Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

LGBT Community Protests Extremist Hate Speech After Orlando

I AM DONE protestors stand against religious bigotry and hate speech on June 26 to declare that "Love Beats Hate." I AM DONE Facebook photo.

I AM DONE protestors stand against religious bigotry and hate speech on June 26 to declare that “Love Beats Hate.” I AM DONE Facebook photo.

Samsom Park, Texas – A fundamentalist pastor west of Fort Worth carried hate speech and religious intolerance of LGBTQ people to a new low in the wake of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Donnie Romero, leader of Stedfast Baptist Church, a small, independent, exceedingly angry group, stirred opposition by declaring that the cold blooded murder of LGBT people in Orlando, Florida on June 12 was God’s judgment upon the victims.

In starkly bigoted language, Romero went on to declare that his only regret about the massacre was that no one had finished what the shooter had started. Anticipating that members of the LGBTQ community might picket his small storefront church, Romero publicly declared that since members of his church were Texans who had weapon permits, protestors just might get shot.

The Rapid Response group, I AM DONE, organized a protest of Romero’s religious bigotry and carried out the direct action across the highway from Stedfast Baptist Church on Sunday morning, June 26. An estimated 50 protestors from across North Texas, protected by police from four local municipalities including Sansom Park, where the church is physically located, Lake View, Lake Worth, and Fort Worth, sang, chanted call-and-response, waved signs proclaiming Love, and read the names of the Orlando victims through a bullhorn during the church hour. The Texas heat was oppressive, but the protest was deemed successful since Romero’s hate speech had been answered forcefully but peacefully.

The following are the remarks Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School delivered at the protest, entitled: “Lament, Discover, and Repair.”

The Orlando massacre has forced America to stare into the abyss of our broken society. We have recoiled from what we have seen: not only the brutality of fear and loathing that took so many lives at the Pulse nightclub that night, but also the sickening complicity of a national culture that has set up the conditions for the slaughter of our people for generations.

Our feelings of remorse and loss are real and sharply painful; our burning anger is hot and real, as well.

But we cannot allow the abyss of race hatred, misogyny and heterosexist privilege to paralyze us with fear or anger — not again!

If others must continue the endless finger-pointing, let them. Not us, not again, not now!

We have a gaping hole in the American character to fix, and it will take all of us to do it, queer folk of faith, faith-free queer folk and allies alike. The spiritual resources that belong to American LGBTQ people are at hand, and we must discover how to use them to heal our broken hearts, our troubled minds, and to repair the ruins that yawn up at us from the abyss that bears so many names:

Orlando
Mother Emanuel A.M.E.
Sandy Hook Elementary
The Upstairs Lounge Inferno
Wisconsin Sikh Temple
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Aurora, Colorado, and
Virginia Tech, and more.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School. Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice photo.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School. Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice photo.

We must act according to the sources of our power, no matter what makes us afraid. The practice of lament clears the spiritual space that makes effective action possible.

Sadness can empower our souls as well as dis-empower them. We can erect shrines that tie us to the past, or we can discover the power to lament as a people until hope takes the place of despair.

Phyllis Trible, the ground-breaking author of Texts of Terror who told the stories of the wrong done to biblical women, has said that mourning alone changes little. But true change comes from insight, a change that can inspire individuals and even a whole generation to repentance.

She writes: “In other words, sad stories may yield new beginnings.”

God knows, we have sad stories, and plenty of them. What we must find is the courage to cry out in public acts of lament that change despair into hope.

Rabbi Denise Eger, lesbian and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, shows us how to turn sorrow into a new kind of power for good:

“Sister that I never held near,
Brother that I never embraced, our memory is almost lost:
The one we don’t talk about.
The loving one who never married.
The one for whom no Kaddish was said.
Your loneliness calls out to me:
I know of your struggles, we are not strangers,
And if my path is easier, I will not forget who walked it first.
We call you to mind, but did you not sometimes think of us,
Your children, lovers across the years,
Those who would follow and would think of you and bless your memory
And call you to mind?
With David and Jonathan, we will not forget you,
With Ruth and Naomi, we will not forget you,
In the name of God you are our sisters and our brothers, and we ask that you be remembered for peace.”

When we cry out to God from the depths of our collective sorrow, as my friend, Dean Joretta Marshall, of Brite Divinity School says, we begin to discover new possibilities for memory, compassion, empathy, and vision.

As we collaborate publicly in acts of lament when we are overwhelmed, we discover new ways to collaborate together in “life-giving hope.”

Protests are important, but they do not capture the spiritual power of crying out together so that our despair may turn into hope, and inspiration gives our activism fresh ideas to address the venom the LGBTQ community faces, much of it inflicted in the name of religion.

Sorrow is not a destination. We need movements, not monuments or shrines, movements of “life-giving hope.” So, together, before all the world, with our enemies included, we cry out until despair begins to transform into something new.

We remember before God the tens of thousands of our LGBTQ family martyred in years gone by. We remember those who died in the Inquisition, the Middle Passage, the Witch Craze, the Holocaust, and the struggle for civil rights.

We refuse to forget those, driven to despair by a world that hated them and who they loved, who took their own lives rather than face any longer the intolerable.

And we cannot forget those who lived out their days lonely, repressed, and afraid to reach out for affection and comfort, too hurt to give or receive the love they craved.

To us, in the memories we share in our seasons of lament, they have all become the martyrs of God, signs that we must make the world better than they found it. In the name of love, we pray, “O God, remember the sacrifices of these martyrs, and help us to bring and end to hate and oppression of every kind!”

We say and we believe that “Love Wins!” But in the struggle to repair the world, we have learned that love must be ferocious to win the new world we seek for ourselves, our children, and for everyone.

