Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Waymaking Gay Rights Pioneer, Frank Kameny, is Dead at 86.

Washington, D.C. – Frank Kameny, pioneering gay rights advocate, is dead of natural causes at 86 years of age.  The Dallas Voice and the Washington Blade reported the details of Kameny’s passing, and began the assessment of his leadership to the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States.  A full decade before the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, Kameny was strategically planning and leading the nascent gay rights movement, along with a handful of other brave women and men.  He co-founded the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization in the nation’s capitol.

Kameny was a combat soldier in World War II, and used the G.I. Bill to earn a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard University after the war.  He worked for the U.S. Army Map Service in the 1950s until his superiors learned he was gay, and fired him for it. Kameny contested the firing, taking his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court–making him the first person to bring a gay-related issue to the high court.  The Supremes held in favor of the lower court, setting aside Kameny’s suit, but his experience before the court confirmed him as a lifelong gay rights activist.  He launched the first gay rights demonstrations at the White House in 1965, and was the first gay person named to the D.C. Human Rights Commission.

Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, said of him, “From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workforce, Dr. Kameny taught us all that ‘Gay is Good.’ As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank ­— openly, honestly and authentically.” 

In later years, Kameny fell on hard times, running short of money for food and housing.  Friends and activists spearheaded an effort to raise funds to make his later years more secure and worry-free.  As the movement for LGBTQ rights evolved, Kameny became something of an artifact–honored for his role in the past, but paid less attention than he deserved, in the opinion of many.  Recognition, however, came to him beyond any of the neglectfulness he suffered.  A younger generation of activists discovered him, and celebrated him.  Official notoriety came to him, as well.  As the Washington Blade reported in another article detailing the response of the LGBTQ community to his passing: “In 2007, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History included his picket signs from the White House demonstration. Papers documenting his life were added to the Library of Congress in 2006. In 2009, Kameny received the Theodore Roosevelt Award.”

I met Kameny at a 2009 wreath laying for Sgt. Leonard Matlovich at the Old Congressional Cemetery in Washington City.  He spoke to the hundred or so in attendance on a beautiful October day, just prior to the National Equality March.  He beamed with pride, recounting his days as a soldier in the U.S. Army, as an astronomer, and then as a fighter for our rights. Sitting with Rev. Troy Perry, the Founder of the MCC Church, Kameny was no museum piece.  He was strong and determined to win 21st century freedoms for his people.  In death, his influence and inspiration have every prospect of increasing with the passage of time.

So, Frank Kameny, student of the stars, passed quietly from this life at his home. Before him, there was no way.  Thanks to him and his colleagues in the equality movement, a way was made out of no way.  Rest in peace, Frank.  We will not forget you.  ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Frank Kameny, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Mattachine Society, military, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall, U.S. Army, U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Waymaking Gay Rights Pioneer, Frank Kameny, is Dead at 86.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Duty D.C. Policeman Fires into Transwomen’s Car, Injuring Three

Officer Kenneth Furr appears in court to answer charges of shooting into transgender women's car (Bill Hennessy drawing).

Washington, D. C. – A veteran D.C. cop has been arrested for allegedly pumping five shots into a car occupied by transgender women.  Three people were wounded by the gunfire. The five occupants of the vehicle included three transgender women, and two male friends.  The officer, 47-year-old Kenneth Furr, is a 21-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police.  He is being held pending a hearing.

The shooting incident was sparked by a confrontation at a CVS Pharmacy on 4th and Massachusetts Avenue early on the morning of August 26.  According to court documents, Furr approached one of the transwomen, soliciting her for sex.  After she refused, she and her companions got in their car and drove away.  Details are contested at this point in the story, but the most often discussed account is as follows: Furr was angered by the refusal, and raced in his vehicle to head them off.  Furr blocked the path of the victims’ car with his Cadillac, pointing his gun at the driver, who ducked as his car collided with the parked Cadillac. Officer Furr then leaped on the hood of their Chrysler 300, and shouted “I’m ‘a gonna kill all of you!” as he fired his weapon five times through the Chrysler’s windshield.  Two transwomen were wounded, and one of their friends, according to reports from NBC Washington.  The front-seat passenger suffered multiple gunshot wounds, though none of them were determined to be “life-threatening,” according to a police report.

