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  • January 28, 2010

    You can tell he worked for Clinton

    Posted by: Chris

    Richard socarides bill clinton gay liaison
    Richard Socarides, who was apologist-in-chief for the disastrous two terms of Bill Clinton for gay civil rights, attempts to rewrite that history even as he takes a swipe at the current Democrat in the White House:

    "In 1999, Bill Clinton became the first president ever to talk about gay rights in a State of the Union address. Eleven years later, not much has changed. [Talking again about ending the policy] without a moratorium on the witch hunts and expulsions and without even a plan for future action, just won't cut it. Look, we are not second-class citizens and our rights are not second-term problems."

    Not much has changed? Let's see. Bill Clinton abandoned his gays in the military pledge like a hot potato in the first months of his first year of his first term, and by 1995 had signed both Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act into law.

    If Socarides really wants to talk about empty rhetoric, let's look at Bill Clinton's coded support for gay rights in his 1999 SOTU address:

    Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation is wrong and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.

    No mention of the dreaded "G word" and a tepid request of Congress to back two inoccuous pieces of legislation that -- nudge nudge, wink wink -- only the gays knew were for our benefit. Clinton's throwaway reference contained no time commitment and one of those two bills still languishes in Congress, despite a supermajority in both chambers.

    I'm all for keeping the Democrats feet to the fire on gay issues, but rather than whine about a president who actually did something meaningful, let's hear from Socarides and other FOB/H's about the MIA congressional leadership.

    (Pictured with then-President Bill Clinton: "awkward old maid" Janet Reno (far left) and gay liaison Richard Socarides (holding red notebook)).

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    January 27, 2010

    Obama's SOTU promise: End DADT in '10

    Posted by: Chris

    President barack obama repeal dont ask dont tell gays in the military
    As expected, President Obama recounted passage of the hate crimes (without mentioning Matthew Shepard) and committed himself to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell this year:

    This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.

    You don't get higher profile than the State of the Union and it took political courage to take his on in an election year where Democrats look in trouble. This was not a throwaway gay mention in a run of the mill speech. It was a public commitment complete with a deadline in the speech where Obama set his highest priorities for what will be a difficult election year. That is not nothing.

    Some no doubt expect more from President Obama on this issue, including an executive order staying prosecutions under the policy. That expects too much, and would set a dangerous precedent if he even attempted it. Only Congress can repeal DADT; an executive order attempting a de facto repeal would be patently illegal. We had more than enough of this sort of abuse of presidential power in the last administration.

    Even if he could halt DADT by executive fiat, I do not think he should. That wasn't his campaign promise, and it would set off an entire side debate on executive authority and interference with the military, not to mention separation of powers. We don't need to risk moderate and independent support this way, especially with clear and historic Democratic majorities in both houses.

    It's way too easy to focus all our impatience on the president. The fact remains that it's up to Congress to pass DADT repeal, and it's up to groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats to hold their feet to the fire until they do. And it's long past time for Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud to bring more public pressure to bear on the minority party not to block this and other gay rights bills by use of the anti-democratic filibuster in the Senate.

    Enough talk, it's time for action. Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal is only one item on a list of promises candidate Obama made in 2008 and the Democratic Party has made for years. Success on that single issue doesn't even correct the reversals in gay civil rights from the last time Democrats controlled Washington -- that would require repealing the Defense of Marriage Act as well.

    Now it's time for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to step up and act.

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    December 26, 2009

    No Dutch treat for NYC gay pioneer

    Posted by: Chris

    Journey007 Knee-deep into an interesting article about the efforts of librarian Charles Gehring to rediscover New York City as New Amsterdam is this fascinating vignette about the anti-gay persecution, and ultimate death, of an important early Dutch leader in the area:

    Mr. Gehring’s translation of the journal of Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert, a barber-surgeon and a likely ancestor of Humphrey Bogart, was turned into the graphic novel “Journey Into Mohawk Country,” by the artist George O’Connor. The journal chronicles van den Bogaert’s journey through the Mohawk Valley to Oneida, a pathbreaking trip in the winter of 1634.