The story of the struggle for our human rights has lessons to teach, and one of the undeniable lessons of our history is that LGBTQ people have never been “given” anything. The heterosexist society in which we live never surrenders its power willingly. Our freedom has had to be won.

If our great theme is LOVE, from the right to love the one we choose, or the love of country that inspired us to defy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the love of human life itself because we are a people who are represented everywhere — in every group and race, and in every known social demographic from the beginning of recorded history — then we know from our own collective experience that love must be fierce in order for it to survive.

There is something divine in love like that, a divine imperative that will not be forestalled any longer, or postponed, or sidetracked. From the days of our forebears in the 19th century, we began to network across the boundaries of nations, to count the ever growing number of ourselves, and to realize that we were a powerful people united by a new sense of the possibilities of love.

Today, we are strengthened by amazing allies from every walk of life who understand that their future and ours are bound up with us in a contest to determine whether diversity and pluralism will prevail in our world, or whether patriarchal fear of immigrants, gender non-conformity, non-Caucasian people, and non-Judeo-Christian faiths — fears intensified by the rejection of the leadership gifts of women — will drag us backward.

Our most powerful ally in LGBTQ history, President Barack Obama, has shown us what a love with real backbone looks like. Like many of our allies, the president had to evolve in this thinking about what justice and equality for LGBTQ people called him to do. Once he got there, to the place of true equality and justice, he became our full-throated advocate.

His spiritual mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught him to face challenges with “the fierce urgency of now.” We LGBTQ people found that vision to resonate powerfully with our experiences of struggle beyond any counted cost, and, inspired by President Obama, we have recast Dr. King’s idea in our own way. We serve a vision inspired by “the fierce urgency of love.”

“The fierce urgency of love”:

Love that refuses to be anemic in the face of hard times.
Love that has a spine, and bows before no opponent.
Love that will not back down, and will not back up.
Love that knows how and when to get loud and be proud.
A love where Everybody is Somebody, and nobody is a nobody.

Our activism at its best is motivated by the fierce urgency of a love that will not permit churches, synagogues, and mosques to remain silent on the sidelines of the struggle for justice, for silence in the face of injustice is its own form of spiritual violence.

The fierce urgency of love compels us to give no free passes when religious leaders of any stripe breathe out venom and hatred toward marginalized people. That is why we oppose religious intolerance to the same degree we oppose political and economic harms done to LGBTQ people in North Texas and anywhere else.

We have learned the lessons of ferocious love: that hate speech from any pulpit or from any rostrum in a governmental chamber is the ammunition that kills and maims real people, as surely as any bullet. We cannot permit any leader to hijack religion and force it into the service of oppression of any kind any longer without our calling out such an outrage.

As Rev. Dr. Cody J. Sanders, the pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church near Harvard Yard, a proud gay man says:

“For LGBTQ people, the mechanisms of oppression have nearly always been waged first against our souls. But it never ends there. This spiritual violence has led to innumerable suicides, hate crime violence beyond what we know through the collected statistics, and the marginalization of LGBTQ people in the very institutions they should feel most at home: their families, their churches, and their communities.”

Sanders calls for spiritual reparations for the harm done to the souls of LGBTQ people, a fierce love of God and neighbor that seeks to heal the hurt and repair the broken world. Like Sanders, in the name of love, we must fiercely call for real and practical actions:

For LGBTQ homeless youth in our cities,
For effective ways to prevent LGBTQ suicides,
For funding for LGBTQ seminarians so that they can become faith leaders throughout America,
For the recruitment of qualified LGBTQ candidates to run for public office,
For literacy in LGBTQ life and history, and engagement between established cisgender and straight clergy with queer leaders in their communities, and especially
For churches and religion-based non-profits to stand up to their denominations and parent organizations when they participate in anti-LGBTQ discrimination by thought, deed, or silence.

Sanders concludes with the forthright demand of a community that knows how to stand tall and true, and has the courage to repair a broken world even in the face of spiritual opposition:

“Churches owe LGBTQ people a spiritual debt,” he says, “for the decades upon decades of violence against our souls. It’s time to start paying up.”

The Hebrew prophets sounded like that, didn’t they? That is an important dimension of the spiritual heritage of the LGBTQ human rights movement that was first born and nurtured in churches and synagogues in the pre-Stonewall era, and right up until this very day.

I work alongside lesbian, gay, and straight colleagues of courage at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, who like Cody Sanders, want to transform the world in which we live. So, with the whole Cloud of Witnesses, from the time of the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Prophet Muhammad, to the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies right here and right now, together with the Prophet Isaiah, we say:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Our greatest asset as a Queer/LGBT community, you see, lies in far more than our numbers, our economic strength, and our political allies. It lies in our spirituality of collaborating hope, hope forged in the furnace of our tests and trials, made powerful by the vision of a better world than we have ever known.

Our enemies are real. Their guns and their words spit fire and death. They misunderstand, sometimes with lethal consequences, who we are and what we contribute to the common world in which we all dwell.

But we know wherein our power truly lies, for as our Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, taught us, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Rise up, then!

We LGBTQ people were never meant to settle into paralysis, depression and despair on the far side of the pit our adversaries dug for us. It is time to build a bridge across the abyss that swallowed up our Orlando sisters and brothers. Bring your energies, your tools, and your resolve. We have at hand the resources of a rich spirituality, and a fierce, divine love.

There is a world to repair.

July 2, 2016 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Brite Divinity School, Donnie Romero, Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Florida, GLBTQ, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, I AM DONE, LGBTQ, LGBTQ clergy, Mass shooting, Orlando, Protests and Demonstrations, Pulse Nightclub, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Stedfast Baptist Church, Texas, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LGBT Community Protests Extremist Hate Speech After Orlando

Gays and Allies Defy Anti-Gay Activists at WCC in Korea

Pro-gay Christians rally in central Seoul to demand full equality under God for all Koreans.  Rev. Daniel Payne, center in clergy collar, Jun-Young Lee translating. (Chungwook Park photo).

