Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Houston Boy Bullied To Death: Shoots Himself After Unbearable School Torment

Houston, TX – An eighth grader took his life on September 23 as a consequence of unbearable bullying in his school.  School officials deny any knowledge of the boy’s mistreatment, an allegation that the boy’s parents vehemently deny.  13-year-old Asher Brown, a bright student at Hamilton Middle School on the outskirts of Houston, shot himself in the head after at least two years of torment from bullies who taunted him for being small for his age, for not wearing designer clothing, and for being “gay.”  According to the Houston Chronicle, Asher’s stepfather found him dead at about 4:30 pm from a gunshot wound on the floor of a closet in their Cypress, Texas home.  He had used a 9mm Beretta pistol his stepfather kept hidden in a closet drawer.  His parents, Amy and David Truong, say that bullies in gym class took advantage of his small stature, and performed mock male-on-male sex acts on him to humiliate their son.  In the most recent case of harassment, Asher told his parents that a student tripped him coming down the stairs, causing him to spill his books on the floor.  When he stooped down to collect them, the bully kicked the books out of his reach, kicked him down the rest of the stairs, and taunted him. His stepfather said to Queerty, “I thought he was laying there [on the floor of the closet] reading a book or something,” he says. “My son put a gun to his head because he couldn’t take what he was hearing and the constant teasing.”  His mother related how anti-gay harassment troubled her son: “They called him different names for being homosexual,” she says. “He just had enough.”  There are conflicting reports about Asher’s coming out process as a gay boy.  According to Queerty, one report suggests that he came out to his parents back in the summer, and found them to be loving and understanding at that time.  Another report contends that he came out to his stepfather David the night before his suicide.  Asher found comfort in a group of other students who were ostracized for one reason or another at school.  In a school culture where officials seemed to care a great deal about dress code and tardiness, but nothing at all about bullying, the pressure got greater than Asher could bear.  The Truongs contend that they have called and emailed Houston Cy-Fair Independent School District officials pleading with them to watch their son.  Kelli Durham, spokesperson for the school, at first denied that any such communication ever took place.  Later, walking back her claim, Durham indicated that she did get an email from the Truongs about Asher, but it wasn’t about mistreatment by bullies.  The Truongs responded to the denials of the school system with anger. “That’s absolutely inaccurate — it’s completely false,” Amy Truong said. “I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. … It’s like they’re calling us liars. “David Truong said, “We want justice. The people here need to be held responsible and to be stopped. It did happen. There are witnesses everywhere.”  The Cy-Fair School District has a history of gay student harassment, as the Unfinished Lives Project reported in November 2009, with a violent attack against a gay youth at Langham High School.  The night before his suicide, Asher seemed sad to his parents.  They asked him about it, but he said he was “fine.”  The next day, he was dead.  Now the Truongs are appealing to other families and friends to go beyond “fine” whenever they suspect depression from a child who has been bullied in school.  They believe that the senseless loss of life due to school bullying and gay teen suicide must stop, and so do we at the Unfinished Lives Project.  Asher may have taken his own life, but the hate-motivated bullying in his school and the attitude that permitted it to go on there constitutes as clear a case of anti-gay hate crime as we have seen. According to the Houston Chronicle, Asher’s mother sent out his message to the bullies who tormented her son: “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done. I hope you got what you wanted and you’re just real satisfied with yourself.”  A memorial service for Asher is planned for Saturday, October 2, beginning at 10 am in the park beside Moore Elementary School, 13734 Lakewood Forest Drive in Houston.  The public is invited to attend.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, funerals, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Slurs and epithets, suicide, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mother Dies Before Justice Is Done for Her Slain Gay Son

