Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Lesbian Savagely Beaten Unconscious Defending Girlfriend’s Bullied Son

Sondra Scarber, lesbian parent, beaten unconscious by a homophobic father for speaking up for her girlfriend's child.

Sondra Scarber, lesbian parent, beaten unconscious by a homophobic father for speaking up for her girlfriend’s child. [WFAA image].

Mesquite, Texas – A lesbian who spoke up to stop school playground bullies from harassing her girlfriend’s 4-year-old son was attacked for her sexual orientation by an enraged man February 17.  When Sondra Scarber, 27, spoke to the father of a boy who was bullying her lover’s little boy, the man recognized that she was a lesbian.  He assaulted her, shouting homophobic insults, so quickly and savagely that Scarber told WFAA she did not even have time to take her hands out of her pockets to defend herself from his blows.

Scarber’s girlfriend, Hillary Causey, recalled for WFAA the horror of watching her love thrashed mercilessly.  The couple, who have been known each other since childhood, and who have been a couple for the past three years, took their child Jaxon to Seaborn Elementary School’s playground around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 17, for an outing. When other boys began pushing and shoving the little boy, whom the couple are rearing together, Scarber spoke to a father of one of the harassing boys: “Sondra said, ‘Can you please keep your hands off of him, he’s only four,’” Causey said.  Only when the man realized that the woman speaking out for her child was a lesbian, he went ballistic, shouting epithets and striking Scarber unconscious.  As the Dallas Voice reports, the assailant ignored Scarber’s pleas: “All she kept saying,” Causey recalled, was, “‘I’m a female. I’m a female.’ She never even had time to take her hands out of pockets to try and block herself.”  

Scarber fell unconscious, with a broken jaw and multiple bruises.  Emergency surgery had to repair her jaw with a metal plate, and she faces months of rehabilitation and recovery from her physical injuries, not to mention her psychological wounds from the attack.  The assailant is still at large.

Causey and Scarber have called on the police to investigate the attack as a hate crime, since the attacker flew into a rage about the couple’s sexual orientation.  The Mesquite Police Department, who say that they want to apprehend the suspect, refuse to designate the case as an anti-gay hate crime.  Local gay advocacy groups are pushing for the Mesquite authorities to press the case as a hate crime. Daniel Cates, organizer for the Dallas Chapter of GetEqual, has called for the community to call the Mesquite Police Department “until the phone rings off the wall” to protest the downplaying of the crime.  The Resource Center of Dallas, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ service centers, issued this statement to the press, which we quote in full:

“Resource Center Dallas denounces the brutal attack of Sondra Scarber at the hands of a man who assaulted her based on her sexual orientation, as first reported February 28 by WFAA-TV (Channel 8). As reported, the circumstances of this case indicate a hate-motivated crime, and that should dissuade the Mesquite Police Department from lessening the severity of any potential criminal charges.

The incident is another example in which words and thoughts lead to destructive actions against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The reported violence included anti-gay slurs, followed by violent acts against a lesbian. Had Sondra’s partner not been present, her injuries could have been far more severe.

Anti-gay violence is a serious public health issue.  According to the FBI’s 2011 Hate Crime Report—the most recent available—49 of the 152 hate crimes committed in Texas that year were motivated by anti-gay bias. Nationally, nearly 21 percent of the 6,222 hate crimes committed that same year were motivated by sexual orientation.

The Center calls on the Mesquite Police Department and Chief Derek Rodhe to thoroughly investigate and swiftly arrest the suspects responsible. As leaders in the LGBT community, Resource Center Dallas will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that justice is carried out.”

Scarber told WFAA that her face is so bruised and swollen, and her jaw so tightly wired shut, that she cannot do much of anything for herself.  “It’s hard for me to stay strong when I see myself in the mirror,” she said. She and Causey have the comfort that their little boy was spared from the bullying that nearly hurt him.  And, they have each other. They are grateful that Scarber is alive.

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, GET EQUAL Texas, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Resource Center of Dallas, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Dallasite Michael Parish Honored Nationally for Fighting HIV/AIDS

Michael Parish, Outreach Coordinator for the Resource Center of Dallas

Dallas, Texas – Michael Parish, 24, has been recognized by the widely-read LGBTQ blog Queerty for his advocacy in combatting HIV and AIDS.  The post, “Born into the Epidemic: Five People Under 30 Who are Fighting HIV/AIDS,” honors Parish for his work in North Texas as Outreach Co-Ordinator for the Resource Center of Dallas, one of the nation’s largest full-service centers for LGBTQ people.  A native of Waco, Parish served as a volunteer for four years at the Center until he was hired in 2010 to educate on HIV prevention and safer sex practices, as well as offer STD screenings on the weekends.

Parish says that the greatest obstacle LGBTQ people have to face in the struggle with AIDS is giving up.  He said to Queerty, “LGBT people . . . ‘throw in the towel’ when it comes to fighting HIV. They’ve been made to believe that they specifically are ‘destined’ to contract HIV. But if you remove ‘LGBT’ and insert another category of people and say the same thing, you would see the sheer ludicrousness of such a belief. [Fighting that sense of inevitability] is the biggest challenge.”

Commending the choice of Parish for this select honor, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, said, “Michael is a sign of hope among all LGBTQ people, and for 20-somethings in particular. The struggle against this unrelenting disease needs renewed support at this time, when members of the LGBTQ community seem to believe they are either immune to HIV/AIDS, or falsely assume that if they contract the virus, drugs will simply take care of its effects. Michael and the rest of the staff of the Resource Center of Dallas know there is only one way to effectively fight back, and that is through education, early testing, and safer sex.  Well done, Queerty and Michael Parish!”