Pro-gay Christians rally in central Seoul to demand full equality under God for all Koreans. Rev. Daniel Payne, center in clergy collar, Jun-Young Lee translating. (Chungwook Park photo).

Busan and Seoul, South Korea – Gay Christians and their Affirming Allies from the World Council of Churches (WCC) took to the streets in Busan and Seoul to show their support for LGBTQ people this week, in open defiance of the large, well-funded conservative opponents of equality for the sexual minority.  Declaring that “Gays are God’s Creation, Too!” dozens of gay affirming clergy and lay people from countries around the world joined local progressive Christians to push back against the ostracism the conservative Protestant establishment wants to maintain against any gay or lesbian who dares to come out openly in the Republic of Korea.  The Korea Times covered the event, citing the Rev. Daniel Payne and Jun-Young Lee of Open Doors Community Church, a Seoul-based progressive Christian Church that welcomes gays and straights alike.  In a statment to the press, the Affirming protesters decried harm and abuse condoned by the religious establishment in South Korea, declaring such oppression to be against the teachings of Jesus Christ: “We underscore once again that the violent bigotry against sexual minorities in the name of Christianity fully contradicts the Christian mandate to love thy neighbor. We declare as follows as we unite and pray together so that this social abuse in Korean society will be ended.”  The gay-friendly protests took place in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul.

A “Confucianized-Christian” establishment in South Korea continues to make this East Asian nation reject homosexuality on biblical and moral grounds, exalting patriarchal versions of faith and family to seal the deal.  But progressive Christians, gay and straight, are emerging with their religious and secular allies to demand full equality and dignity for Korea’s sexual minority.  Citing the Bible from an intelligent, informed interpretation that refutes the literalism customary in most Protestant churches in South Korea, these progressive Christians are making a growing case for the protection and inclusion of LGBTQ people throughout the Land of Morning Calm.

Establishment Protestant leaders who are embarrassed by the open hostility towards the World Council of Churches meeting in Busan this week are having to rethink their opposition to gay equality, rightly concerned about being lumped into a troubled fundamentalist power structure that bears little or no resemblance to the Christian teachings on the creation of all people in God’s image and likeness, and the Good News of God’s Love.  Reports circulated in Seoul that religious zealots were transporting human excrement to Busan to spray on WCC delegates, much as they had at the same-sex wedding of gay filmmaker Kim Jho Gwang-soo in September.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | GLBTQ, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Kim Jho Kwang-soo, LGBTQ, Open Doors Community Church Korea, Protests and Demonstrations, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, South Korea, World Council of Churches (WCC) | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gays and Allies Defy Anti-Gay Activists at WCC in Korea

Gay Activist Attacked in Wave of Hate Crimes Against New York City’s LGBTQ Community

Graphic created by Memeographs Studio protesting the latest gay bashing victim in NYC, Eugene Lovendusky.

Graphic created by Memeographs Studio protesting the gay bashing of the latest hate crimes victim in NYC, activist Eugene Lovendusky.

New York, New York – A direct action protest leader of the the gay community in New York City was attacked Monday night in yet another anti-gay hate crime attack as the city’s Gay Pride celebrations approach.  Eugene Lovendusky, co-founder and organizer for the LGBTQ activist organization, Queer Rising, was attacked by a group of 9 to ten people shouting “faggot” as they beat and punched him. His jaw was severely injured in the assault.  Reports from friends say that the beating took place in the Theater District.  The list of areas now demonstrably unsafe for LGBTQ people now include, besides the Theater District, Midtown Manhattan near Madison Square Garden, East Village, West Village, SoHo, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village.  Lovendusky, a teacher of young children in New York, is well-regarded as an unapologetic voice for human rights. The New Civil Rights Movement reports that Lovendusky’s friends spread the word throughout the internet world almost as soon as the attack occurred.

Outrage throughout the New York Queer community spread rapidly upon news of the homophobic attack.  Scott Wooledge, founder of Memeographs Studio, wrote on his Facebook page: “This hits home as I know this man personally. There have been a spree of anti-gay hate crimes in New York City this month. As people are unable to enforce their bigotry by laws and policies, they will turn to expressing their impotent hate on the streets.”

Wooledge went to to address the perpetrators of the rising crime wave of violence against LGBT people in New York and around the nation: “I can’t do much to help make the world safer for my friends. But I have a platform, and I’m sending out this message to gay bashers: ‘You can kick us. You can punch us. You can shoot us dead as you did Mark Carson and Harvey Milk. But the LGBT community will not go back to the days before Stonewall Riots and DADT repeal. We will not abandon our righteous claim to be treated equally under the US Constitution and the laws of our states. You will lose eventually. And eventually we LGBT people will meet our respective Gods with our hands clean of blood.'”  

Another Facebook contributor,Tasha Wiegand, vented her frustrations, as well. “I cannot begin to express my feelings of disgust, anger, frustration, and horror for the kind of behavior that leads some people to express hate and violence towards others,” Wiegand posted.

Daniel Lawson, a political activist involved with President Obama’s re-election and now Organizing for America, wrote on his Facebook wall: “So it turns out that the latest victim of the antigay violent crimewave is someone whom I know personally and have worked with at queer demonstrations/events around NYC. Unf—ingbelievable. This has all gone miles beyond the limit. Shit just got real. Lookout homophobes, you have some very angry NYC queers on your hands.”

