Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Terlingua Hate Rapists Still Unpunished

Boathouse Bar, Terlingua, Texas where two alleged rapists kidnapped their victim (Stephen Sprinkle photo)

Brewster County, Texas – Two alleged power rapists in Far West Texas, jailed since December 2009, have yet to face pre-trial proceedings in the abduction and repeated rape of a high school senior from Terlingua.  Terlingua, near the Mexico border and Big Bend National Park, is remote–80 miles from Alpine, and 330 miles from El Paso.  On the night of December 6-7, 2009, Daniel Martinez, 46, and Kristapher Buchanan, 27, allegedly abducted an 18 year old bisexual male at a bar and game room, stole the car he was living in, and traveled into the far desert to a shack in the Terlingua Ranch section of Brewster County where they brutally beat, demeaned and sexually assaulted their victim as they shouted anti-gay epithets.  The assailants torched the victim’s car, burning up all his worldly possessions.  As the young man tried to retrieve precious items, he was severely burned.  After a second round of brutal rape, the attackers sunk into a drunken stupor, allowing the victim to escape into the desert at about 2 AM.  He walked over three miles in the pitch dark through rough desert terrain wearing flip flops, pajama bottoms, and a tattered tee shirt in freezing temperature, finally making it to Highway 118 where a Sheriff’s Deputy found him and transported him to medical attention in Alpine.  The identity of the victim is protected under Texas law since he was the victim of a sexual assault, and the case against his alleged assailants is still in process.  Power-rape has been employed since time immemorial to subdue and shame victims.  Residents of the area believe the assailants have a pattern of such activity involving young victims, and reports suggest the pair have used alcohol and intimidation to harm at least one 15-year-old boy in the region, as well.  Although the case has the classic marks of an anti-gay hate crime, law enforcement has not filed charges under the Texas hate crimes law, named for James Byrd, Jr. as is the federal law now in force.  Harry Knox, Director of the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, professor at Brite Divinity School and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, traveled to Brewster County to carry out a “ministry of presence” to officials involved in the case.  Knox and Sprinkle arrived in Brewster County on July 7 and spent three days interviewing citizens and calling on authorities in order to communicate the interest of Texas and the nation in the hate crime, and in the welfare of the young victim.  Clarence Russeau, Community Education and Outreach Specialist with the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend, Inc. of Alpine and Terlingua, hosted Knox and Sprinkle, arranged appointments in the region, and served as guide throughout the visit.  The trio visited the Alpine office of Texas State Representative Pete Gallego, 20 year veteran of the Texas Legislature, Jesse Gonzales, District Attorney in the case at his Fort Stockton office, President Ricardo Maestas of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, attorney for the victim, Jennie Fannin at her Alpine office, and the Terlingua branch of the Family Crisis Center where they met with Director Lovika De Koninck.  At each stop, Knox, Sprinkle and Russeau emphasized the need for the community to hold local school, law enforcement, and higher education officials to a high standard of accountability in the hate crime case.  Citizens of Terlingua told the visitors that the victim was well-known to them, and he has their full support as he recovers from his trauma. Over 200 residents of Terlingua protested the low bail assigned to the young victim’s alleged assailants, and sent a petition to the district attorney demanding the bail be raised.  Ms. De Koninck said that the young man would have a warm welcome when he returns to Terlingua. Citizens told the trio that the victim had been shunned by his family because of his sexual orientation, and though he had only his car to live in, he continued to support himself with a job at a local café, and faithfully attended school.  Initially, however, the superintendent of schools in Terlingua, Kathy Killingsworth, allegedly ordered the victim to leave school before he could graduate because she did not want his orientation or the crime perpetrated against him to be discussed in the schools she oversaw.  Due to pressure from the community, the superintendent, who is also a Brewster County Commissioner, apparently reconsidered her position, and will now allow the victim to complete requirements for his diploma, according to local reports.  No trial date has yet been set in the case, though the district attorney suggests that it will be before the end of the year.  Both the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have been notified about the crime.  Knox and Sprinkle have pledged to monitor the situation from Dallas and Washington, and communicate with officials regularly to ensure care for the young hate crime victim and a speedy and just trial for the defendants in the case.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Brewster County Texas, Bullying in schools, FBI, gay men, gay teens, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Kidnapping and sexual assault, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, rape, Social Justice Advocacy, Terlingua, Texas, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Multi-Racial Response to Religious Gay Bashing at “Rally for Love” in Dallas