(l to r) Hernandez, Winder - photo courtesy of Dallas Voice

Dallas, Texas – The Dallas Voice reports that the mother of murdered gay man, Richard Hernandez, will never see justice done for her son.  Richard’s mother, Mary Garcia Hernandez, died this week, before the alleged hate murderer of her son was brought to trial. John Wright of the Voice posted the full letter of  Rudy Araiza, close friend to the Hernandez family, informing the public of Mrs, Hernandez’s death on August 23.   Hernandez, a 38-year-old gay man who worked as an Associate at Walmart, was gruesomely dismembered and eviscerated by his attacker in what has been described as a “Silence-of-the-Lambs” style slaying in September 2008, as reported by Unfinished Lives.  Hernandez’s body has never been found, but his internal organs were discovered in his own bathtub when the apartment superintendent admitted police in an attempt to find him.  Seth Lawton Winder, 29, was arrested and charged with theft and capital murder by the Dallas Police Department shortly after the horrific murder.  In a widely publicized debate in the press and the blogosphere, Winder was said by family and friends to be unfit mentally to stand trial because of a host of mental problems. Others sought to blame Hernandez for his own murder, suggesting that Winder was tricking for money or drugs, and killed his john.  No supporting evidence has been brought forward to substantiate what amounts to a permutation of the rather shabby “gay panic” defense.  Friends and supporters of Hernandez deny an allegation that he was sexually involved with Winder, whom Hernandez had tried to help, according to neighbors and co-workers.  Winder was adjudged fit to stand trial for the murder, but then a book, “Slipping Into Madness: The Seth Winder Story,” was published by Winder’s father’s girlfriend that would potentially prejudice the public prior to Winder’s day in court.  The delays and stalling have seemed never ending for nearly two years.  Rudy Araiza wrote the Voice, in part: “Well I’m witting this letter to just reach out to you and inform you that it’s a terrible thing when your son’s passing is still at a point where no justice has been made for going on two years. And in your own life (Richard’s mom) you are struggling with pain, sadness, emptiness and health problems that don’t make it any easier to live with, until one day you die. Only to never really understand or find the justice you wanted for your son, yourself, friends or family, and having so much on your plate. Mary Garcia Hernandez passed away Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 from health issues she was dealing with.”  The Unfinished Lives Project Team thanks the Voice and Reporter John Wright for continuing coverage of this important story, and sends our sympathy to the Hernandez family in their mother’s death.  In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Justice too long deferred is justice denied.”

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, Evisceration, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mother Dies Before Justice Is Done for Her Slain Gay Son

Slayer of Gay Opera Singers Faces Execution in Texas

Derrick L. Jackson, TDCJ photo

Huntsville, TX – On July 20, Derrick L. Jackson, 42, is scheduled to die by lethal injection for the 1988 double homicide of two gay men from Houston.  Jackson maintains his innocence, claiming to have been framed in order to solve the cold case.  According to the Houston Chronicle, the exceptionally brutal murders of Forrest Henderson and his house-guest, Richard Alan Wrotenbery, both 31, panicked the world of the Houston Grand Opera when the story of their deaths hit media in September 1988.  Both men sang tenor for the opera, and had been rehearsing Bizet’s Carmen the night before the atrocity.  Wrotenbery, by vocation a first-grade music teacher at Deer Park School, had just divorced his wife, and had accepted a room with Henderson until he could get a place of his own arranged.  After the rehearsal on September 10, Wrotenbery went back to the apartment to rest, and Henderson hit the bars in the Montrose section.  Apparently, he invited Jackson home with him.  Loud music was heard coming from the apartment late into the night, and around 4 a.m., neighbors heard a man scream loudly, “Oh my God! No! No!”  It was not until the school district contacted the apartment complex looking for Wrotenbery who had not shown up for work that the bodies of the victims were found.  Investigators remember the volume of blood in the apartment as excessive, even for a stabbing/slashing murder.  Henderson’s naked body was found stabbed repeatedly in the chest.  Wrotenbery, whom authorities presume was asleep at the time of the attack, had his throat slit.  Both men had extensive bludgeoning wounds that were most likely delivered with a heavy metal bar from an exercise set.  Henderson’s wallet was stolen as well as his car, and Wrotenbery’s wallet was also missing.  When the car was spotted the next day by Houston Police, a high-speed chase ensued until the car crashed near an apartment complex, where the driver, presumably Jackson, made his escape on foot.  The case went cold for seven years, until forensic science improved enough in 1995 to match a bloody hand print lifted from a door knob to Jackson, already serving 12 years for a string of home burglaries and other crimes.  Wrotenbery’s father, a former librarian from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, is ambivalent about the death penalty, but intends to witness the execution of his son’s killer.  He said to the Houston Chronicle, “When you come to the personal aspect of it, pure logic says for someone to do a crime of this nature, unprovoked — Alan was in the wrong place at the wrong time — it’s hard for me to think the death penalty is unjustified.” Bill Hawkins, a Harris County District Attorney who prosecuted Jackson for the murders, told the Dallas Morning News,”The scientific evidence was extremely strong. And subsequent defense testing of DNA had his numbers.” Jackson told the press that while he admitted robberies and auto theft in other cases, he never killed these two gay men.  According to the Dallas Voice, Jackson will be the 15th person to be executed by the state of Texas this year.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Dallas Marches to Remember Stonewall