The other four commendatoris are: Jaszi Johnathan Alejandro, 25, Community Health Specialist from New York, NY; Greg Zhovreboff, 28, Community Organizer from San Francisco, CA; Julian Dormitzer, 23, Clinical Research Nurse hailing from Boston, MA; and Brant Miller, 25, HIV Program Associate in Washington, DC.  On this World AIDS Day and every day, the Unfinished Lives Project Team congratulates them all, and the many other unsung heroes in the fight against HIV/AIDS they represent.

November 30, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, gay men, GLBTQ, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ, Queerty.com, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, World AIDS Day | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

Rafael McDonnell celebrates the passage of full Transgender protections for Dallas County Employees on the steps of the County Administration Building. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School is to his right. (c.d. kirven photo)

Dallas, Texas – By a vote of 3 to 2, the Dallas County Commissioners Court passed employment protection for Transgender people who work for the county.  After a five-week struggle, both sexual orientation AND gender identity and expression are now protected classes under the law for the county’s approximately 7,000 workers. According to the Dallas Voice, the vote of 3 in favor of Court Order 21, and 2 opposed fell along party lines, with Democrats Judge Clay Jenkins, John Wiley Price, and Dr. Elba Garcia in the majority, and Republicans Maurine Dickey and Mike Cantrell in the minority.

Though the Commissioners Court voted to include sexual orientation as a protected class in March of this year, advocates in the LGBTQ community called for a fully inclusive protection statute in the county, specifically naming gender expression and gender identity. Rumors swirled for the last two weeks, because what seemed to many as an obvious move on the part of county commissioners was thrown into doubt when open opposition on the political and religious right wing began to be voiced.  As late as this morning, LGBTQ leaders were warned that there would be vocal opposition to the inclusion of Transgender people in the statute, and to expect it to get “loud and nasty.” The courtroom braced for a strong debate, as citizens took up every seat, and many stood along the walls, waiting for the main event of the agenda, Court Order 21. Speakers rose to the podium for a full half hour, the amount of time allocated by the court for speakers to any issue. The commissioners extended the time to accommodate all who had registered in advance to speak to the issue.  Not a single speaker spoke in opposition to the proposal. Speeches in favor of the passage of Court Order 21 were clear, well-reasoned, respectful, and firm, all calling for justice to be done and equality to be extended to everyone in Dallas County.  Ms. Rebecca Solomon, Banking Officer for Bank of America in Dallas, appealed to the business sense of the court, reminding them of the many Fortune 500 companies in Dallas County that have full gender expression and gender identity protections in their Human Resources regulations. She said, “As a transgender person, I have vowed never to work in an environment in which my economic security is at risk because of who I am.  Dallas County needs to catch up with the rest of the country.”  Attorney Cece Cox, Executive Director of the Resource Center of Dallas, reminded the court that the issue before them was one of workplace fairness, and should not be swayed by beliefs that disapproved of classes of people.  Jesse Garcia, longtime Latino gay leader in the city and county, spoke out passionately for justice to be done, and for full inclusion of Transgender people under the law. African American lesbian leader, c.d. kirven, invoked the years of struggle LGBTQ people have endured in this country and in North Texas, saying that it was time for the “war” on people of difference in this culture to be over. Patti Fink of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA), said that it was time for the commissioners to exercise leadership on this issue, and vote for equality. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, Theologian-in-Residence of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, concluded the speeches of the day, arguing that progressive religious communities fully supported equality, justice, and inclusion for all, and stated, “God created all, male and female, in the image and likeness of the divine. My interpretation of the book of Genesis on this matter suggests that Transgender people are at the heart of God’s love and God’s will, and are fully included when God pronounces the whole of creation ‘very good’ at the conclusion of the divine work.” He continued, “I look forward to the honorable members of this court doing the right thing, the just thing, and voting ‘Yes’ on Court Order 21.”

As dozens of Transgender men and women held their breath, Commissioners Dickey and Cantrell announced their intentions to vote ‘No’ on the proposal.  Dr. Elba Garcia said she was voting in favor of full inclusion, calling it an act of “justice,” and a step toward catching up with the rest of the world. John Wiley Price, citing medical advice he had sought out, agreed with Dr. Garcia that this vote was about doing the right thing.  He called the question, and Judge Clay Jenkins counted the votes necessary to make Transgender protections a reality for the many gender variant people who serve the county. A roar of approval rose from the crowd in the courtroom, and the celebration continued outside on the steps of the Dallas County Administration Building.  Rafael McDonnell, who tirelessly worked for passage of the court order, exuded joy as he thanked all the supporters and the county commissioners who made today’s victory for equality a reality.  The vote will have impact across Texas and the nation, given the leading position the Lone Star State holds in size and reputation as a conservative bastion. Dallas County is now ranked the ninth most populous county in the United States at over 2,400,000 people. It now joins Texas municipalities such as Dallas city, El Paso, Austin, and Houston in full protection for both sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression for employees.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, Brite Divinity School, Dallas Commissioners Court, Dallas County Texas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, gay men, GLBTQ, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, Politics, Resource Center of Dallas, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Transgender Equality, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transgender Protection Passes in Dallas County!

   

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