Other Metro Police responded to the sound of the car crash and the shots.  The police report says that they found the off-duty officer standing on the hood of the victim’s vehicle with his pistol out.  They ordered him to drop the weapon.  Furr is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, and driving while intoxicated.  His blood alcohol content was in excess of 0.15, determined by a breath test.

Police were quick to issue a statement to the press on Friday morning: “Preliminary investigation reveals a confrontation occurred involving an off-duty officer and five other individuals, some of which are members of the transgender community. The officer discharged a handgun and one person was shot and sustained non-life threatening injuries.”  The police statement goes on to say, “Two other individuals involved in the incident sustained injuries which are also non-life threatening. The nature of those injuries is under investigation to determine their cause.” 

Reaction from the transgender activist community was also swift.  The Washington Blade reports that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, “shocked” by the incident, joined local LGBT activists on Friday to express concern and solidarity for the victims, and for the transgender community of the District.  A series of violent attacks on transgender women,especially transgender women of color, have plagued the District for two years.  Relations between the Metropolitan Police and the transgender community have been strained by perceptions that the MPD has not served or protected the community well.  The actions of Officer Furr have further aggravated the troubles, with some transgender activists openly declaring that they expect nothing to change with the police, no matter what they do.  Mayor Gray issued a statement praising the LGBT community, and saying, “I am deeply troubled by the apparent circumstances surrounding this incident and await the results of a full MPD investigation. These are serious charges, and they are particularly disturbing to have been brought against one who is sworn to protect and serve.”  Leaders from Transgender Health Empowerment and the D.C. Trans Coalition have pledged to help the police with the investigation.

September 10, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C., women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Off Duty D.C. Policeman Fires into Transwomen’s Car, Injuring Three

Police Refusing to Report Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime Could Lose Their Jobs

Washington, D.C. – When several Metropolitan Police refused to report a brutal attack against five lesbians in the District of Columbia, they had no idea how big a mistake they were making, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch.  Brushing off the attack by two males who shouted anti-lesbian epithets as they assaulted the women, the police even threatened to arrest the victims because “they didn’t know how to act.”  Now, these officers are under investigation themselves. The investigation could take as long as four months. They could face suspension, punishment, and even termination of their jobs with loss of pension benefits.  Four police cruisers with seven officers responded to a 911 emergency call outside the Columbia Heights Metro station in the early morning hours of July 30.  Two men had beaten their lesbian victims, and a third man accompanying the assailants stood by capturing video of assault on his cell phone. When the lesbians reported the attack to the police, the officers dismissed the violence.  Though the police had restrained one of the assailants, they just let him go. Hatewatch has learned that the mother of one of the victims called the Metro Police to complain about the officers’ behavior.  Then, on August 1, the D.C. LGBT liaison unit filed a report on the incident as a hate crime.

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), a local LGBTQ activist group, met with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to demand more rigorous protection of the queer community in Washington.  The chief seemed inclined to act on the concerns of the group, according to GLOV spokesperson, A.J. Singletary.  D.C. gays, lesbians, and transgender persons, especially those from racial/ethnic minority groups, have suffered an increasing number of violent attacks in recent years, most notably the murders of four transgender women of color, two of them teenagers.

The once strong and effective gay and lesbian liaison unit of the Metro Police Department was decimated by budgetary cuts three years ago.  Its officers were distributed among police units throughout the city, rather than working together as a discreet group.  Training in LGBTQ sensitivity for the police has been severely diminished, as well, according to Singletary.  The anecdotal result has been an increase of attacks on queer folk, and many reported incidents where police have not even bothered to file hate crime reports when they have occurred. GLOV has asked Chief Lanier to beef up the number and quality of LGBT officers on the force, and to reinstate rigorous LGBTQ training for all members of the Metropolitan Police.  Singletary reports that this latest act of neglect has spurred Chief Lanier to take charges against the police seriously, and to make some of the changes activists in the LGBTQ community are asking for.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has published study results showing that the LGBTQ community is beset by more violence, especially of an extreme nature, than any other community of persons in the United States. Compared to its rank in the population at large, according to the study, an LGBTQ person is 8.3 times more likely to be the victim of a violent hate crime than others in this country.

