Hernandez was elected to a vacant seat on the Sunnyside Unified School System governing board in 2011. Huffington Post reports that at least two scurrilous flyers attacking Hernandez’s sexual orientation and his position on gun control appeared at the same time the recall conflict broke out on the school board. While other school board members are being targeted for recall, Hernandez is the only recall target whose sexuality and character are being smeared.
Right Wing Watch first called attention to the smear flyers which were passed out to constituents anonymously. The caption surrounding a flyer photograph of Hernandez speaking at an Equality Forum reads: “Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board. Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY.” A second flyer attacks Hernandez’s position on guns, deeply ironic given the savage shooting that wounded Representative Giffords and killed several constituents at a Congressional town hall meeting.
The nasty, homophobic nature of the flyers is not news. Tactics like these have been influencing votes and voters for decades in Arizona and around the nation. What is newsworthy, however, is the forthright manner in which Hernandez, an openly gay man, is refusing to succumb to the smears. According to LGBTQ Nation, Hernandez has called for his opponents in the recall effort to distance themselves totally from these anti-gay tactics, and denounce anyone who supports such underhanded politics. Furthermore, in another unprecedented move, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has asked the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the attacks on Hernandez’s sexual orientation as a bias-motivated hate crime.
Hernandez’s recall opponents are scrambling to distance themselves from the hate attacks against a bona fide national hero who happens to be openly gay. The investigation as it proceeds should uncover whatever links may exist between the recall effort and homophobic intent.
Hillsboro, Oregon – A bizarre anti-gay crime case at a busy highway street crossing has attracted national attention as Federal prosecutors issued hate crimes charges against a man whose homophobic rage was sparked by the sight of a pink poodle. The assailant, George Mason Jr., 22, was charged this week with a violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for attacking a gay man with a heavy bolt cutter and screaming anti-gay slurs during a peaceful, midday stroll with his boyfriend and their pink-dyed poodle on March 1. Multiple witnesses say Mason shouted slurs at the gay couple from his SUV, did a U turn, raced back to the intersection, and allegedly attacked David Beltier with his fists and the bolt cutter. Beltier sustained blows to the upper arm, and to the back of his head. The assault could very nearly have cost Beltier his life.
Portland, Oregon court documents record the hate crime in legal language, but preserve the horror of the assault, coming from a complete stranger: “(Mason) willfully caused bodily injury and, through the use of a dangerous weapon, attempted to cause bodily injury to (Beltier), who is gay, because of (Beltier’s) actual and perceived sexual orientation.” The Associated Press, in a story carried by the Columbus (IN) Republic, also reports that Mason faces Oregon state charges including second-degree intimidation, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and reckless driving. The intimidation charge is a bias-motivation charge in the Oregon state code. Mason’s wife, Saraya Gardner, who was in Mason’s vehicle at the time of the attack, has also been charged in the case for obstructing justice.
In an interview in Komonews.com, Beltier and his partner, Jeremy Mark, recounted that they were crossing the street with their pink-dyed poodle, Beauty, when the attack occurred. Beauty, explained Beltier and Mark, had been harmlessly dyed pink with Kool-Aid for a bit of pre-Easter fun, and to match their two other pastel-dyed dogs. The sight of the pink poodle proved too much for Mason, who screamed profanities at the couple from his moving vehicle. The intersection was filled with witnesses who blared their horns in protest of the attacker. Beltier credits the witnesses with saving his life. “If I didn’t hear all the other people honking, all the people seeing what was going on, he could have probably severely hurt me, maybe even killed me right there and then,” he said. The New York Daily News reports Mark’s account of the slurs Mason hurled at his boyfriend. “[Mason] was saying, “Your poodle is a weird color and that’s just un-American” and “f— you, you f–s” and shouting,” Mark said.
Beltier then picked up the story for Komo News: “After that, [Mason] turns around, he goes back to his car, runs back to his car and brings out this long wrench-looking crowbar tool or something like that, and he comes back after me.” Mason then struck Beltier on the upper arm and in the back of the head. Beltier’s boyfriend was frantic with fear for his lover’s life. “I just couldn’t believe it,” said Mark. “I was shouting at the guy to stop. There’s no need for violence. There’s nothing to provoke him. … I was fearing for his life.”
As Mason raced away from the scene of the crime, witnesses tried to block his vehicle, and one witness took off after him, capturing Mason’s license plate number. The information led to the arrest of Mason and his wife, Gardner.