    Years later, van den Bogaert was made commander of Fort Orange, site of present-day Albany, but fled back into Indian country after his fellow colonists discovered he was gay. Van den Bogaert was pursued by the Dutch, captured and brought back, but he escaped when a sheet of floating ice damaged the fort. He drowned in the Hudson before he got very far.

    That's a far cry from the famous tolerance toward homosexuality we associate with NYC, the Dutch and Old Amsterdam, albeit with some notable exceptions. Any takers for a van den Bogaert statue for the Village or Chelsea?

    (Illustration of van den Bogaert is from "Journey into Mohawk Country" by George O'Connor)

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    June 04, 2009

    Don't Ask Do Deal: HRC's betrayal

    Posted by: Chris

    I've been writing for years and years about the tragic willingness of those in "leadership" roles of the gay rights movement to cut deals that betray their supposed constituents. Joe Solmonese and David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign are archetypes of this pathetic trend -- grossly overpaid lobbyists who spend far more political capital lowering the expectations of gays on behalf of the Democratic Party than they do pressuring for equality in Washington.

    Thanks to a report for the Daily Beast by Jason Bellini -- formerly with Logo -- we have yet another pathetic example of HRC's betrayal of the movement, agreeing not to press for repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell until next year:

    Don't say I didn't warn you. HRC and the Democrats have been promising (with no plan to deliver) passage of a hate crime law and Employment Non-Discrimination Act for more than a decade, including before the 2006 election, and yet we are still expected to be satisfied by these same civil rights crumbs for the entire first year that Democrats are firmly in control of Washington.

    In some ways, delay is somewhat more justifiable on DADT than other gay rights measures, given the implementation steps to be taken in the midst of two foreign wars. But make no mistake: if DADT waits until 2010, then relationship recognition -- whether repeal of DOMA or a federal civil unions law -- won't get touched until after the midterm elections, if then.

    I hope that grassroots activists and gay folks nationwide play Bellini's report again and again, paying special attention to Smith's dissembling and Solmonese's smarmy status-whoring, along with the ridiculous excuse-making by Tammy Baldwin.  Come on, Congresswoman -- there hasn't been enough "education" on gay rights issues? Polls show overwhelming public support for not just ENDA and hate crime laws, but repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and for marriage or civil unions.  Enough with the lame, self-serving excuses!

    As for "the nation's largest gay rights group," we are definitely not getting what we pay for.  Despite an astronomical budget, we get backroom deals and snail's pace progress. Then again, what do we expect from a civil rights group that recently bought a building with a 30-year mortgage?  The Beltway tuxedo crowd is in no hurry, especially if actual activism might risk their coveted access and cocktail invites.

    All this nonsense reminds me, unfortunately, of why I burned out on gay politics earlier this year. We can only hope that independent voices bypass the Solmonese/Smith crowd and demand change directly from the Democrats in power -- in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

    Count me in for another March on Washington -- let's just make sure the HRC building is included on the protest route.

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    May 28, 2009

    Gays 'honor killings' in occupied Iraq

    Posted by: Chris

    Iraqigaysblog One of the first stories I posted on Gay News Watch, back in February 2007, concerned reports that the Iraqi government was lending its official endorsement to Shiite militias responsible for killing gay men. After two more years of American occupation and a change in U.S. administrations, the story hasn't changed and the horrific killings continue:

    Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, and police confirmed they found the bodies of four more men, all killed during a 10-day period after an unknown Shiite militia group urged a crackdown on homosexuals in the country.

    The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes as many as 30 people have been killed during the last three months because they were -- or were perceived to be -- gay.