August 11, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, Gays and Lesbian Opposing Violence, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Metropolitan Police (D.C.), Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C., women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Police Refusing to Report Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime Could Lose Their Jobs

Progressive Houston Clergy Oppose Gov. Perry’s So-Called “Day of Prayer”

Rick Perry wants to be Governor PrayPal

Houston, Texas – Governor Rick Perry is beating the hate drum in Houston again, under the guise of a Christian prayer rally.  Perry, in partnership with a known anti-gay hate group, the American Family Association, plans to pack out Reliant Stadium on August 6, 2011, in a crass attempt to camouflage a rightwing, anti-gay, anti-choice agenda.  Hitching his political ambitions to evangelical Protestant and conservative Roman Catholic religion is a well-worn strategy of Perry’s.  In 2005, he launched a political campaign by a showy signing ceremony for a bill curtailing abortion practices in Texas at Fort Worth’s Calvary Cathedral International, a large church pastored by a man who held anti-abortion views. Houston’s clergy are not taking this most recent charade of the Governor’s passively.  According to the Houston Chronicle, 24 local leaders, representing thousands of fair-minded Houstonians, issued an open letter to the Governor on Monday.  The full text of the letter follows, so Unfinished Lives Blog readers may see the full power of Progressive Religious leadership in opposition to this thinly-veiled attempt to co-opt Christianity for extremist right wing purposes.

June 13, 2011 As Houston clergy, we write to express our deep concern over Governor Rick Perry’s proclamation of a day of prayer and fasting at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on August 6th. In our role as faith leaders, we encourage and support prayer, meditation, and spiritual practice. Yet our governor’s religious event gives us pause for a number of reasons: We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state. Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously. We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing and leading a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin. We also express concern that the day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium is not an inclusive event. As clergy leaders in the nation’s fourth largest city, we take pride in Houston’s vibrant and diverse religious landscape. Our religious communities include Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, and many other faith traditions. Our city is also home to committed agnostics and atheists, with whom we share common cause as fellow Houstonians. Houston has long been known as a “live and let live” city, where all are respected and welcomed. It troubles us that the governor’s prayer event is not open to everyone. In the publicized materials, the governor has made it clear that only Christians of a particular kind are welcome to pray in a certain way. We feel that such an exclusive event does not reflect the rich tapestry of our city. Our deepest concern, however, lies in the fact that funding for this event appears to come from the American Family Association, an organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The American Family Association and its leadership have a long track record of anti-gay speech and have actively worked to discriminate against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. The American Family Association and its leadership have also been stridently anti-Muslim, going so far as to question the rights of Muslim Americans to freely organize and practice their faith. We believe it is inappropriate for our governor to organize a religious event funded by a group known for its discriminatory stances. As religious leaders, we commit to join with all Houstonians in working to make our city a better place. We will lead our communities in prayer, meditation, and spiritual practice. We ask that Rick Perry leave the ministry to us and refocus his energy on the work of governing our state.  Signed//: Members of the Houston Clergy Council

June 15, 2011 Posted by | American Family Association, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, gay men, GLBTQ, Governor Rick Perry, Heterosexism and homophobia, Houston Clergy Council, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Public Theology, religious intolerance, Resurrection MCC Houston, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

KKK and “GodHatesFags” Zealots Turn On Each Other

Arlington, Virginia – Klansmen joined in a counter-protest attempting to screen military funerals from a Westboro Baptist Church picket at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend.  The Fred Phelps-founded protestors, made infamous by their “God Hates Fags” campaign and their more recent demonstrations at the funerals of fallen United States military servicemembers, found themselves confronted by a number of members of the Knights of the Southern Cross Soldiers of the Ku Klux Klan, a racist KKK cell based in Powhatan, Virginia, according to the Hatewatch post of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).  Including the KKK, 70 counter-protestors waved American flags and held up pro-USA signs, blocking the funerals in progress from the demonstrators holding signs brandishing such slogans as “Fag Nation,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Pray for More Dead Soldiers,” and “Thank God for IED’s,” typical of the anti-American message propounded by the Topeka, Kansas Baptist church in its continuing opposition to “homosexual lifestyles.”