Dallas, TX – Hundreds rallied and marched through the skyscraper canyons of Dallas Sunday night to remember the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, and to fight for human rights.  The Stonewall Rebellion 41st Anniversary March and Rally formed at Founders Plaza near the famous JFK memorial, and marched though downtown Dallas, shouting “Harvey Milk was right/Come out of your closets and fight!”  Marchers from throughout North Texas, as well as contingents from Lubbock and Tyler filled the streets with the sounds of activism.  The route was chosen to maximize exposure to Dallasites throughout the downtown business and residential areas, and the sidewalks were lined with office workers, bus stop patrons, and café diners throughout the Main Street Corridor, even on a Sunday night.  Media including the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Voice, as well as other media outlets covered the event.  Speakers including Jesse Garcia, C.D. Kirven, Michael Robinson, Nonnie Ouch, Rafael McDonnell, and Daniel Scott Cates gave powerful messages to the LGBTQ community as well as elected officials on the local, state and federal levels.  They called for the overthrow of DOMA, the repeal of DADT, passage of a transgender-inclusive ENDA bill, and full Marriage Equality.  The Rainbow Lounge Raid in Fort Worth last year was a continuing theme of the evening as well.  Dr. Renee Baker of Youth First Texas called on marchers to support LGBTQ youth, especially in view of how vulnerable they are.  Keynote speaker, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, professor at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School, and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, summed up the speeches with a call to remember Stonewall and act to expand human rights not only for the LGBTQ community, but also for other minorities, as well.  Responding to the noisy Religious Right protestors who kept berating Rally attendees with loud preaching and scripture proof texting, Dr. Sprinkle reminded them that “whoever says they love God and hate their brothers and sisters is a liar, and the truth is not in them!”  Spencer Young gave a moving testimony to those who have died violently at the hands of hatred and homophobia during the concluding Vigil portion of the program.  He recounted the story of Nicolas West, murdered in Tyler in 1993 because he was gay.  Tyler, he reported, has no memorial to West, who was shot multiple times by his murderers and left to die in a clay pit outside of town.  But the Tyler community, where traditional values and negative attitudes toward LGBT people has predominated in the past, staged “The Laramie Project” in West’s honor, giving him a living memorial through the famous stage play recounting the aftermath of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Laramie, Wyoming.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), ENDA, gay men, gay teens, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, Marriage Equality, Native Americans, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Rainbow Lounge Raid, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dallas Marches to Remember Stonewall