    Homosexuality is prohibited almost everywhere in the Middle East, but conditions have become especially dangerous in recent years for gays and lesbians, as religious militias have become more powerful since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

    But an Iraqi military source claimed the recent killings were linked to tribal violence, not militias, and his characterization of the killings hints at how deep homophobia runs in Iraqi society.

    "Two young men were killed Thursday. They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honor," an Iraqi army member who did not want to give his name told ABC News.

    The army source said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City March 25, each bearing signs reading "pervert" in Arabic on their chests. All the bodies found bore signs of torture and were found fixed to poles when they were killed. The Iraqi army source also said two of the men found dead were wearing diapers and women's lingerie.

    Two gay men were found elsewhere in Sadr City, alive but bearing the scars of severe torture. They were beaten, their chests showed signs of cigarette burns, and when police found them they were rushed to the hospital. They had been sodomized with iron bars, sources said. Other men said they had had their chests slashed and their nipples cut off.

    The Bush and Obama administrations have been justifiably proud about the improved status, safety and opportunity for women as a result of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. But where is the concerted action to put an end to these unspeakable acts of violence?

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    November 14, 2008

    Are your expectations 'appropriate'?

    Posted by: Chris


    In an interview with Metro Weekly, Joe "Extremist For Love" Solmonese made clear -- as if there were ever any doubt -- that he and HRC are just fine with our relationships remaining the love that dare not speak its name inside the Beltway:

    The new Congress and administration represent the best opportunity we've ever had to finally protect all Americans from hate crimes and to ensure workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We strongly believe that it is important to have a plan in place for each piece of legislation we are working to pass. In the months ahead, we'll work to keep transparency with the community and to set appropriate expectations.

    Are your expectations "appropriate," you Prop 8 protesters? Don't expect the Human Rights Campaign to do anything on the issue that has brought you into the streets because our ENDA/hate crimes bread crumbs are already a done deal.

    Just in case you assume HRC was smart enough to have worked through the nasty, divisive issue of transgender inclusion before deciding to leave ENDA at the top of its very narrow agenda -- well -- your expections aren't appropriate, either:

    It has been our goal and will remain our goal to pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We will continue to do the hard work of educating Members of Congress on the need for crucial workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    In other words, he has no idea.

    A few related nuggets:

    • Asked his reaction to the Nov. 4 vote, Solmonese did a verbal victory dance, making absolutely no reference to Prop 8 or the other anti-gay ballot measures.
    • Taskforcepledge_2HRC had the gall, despite its abysmal failure on Prop 8, to claim it is among "the top five winning member groups" in the election. Again, no mention of the ballot measures.
    • At 3:40 p.m. on Friday afternoon, the supposed grassroots group the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force issued their first press release congratulating the real activists for their "amazing" protests. What's really amazing is that a small group of tech-savvy 20-somethings have managed to accomplish in one week what our national groups haven't managed to do in almost a decade now -- mobilizing us to protest.
    • Unsurprisingly, the Task Force "take action" link leads to a pledge form that, like HRC's, will be sent absolutely nowhere, except the group's own membership department. And what's the pledge? A promise to be nice, even though we're angry.
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    November 11, 2008

    Let the expectation lowering begin…

    Posted by: Chris

    Changegov Well, that didn't take long. It's only been a week since the Democrats retook the White House and greatly enhanced their congressional majorities, and already we hear key party players telling the gays to simmer down.

    First there was President-Elect Barack Obama's official website, Change.gov. Under the header "Agenda," the only gay rights items included were the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. No mention of repealing those two mainstays of the Clinton administration: the Defense of Marraige Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    Within days, no doubt due to flak from all quarters about what domestic and foreign policy goals were included and what weren't, the entire section was removed from the site, replaced by general language that promises "a comprehensive and detailed agenda" without saying what it is.