Apostle Alex Byrd calls for dialogue and accountability for religious homophobia

Dallas, Texas – Forty women and men from multiple racial ethnic backgrounds and several churches and LGBT activist groups rallied for prayer and protest, declaring that “spiritual abuse of LGBT people must stop” in pulpits everywhere.  The Rally for Love, swiftly organized by a coalition of Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Whites, LGBT churches, activist groups, and Brite Divinity School students and faculty, protested the homophobic sermon of Dr. Janet Floyd of Monroe, Louisiana, featured speaker at the Urgent Utterances Conference on Monday, April 12.  The conference gathered Black Church scholars from around the nation to meet for three days at Friendship West Baptist Church, a predominantly Black mega-church in South Dallas pastored by Dr. Freddie Haynes.  Galled by the claim that gays and lesbians are demonic, and that lesbians in particular have a demon that must be driven out, 12 students from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX and half the student contingent of Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN walked out of the Conference worship service in silent protest.  J.W. Richard, of the Examiner.com, reports that the participants heard accounts from three witnesses to the “disparaging comments” made by the speaker, sister of Urgent Utterances organizer, Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas of Vanderbilt Divinity School: “Speaking on the Dallas Voice’s Instant Tea weblog, Brite Divinity student, Sam Castleberry, wrote that among the comments made by Dr. Floyd was one that the ‘lesbian demon should be exorcised’. Two more witnesses spoke at tonight’s rally event, including Pastor Jon Haack of Promise MCC, concurred with that account and included that Dr. Floyd’s sermon mentioned that the storm of Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy at Columbine High School were also of divine appointment.”  Theologians and pastors at the Rally for Love condemned such a faulty theology of God.  Norma Gann, Cherokee student at Brite, called for prayer for Dr. Floyd as she denied that as a lesbian Christian she had any demon to be cast out.  She said that the pulpit in a church is a “sacred space,” and the sermon she heard aimed at LGBT people had violated that sacred space.  Katherine Heath said that the vigor and volume of Dr. Floyd’s sermon delivery concerned her as she condemned lesbians and gay people from the pulpit.  Transgender minister at Living Faith Covenant Church, Minister Carmarion D. Anderson, called for the Rally to remember that “transgender people and many outside the church” were harmed by such religion-based bigotry.  Rev. Deneen Robinson, representing the Human Rights Campaign, Michael Robinson, noted African American LGBT activist, Manda Adams of First Congregational Church (UCC) in Fort Worth, and Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction, also spoke out.  Apostle Alex Byrd, spiritual leader of Living Faith Covenant Church of Dallas, claimed both his heritage as a black man and a gay man, and then called for understanding, dialogue and accountability for anyone demeaning any group of people.  He noted that the Tuesday sessions and workshops at the Urgent Utterances Conference were more inclusive, “something that would make us all proud,” the Apostle said to the crowd.  But while he decried religious homophobia in any church, Apostle Byrd made it clear that preachers in the Black Church tradition were also “accountable for the way their message affects those who hear it.”  He pledged to press the issue with the conference leadership because those who were directly hurt needed a response.  The Examiner reports that “Conversations at tonight’s rally included an email conversation from Apostle Alex Byrd …, working in tandem with Bishop Yvette Flunder, Senior Pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ [San Francisco], to gain an official response from Friendship-West pastoral leadership. In the meantime, as prayers for healing were offered for themselves, Dr. Floyd, Dr. Haynes, and conference attendees and speakers, it was also clear that attendees of tonight’s rally were no longer going to subject themselves to what Pastor Haack termed, “spiritual abuse”, from the pulpit.”  Dr. Leo Perdue, faculty member at Brite and a Vanderbilt Ph.D., said that he was deeply concerned that such a deplorable sermon could be delivered at an event sponsored by his alma mater, and organized by a faculty member there.  He hoped Vanderbilt would quickly distance itself from Dr. Floyd’s sermon.  “Wherever it is done and whoever sponsors it, homophobia is wrong and must be opposed,” he said.  Participants organized to endorse Apostle Byrd’s communiqué to Friendship-West Church, and to commit themselves to work for justice “for the long haul” as Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite and Michael Robinson said at the conclusion of the Rally.  An album of pictures taken at the Rally for Love by Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle and Sam Green may be found on Facebook

UPDATE: Excellent article on the Event by the Examiner

April 16, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Louisiana, Protests and Demonstrations, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Clergy Call for Passage of Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act on Capitol Hill

Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, delivers the Opening Prayer at Clergy Call 2009

Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, delivers the Opening Prayer at Clergy Call 2009

More than 300 LGBT Clergy and Allies hit Capitol Hill to pray and lobby for the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act and a fully trans-inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act.  A new breeze seemed to be blowing in the halls of government.  The Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, directed by Harry Knox and Sharon Groves, coordinated three days of events, May 4-6, 2009.  Among the speakers for the Press Conference were Dr. Tony Campolo, noted evangelical leader, and Dr. Jo Hudson, Rector and Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Hope in Dallas.  Clergy from all 50 states attended.  The Matthew Shepard Act awaits the action of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and chief sponsor Senator Ted Kennedy in order to bring the legislation (which has already passed the House of Representatives by a healthy margin) to the floor of the Senate.  President Obama has publicly indicated that he would sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.  Federal Hate Crimes legislation was first introduced in Congress 17 years ago.  So much has happened since, and so many have needlessly died.  With the Hebrew Prophets, the ministers, rabbis, and priests meeting for Clergy Call 2009 cry out, “How long, O Lord?”

The gathering of large contingents of LGBT Clergy and Allies to lobby for passage of fully inclusive hate crimes federal legislation, first in 2007 and now, has done much to persuade fence-sitting members of Congress that the radical right does not own the religious vote on this issue.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Hate Crimes, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Clergy Call for Passage of Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act on Capitol Hill

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