Dallas Police To Investigate Cedar Springs Area Ball Bat Attack as a Hate Crime

photo courtesy Dallas News

Dallas, TX – In an important change in attitude and approach concerning the late Friday night/Saturday morning assault on two gay men by bat swinging attackers, the Dallas Police Department has released a statement dated May 17 indicating that the case is to be investigated as a “hate crime.”  Apparently, a combination of rational reasoning and responsiveness to a groundswell of protest in the LGBT community led authorities to change course on this dangerous incident just two and a half blocks from the main gay entertainment district in Dallas.  The Cedar Springs-Wycliff corridor has been particularly violent in recent months, and has a particularly bloody history of anti-LGBT attacks and murder stretching back over two decades.  Historically, homophobic elements have targeted gays and lesbians in the “gayborhood,” and this most recent attack is an ominous sign that young men who are hateful, ignorant and insecure are coming to the neighborhood to locate victims again.  Police initially told WFAA.com that the baseball bat beating of  Kyle Steven Wear and his companion Alex would not be investigated as an anti-gay hate crime, since the pair were robbed. Both victims reported to police and the media that they were not only assaulted physically, but were subject to hate speech during the attack, being called “faggots” among other derogatory slurs by their assailants.  Most current merchants and visitors to the gay entertainment district are unaware that the Oak Lawn-Cedar Springs-Reverchon Park area of Dallas has been bloodied far too often by violence against LGBT people.  In 1988, John Griffin and Tommy Trimble, two gay men, were picked up at the Crossroads by Richard Lee Bednarski, an 18-year-old high school student from Mesquite, who drove them the short distance to Reverchon Park where he shot them to death.  The judge in the case gave Bednarski only a 30-year sentence for the cold-blooded murders, commenting that the killings were insignificant since the victims were gay.  In 1991, Thanh Nguyen and Hugh Calloway were gunned down by Corey Ardell Burley, 20, and two other accomplices at Reverchon Park.  Calloway survived to testify against Burley, but Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant to the Dallas area, died as a result of his wounds.  Initially, Dallas police refused to classify the murder as hate-motivated, but Burley confessed that he targeted the gay men because they were “weak.”  Jimmy Lee Dean, a self-identified bisexual man, was nearly killed in 2008 by 26-year-old Bobby Jack Singleton and 31-year-old Jonathan Russell Gunter, both of Garland, at the corner of Dickason and Throckmorton Streets. Robberies and assaults by thugs targeting young gay men along the Strip are far more frequent than merchants and residents would care to admit, including an attack on a minor on Cedar Springs in the early Spring of this year whose complaint to Dallas police was minimized because, as one officer told the youth, he was just a “drunk little faggot,” and deserved what he got. It is some measure of hope that the Dallas Police have either chosen to change their approach to the homophobic robbery of the two most recent gay victims of violence in the gayborhood, or have been coerced into it by the growing outcry from the local LGBT community.  In part, the Dallas Police Department bulletin entitled “Weekend Robberies to be Investigated as Hate Crimes” reads: “Early Saturday morning just after midnight, two 28 year old males were walking to a nightclub in the 2700 block of Throckmorton Street when they were confronted by four unknown Latin male suspects. Two of the suspects were carrying bats. All four suspects began to beat the victims with the bats and their hands while robbing the victims of their property. Both victims sustained non life threatening injuries. These offenses are documented on case numbers 134186-X and 134193-X. Based on derogatory statements made by the suspects during the commission of the robberies, these two offenses will be investigated as hate crimes. There have been no suspects identified at this time and detectives are continuing to interview witnesses.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, gay men, gay teens, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dallas Police To Investigate Cedar Springs Area Ball Bat Attack as a Hate Crime

Ball Bat Attackers Immune from Hate Crimes Charges?: Authorities Backpedal on Anti-Gay Violence

Big Stick Combat photo

Dallas, TX – What does a midnight assault on two Dallas gay men Friday have in common with a December 2008 fatal attack on two Latinos mistaken as gay in Brooklyn, New York?  Two things: first, both attacks were carried out by homophobes yelling anti-gay slurs as they swung baseball bats at the heads of their victims; and second, police in both cases classified neither assault as an anti-hate crime. What gives? What does it take to get officers of the law to prosecute hate crimes under existing hate crime statutes? While Dallas and Brooklyn are 1370 miles distant from each other and worlds apart culturally, they both have law enforcement resistant to investigate crimes against gay men as bias-motivated.  The 2008 Brooklyn murder of José Sucuzhañay serves as an eerily familiar backdrop to the current Dallas attack on Kyle Steven Wear and his friend Alex. Like Dallasites Kyle and Alex, the Ecuadoran immigrant brothers José and Romel were walking together down the street in the wee hours of the night.  The Brooklyn crime was carried out by two assailants swinging a broken beer bottle and an aluminum baseball bat, yelling anti-gay and anti-hispanic epithets.  Trials in the Sucuzhañay case are proceeding right now in Brooklyn, where Hakim Scott has just been convicted of first-degree manslaughter, and his accomplice, Keith Phoenix, awaits an new court date since the New York judge dismissed all hate crimes charges and declared a mistrial because of a juror in the first Phoenix trial who refused to participate any further.  The Brooklyn ball bat attack left José lingering five days in a coma from a broken skull before he died.  The consensus of the supporters of Sucuzhañay family, outraged city officials, and the metropolitan New York media is that this ugly, brutal attack took place because Scott and Phoenix targeted two Hispanic men whom they mistook for gay because they didn’t like the way they looked.  Wear and his friend Alex (last name still unreleased) were much more fortunate.  As they walked along in the southwestern part of the Cedar Springs gay entertainment district in Dallas, “the gayborhood,” headed for the bars, four assailants only identified as Latinos wearing white tee-shirts, blindsided the pair shouting “Faggots, give us your fucking wallets!” according to WFAA News. Wear told WFAA on camera that he was knocked unconscious and his jaw was broken by one of the attackers swinging a ball bat.  His friend, Alex, reported that he feared for his life as the homophobes forced him to the ground.  The Dallas Police are refusing to classify the case as a hate crime, contending instead that the motive was to rob the gay men.  But Alex isn’t buying it.  He told Jonathan Betz of WFAA, “I still feel like that was why we were targeted in the first place, because we are gay. It was like it was funny to them.”  John Wright of the Dallas Voice is outraged that the authorities have resisted investigating the Dallas ball bat assault as an anti-gay bias crime.  In a May 16 post for the Dallas Voice blog, Instant Tea, he writes, “Despite the fact that the suspects yelled anti-gay slurs as they beat the victims with baseball bats, Dallas police have not classified the incident as a hate crime, which is an outrage.”  Wright points out that Jimmy Lee Dean was nearly beaten and stomped to death in the same general neighborhood by two homophobic attackers in July 2008.  Wright then shows that regardless of the refusal of Dallas law authorities to enforce Texas hate crimes law, federal hate crimes protections should kick in.  The James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 classifies a hate crime as motivated in whole or in part by anti-LGBT bias. One major determining criterion of an anti-gay hate crime for the FBI is the use of epithets as the perpetrators carried out the crime.  Anti-LGBT hate crimes are like the rest of life: seldom pure and simple.  Other motives often accompany hate violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender persons: robbery, drugs, racism and sexism, to name a few.  But homophobia and heterosexism, like a sinister bass line in a libretto, thread throughout all anti-LGBT hate crimes cases, targeting people who are assumed to be inferior, impure, and abominable because of their perceived sexuality.  In Dallas and in Brooklyn, it seems baseball bats and anti-gay epithets are not enough to launch hate crimes prosecutions.  Are anti-gay sluggers simply immune in Texas and New York? Again we ask, What does it take to get officers of the law to prosecute hate crimes under existing hate crime statutes? It takes an outcry from LGBT people and their allies so that law enforcement will not be permitted to backpedal on hate crimes against members of the sexual minority without a stink being raised to high heaven. If police and prosecutors are unfamiliar with what LGBT bias crimes are, they are responsible to educate themselves. If they are being intentionally obstructionist, then the mayor and the city council need to replace them with officials who will carry out the law.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bludgeoning, Brooklyn, Ecuador, FBI, gay men, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ball Bat Attackers Immune from Hate Crimes Charges?: Authorities Backpedal on Anti-Gay Violence