    Then there was the Wall Street Journal interview with Rahm Emanuel, newly named as Obama's chief of staff, who promised a "pragmatic" White House that will "do what they got elected to do." Emanuel, who was a senior Clinton adviser through both DADT and DOMA, clearly carries the scars of those experiences:

    Rahmemanuel_2 Mr. Emanuel defended President Clinton's decision to push through a tax increase in 1993 -- "a tough call" -- after having campaigned on a middle-class tax cut. He also denied that it had much impact in the midterm elections a year later. Instead, he cited issues like "gays in the military" as more damaging politically. "It's not what we campaigned on," said Mr. Emanuel.

    And as an example of Republicans losing their way, he cited the Terri Schiavo episode in 2005, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled congress intervened in a case involving a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

    In both instances, "the lesson is to do what you got elected to do," said Mr. Emanuel. "Do what you talked about on the campaign. If you got elected, that's what people expect. Don't go off on tangents where part of your party is demanding an ideological litmus test. Neither of those things was part of the campaign."

    The reality, of course, was the Bill Clinton had promised to remove the ban on gays in the military during the campaign, and Barack Obama has as well, repeatedly. What's more, the two main arguments Obama made to gay and gay-friendly voters during the Democratic primary season was that he would push for full repeal of the DOMA, while Hillary Clinton favored only half-repeal, and he would not "throw gays under the bus" -- the way Melissa Etheridge described our treatment during Clinton's two terms.

    Frankbaldwin_2 Then came the gay Dems in Congress. Appearing on Mike Signorile's Sirius OutQ show, Barney Frank reportedly predicted:

    1. Almost immediate passage of a gay and trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard hate crimes law.
    2. Passage within two years of a gay and trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
    3. DADT repeal once the Iraq War stabilizes and the Defense Department is on board.
    4. DOMA repeal … well … someday … it's complicated.

    Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin sang from the same score during an interview this week with the Advocate:

    I’m not putting a timetable on this -- I’m talking more about the order or things. In this respect, we will start with hate crimes, and we will at the same time -- especially through the LGBT equality caucus that I founded with [out Massachusetts U.S. representative] Barney Frank -- be educating our new colleagues and our returning colleagues on a wide range of issues.

    I wouldn’t limit it to hate crimes and ENDA; as I discussed earlier, domestic-partnership benefits for federal employees [should be discussed]. We’re also working with an Administration that will be able to make plenty of progress that won’t require legislative authorization.

    Note how repeal of DOMA and DADT have been disappeared, and relationship recognition is reduced to a employment benefits package for federal employees. Why exactly are they more deserving than the rest of us?

    And if this is all we're to expect then why, oh why, did we debate full vs. half-repeal of DOMA, and why did Joe Biden pledge in the veep debate that, "in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple"?

    Why? Because the Democratic leadership in Washington will always do the absolute minimum they can get away with on gay issues, and their stooges in our gay rights organization are too busy jockeying for jobs to call them on it.

    Am I too cynical too soon, Kevin?  ;)

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    October 13, 2008

    The Left plays the homophobia card in São Paulo

    Posted by: Kevin

    KassabgaybaitingIn the most important election taking place in Brazil this year, the mayoral election in the country's largest city (and my current home) São Paulo, a desperate opponent who once fashioned herself the great champion of the city's gay community is now using blatant gay-baiting in desperation.

    It is a sad and hypocritical plunge into dangerous territory for President Lula da Silva's Worker's Party (or PT, its Brazilian acronym) in a city that remains a springboard to national politics.  And the barrage of television and radio ads blatantly questioning the sexuality of incumbent Mayor Gilberto Kassab comes at a time when vicious anti-gay attacks and murders have been taking place.  And given the current state of politics in the city, the use of blatant gay-baiting by the PT is fanning the very flames of hate that has cost the lives of several innocent people in and around a neighborhood that gave Kassab his largest margin of victory in the first round of voting on October 5th.

    The history which brought us here makes this turn of events even more galling for the city's gay residents.  The PT candidate, former mayor Marta Suplicy, was elected in 2000 as the first candidate for major office in Brazil who openly campaigned for the support of gay and lesbian voters.  She marched in the city's world-record-setting gay pride parades, helping add to the momentum of the event as it became the largest annual gay pride event in the world and a major focus for the whole country's gay population. 