Using social media, a group of LGBTQ people led by Alan Leo Bounville, founder of the In Our Words Project,  rallied for and informational protest against the attacks on Lovendusky and others on Friday night at the corner of 7th Avenue and 34th Street. The peaceful protest engaged passers-by and answered their questions about what it is like for queer people in the city to live through this mounting tide of dehumanizing attacks.  Members of the rallying group carried signs saying, “I’m a Homosexual.  #Ask Questions.”

queer risingThe irony of this latest attack has not been lost on many in the New York City Queer community.  Lovendusky helped organize the first street protest against the outbreak of anti-LGBTQ violence in the city, including ongoing protests by Queer Rising against the murder of openly gay man, Mark Carson, who was fatally shot in the face last Saturday at point blank range by man who laughed and bragged about his actions.  As co-founder of Queer Rising, Lovendusky leads his peers and allies throughout the metro area to direct action in support of extending full and equal rights and protections to queer people of ever description.  As Lovendusky wrote on the Queer Rising blog site, “Formed in late 2009 by people tired of watching LGBTQ rights put on the back burner or given no attention at all, Queer Rising vows to continue to pressure legislators and the public until all queer people are equal.”

The spate of recent attacks in the cradle of the Gay and Queer Rights movement challenges members of the LGBTQ community and officials of the City of New York to act decisively, both to win the hearts and minds of average citizens to non-violent acceptance of queer folk, and to secure all residents from bias motivated acts of terror such as these.

 

May 26, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, Gay Pride Month, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Protests and Demonstrations, Queer, Queer Rising, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Activist Attacked in Wave of Hate Crimes Against New York City’s LGBTQ Community

Savage Anti-Gay Murder in NYC Highlights Increasing Danger for LGBT People

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay man shot to death in the face in NYC (Gay Star News photo).

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay NYC man fatally shot in the face (Gay Star News photo).

New York City, New York – A gay man shot to death at point blank range early Saturday morning became the fifth anti-gay hate crime to strike fear into Gotham City in recent weeks.  Mark Carson, 32, an openly gay yogurt shop worker from Brooklyn, who was walking with a companion in Greenwich Village, faced his harasser, who taunted his victim with homophobic slurs before fatally shooting him in the face, saying “You want to die here tonight?”.  The assailant was collared in a matter of a few blocks by a police officer who had the description of the shooter.  The officer seized the murder weapon along with the suspect.  Elliot Morales, 33, is in the custody of the NYPD, charged with second degree murder as a hate crime, and is being held in jail without bail.

After being goaded by a series of previous gay bashings in Midtown Manhattan in the Madison Square Garden area, some involving Knicks fans in full team attire, the LGBTQ and Allied community in the greater NYC metro area has erupted into angry, frightened protests.  The Associated Press reports that thousands took to the streets on Monday to cry out against Carson’s murder, making this the most powerful demonstration of anti-hate crime street activism since the days of Matthew Shepard, fourteen years ago. NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, marched arm in arm with Edie Windsor, the key plaintiff in the case for Marriage Equality now before the Supreme Court of the United States.  Emotions on a spectrum from disbelief that such a brazen crime could occur in the City, through towering rage against the cold-blooded killing of a defenseless gay man in the heart of the most tolerant neighborhood in New York, to abject fear that the streets of the city are unsafe to walk openly for gay people.  Carson fell just blocks from the site of the birth of the Gay Rights Movement during the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969.

Morales, the alleged shooter, once charged with attempted murder in 1998, was filled with “homophobic glee,” laughing as he confessed to police that he pulled the trigger on Carson, according to the New York Daily News.   Morales was seen just 15 minutes before the attack, publicly urinating outside an upscale Greenwich Village restaurant beside the storied Stonewall Inn.  Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly candidly commented to the press that Carson had done nothing to antagonize his assailant, according to USA Today.  “It’s clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay,” Commissioner Kelly said.

The Daily News speculates that Morales’s homophobia had been ignited by the way Carson, a proud, out gay man, was dressed–in a tank top with cut off shorts and boots.  Prosecutors say that Morales shouted at Carson and his friend, “Hey, you faggots!  You look like gay wrestlers!”  According to his family, Carson was happy, well-adjusted, and loved the West Village where he met his death .  “He was a courageous person,” Carson’s brother, Michael Bumpars, said. “My brother was a beautiful person.”  

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Naïve pundits have said that the increasing visibility and political success of LGBT people to gain mainstream acceptance have ushered in a new era of queer acceptance in American life.  Some have even declared the “victory” of the gay rights movement.  Such self-congratulations are premature.  Carson’s brazen murder by a totally unapologetic homophobe, coupled with the rash of LGBT youth suicides in schools across the nation, and reports of skyrocketing statistics of violence against transgender people of color, are giving the lie to the notion that the United States is safe for queer folk.  Some are now reversing their previous opinions, calling the violence evidence of a “backlash” against the recent success of Marriage Equality in New England, New York, the District of Columbia, and Minnesota.  Though New York State made same-sex marriage legal in 2011, NYC Police Commissioner Kelly revealed that though last year’s bias-crimes against LGBT people in the city numbered 13, the total now stands at 22 and counting.

June is Gay Pride Month in New York City.  Nerves are frayed.  Top city officials, politicians, and police top brass are scrambling to make this year’s celebration in Greenwich Village and around town safe.  New York City has earned the reputation of being the cradle of queer tolerance, and Mayor Bloomberg obviously wants to keep it that way.  Yet the violence in the streets of New York, now turned ominously fatal with Mark Carson’s grisly murder, may be a bellwether for things to come throughout the nation.  Morales, the alleged shooter, laughed and joked that he was proud to terrorize the LGBT community.  Foes of gay equality may be on the back foot because of the rapid acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people, particularly by younger Americans.  But homophobic, irrational hatred, the sort that maims and kills, has by no means gone away.  Nor does this recent spate of violence suggest a “backlash.”  When 38 states have written homophobia into their constitutions, or bolstered anti-gay statutes, this outbreak of harm can hardly be seen as anything but good, old fashioned American bigotry.  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) is closely monitoring events in New York and around the nation.  They advise non-confrontational efforts to diffuse potentially dire situations of violence.  Yet, the queer community has come too far to go back into the closet ever again.  To do so would dishonor the hopes, loves, and courage of openly gay men like Mark Carson.  Sharon Stapel, NCAVP’s executive director, said that these events must be understood in the context of a nation where basic equality is still denied to LGBT people. Her message to New York’s  gay community? “We want to give people tools that can de-escalate situations but also say, ‘You need to be yourself,'” Stapel said to ABC News. “We’re not telling people, ‘Take your rainbow sticker off.'”