Dennis LaBonte, spokesperson for the Knights of the Southern Cross Soldiers, said that their counter-protest was in defense of freedom of speech and in support of the U.S. military. LaBonte told reporters that it was the military in this country that fought to defend the rights of groups like Phelps’s Topeka, Kansas church which recently successfully defended itself before the U.S. Supreme Court against a suit brought by the parent of a Marine killed in combat–a soldier whose funeral had been picketed by the Westboro zealots to condemn the “fag-enabling ways” of the nation.  “It’s the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right,” LaBonte said.  Responding to the Klan counter-protestors, Abigail Phelps, an attorney as are many of her siblings, complained to CNN that people should not “idolize” soldiers who died in national service, or anyone else who died in an “unrighteous cause.”  When directly asked about her reaction to the presence of KKK members in opposition to the Westboro Baptist demonstration, she told the reporter, “They have no moral authority on anything.” According to yourblackworld.com, Phelps went on to say, “People like them say it’s white power … white supremacy.  The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that it’s an abomination to be born of a certain gender or race.”

Nationalism makes strange bedfellows, indeed–enlisting bigots in competing demonstrations against other bigots.  No one in the LGBTQ community is under any illusion about the feelings of the KKK toward them, however.  As the SPLC points out, the Klan hates gay people only slightly less than they hate Jews, African Americans, and “mongrel races.”  As one blog commentator wrote, “On the one hand, this could be laughable, but it is not. One could also [take this news] with a grain of salt. Neither side are LGBT friendly. Let them fight among themselves.”

June 4, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Arlington National Cemetery, Bisexual persons, CNN, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Kansas, Klu Klux Klan, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Protests and Demonstrations, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Marines, U.S. Supreme Court, Virginia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Courageous Carolina Faith Leaders Oppose Anti-Gay Bigotry

North Carolina Faith Leaders Speak Out

Raleigh, North Carolina – Outside the State Legislature on May 17th, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ right wing activists pushed their discriminatory agenda–but inside courageous faith leaders and legislators announced their opposition to a constitutional amendment that could prevent any legal recognition of same-sex couples in North Carolina.  According to Equality North Carolina, Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) organized an impressive gathering of clergy who spoke passionately of their desire for North Carolina to remain open and tolerant, and who also announced how faith-based communities throughout the Tarheel State were mobilizing to defeat the anti-gay amendment to the state constitution.  At present, North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast not to enact anti-LGBTQ discrimination into its bylaws and constitution. Five faith leaders held an hour-long press conference in the Legislature Building to speak on the harms Senate Bill 106/House Bill 777 would impose on the citizens of the state. Rev. Anthony Spearman of Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church in Hickory said,  “This extreme legislation will only cause needless pain and suffering. It sends a message to major employers that North Carolina does not welcome a diverse workplace,” Spearman said. “It tells young people who are gay they’re second class citizens, unworthy of basic dignity and equal treatment…It is not fair and it is certainly not just.”  Bishop Toniya Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church in Charlotte said it is time for North Carolinians to show the nation “what type of a state we really are.”  Assistant Rabbi Ari Margolis of Raleigh’s Temple Beth Or, speaking for all who revere sacred scripture, said, “We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny legal equality to gay and lesbian couples.”  Rev. Dr. Amy Laura Hall, an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church from Durham, warned, “Don’t let those selling fear on the cheap, buy your hearts.”  Rev. Dr. Stephen Shoemaker, Senior Minister of Charlotte’s Myers Park Baptist Church, drew on the heritage of justice handed down to Tarheels from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Referring to Dr. King’s dictum, that the long arc of history bends toward justice, Dr. Shoemaker announced that this same arc “also bends toward inclusiveness.”  The Clergy announced that over 300 faith leaders from across the state had already signed a declaration opposing the amendment, and invited every person of conscience to add their names to the growing list of fair-minded believers.  The document may be accessed here for signatures to be added, and reads as follows:

Declaration of Religious Leaders and People of Faith Against Anti-LGBT Legislation

The most fundamental human right, after the necessities of food, clothing and shelter, is the right to affection and the supportive love of other human beings. We become most fully human when we love another person. We can grow in our capacity to be human – to be loving – in a family unit. This right to love and form a family is so fundamental that our United States Constitution takes it for granted in its dedication to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The North Carolina Constitution likewise affirms the “inalienable rights” of human beings to “life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As people of faith, clergy and leaders in our faith traditions, we are mandated by God to demonstrate and protect love in all its forms and to stand for justice for all of creation. In faithful response to this calling, we commit ourselves, along with thousands of other Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of faith around North Carolina, to these basic principles:

  • While we respect the fact that debate and discussion continue in many of our religious communities as to the scriptural, theological and liturgical issues involved, we draw on our many faith traditions to arrive at a common conviction. We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny legal equity to gay and lesbian couples.
  • We insist that no one person or institution, especially the state, is allowed to define the God-given covenant of marriage or bar two consenting adults, whether of the same or differing genders, from forming the family unit that lets them be more fully loving, thus more fully human.
  • We oppose any amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that would prohibit gay and lesbian couples from receiving the protections like health benefits and hospital visitation afforded by legal recognition of their relationships. Likewise, we are further resolved that the State should not interfere with gay and lesbian couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitments of civil marriage.
  • We affirm freedom of conscience in this matter. We recognize that the state may not require religious groups to officiate at, or bless, gay and lesbian marriages. Likewise, a denial of state civil recognition dishonors the religious convictions of those communities and clergy who officiate at, and bless, gay and lesbian marriages. The state may not favor the convictions of one religious group over another by denying individuals their fundamental right to marry and to have those marriages recognized by civil law.

    Representative Brandon, who serves the 60th House District in Guilford County, concluded the Press Conference by declaring his faith as a Christian, and saying, “The Bible has been used in this nation to support slavery, segregation, laws against interracial marriage, and to deny women’s rights. Jesus was a compassionate person. And Jesus would not be having a rally outside right now.”

May 22, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Equality North Carolina, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, North Carolina, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Queer, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Courageous Carolina Faith Leaders Oppose Anti-Gay Bigotry

Notorious MacDonald’s Trans Beating Draws Hate Charges Against Teens

Chrissy Lee Polis, victim of transphobic attack

Baltimore, Maryland – Transwoman Chrissy Polis, victim of a brutal beating in a Baltimore MacDonald’s restaurant that was caught on video tape, won some small measure of justice Monday.  Officials are charging two teenagers with a hate crime because of the roles they played in attacking her in an incident that roused the conscience of the state of Maryland and far beyond, after the video of the assault went viral on the internet.  According to EDGE, Teonna Monae Brown, 18, was indicted for the assault and a hate crime in the attack on Polis on April 18.  Brown is also charged with assault upon a MacDonald’s employee who tried to stop the beating, and for assaulting a customer in the restaurant, as well.  A 14-year-old defendant has also been charged in the assault against Polis.  The Associated Press customarily does not publish the identities of minors in criminal proceedings. Both teens are being held in custody.  Prosecutors in the case say no one else is being investigated in the crime, and there will be no further charges. Brown maintains her innocence, and has retained counsel to defend her. Polis, 22, contended since the day of the attack that it was a hate crime.  She told journalists from the Baltimore Sun that her chief assailant accused her of “hitting on her man” as Polis attempted to use the women’s restroom in the restaurant. Brown and the second suspect, Polis alleged, spat in her face, screamed epithets, and then dragged her around the floor of the restaurant by the hair. Brown also tore out her earrings, according to the victim.  The sensational video aroused tens of thousands around the nation because of the explicit brutality of the attack.  Viewers saw Polis repeatedly beaten.  She also suffered an apparent seizure as a consequence of the assault. Since the incident, hundreds of people have attended rallies and vigils for justice in the Polis case.  Transgender and gay activist groups, such as Trans-United, TransMaryland, the Baltimore County for Equality, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore; and other allies have rallied to support the victim and to advocate for the passage of legislation protecting transgender women and men in Maryland. Well-known transgender activist Dana Beyer told EDGE’’As Dr. Martin Luther King said if there is injustice to one person, there’s injustice to all of us. But this shows that we are a very large community. Family and friends are willing to stand up with us to protest violence, hate and injustice. I hope that Chrissy is going to know that she’s got even more friends than she knows she has.’’  For now, Polis is making no more statements to the press. She stays in seclusion, and fears to go out in public as a result of the trauma she endured in the attack. Perhaps now some vindication will come to her and to the transgender community, thanks to official acknowledgement of the transphobic nature of the attack against her.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gender identity/expression, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, MacDonald's, Maryland, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Notorious MacDonald’s Trans Beating Draws Hate Charges Against Teens

Russians Ban Moscow Pride March for 6th Time; Homophobic Violence Threatens LGBT’s