Black LGBTQ Affirming Church in Dallas Acts to Counter Religious Homophobia

Apostle Alex Byrd, Senior Elder and Pastor, Living Faith Covenant Church

Dallas, TX – In response to a vitriolic anti-gay sermon preached at a major Black preaching conference at a Dallas Black mega-church, Apostle Alex Byrd’s flock boldly resolves not to back down. In a congregational meeting on April 18, Living Faith Covenant Church, a predominantly Black and LGBT church, voted officially to oppose religious homophobia and promote dialogue on behalf of LGBTQ and SGL (Same Gender Loving) people of color.  On Monday, April 12, 2010, Prophetess Janet Floyd, a featured preacher at the Urgent Utterances Conference, denounced gay and lesbian people, vigorously declaring that members of the sexual minority, regardless of their church affiliation, had “demons” that needed to be “cast out” of them by God.  The conference, jointly sponsored by a coalition of churches and Black Church scholarly groups, including Vanderbilt University Divinity School’s Black Church studies institute, was a three-day event hosted at the high-profile Friendship-West Baptist Church, pastored by one-time candidate for the presidency of the NAACP, Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III.  Black church leaders from around the nation attended the conference on Monday night, including students from Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN and Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX.  In the second sermon of the evening, the prophetess claimed that God sent a “storm” upon the nation, in the form of Hurricane Katrina and the Columbine High School shooting tragedy.  As Rev. Floyd launched into her indictment of “demon-possessed” LGBT people, some 20 attendees walked out of the service in silent protest against pulpit homophobia.  From eyewitness reports, the whole Brite Divinity School contingent and half of the Vanderbilt students walked out of the service.  News quickly spread throughout the Metroplex and around the internet.  A Rally for Love to pray for all parties affected by the sermon and to frame a response calling for dialogue and accountability gathered on Wednesday evening, April 14, jointly hosted by Living Faith Covenant Church and Promise Metropolitan Community Church.  A multi-racial gathering of forty LGBTQ people and their allies decided to form a coalition to call on Dr. Haynes, the conference, and Friendship-West Church to distance themselves from the homophobic content of the sermon.  Apostle Byrd issued a communication to Dr. Haynes, but at the time of this writing there has been no response to Byrd’s appeal.  Taking the next step, the Living Faith congregation officially issued their resolution, “Commitment to Non-Violent Resistance to Spiritual Abuse” (full text of the Resolution may be accessed here).  Briefly, the resolution calls on Black affirming Christians to “stand in solidarity with the more than 20 courageous individuals who stood up and left in peaceful protest during Reverend Janet Floyd’s sermon,” and to “acknowledge the spiritual, psychological, emotional, and social harm from ill-informed preaching, whether well-intended or malicious, inflicted upon many of our LGBTQ and SGL brothers and sisters.”  The SGL affirming congregation, affiliated and backed by The Fellowship, an international movement of radically inclusive Christians headed by San Francisco Bishop Yvette Flunder, both endorses the Black Church tradition of the freedom of the pulpit and at the same time criticizes any action or speech from the pulpit that demeans, demonizes or harms people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, class or disability.  In the event that efforts at dialogue with other religious leaders fails to produce meaningful responses, the resolution concludes, “we will engage in peaceful and non-violent resistance for the dignity and value of all of God’s creation, including LGBTQ and SGL individuals within the Community of Faith.”  Significantly, a church and movement deeply and proudly rooted in the African American Church tradition and community now has joined the issue of active and passive homophobic speech in Black churches,helping to debunk the usual claim made by some Black Church leaders that LGBTQ rights is an expression of white racism and exclusively a “white man’s issue.”  Apostle Byrd’s congregation, The Fellowship, and supporters from last week’s Rally for Love have made it clear that “spiritual abuse” aimed at LGBTQ people from any source will