Though officials advised the gay couple to eliminate the bright pink color from his pet’s fur, Beltier and Mark remain adamant. They say that they did nothing wrong, and they are not going to let fear dictate their lives. They just allowed Beauty’s fur to grow out naturally over time.
Dallas, Texas- In this unprecedented year of tragedy and hope, in the aftermath of the worst nature can do to many of our readers and supporters, the Unfinished Lives Project Team wishes your family and loved ones a Happy and Safe Hallowe’en. So much is at stake in this election season. Too many have lost too much to turn back now. The stance of this blog and this human rights project has been and will remain to be full of hope:
- For a better world than the LGBTQ community has ever known until now
- For the long arc of justice to bend toward all marginalized people, especially those whose lives have been touched with violence
- For the laws and protections afforded to us to be enforced swiftly, fully, and justly
- For all LGBTQ people to follow to admonition of Harvey Milk, burst down our closet doors, and begin to fight for the values we believe in
We have found allies and leaders who have our best interests at heart. We still believe in hope. That is what we are sticking with this holiday season.
- President Barack Obama has signed the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law
- President Obama has fought by our side for the full Repeal and Implementation of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
- President Obama has directed our Justice Department to defend DOMA no longer
- President Obama has nominated two outstanding women to the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Kegan and Justice Sotomayor
- President Obama vigorously supports the DREAM Act, allowing many LGBTQ Latinas/Latinos to live, work, and prosper in the United States–the only nation home they have ever known
- Vice President Joe Biden has blazed the trail for Transgender Rights, declaring this “The Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time”
- Both President Obama and Vice President Biden have declared their public support for Marriage Equality
- The President, therefore, deserves and has earned a second term
While we at Unfinished Lives respect choices to the contrary, to us the choice this election year could not be clearer.
Enjoy the day, then exercise your rights, and vote. Again, friends, Happy Hallowe’en. ~ The Unfinished Lives Project Team
Paris, Texas – Three alleged gay bashers in the horrific Reno gay bashing case will face hate crimes enhancement charges, as reported by the Paris Times and the Dallas Voice. A Lamar County Grand Jury on Thursday indicted James Mitchell Lasater III, 31, of Paris, Micky Joe Smith, 25, of Brookston,and Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, of Paris with one count each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts each of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. Additionally, Lasater and Smith were charged as repeat offenders. Because aggravated assault is classified as a second-degree felony offense, the alleged offenders were eligible under the Texas Hate Crimes statute for hate crimes enhancements, and that is exactly what the grand jury elected to do. On October 30 in the early morning, 26-year-old Burke Burnett was savagely attacked by three suspects whom witnesses say were yelling anti-gay slurs as they beat Burnett senseless, stabbed and slashed his body with a broken beer bottle, and then heaved him bodily into a burning trash barrel. Burnett suffered stab wounds resulting in over 30 stitches, deep bruises and contusions, and second-degree burns over a good portion of his torso, legs, and arms.
The Dallas Voice broke the story with graphic photos of Burnett’s injuries embedded in the article, and the story took hold in national mainstream media. Burnett has been interview around the nation, as horror and interest increased in the story. Burnett told the Dallas Voice he is pleased with the course of the investigation, the arrests, and now with the efforts of the Lamar County District Attorney. WFAA Television reported Burnett came out when he was 15, and learned of the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student slain in Laramie in 1998. “Matthew Shepard is one of the reasons I came out of the closet,” Burnett told WFAA. “I’m so glad my fate did not end up like his.” He has no doubt about why he was targeted for violence, since the trio knew his was gay. As he sat in a chair at a private Halloween party in Reno, a small town near Paris, Texas, the men attacked him from behind. Burnett said, “I ended up getting stabbed, burned and beaten pretty badly and I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”
Since few hate crime attacks against Texans are actually charged under the state hate crimes law, the decision of law enforcement and the grand jury to go forward with hate crimes charges against Burnett’s alleged bashers is significant. Since “sexual preference” was included as a protected category in the state statute in 2001, better than 2500 hate crimes have been committed, by fewer than twelve have actually been charged as such. Now that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became federal law in 2009, allowing the Department of Justice and the FBI to involve themselves in investigating and prosecuting anti-LGBT hate crimes around the nation, Texas officials seem to have felt pressure to act more transparently and boldly on hate crimes cases in the Lone Star State.