she was a champion of their rights, a compassionate, strong, and determined advocate for justice. But it is well to remember that Carolyn Wagner was first and foremost a wife and mother who acted to right a wrong that initially struck her own family, and then opened her eyes to the plight of countless others like her boy. As Bill Wagner said: “Carolyn will be remembered as an activist and civil rights hero to many, but for me she was simply the love of my life, my best friend and an amazing mother to our children. I will miss her beautiful smile, her raucous and infectious laugh and most of all her loving heart.”  Her memorial service was held in Tulsa on January 22 at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. Rest in Peace, Carolyn. We will miss you.

January 31, 2011 Posted by | ACLU, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, Carolyn Wagner, Condolences, Families United Against Hate (FUAH), funerals, gay and lesbian foster parents, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Mistaken as LGBT, Oklahoma, Parenting equality, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

The Year in Review

As 2008 draws to a close, hate crime statistics from 2007 are finally coming into clearer focus. Both the FBI and various anti-violence programs are verifying hate crime increases perpetrated against the LGBT community-at-large. Sadly, the findings from 2007 have been corroborated by ongoing violent acts in 2008.



FBI Hate Crimes Statistics for 2007: Sexual-orientation bias related crimes are up 18%.* National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs disputes these statistics, claiming a 24% increase, at least. The official report says that in 2007, law enforcement agencies reported 1,460 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias to the FBI. Of these offenses:

  • 59.2 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
  • 24.8 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
  • 12.6 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
  • 1.8 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
  • 1.6 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.

(*Note: Anti-transgender incidents are not reported in these statistics, since law-enforcement is not required by law to report them.)



Clarence Patton, Executive Director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (NYAVP), noted the “dramatic increase in the number of anti-lesbian, gay and bisexual incidents reported—though the overall number of reports captured by the FBI rose only 8%, the number of reports impacting our communities rose at more than twice that rate.”

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a coalition of 30 member programs including the NYAVP, reported that gay bashing incidents actually rose 24% compared to 2006. 2007 also had the third-highest murder rate in a decade, more than doubling from 10 in 2006 to 21 in 2007.

Even these statistics hardly give the picture of the crisis of violence against LGBT people all across the United States. The true number of incidents perpetrated against queer folk is probably much higher, as Avy Skolnik, national programs co-ordinator of the NCAVP, reported:

“We know that the 2,430 people who called on our organizations in 2007 are only a small fraction of the actual number of LGBT people who experienced bias-motivated violence. Anecdotally, we constantly hear stories of LGBT people surviving abuse—sometimes multiple attacks per day when that violence comes from a fellow student, a neighbor, a co-worker, a landlord, or a boss.”


Richard Hernandez, butchered in his apartment bathroom

Richard Hernandez, butchered in his apartment bathroom

Dallas, Texas, boasting one of the largest LGBT populations in the country, saw LGBT people taking to the streets in protest of the alarming number of attacks. Two high-profile murders and several brutal assaults, including the “Silence of the Lambs style” dismemberment of gay man, Richard Hernandez, a 34-year-old citizen of Dallas, sparked street protests from United Community Against Gay Hate Crime to draw the attention of the public to the plight of LGBT citizens.


Gay Apartheid

Behind each number in these statistics are real people: victims, family, friends, bereaved lovers. This is the human cost of Gay Apartheid. The real target of these atrocities, however, is the idea of America, a country where all people may pursue their lives without fear of intimidation or violence. Until American laws and the attitudes behind them change to reflect the inclusion of all people in the constitutional rights and privileges afforded some, then this nation must be brought to face so-called “legal” acts of apartheid against the LGBT community.

Forty years after the Stonewall Uprising in New York, universally recognized as the birth of the LGBT Rights Movement, 29 states have constitutional amendments passed for the sole purpose of depriving LGBT citizens the same rights as heterosexuals. States have enacted bans against gay parenting and adoption. Not only has the Federal Government passed the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), and instituted the oppressive “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for the U.S. Military, but 15 states have barred same-sex marriage, and 18 states have legislation limiting domestic partnerships and civil unions. The passage of Proposition 8 in California, repealing the right to marry given to its citizens earlier in the year, is just the latest act of apartheid in this country. Violence is following the law, not the other way around.

The definition of Apartheid is “a system of laws applied to one category of citizens in order to isolate them and keep them from having privileges and opportunities given to all others,” according to elder LGBT statesman, Herb Hamsher, writing for the Huffington Post. The Unfinished Lives Project cannot agree with Hamsher more when he says, “Our role is to hold a mirror up to the country and no longer allow it to shift the focus away from what we have become. We have become a nation increasingly devoted to an encroaching system of apartheid for a designated category of its citizens.”

When the tyranny of the majority goes unchecked, and the apartheid system apes the bias against LGBT people in communities and religious institutions, the American ideal of the protection of the minority from the excesses of their neighbors is exposed as a fantasy. An Apartheid America is not the nation of the free or the brave. Hate Crime murders and other violent crimes against LGBT people are hundreds and thousands of mirrors held up to the nation. We must continue to stand up, hold up these brutally frank mirrors to the disfigurement of America until our fellow citizens repudiate the travesty of the law these hate crime statistics represent.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, Hate Crime Statistics, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, New York, Parenting equality, Protests and Demonstrations, Texas, transgender persons, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Year in Review


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