May 21, 2013 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullying in schools, Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Marriage Equality, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, New York City, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Savage Anti-Gay Murder in NYC Highlights Increasing Danger for LGBT People

Gay and Baptist: How an Oxymoron May Save the Church Yet

The Rev. Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, Baptist minister arrested for attempting to marry his spouse in Kentucky [USAToday image]

The Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, Baptist minister arrested for attempting to marry his spouse in Kentucky [USAToday image]

Louisville, Kentucky – An ordained gay Baptist preacher and his life partner who were refused a marriage license in Jefferson County accepted arrest rather than betray their Christian conviction that anti-gay laws are unjust. By implication, the Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and his husband, Dominique James, both members in good standing in a local Baptist congregation, stood in contradiction to the widely held cultural and spiritual assumption that gay people are “abominations” before God, and should have none of the common rights to marriage afforded to all other citizens by the civil state.  Despite the shockwaves their non-violent protest is sending throughout evangelical Protestantism and Baptist life in particular, their act of conscience may save the church yet.

The facts of the protest action carried out by the Rev. Bojangles and Dominique are these:  on Tuesday, January 22, the couple, wearing crosses on their ski caps, requested a license to marry from the Clerk’s Office, and were refused. When asked why she refused them, Ms. Sandy Byerly, manager of the license office, said that she was upholding the law of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which wrote anti-gay discrimination into the state constitution in 2004 by an amendment saying that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be a marriage in Kentucky,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.  Further, any clerk who willfully defies state law and issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple anyway will be removed from office and is subject to a year in jail.  After the refusal by the clerk, the gay couple staged a peaceful pray-in until they were arrested and charged with trespassing at 5 p.m., when the clerk’s office closed for the day.  Offered the option of being cited for the offense rather than being arrested, the Baptist preacher and his spouse told the Metro Police officer that they had a “spiritual obligation” to resist the injustice of a law that denied them their civil right to marriage.  As the Rev. Bojangles said prior to entering the clerk’s office, “If we don’t act, we are accomplices in our own discrimination. We have to resist.”  The couple was led to a waiting patrol car, and were transported to the Metro Corrections Center where they were booked.  Jefferson County Clerk Bobbi Holsclaw told reporters that the ordained minister and his spouse were protesting in the wrong place. Instead of disturbing the clerk’s office, she said, they should instead have taken their argument up with the state legislature.

Selah (Hebrew for “pause”–found in the Book of Psalms).

The vast majority of Christians in the United States consider themselves law-abiding citizens, and shy away from public acts that defy law and order.  Among ordained ministers, the aversion to any controversial word or deed, inside or outside of the congregation, is particularly high.  Preachers, by-and-large, consider the office of prophet to be a historic artifact of First Testament history, not an obligation for modern spiritual shepherds.  Prophetic action of the sort the good Reverend took in the county clerk’s office is decidedly not a career enhancing choice.  Controversy in the ministry can get ministers fired, and their families booted out of the parsonage.

The Rev. Bojangles knew all of that–but he acted anyway, in obedience to the spiritual dictates of his conscience and in solidarity with LGBTQ people in over thirty states where same-sex marriage has been outlawed by constitutional amendment. As he told the Courier-Journal, he felt anxiety about the prospect of arrest, but he and his spouse of six years were “trusting in God and deeply called to do this.”  They faced the humiliation and degradation of the refusal in the clerk’s office, they said, in order “to stand up for ourselves and countless others.”

Selah, again.

Gay Baptist spouses stage peaceful pray-in until arrested in Jefferson County Clerk's Office

Gay Baptist spouses stage peaceful pray-in until arrested in Jefferson County Clerk’s Office

Both gay men are members of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, the church that ordained Bojangles in May of last year.  Highland’s Pastor, the Rev. Joe Phelps, said that Bojangles and Dominique let him know what they were going to do prior to the peaceful protest. Pastor Joe also acknowledged that he understood there would be considerable friction for the church because of what these two Baptists were intending to do.  Yet, neither he nor the good Baptists of Highland Church have flinched at the storm of publicity whipped up since their Timothy (a term for a member ordained by a local church to the ministry, harking back to the example of the Apostle Paul’s protégé Timothy) and his husband withstood the anti-gay, anti-same-sex marriage law. In a public statement to the church and the world at large, Pastor Joe wrote on January 24, “As for my reaction to Bojangles and Dominique’s action: I’m proud to pastor a church where members are willing to put their reputations on the line in order to challenge unjust laws in a manner that is respectful and non-violent.”

While Christians and others of good conscience may justly disagree over the specifics of the deeds of Bojangles and Dominique, and in general oppose one another’s views on same-sex marriage and the status of LGBTQ people in the church of Jesus Christ, Pastor Joe said he had to stand with his parishioners, and he believed that their sisters and brothers in the faith should, as well. “And I do believe that the laws against same-sex marriage are unjust,” he went on to say. “We experienced the consequence of this just last week, when the five-year partner of a man in critical condition in the ER had to wait several hours until a ‘legitimate’ next-of-kin arrived before being told that he had died on the scene.”

Pastor Joe concluded, “There can be debate about whether the arrest is good or bad for the cause of civil rights for LGBT persons, but that they acted with integrity and the convictions of their hearts cannot be debated.”