    However, her management of the city was widely seen as a disaster, racking up a huge debt and tying traffic up in knots with badly planned public works and out-of-kilter priorities that seemed designed to favor her base of supporters rather than the whole city.  In turn, she was soundly bounced from office in 2004 by the center-right opposition party, led by José Serra, the likely center-right presidential candidate in the race to succeed Lula in 2010.

    Serra was elected governor of São Paulo state in 2006, and his vice-mayor, Gilberto Kassab of the conservative party, the Democratas (DEM), assumed office.  Kassab is a life-long bachelor, and is a very popular mayor.  He has spearheaded several popular projects, including the Cidade Limpa law which banned all billboards and public advertisement displays inside the city limits and restored a sense of pride and conservation in the city's eclectic architecture.  He also restored São Paulo's finances, and has backed a revival of the city's old downtown, which was a sad hellhole for more than a decade.  Crime is way down in the city and continuing to drop.  The city's health services are being reformed to improve efficiency, and public works priorities seem more sane and less erratically political.  And in a marked symbol of the city's growing pride in itself, a major TV campaign promoting the city as a tourist destination was launched on CNN International earlier this year.

    To his credit, Kassab's government signed a landmark cooperative agreement one year ago with the state government which would join public defenders in both jurisdictions to provide more resources to citizens who seek redress for any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It was perhaps the most significant move by any executive branch in the country in recent memory to more concretely safeguard the rights of gay citizens in Brazil in the most meaningful way.  And despite some initial criticism (including from me) during the spate of anti-gay murders last year, the state and municipal police forces managed to apprehend every one of the perpetrators of these crimes and put them behind bars.

    In the first round of voting, Kassab leaped into the top position, eliminating a fellow center-right opponent and a scattering of minor candidates.  His approval rating tops 60%.  Marta Suplicy came in second place, and a picture emerged of a city sharply divided between the bairros of the city center (Kassab) and those in the poor periphery (Marta).  Marta is polling as much as 17 points behind Kassab in the latest published surveys.  Her only hope of squeaking to victory is to manage an enormous turnout in the periphery, and cut into his support in some parts of the city center.

    And alas, she is playing the gay card as a key element of her strategy in the second round.  As the two candidates participated in a tense debate on the Bandeirantes TV network last night, Marta's campaign launched a TV and radio ad campaign which asked voters about what they "don't know about Kassab." The screen has a pixelated black-and-white picture of Kassab's face, and it asks a number of questions about him, the last of which is: "Is he married?  Does he have children?" And the tone is clearly meant to suggest the mayor is gay, and that it's a dirty, shameful thing that should disqualify him as mayor.  And quite rightly, Kassab has filed five separate motions with the electoral commission to force Marta and the PT to take the ads off the air. 

    This comes only a year after a wave of anti-gay attacks and murders hit the Jardins neighborhood in the city center, in and around where many gay residents and gay hangouts are concentrated.  (I've written on this anti-gay crime wave extensively here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.) Jardim Paulista is, ironically, the bairro where Kassab won his biggest margin of victory anywhere in the city in the October 5 first round (and I'm proud to add, it's where I live and work).  And the attackers in nearly all of the murders and beatings have been skinheads and self-described "punks" who purposely come into this neighborhood from the poorer periphery neighborhoods, the very areas to which Marta is directing her gay-baiting message, and where Marta won every bairro in the first round.

    So the so-called champion of São Paulo's gays is now throwing us to the wolves in a desperate ploy for the votes of the homophobic periphery.  She is intentionally dividing the city along lines that have flared with murderous violence for years.  And she and the PT have the gall to still claim the mantle of being the protector of gay Brazilians.  Que merda essa.

