Ortmann, who became homeless a couple of months ago, attempted to find shelter in charity housing, but, as he learned, there are very few options for homeless men in Murfreesboro. After revealing his sexual orientation to other men living in Tent City this past weekend, Ortmann says he was ambushed, beaten, and left unconscious with an eye swollen shut, and his whole body racked with pain. “It was a big crowd, and all I remembered really is being hit once or twice and being knocked out cold,” Ortmann said to WSMV.
As The New Civil Rights Movement reports, Ortmann is crystal clear on the reason for the brutal assault. “I was beat up because I was gay,” he said. “It’s considered a hate crime. It’s against the law to put your hands on someone to begin with.” Now, he sleeps fitfully, expecting another attack at any time. Ortmann is considering moving to Nashville for his own safety, but his prospects are bleak there, too. “It makes it 10 times harder when you’re gay and homeless at the same time,” he explained to WSMV.
Local authorities say that the hate crime aspect of this case is important. Sgt. Kyle Evans, Murfreesboro police spokesman, told reporters for WSMV, “The reporting officer indicated the bias motivation for the attack was anti-homosexual. If that is indeed the case, not only could they be facing these assault charges; they could be facing more serious charges.”
Meanwhile, Ortmann is recovering from both physical and psychic wounds in an environment where he fears for his life. “It’s bad enough where I have to keep watch, keep an eye over my shoulder the entire time,” he said. “It’s pretty bad right now to the point that I don’t sleep that many hours now.”
Memphis, Tennessee – A lesbian suffered a brutal beating Sunday, June 24 at a Memphis bar and restaurant while casually speaking with a former high school classmate, WMC-TV 5 reports. Jackie Lloyd told reporters that the attack which broke her nose in two places and left her face severely swollen came out of the blue. “I think it has everything to do with my sexuality,” Lloyd said.
Brandon Hooper, 28, boyfriend of Lloyd’s classmate, charged across the patio of Celtic Crossing, shouting gay slurs. According to Lloyd, Huffington Post reports the moment of the unprovoked violence: “This guy says you f**king dyke and slams me right in the nose and I fell back about three feet… he called me a f**king lesbian, [he said] ‘problem solved, you f**cking lesbian.'” Police apprehended Hooper and charged him with aggravated assault for the attack. When questioned by the press about possible hate crimes charges in the case, the Memphis District Attorney said that such charges would have to come from the FBI. Lloyd says her contacts in the Memphis Police Department indicate that an FBI investigation into her case may be pending.
Lloyd says she had never met Hooper before the assault. She believes that his homophobia triggered the brutality simply because she was speaking to Hooper’s girlfriend. Lloyd wants her chance to confront her attacker, and give him a piece of her mind. “You know, I’d like to say to him I want to live a normal life just like everybody else,” Lloyd said to WMC-TV. “And what you did is terrible,” she added.
For Lloyd and the besieged Tennessee LGBTQ community, intolerance is an everyday fact of life. Right wing politicians in the legislature of the Volunteer State have tried to ban the use of the words “gay” and “lesbian” in Tennessee public schools (Don’t Say “Gay” Bill), worked to make bathrooms off limits to transgender persons (Bathroom Bill), and have attempted to protect bias driven speech against LGBTQ school students when the perpetrators claim a religious motivation (License to Bully Bill).
The attack against Lloyd marks the second grave anti-lesbian incident in recent weeks. Two teenage lesbian lovers were shot near Corpus Christi, Texas on June 10, leaving one girl dead and the other seriously wounded.
Humbolt, Tennessee – In the quiet outskirts of rural Humbolt, Tennessee, a church with a Fruitland address was the scene for a violent attack on two young gay men simply for arriving at Wednesday evening services. What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) about Church-and-Pastor instigated gay bashing? On September 28, Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend, Dustin Lee, arrived at Grace Fellowship Church where his father, Jerry Pittman Sr., is the pastor. Just before the gay couple got out of their car, Jerry Jr. heard his father cry, “Sic ’em!,” as a hunter would address a pack of dogs. Two deacons from the church, and Jerry Jr.’s uncle who is also a deacon, attacked the pair while they were still trying to get out of the parked vehicle. WBBJ Eyewitness News interviewed Jerry Jr. soon after the church gay bashed the couple: “My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request,” young Jerry said. “My uncle smashed me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back.” The men kept yelling homophobic insults and slurs at the couple even after a Gibson County Deputy Sheriff arrived on the scene. The couple attempted to press charges with the officer, who refused to allow them to do so, implying that they were the cause of the attack themselves. Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold defended the actions of his deputy to the press, saying, “I haven’t talk to him but that would be out of character for my deputy to say unless they were causing a problem themselves.” Media attention has caused the sheriff to temper his remarks in subsequent interviews.