Moscow, Russian Federation – The Russian government, in flagrant disregard of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, has officially banned the May 28th Gay Pride March.  Pride organizers have vowed that the scheduled gay pride march will go on, permit or no permit, and call upon the international community to condemn the ban.  Given the past track record of government sponsored oppression of LGBT Russians, and homophobic acts of physical violence allowed (if not actually incited) by national officials and the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, activists are concerned that Moscow Pride 2011 will likely be bloody.  Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Ludmilla Shvetsova, speaking on behalf of Moscow City Hall, listed the “high number” of letters protesting the march, and the “impossibility” of maintaining security for the pride parade as chief reasons for the ban.  In a press release this morning, Gay Russia activist and organizer Nicolai Alekseev said:  “The reasons to ban the Moscow Pride this year are exactly the same reasons used in the past years and for which the European Court of Human Rights judged against Russia for violating the European Convention on Human Rights.  Russia decided to mark the Day Against Homophobia by showing once again its homophobic policy towards LGBT citizens.”  Regardless of the action of the government, Alekseev said: “The ban does not change anything to our intention to hold our rally as planned.  Whatever happens on May 28 will be put on the illegal and irresponsible decision taken today by the Moscow City Hall.”  Since 2006, Gay Russia has organized an annual pride march in the Russian capitol, keeping its whereabouts a closely-guarded secret until the actual start time of the parade to protect marchers from government and church reprisals.  Each time, riot police and soldiers were dispatched by the government to break up the event and arrest participants.  Often, street thugs were permitted to harass and attack marchers and onlookers as law enforcement officers “looked the other way.”  Last year, Alekseev, chief organizer of Moscow Pride, was kidnapped and held incognito for several hours by government agents.  Rapid protests from international LGBT allies to Russian embassies and consulates secured his release relatively unharmed. He and other Gay Russia representatives are sure that had international pressure not been applied quickly and effectively, he most likely would have disappeared.  Three events made Gay Russia’s officials hopeful that this year’s Moscow Pride would be permitted.  First, the notoriously homophobic mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, was deposed in September 2010 for a “loss of confidence” in his leadership, and jailed in a dispute with the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitri Medvedev.  Second, Alekseev toured the United States during the winter and early spring of 2011, speaking at a wide range of venues in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to raise awareness of the plight of LGBT people in Russia. Third, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Gay Russia in April, condemning the ban against Moscow Pride in past years as unlawful.  The ECHR determined that the bans placed Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, and the right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination. This international ruling heartening and emboldening pride organizers to schedule Moscow Pride ’11 in front of the offices of the European Commission in Bolotnaya Square, a venue under the jurisdiction of the City of Moscow. In defiance of international law, city officials have imposed the ban once again.  In response, Alekseev announced on Tuesday that he was applying for a change of location to the Kremlin or an area adjacent to it, a sector of the city outside the authority of City Hall.  “We will apply today to the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to hold our Gay Pride March next to Kremlin, an area which solely depends upon his jurisdiction,” Alekseev said. International human rights activists from the European Union and the United States are scheduled to be present at this year’s pride march in the Russian capitol.  They and Gay Russia are calling upon persons of conscience to phone, write, and email protesting the ban of Moscow Pride to embassies of the Russian Federation around the world.  In the United States, protests may be lodged with the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.: phone (202) 338-3263 or (202) 232-5988.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Bisexual persons, European Court of Human Rights, gay bashing, gay men, Gay Russia, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Moscow Pride '11, Protests and Demonstrations, Queer, Russia, Russian Federation, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ugandan Gay Activist Killed in Cold Blood: Were Christians Accomplices in His Murder?

