Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

U.S. House Approves Matthew Shepard Act

HATECRIMES_REPX390Washington, DC – In a vote that marks the first major expansion of protection under the law in 40 years, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Matthew Shepard Act on Thursday.  The Shepard Act, attached as an amendment to a Defense Appropriations Bill, extends protection to LGBT people from bias-related physical violence.  A similar provision faced the threat of a veto from President Bush in a recent Congress, even though it passed the House by a comfortable majority.  This time around, President Obama has signaled his eagerness to sign the Shepard Amendment into law, as soon as it receives a favorable vote in the U.S. Senate.  That vote is expect soon.  Protections from hate violence for LGBT Americans have been opposed by congressional Republicans and their allies, usually on the pretext that the addition of the Shepard Act to a defense bill is inappropriate “social engineering,” a “poison pill,” and that the provisions of the Act would serve as a sort of Trojan Horse, making LGBT behaviors “normative.”  Some religious critics have argued that the Shepard Act would gag ministers and priests who oppose homosexuality on moral or doctrinal grounds, abrogating their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and to the free exercise of religion, making vocal opposition to LGBT behaviors criminal.  Proponents of the legislation counter that the language of the Shepard Act has been carefully crafted to criminalize only acts of physical violence, leaving all First Amendment rights fully intact.  The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and openly gay Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colorado) hailed the passage of the Act in the House.  Pelosi said, “It’s a very exciting day for us here in the Capitol,” noting that attempts to pass such a law had gone on for her 22-year tenure in the House of Representatives.  Polis argued that critics of the Shepard Act seem not to understand the impact of anti-LGBT hate violence beyond the individual victims. “What makes these crimes so bad is they are not just crimes against individuals; they are crimes against entire communities,” he said during the debate on the defense bill.  The measure passed the House by a vote of 281 to 146.  237 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted in the affirmative. 131 Republicans and 15 Democrats opposed the bill. “We are closer than ever before to protecting Americans from hate violence thanks to today’s action by the House,” said Joe Solmonese, head of the Washington, D.C.-based LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign. “The day is within sight when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will benefit from updating our nation’s hate crimes laws.”

October 9, 2009 Posted by | California, Colorado, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Politics, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on U.S. House Approves Matthew Shepard Act

Murder Most Foul: Transgender Holocaust in the United States

trans day of remembrance collageChicago, IL – The Great Lakes Regional Editor of EDGE reports that the slaughter of transgender persons in the United States has already gone 12 per cent higher than last year at this time, and the grim statistics are growing.  Joseph Erbentraut, in his important essay, “Violence Against the Transgendered Only Getting Worse,” published on edgeonthenet.com, notes that the silence and invisibility common to LGBT hate crime murders is intensified for transgender Americans.  As in the case of Paulina Ibarra, the lives of transgender victims are often ignored until a more culturally sensational aspect of the crime surfaces, as it did in the August stabbing death of the East Los Angeles Latina transwoman when a known parole jumper surfaced as a “person of interest” in the investigation.  Until then, Ibarra’s brutal murder was largely neglected, even by the LGBT press, and her life has been reduced to a string of seamy innuendoes and a few glam photos.  Other notorious instances this year have been the broad-daylight attack on Ty’lia “Nana Boo-Boo” Mack in D.C. last month, Lateisha Green, shot to death in Syracuse, NY last November, Angie Zapata, bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher in Greeley, CO last July, and Duanna Johnson and Ebony Whitaker who died on the streets of  Memphis, TN last November and July, respectively.  According to Erbentraut, the media are largely to blame for this stunning neglect of one of the most important human rights stories of 2009: “Underreporting from official statistics leaves the issue in the hands of media outlets, which have historically been known for problems identifying victims’ genders through using incorrect names and pronouns,” he writes.   “The past year has also seen a number of examples of media programs condoning violence against the community,” Erbentraut continues, “including a radio news program on KRXQ Sacramento which referred to gender dysphoric children as ‘idiots’ and ‘freaks.’ Co-host Arnie States said he ‘[looked] forward to when [transgender children] go out into society and society beats them down…'”  While 32 states have some form of hate crime legislation that increases the penalty for violence against LGB people, only 11 have statutes covering their transgender population.  Only Brazil, with 80 transgender murders this year, has a larger number of transgender killings than the United States.  Until gays, lesbians, and bisexual people and their allies begin to take violence against transgender people, especially transgender people of color, as seriously as they do crimes against themselves, this deplorable trend will surely continue.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bludgeoning, California, Colorado, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Illinois, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, New York, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Murder Most Foul: Transgender Holocaust in the United States