Pittman and Lee did press charges the following Friday against Deacons Billy Sims and Eugene McCoy, as well as Rev. Jerry Pittman Sr. and Deacon Patrick Flatt, the younger Pittman’s uncle. When WBBJ reporters contacted the pastor, he refused comment and demanded that the station not try to communicate with him again.
Evan Hurst of Truth Wins Out gives the latest details on this story that has shocked Christians and non-Christians alike, awakening them to the presence of virulent, anti-gay prejudice in America’s pulpits and pews. Hurst spoke to Jerry Jr. by phone on October 5, who said, “The church acted as four people, instead of as a congregation.” Pittman explained that he and his boyfriend had attended the church before, though they knew the condemning stance of the elder Pittman, who preached anti-gay sermons “when the couple wasn’t there.” Lee had even been invited to sing at Grace Fellowship once when he attended services alone. But marital trouble broke out between Pittman Sr. and Jerry Jr.’s stepmother, and, in Hurst’s words, “the floodgates opened and the church no longer felt the need to stay silent about Jerry, Jr. and his boyfriend.” The charges and counter charges in this case are still being sorted out. All parties are remanded to court on November 22. Meanwhile, Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and shattered faith. Jerry Jr. has already lost his job because of the days he has spent pursuing justice for himself and his boyfriend.
West Tennessee is a tough place to be gay or lesbian, much less transgender. Hurst relates a “man-on-the-street” interview in Jackson, in which the reporter asked a passer-by about what he would do if his son brought a boyfriend to church with him. The man candidly said he would shoot them. The culture of hatred, religious intolerance of LGBTQ people, and church-sanctioned violence remains undisturbed in America’s heartland, no matter if there is a federal Matthew Shepard Act to offer some protection legally to marginalized gay people.
Would Jesus condone anti-gay violence? If not, then why is such prejudice overtly and covertly incubated in the nation’s communities of faith, like Grace Fellowship? While it may be simple for many Christians to dismiss the Grace Fellowship hate crime as an aberration in an embarrassing, Pentecostal byway, the silence from every other church in the surrounding area is deafening. The Unfinished Lives Project has shown the link between religious intolerance, religious hate speech, and deadly anti-gay violence. Nine out of ten fatal hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ people in the United States were sparked, by admission of the killers, by Bible or Church teaching. If churches cannot speak out against an attack against a young gay couple simply for arriving at a church for services, what will they remain silent about next? WWJD about Christians and Churches who gay bash or stand by silently while others do? Read John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”
Vonore, Tennessee – The home of a Monroe County, Tennessee lesbian couple was burned to the ground and their garage defaced by anti-gay graffiti in what is believed to be a hate crime. On Saturday, September 4, the house was set ablaze, and the word “Queer” was spray painted on two sides of the family garage, which was left standing. WATE, Channel 6, Knoxville reports that the couple, Carol and Laura Stutte, had been threatened in August by a neighbor who said he was going to burn their house down because they were lesbian. He also threatened their lives, according to Stutte. They reported the threat to the police, but there is no report as to the status of the complaint at this time. The couple, who have been together 15 years, moved to Vonore from Oklahoma. The crime occurred while the Stutte’s were celebrating their fifth anniversary in Tennessee with friends in Nashville. At present, the couple is in a safe house in Nashville while the investigation is going forward. They have no plans to return to the property, and are staying away out of prudence and fear. Other neighbors have defended the couple, saying that lesbians make good neighbors, and are welcome in Vonore. Members of the community, especially PFLAG of Maryville, and the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church are responding with funds and household goods, since the couple has lost everything. As Becky Lucas, president of PFLAG Maryville said, “We are hopeful that the authorities will investigate it fully and that this couple will get justice. I think this happens every day to people in this community and many times they don’t speak up because they are afraid. Everybody deserves basic human rights.” Lucas went on to say to reporters, “We want to send a message to this couple and other couples like them — you do have many allies in this area. Many people in the community are just as outraged as I am.” Care2.com reports that no determination has yet been made by local authorities about whether the incident will be classified an hate crime. According to Care2, “Detective Travis Jones, with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, has confirmed that the department is investigating the arson with the aid of the state Bomb and Arson Squad, that there are ‘people of interest’ in the case.” The lesbians say that they would like to remain in the area, but they would never rebuild on the same site.