Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gays Terrorized by Panhandle of Texas Hate Crime

Anti-gay death threat painted on the porch of a gay couple in Clarendon, Texas on October 1.

Clarendon, Texas – A gay couple have been put on notice that they are in danger by vandals in a small community an hour from Amarillo.  Two weeks after an anti-gay diatribe by a local Church of Christ pastor appeared in the community newspaper, Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers found their front porch defaced by the scrawled warning, LEAVE OR DIE FAGS. The gay couple, partnered for better than a year, say they have never been so afraid for their lives.

Pronews 7 reports that the Donley County Sheriff, Charles “Butch” Blackburn, is calling the vandalism “a hate crime.”  The Donley County Sheriffs Department is investigating who painted the ominous warning on the gay couple’s property. Harrison and Jeffers are arranging to leave Clarendon because of the threat to their lives.

In late September, Minister Chris Moore, spiritual leader of the Clarendon Church of Christ, published his provocative advertisement in the Clarendon Enterprise, condemning gays and lesbians for an “agenda” that included compromising the “values” of ordinary American citizens, and making their children “prey for pedophiles”  (full ad available for viewing here). Moore based his screed upon a “platform”  published “sometime back” by a group known as the National Coalition of Gay Organizations, a short-lived group convened in Chicago in 1972, but which has not been in existence for over 40 years. Moore apparently dredged up his “factual” claims from this old, extremist chestnut, and sought to incite anti-gay discussion in the Panhandle. Moore is surely aware that charges of pedophilia incite strong negative reactions against gay people, though they are not grounded in any truth.  Moore defends his ad in the paper, but has gone on record denouncing the vandalism and violence threatened against Jeffers and Harrison as “unChristian.”  As of October 8, readers of the Pronews 7 report of this hate crime said by a two-to-one majority that Moore’s anti-gay ad and the subsequent hate crime against the gay couple are directly connected.

Chuck Smith of Equality Texas condemned the atmosphere created in Clarendon by the Church of Christ ad:  “No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. While Smith affirmed Chris Moore’s freedom of speech, he went on to say, “It is a fact that when people teach or preach homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, it can inflame people to the point of violence.”

Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School and ordained Baptist minister, says that there must be zero tolerance for hate speech in the Christian community, whether the group is conservative or progressive.  “There is an undeniable link between religious leaders’ intolerant speech and acts of physical violence against LGBTQ people in this country,” he said. “Minister Moore’s hate speech ranks high on the anti-gay incitement scale, right along beside violence permitting statements by extremist ministers who favored Amendment One in North Carolina this year.” Noting that the online blog of Clarendon Church of Christ has carried anti-gay postings for better than two years, Sprinkle went on to say, “While Moore’s speech is protected under law,” Sprinkle went on to say, “Moore would be quick to deny responsibility for the fear, destruction of property, and physical harm such statements incite, but he must bear some indirect responsibility for this crime. This is unbecoming of  a Christian minister.”  Sprinkle called upon people of good conscience in all communities of faith to express their intolerance of all expressions of hate speech coming from pulpits everywhere.

Meanwhile, Harrison and Jeffers are still in fear for their lives because of irrational hatred against them, and their intimidators are still at large in the Texas Panhandle.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, Clarendon Church of Christ, death threats, Equality Texas, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gays Terrorized by Panhandle of Texas Hate Crime

Lesbian Shooting Survivor Helps Police ID Lover’s Killer

Mary Kristine Chapa, lesbian shooting survivor, assisted Texas Rangers artist to sketch a 2nd likeness of the killer who took Mollie Olgin’s life and left Chapa with severe brain injuries on June 22.

Portland, Texas – The survivor of a deadly attack on a lesbian couple in South Texas has recovered sufficiently to help a Texas Rangers forensic artist sketch an accurate likeness of her lover’s killer.  Mary Chapa, 18, shot in the head in the same vicious attack that left her 19-year-old lover, Mollie Olgin, dead beside her at a popular state park, has recovered her sight and her communication abilities enough to guide the artist through a refinement of an earlier sketch of their assailant. ABC World News reports that Chapa is eager to help with the arrest of Olgin’s killer. The horrifying shooting took place on June 22 in Violet Andrews State Park in the city of Portland, near Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The second sketch is more detailed than the first, which was released to the public on July4.  Chapa herself asked to have the Rangers artist come to her bedside so that she could refine the original likeness she had helped construct.  The new representation shows a young Anglo make in his 20s with a scruffy set of whiskers.  Portland Police say they are searching for any information leading to the apprehension and arrest of the man who is reportedly five-feet-eight-inches tall, 14o pounds, with brown hair and beard. Police Chief Randy Wright told news media that Chapa has been making an “exceptional recovery” from the brain injury she sustained from the shooter.

Though police officials have repeatedly said this case of homicide and aggravated assault does not appear to be “random,” they are still unwilling to discuss any motive for the savagery that has shaken this Texas coastal community to its core since late June. The initial suspicions of the LGBTQ community and allies, that this was an anti-lesbian murder and assault, have only deepened.  National and state human rights agencies, such as the Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins Out, and Equality Texas, have called upon investigators to pursue the hate crimes possibility with all the resources at their disposal. NBC U.S. News and MSNBC.com are reporting that the FBI are also assisting with the investigation. For the FBI to be involved in the investigation of a local homicide and aggravated assault suggests to some observers that law enforcement is taking an anti-gay hate crime dimension to the case with considerably more seriousness that has publicly been acknowledged by authorities.

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, FBI, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Texas Rangers, Truth Wins Out | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lesbian Shooting Survivor Helps Police ID Lover’s Killer

Teen Lesbian Shootings Spark Urgent Calls From Advocacy Groups to Solve the Crime

L to R: Mary Chapa, 18, and Mollie Olgin, 19, gunned down in what many believe was an anti-lesbian hate crime in Coastal Texas.

Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. – The savage shooting of two Coastal Texas lesbian teens has drawn national attention from major human rights advocacy groups, adding pressure to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring a killer to justice.  On Saturday morning, the motionless bodies of Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were found in the tall grass of a popular bayside park in Portland, Texas, where an attacker left them sometime after midnight on Friday (for details, see coverage in Unfinished Lives Blog). Olgin died as a result of a gunshot to her head.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital for emergency surgery, and remains in serious but stable condition. No suspect or suspects have been identified in the investigation so far. Local authorities have been slow to suggest a motive for the brutal attack. Many believe an anti-lesbian motive lies behind the brutality of the assault, however.  The couple had been in a love relationship for over five months at the time of the killing and assault, according to their friends and co-workers.

The Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights and education group, and Equality Texas (EQ TX), based in Austin, are calling on local officials to find the killer and prosecute this case with all possible speed. In a joint statement issued today from Austin, spokespersons for these groups put their wishes in unmistakable terms.

Equality Texas issued the following statement after speaking with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Equality Texas joins with the Human Rights Campaign in urging a swift and thorough investigation of this crime. We applaud the Department of Justice Community Relations Service for quickly offering their assistance.  Community members are welcome to join a candlelight walk and vigil this Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Violet Andrews Park, 305 Wildcat, Portland, TX 78374.”

The Human Rights Campaign has reached out to local law enforcement officials as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific crime. Two young lesbian women were shot and one lost her life. Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable. We have reached out to law enforcement officials at both the federal and local level, and hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less.”

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

   

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