Such words and deeds are rare in any Christian circles these days, on the so-called religious right or progressive left.  Matter of fact, putting words like “gay,” “ordained Baptist minister,” and “civil disobedience” together affirmatively in the same sentence feels like a bald-faced oxymoron: a brain-aching contradiction in terms! But given the damage done to the lives, psyches, and families of LGBTQ people in the name of religion, decisive action to reverse the course of prejudice in the faith community looks essential, if the church is to be true to its Savior and its own soul.  These days, encounters with such amazing oxymorons may be the only way the church can be awakened to its true role in society: speaking and acting FOR the underdogs of this world, and not against them.

Leander E. Keck's "Who is Jesus?"

Leander E. Keck’s “Who is Jesus?”

Some might call the stand Pastor Joe, the Rev. Bojangles, and Br. Dominique took as action “for the sake of Jesus Christ” as well as for the underdogs of today’s world. Professor of New Testament Leander E. Keck wrote in his landmark book, Who Is Jesus? History in Perfect Tense, that voluntarily becoming despicable in the eyes of society is a powerful characteristic of taking up Jesus’ work among the outcast and the despised of every age–in effect, facing the risks “for Jesus’ sake.”  Of such courageous souls, Keck notes, “Such persons usually do not talk of their own suffering but talk of others’ for whose sake they are ready to accept what may befall them.”  In this day and age, these words could have been penned expressly for oxymoronic Baptist preachers and those who cherish them who stand up to the opprobrium heaped on LGBTQ people.  “Such voluntarily suffering,” Keck wrote, “has two names: one is love, the other is Jesus–in perfect tense” (p. 183).

Will the real Christians of this age please stand up?  Some are, apparently, accepting despicable consequences on behalf of the outcasts, and “for Jesus’ sake,” as well.

Amen.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Baptist Church, gay men, GLBTQ, Kentucky, KY, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, Protests and Demonstrations, Public Theology, religious intolerance, Same-sex marriage, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Why We Fight”: Fallen Gay Activist’s Fierce AIDS Speech Remembered on His Birthday

Vito Russo delivering his powerful AIDS activist speech, “Why We Fight,” as part of the ACT-UP protest against callous government neglect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Vito Russo (1946-1990) would have been 66 today, had the AIDS pandemic not robbed us of him. As a gay activist and groundbreaking film historian, Russo is best remembered for authoring the 1981 book, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the MoviesBut Russo’s impact on LGBTQ equality and American culture and politics reached farther.  He was a participant in virtually every landmark gay and lesbian rights effort since the Stonewall Rebellion in the streets of New York City in 1969–where he was actually present, protesting in the crowd who fought back against police oppression in what has come to be known as the birth date of the gay rights movement. He became a leader in the Gay Activists Alliance in the aftermath of Stonewall, and a co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) because of his concern about how gay people were portrayed by the media. In the 1980s, Russo became involved in ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) out of deepening frustration over federal and state governmental refusal to take the HIV/AIDS epidemic seriously.  In 1990, he died of complications from the disease, but his legacy became secure after HBO aired a documentary film version of The Celluloid Closet narrated by comedy great, Lilly Tomlin. Russo’s family authorized a biography in 2011 published by the University of Wisconsin Press, Michael Shiavi’s Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo. On July 23, HBO will premier a new documentary film, Vito

On the anniversary of his birthday, July 11, we at the Unfinished Lives Project join Jeffrey Schwarz, the Producer/Director of Vito, to recall Russo’s powerful AIDS activism, and to remember the multitudes of women, men, and youth cut down so senselessly by a pandemic the U.S. government would not acknowledge until it began to affect the heterosexual population of this country. As Schwarz says in the Huffington Post: “During the AIDS epidemic Vito watched the world he loved crumble beneath his feet. By the time Vito received his AIDS diagnosis in 1985, the epidemic was well into its first decade, and thousands had already died. Vito had long been involved in empowering his community, so he found a way to channel his rage and grief into effective and history-making activism. ‘Why We Fight,’  Schwarz goes on to say, “was a fiery 1988 speech given before a tumultuous crowd of angry ACT UP demonstrators at the New York State Capitol in Albany.” The Queer Rhetoric Project records that the speech was delivered first in Albany as a part of the “9 Days of Protest” demonstration, and then later in Washington, D.C. at the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Why We Fight,” in its entirety, can be found here.  Toward the climax of his fierce indictment of a medical and political regime in the U.S. marked by footdragging and homophobia, Russo said, almost prophetically:

“Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes, when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this Earth, gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free. So I’m proud to be with my friends today and the people I love, because I think you’re all heroes, and I’m glad to be part of this fight. But, to borrow a phrase from Michael Callen’s song, ‘all we have is love right now. What we don’t have is time.'”

The wrack and ruin of the AIDS pandemic is still with us, and the disease as dangerous as ever.  The Unfinished Lives Team asks you to join us in honoring Vito Russo on the anniversary of his birth by advocating for increased research funding, effective education, and regular testing until this horrible disease is finally defeated.  For now, like Russo, we must continue the struggle–remember the fallen–and do the work of hope.  Happy Birthday, Vito!

July 11, 2012 Posted by | ACT-UP, gay men, GLAAD, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, LGBTQ, New York, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Vito Russo, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Why We Fight”: Fallen Gay Activist’s Fierce AIDS Speech Remembered on His Birthday

Dallas Gay Community Rallies for Marriage Equality

Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope Dallas, Dr. Jo Hudson and GET EQUAL Texas Regional Director, Daniel Cates speak out for human rights and marriage equality (Dallas Voice photo).