Kampala, Uganda – Prominent defender of Gay Rights in Uganda, David Kato, was murdered in his home by two blows with a hammer this Wednesday. Kato, 40-something at the time of his slaughter, was a well-known voice around the world for human rights, and an outspoken leader protesting Draconian legislation in his home country which would make consensual same-sex activity punishable by law, perhaps even requiring the state to execute convicted homosexuals. What responsibility does the Christian Church bear for the outrageous murder of David Kato? Many in Uganda, including leading church officials, priests, missionaries, and ministers, fervently believe in a sort of “gay conspiracy”on the part of same-sex loving men whom they say will infect their children with the “virus of homosexuality.” Friday, Kato’s funeral was marred by the homophobic outburst of an Anglican priest, Fr. Thomas Musoke, who loudly invoked dire comparisons with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah until mourners wrenched a microphone out of his hands, according to 365 Gay.  The Ugandan Anglican Church, active in encouraging resistance among conservative Episcopalians to the elevation of gays and lesbians as bishops in the United States in recent years, is well-known for opposing LGBTQ rights in the Central African nation.  Christian evangelical missionaries and so-called “experts” on homosexual sin from the United States, such as the notorious Watchman on the Walls Scott Lively, have preached the judgment of God on the Ugandan people if gays and lesbians are allowed to live and love openly in society. U.S. evangelicals exerting influence in Uganda teach that gays and lesbians could be changed to heterosexuality by prayer and counseling if they had enough faith. According to masslive.com, Lively, part of a 2009 evangelical mission to Uganda preaching anti-gay messages to officials and churchmen (Lively even spoke before the Ugandan Parliament during the tour), now says that it is “too early to call Kato’s murder a hate crime,” since the police have rushed to claim that the murder was the consequence of a simple robbery. In rebuttal, Val Kalende, chairwoman of an LGBT human rights group in Uganda said to the New York Times, “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.” Indeed, well-funded groups such as the shadowy Washington C Street evangelical organization, “The Family,” have sent funds and encouragement for the “Kill The Gays” legislations still making its way through the Ugandan Parliament. M.P. David Bahati, primary sponsor of anti-gay legislation in Uganda, is affiliated with “The Family.”  NPR host, Michel Martin, explored the culpability of Christians for Kato’s murder with guests on her weekday broadcast, “Tell Me More,” this Friday.  Martin interviewed Jeffery Gettleman, East Africa Bureau chief for the New York Times, asking him directly, “This has also been a big story in the United States, of course, because of the participation of a group of American evangelicals whom we also interviewed on this program. One in particular named Scott Lively, who many human rights activists have said helped to create this context of intolerance. Do you think that that’s true? Do you think the American evangelicals’ visit there was really that influential?” Gettleman replied, “I do think it was influential. I think a lot of people in Uganda and the part of Africa where I live, in Kenya and most of this continent and probably most of this world, there’s many people who are homophobic. But it didn’t take a violent form. It was – people thought that, in Uganda, people thought gay people were strange, that they were outliers, but they weren’t really fired up to do anything about it.” Gettleman continued, “It was only after the visits by these Americans who billed themselves as experts in dealing with homosexual issues that the Ugandan politicians and church groups got really angry about it and suggested killing gay people.” Religious hate speech, whether “soft” in its rhetoric (“Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin”), or blatantly hostile (“Gays and Lesbians are an Abomination in God’s Sight, and Deserve to Die”) has consequences for the safety of LGBTQ people wherever they live. This is certainly true, in our opinion, in Central Africa. David Kato was deservedly called “the father of the Uganda gay rights movement.” In the wave of hostility in tabloid media toward LGBTQ people following the 2009 U.S. evangelical tour of Uganda, Kato’s lynching was suggested in the press. When Christian leaders justify the demonization of LGBTQ people for their sexual orientation or gender presentation, either by selectively quoting scripture and subsequently distorting its life-giving meaning, or by reading their own homophobia back into church teaching to claim that “Gays and Lesbians are sinners,” these clerics are not only exposing a vulnerable minority to religious, political, and social persecution.  They are also exposing their own theology and ethics as woefully bankrupt and void of spiritual integrity. Clerics in Uganda and the United States who stoke hatred against LGBTQ people are no longer messengers of God. They have become a mob of theological thugs.  Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown, Desmond Tutu, is one of the few courageous voices of Christian integrity in Africa willing to speak out against religious intolerance and hate speech. In the Washington Post last March, Archbishop Tutu appealed for the church to own up to its role in fomenting hatred against gays and lesbians, and instead to commit its resources for repentance and reconciliation for all people.  He said, in part, “Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.” Tutu continued, “Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear. And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said ‘Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.’ Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.” Amen, Archbishop!  Tutu must be joined by a world-wide chorus of Christian voices denouncing the murder of David Kato, the terrorization of his LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and renouncing the use of religion to incite bigotry and fear. Unless the world Christian community repents of its role in murder and mayhem like that in Uganda and Central Africa, Christian theology itself will continue to collapse from “heart-failure”–failing to discern and apply the heart of the message of Jesus Christ which was never bad tidings of fear, but Good News of mercy and justice for everyone.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | "Kill the Gays Bill", Africa, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Beatings and battery, C Street "The Family", funerals, gay bashing, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, mob-violence and lynching, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, soft homophobia, Uganda, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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