Prophetess Janet Floyd

be publicly, compassionately and firmly opposed.  Apostle Byrd understands the mindset of heterosexist/homophobic ministers.  In an interview with Operation Rebirth, he said, “For the majority of preachers who bash [gays], I’d say the root is sincere compassionate ignorance. They truly want to see people saved and in their understanding, they believe homosexuality is wrong. They have to send that message so people will ‘come out’ of it. It’s a hard task for them to do. The more resistance from the homosexual(s), the more they preach it. They are ignorant, but sincere. They are ignorant in understanding the homosexual as a person. They’re ignorant in their understanding of the general context, cultural climate, history, language and translation of scripture. They are ignorant in how to appropriately apply historical text to the current needs of our society, with its likenesses and differences. But ignorance isn’t a bad thing…it simply means, ‘I don’t know.’   But stupidity IS bad. It says ‘I don’t know, and I don’t care to find out.'” While some report encouraging pulpit statements made by Dr. Haynes at Friendship-West’s April 14 evening worship service opposing the demonization of LGBTQ people, as of this date nobody from Dr. Haynes’s office, from the leadership of Friendship-West Baptist Church, or from the Urgent Utterances Conference Leadership has officially distanced themselves or their organizations from the homophobic content of Prophetess Floyd’s sermon.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, Lesbian women, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 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

Dallas/Fort Worth Rally for Love Venue Shift for Tonight, Wednesday, April 14!

The Rally for Love, called by students from Brite Divinity School, will be held tonight at Living Faith Covenant Church, Inc., 2527 West Colorado Blvd., Dallas, TX 75211, where Apostle Alex Byrd is the pastor.  Organizers of the Rally for Love shifted in light of positive developments at the Urgent Utterances Conference yesterday, where leaders began to address the negativity of an anti-LGBT sermon preached at Friendship West Baptist Church by on the conference participants on Monday evening.  The organizers of the Rally for Love shifted the venue of the rally and prayer vigil in light of these developments and in response to the invitation of Apostle Byrd and Living Faith Covenant Church, an historic church that is predominantly African American and gay.  In a press release issued this morning, organizers wrote:

Update: Rally for LOVE:

During the day on April 13, 2010 the Urgent Utterances Conference took certain steps to address the homophobic remarks that were made from the pulpit at Friendship-West Baptist Church, and to begin dialogue regarding LGBTQ issues in the church.

In response to this positive step, the planned protest rally and prayer vigil scheduled for today has been altered: Instead of protesting and prayeing outside of Friendship-West Baptist Church, there will be a meeting held at Living Faith Covenant Church at 2527 West Colorado Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75211, where the Apostle Alex Byrd has offered to host the event.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Please make every effort to attend this important meeting where reports from the Urgent Utterances Conference will be shared, a letter of protest and response will be framed to be sent to the Conference leadership, and prayer will be offered for full equality and inclusion of all people.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, gay men, harassment, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, Politics, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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