Trans Hate Violence Spikes in Nation’s Capital

MackX390Washington, DC – Hard questions are being asked by the LGBT community in the wake of the murder of 21-year-old transwoman, Tyl’ia “Nana Boo-Boo” Mack and the continuing investigation by metropolitan police.  Stabbed to death in the Truxton Circle neighborhood by an assailant still at large, the popular and well-known transwoman of color had nearly made it to  her destination, the offices of Transgender Health Empowerment (THE).  Another transgender woman of color was seriously injured in the knife attack, but survived.  Her name has not be released because of the ongoing investigation.  By one reputable estimate, there have been six transwomen murdered in DC since 2006, and GenderPAC has rated the nation’s capitol as having the highest incidence of anti-transgender violence in the United States.  The Metropolitan Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect or suspects in the Mack murder case.  G.G. Thomas, Mack’s client advocate at Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), told Will O’Brian, reporter for the Metro Weekly, that she “was a roar of thunder, someone who always had an opinion and expressed it. She was like a role model to the younger girls, saying, ‘We’re all going through discrimination and poverty, dealing with drug issues, family issues…. But at the same time, there’s hope.'”  The DC trans community is on guard, many feeling unsafe in the city.  Gay DC City Council Member David Catania told the Weekly, “This is an opportunity for every leader in the city — whether elected, whether appointed, whether in a pulpit — to stand up and say this is not acceptable, that the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are not so casual and so meaningless that they can be taken from us for no reason,” he said. “This was an unprovoked and unforgivable attack. And this must stop. To the family of Ms. Mack, our profoundest condolences. To every one of us, let us go to all of our leaders and say enough is enough. We want to hear Sunday in the pulpits in this city that this kind of attack is unacceptable.”  David Mariner, executive director of the Center, DC’s LGBT community center, confessed that he was particularly hard hit by Nana Boo-Boo’s brutal murder: “I’m just here along with everybody because I’m shocked, I’m troubled, and because it’s happened again. My thoughts are with the family. My thoughts are with every person in D.C. who has felt unsafe, or who will in the future.”

September 19, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, Hate Crimes, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trans Hate Violence Spikes in Nation’s Capital

Obama Administration Full Court Press Removes F-22 Funding, Clears Way for Passage of Matthew Shepard Act Amendment

Obama GayWashington, DC – In a lobbying effort that Senator John McCain, President Obama’s former rival for the White House, credited for the number of votes necessary to win, the Obama Administration influenced the Senate to cut funding for the controversial F-22 Raptor fighter jet program.  The DOD appropriations bill now is set for passage, inclusive of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Amendment, extending federal anti-bias protection to LGBT people for the first time in American law.  The Associated Press reports that Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates joined the President in lobbying the Senate, contending that the F-22 twin engine fighter is obsolete, and enough of them now exist to tide the country over until production of the F-35 fighter jet, now in the testing stage.  In a move opposed by the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocacy groups, however, three “unwelcome” death penalty amendments were attached to the Matthew Shepard Act yesterday by voice vote, angering gay and lesbian activists by weighting down anti-hate crime legislation with an extension of the death penalty which they say is opposed to the whole nature and intent of the legislation.  The offending amendments were proposed by right-wing Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.  The HRC has called for all these amendments to be removed from the final bill by the House and Senate conference committee that will reconcile the legislation passed by both houses of Congress, in the event that the DOD appropriations bill passes the Senate in its present death-penalty-amendment-inclusive form.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Hate Crimes, Matthew Shepard Act, military, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Obama Administration Full Court Press Removes F-22 Funding, Clears Way for Passage of Matthew Shepard Act Amendment


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