Dallas, Texas – A swiftly gathered crowd of nearly a hundred people converged on the crossroads of the LGBTQ community in Dallas on Wednesday to speak out in support of President Barack Obama who publicly declared his decision to endorse same-sex marriage in the United States.  Called together at the Legacy of Love Monument by Daniel Cates, Regional Director of GET EQUAL Texas to protest the victory of the anti-gay marriage amendment to the North Carolina state constitution, events in Washington, D.C. caused Cates to recast the rally in support of President Obama’s endorsement of Marriage Equality for all Americans.

The crowd was a rainbow cross-section of the LGBTQ and Allied community in North Texas: activists and organizers, clergy and lay leaders from churches and synagogues, journalists and television reporters, enthusiastic gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people, straight allies, and some plainly curious about what all the flag waving, speeches, and homemade signs were all about. Messages were strong.  Cates read the words of slain gay San Franciscan Harvey Milk, to rally the crowd to recruit others to the cause of “100 percent equality” for LGBTQ people. Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, Senior Pastor at Dallas’s Cathedral of Hope, set the tone for this historic day, declaring that for the first time in history, a sitting United States President has declared his support for same-sex marriage.  Dr. Hudson quoted the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying today the “long arc of history” had bent a significant distance toward justice.

The Dallas Voice reports that Dallas Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thanked President Obama, saying he was proud “to say that President Obama has evolved.”  Narvaez encouraged the crowd to become politically involved in support of progressive Democratic candidates up and down the slate this November.  Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center of Dallas, called by Cates “the most important and effective rights activist in North Texas,” said that this day was a “rainbow-colored, neon-lighted, star spangled, red letter day” in the struggle for human rights. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Professor at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth and Theologian-in-Residence at Cathedral of Hope, told the cheering rally that President Obama’s public declaration of support was the most powerful reply to the victory of Amendment One in North Carolina that he could imagine.  Citing his admiration for the amazing campaign of the NC NAACP to defeat Amendment One in his home state, Sprinkle called upon the crowd to reach out to African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Asian Americans, women, and other marginalized groups in the nation who are the LGBTQ community’s “natural allies.”  “We need to let President Obama know that when the extremist right wing strike out at him, which they surely will, we in the LGBTQ community will have his back!” he declared.

Other speakers, including leadership from Equality Texas, local bloggers, and members of the crowd who had a word to speak, called upon Texans to remember that they have much to do in the Lone Star State to win equality here at home.  Dr. Hudson said, “There will come a time when Lesbian couples and Gay couples will marry each other in justice of the peace offices, courthouses, and churches right here in Texas!”   As the Dallas Voice reports, “Many [attendees] shared stories of losing loved ones and not having any rights to keep their things or claim their true relationship, while others shared stories of progress in uniting an anti-gay neighborhood and overcoming their own struggles for equality.”  The gathering sang the great Civil Rights theme song, “We Shall Overcome,” holding hands as the Dallas traffic sped by.

The news organizations such as the local Fox News affiliate, NBC Channel 5, and CW 33 Dallas/Fort Worth News covered the event with video cameras rolling.  Their presence shows the far-reaching significance of the news made by President Obama and the LGBTQ community of North Texas.

May 10, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Amendment One, Brite Divinity School, Cathedral of Hope, Dallas Stonewall Democrats, Equality Texas, GET EQUAL Texas, GLBTQ, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, North Carolina, North Carolina NAACP, President Barack Obama, Protests and Demonstrations, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dallas Gay Community Rallies for Marriage Equality

Anti-Gay Hate Groups Protest Southern Poverty Law Center—For Intolerance!

Anti-gay hate groups and a few Black pastors protest outside SPLC offices last week.

Montgomery, Alabama – A dozen African American ministers and representatives of anti-gay hate groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) picketed and protested in front of the justice organization’s headquarters in Montgomery, according to a post by the SPLC.  Stung by being listed publicly as anti-gay hate groups because of many documented instances of spreading falsehoods and demonizing gay LGBTQ people, these groups are hitting back at the respected civil rights watchdog organization, calling its Intelligence Report campaign to expose anti-gay bigotry “lies” and part of a “liberal plot” to undermine the American family. Black Entertainment National News (BET) reported that the participation of African American pastors protesting the civil rights organization was “ironic.”

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, a well-financed cadre of right-wing attorneys affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, said: “The SPLC has moved from monitoring actual hate groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis to slandering mainstream Christian organizations with that very same hate group label.” Barber went on to charge that “billions” of Jewish and Christian people were being “smeared” by the SPLC as hateful because they teach traditional Judeo-Christian values.  Members of widely-known anti-gay hate organizations such as AFTAH, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and Abiding Truth Ministries also spoke.  The themes they and their African American clergy supporters sounded at a press conference related to the protests included charges of unfairness, hating God, and spreading lies about these groups, all as instruments of “pro-gay politicking.” 

SPLC’s Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, swiftly refuted the accusations of attacking these hate groups for their Christian or Jewish faith. Potok said, “Our listing of anti-gay hate groups is completely unrelated to religion, Christianity or the Bible. These groups are listed because they repeatedly lie in an effort to defame LGBT people, an exercise they’ve been extraordinarily successful at. The idea that we are criticizing these groups because they represent Judeo-Christian morality is simply ludicrous.”  Examples of the efforts to stigmatize and defame LGBTQ people by these groups include trumped up charges that gay men are largely pedophiles who prey on the young, are sex-addicted, and instigated the Holocaust against the Jews of Europe.

Abiding Truth Ministries founder, Scott Lively, who has actively sought to foment anti-gay attitudes in nations of the former Soviet Union and Sub-Saharan Africa, sent a written appeal to God to eliminate the SPLC.  Lively’s statement, read at the protest press conference, said, “My prayer, as one who really does hate irrational prejudice, is that the Lord by His sovereign power will remove this dangerous, hate-spreading organization from our nation and cause its leaders and members to repent for their wickedness. … I want to make clear that I am asking God himself to destroy their organization.”  Box Turtle Bulletin, a blog founded to monitor news affecting the LGBTQ community worldwide, maintains a massive dossier on Scott Lively’s hate mongering activities and statements, which can be accessed here.