    While I cannot vote in Brazil, I am giving all I have to volunteer and agitate for Kassab's re-election.  In this case, to say this election is a matter of life and death for the gays of São Paulo is no exaggeration.

    UPDATE: This has exploded into a major story on the front pages of all the city's newspapers and websites, with near universal condemnation for what Marta's campaign is doing.  This is a huge relief, but alas the journalists of this city are not from the periphery and, in turn, are often seen as only a partial voice of the full electorate.  It is very heartening, however, to hear that highly respected political analyst Alberto Carlos Almeida told the Estado de São Paulo newspaper that Marta has "committed a fatal error that will mark her entire career" with the ad campaign.  And columnist Ricardo Noblat, who blogs for the #1 newspaper in all of Brazil, O Globo, wrote today that her ad campaign "is indeed bigoted, and is indeed sexist.  As it would be similarly sexist and bigoted to run an ad insinuating that Marta cheated on her first husband [Senator Eduardo Suplicy] before she left him." Even her own (second) husband, Luis Favre, has posted on his own blog that personal lives should be off the table in this election.  (And then defended her campaign in the very next post.  Bizarre.)

    But at an editorial meeting today with the #1 newspaper in the city, Folha de São Paulo, Marta spoke out of three different sides of her mouth, and deepened the controversy by repeating the charge, then saying she's the real victim, and then denying she even knew about the ad to begin with (my translation from Folha's report):

    "I am someone who is against bigotry.  You will never hear a single prejudiced word from my mouth.  [...] But I think that you're interpreting this all too much," Marta said, when questioned as to whether the content of the ad wasn't invasive and prejudiced. 

    The candidate denied that the ad made insinuations about the mayor's life.  "For me it's just as important is he's married, widowed or single.  People have to know." [...]

    "I think people ought to know about the candidate.  My whole life, the person with the most invaded privacy has been me.  For this reason I'm against it," affirmed the PT candidate, who said that the TV ad was the responsibility of the marketing director for her campaign.  "The decision is with the marketing director [...] I didn't even see the ad."

    This has now become, perhaps, an even more profound decision for São Paulo's voters over what kind of city this will be going forward.  Not just a question of economics, public works or taxation -- but about the very soul of this city.  Will division, resentments and hatred win, or will São Paulo take another step forward among the major cities of the world and toss this kind of manipulative politics into the trash?

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    June 18, 2008

    HRC - thinking like George Bush

    Posted by: Andoni


    President George W. Bush’s presidency has been marred by its rigid thinking with little ability to change when new circumstances on the ground dictate that new ideas, policies, or plans should be tried.

    I would argue that the Human Rights Campaign has been using the same modus operandi for the past 14 years. Their two prime priorities have been Hate Crimes legislation and the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA). Neither has successfully become law despite year s of trying and literally millions of dollars spent.

    One would think that after 14 years of failure, some leaders of the gay movement would try to assess the situation on the ground and change priorities or strategy.

    I was on the Board of Governors of HRC when they came up with the ENDA idea in 1993. Prior to that time gays were pushing for a more comprehensive civil rights bill. In 1993 polling showed that a workplace only bill with a little education could garner the votes to pass. The philosophy was easy. Try something small and do-able, then build on that.

    The only problem with this approach was that Republicans took over Congress in 1994 and we never achieved the goal of passing that small carefully focused bill that was supposed to be easy. Here we are 14 years later pushing the very narrow rights bill, using the same strategy, unable to reassess things by looking at the bigger picture in our movement. Just like the Bush administration, we cannot admit failure and we cannot adjust and try something new.

    If ENDA had passed in 1994, it would have been noteworthy and a great step forward. In 2008, it would be laughable it that’s all we can get after all our hard work and how far the public has moved in our direction. ENDA and Hate Crimes are way too little, way too late. Yet you don’t hear anyone from our national leadership speaking about what is important today and changing direction.

    At some level I guess they realize how important it is to save and hold the marriage victory in California, but I don’t really hear the bugles sounding loudly on this to indicate what a crucial battle it is we face.