The SPLC’s Winter 2010 issue of the Intelligence Report lists 18 anti-gay hate groups and their propaganda.  The award-winning  quarterly magazine gives comprehensive research updates on hate groups to law enforcement agencies, the media, and the general public. According to its Intelligence Files, “Opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians has been a central theme of Christian Right organizing and fundraising for the past three decades – a period that parallels the fundamentalist movement’s rise to political power.”

In response to the threat of divine retribution for labeling anti-gay hate organizations for what they are, the SPLC said that if the firebombing by the Ku Klux Klan did not destroy the organization, it is doubtful that anti-gay hate groups will have any better luck.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Alabama, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, GLBTQ, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, KKK, LGBTQ, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

HIV+ Employee Sprayed with Lysol, Ordered Not to Touch Doorknobs, Then Fired

Photo via Passport Magazine

Detroit, Michigan – In the worst case of job-related discrimination his lawyers have ever seen, James White got fired for revealing he was HIV+.  An office assistant for the Great Expressions Dental Center of Detroit, White revealed his positive status to his supervisor after his diagnosis, with the clear understanding she would keep the information confidential, according to Passport Magazine.   His superiors then leaked word of his HIV status to coworkers who harassed him for seven months, spraying him with Lysol disinfectant, wiping down any furniture or office equipment he used, and banning him from touching doorknobs.  Management subjected White to sudden scheduling changes, and then wrote him up for tardiness and “unexcused absences” until they believed they had enough to fire him.  Dogged by harassment and exhausted by the abuse, White was hospitalized for post traumatic stress disorder.  While he was in the hospital, Great Expressions called to inform him not to return to work.

White appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which tried to mediate between White and Great Expressions.  The Detroit chapter of the EEOC ruled in White’s favor earlier this year, finding that there was “reasonable cause” to believe White was discriminated against because of his HIV+ status. The dental firm refused any settlement with White, and the EEOC cleared him to sue his former employer for gross discrimination and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The Body, an HIV-related blog, writes: “In 2011, particularly in an urban environment, absolutely no one has any excuse for being unaware of the ways in which HIV is transmitted. Anyone that has ever had even rudimentary sexual health education knows that HIV is not spread by casual contact, including touch. And an employer has a moral and LEGAL obligation to protect its employees from discrimination, particularly vulnerable populations.” 

White’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit demanding compensatory and punitive damages of $140,000 and $45,000, respectively, and requiring the company to post notice of the agreement as well as providing training on HIV/AIDS and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Change.org has posted a petition protesting the action of Great Expressions and demanding their apology to White, which is accessible here. There are over 25,500 signatures as of December 20. Great Expressions operates clinics in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia and Massachusetts.

December 20, 2011 Posted by | Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Employment discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment, HIV/AIDS, Michigan, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on HIV+ Employee Sprayed with Lysol, Ordered Not to Touch Doorknobs, Then Fired

Gay Hate Crimes in Puerto Rico? Not Any More?

Police view the corpse of murdered gay Puerto Rican, Ezequiel Crespo Hernández, in April 2011 (EDGE photo).

San Juan, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico’s lawmakers are poised to remove LGBT people from hate crimes protection status with the stroke of a pen.  Although at least 18 LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered in hate crimes since 2009, Edge Boston reports that the territory’s Senate passed a bill last month removing LGBT people from protected categories under the hate crimes law that has been on the books since 2004. The exclusion effort now goes on to the House of Representatives for a vote this week in a special legislative session called by Gov. Luis Fortuño.

Outraged by the increasing number of anti-gay hate crimes, local LGBT activists demanded investigations in June.  The Advocate reports that the grisly murder and dismemberment of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a gay teen, ignited the protests that officials were not investigating anti-gay violence under the territory’s hate crimes law. Recently, the strangulation of gay Ezequiel Crespo Hernández, 22, on a public beach in Camuy, and a gas station assault on transgender woman Francheska González  so brutal that it punctured her breast implant, intensified the call for justice to be done. Three more LGBT Puerto Ricans, Alejandro Torres Torres, Karlota Gómez Sánchez and Ramón “Moncho” Salgado, were also found dead within a three-day period in June. “It seems they have declared open hunting season against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people,”  Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of the gay rights group Puerto Rico for Everyone, said to the Associated Press. In response to rising criticism, Puerto Rico’s Attorney General directed an investigation into the application of the hate crimes law. Opponents of the LGBT community responded by quietly acting to remove queer folk from the penal code’s protection.

The penal code revision is drawing criticism from legislators and activists alike. The Advocate says Representative Héctor Ferrer and Sen. Eduardo Bhatia are among the most outspoken critics of the change. Ferrer, speaking at a press conference on Sunday, said,  “To eliminate these groups as protected categories is to invite the commission of hate crimes in Puerto Rico. It is a setback in the country’s public policy.” Bhatia added his voice, saying, “In an advanced society, this is dangerous for society.”  After the proposed amendment removing LGBTs from hate crimes protection, the only categories of persons who would be protected by the law in Puerto Rico would be political affiliation, age, and disability.

Activist Serrano told EDGE, “Basically they took out the communities hardest hit by hate crimes in Puerto Rico out of the hate crimes statute,” Serrano told EDGE, referring the LGBT community and Dominicans who come to the island for work. “It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be.”  Protests and marches against the provision are planned this week throughout island. Serrano, referring to adversaries of the LGBT community, added, “They’re trying to do it under the radar and that’s how it went for a while. Under our watch, we’re not going to let this happen.”

December 5, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Crimes in Puerto Rico? Not Any More?

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