    On the federal legislative level, I would argue that we should temporarily shelve Hate Crimes and ENDA and concentrate on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) first. DADT and DOMA are two pieces of legislation written into the federal laws of the land that say that not only can the federal government discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens, but they must discriminate. What kind of logic says that we should pass legislation (ENDA) that tells private companies that they cannot discriminate against gays (ENDA), when the government itself continues to discriminate against gays in some very big ways – the military, marriage, and 1200 federal benefits? This is like telling your child they can’t bloody people up in fist fights, when you the parent, set the wrong example by doing it all the time. Doesn’t make sense, right?

    Similarly, this is as crazy as it would have been for black people ask for their Civil Rights Law of 1964 and Voting Rights Law of 1965 if it was still federal law that they could be slaves, were only 3/5 of a person, couldn’t serve into the military, and had to endure separate but equal schools. You have to get rid of the institutionalized discrimination in the federal government before you can pass federal legislation telling the public that it can not discriminate.

    You can’t force the private sector operating in the public area to give equal rights to gays (or blacks), when the government itself has laws to discriminate against gays (or blacks) and actively does so. This is so upside down, it's crazy, illogical and hypocritical.

    It’s time for Barney Barney and Tammy Baldwin and the leaders of HRC, NGLTF, Lambda Legal and the ACLU to sit down together to discuss a new strategy and new priorities. Things really need to be shuffled because we have not had any major re evaluation of our agenda and priorities since 1993 -94.

    Things have changed so much that it's a totally new battleground out there and our leaders don't realize it. Public opinion has changed dramatically, marriage is our most important issue, and we have a presidential candidate in Barack Obama who would like to give us more than what our organizations are asking for. One such example of the new situation on the ground is that Obama has repeatedly said that he wants to give gay couples those 1200 federal benefits of marriage. This is huge, but I have not heard any of our organization pick up on how they will be ready to do this legislatively. They are still thinking about ENDA and Hate Crimes.

    Wake up, leaders, it’s 2008, not 1994. Don’t be like Bush having set a plan in motion without ever re-evaluating it.

    It’s time to reassess and make some new goals and plan new strategies. 

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    April 23, 2008

    Gay Dutch tilting rightward

    Posted by: Chris

    Nova My pal Dan over at Gay Patriot has an interesting post about the rightward tilt of gays in liberal Holland. Apparently a conservative party called Proud of the Netherlands scored best among gays in a poll by the TV program Nova. The trend dates back at least to Pim Fortuyn, an openly gay politician there who launched his own nationalist party and was competing to be prime minister before being murdered by a radical animal rights activist.

    Dan's take is that Dutch gays are flocking rightward because of the rising cultural and physical threat they perceive from intolerant Muslim immigrants, second generation as much if not more than the first:

    It seems that left-wing politicians in Europe are having trouble balancing the competing interests of the various “minority” (read: “victims” in coalition of oppressed) groups to whom they feel they must appeal and whom they fear offending.

    It seems the Dutch left is having trouble maintaining that precarious balance. I wonder if the failure of leading Democrats (as well as gay organizations) to recognize how Islamofascism represents the greatest threat to gays around the world today will lead to a gay exodus from that pandering party.

    One sign of this happening in the number of gay Democrats contemplating a vote for John McCain this fall.

    He's got a point. Left and center-left parties in Holland for too long dismissed anti-immigration nationalism as prejudice -- only one motivation for some -- while also struggling to deal with the threat from Islam and conservative reaction to it to the country's famous cultural tolerance.

    As I asked before after my own firsthand brush with hate in Amsterdam, how do you tolerate everything while not tolerating intolerance? That was the very subject of an episode of Nova on which I was interviewed, along with the left-leaning mayor of Amsterdam.

    At the same time, there is a world of difference between Dutch conservatives and those back home in the States. Over there, most conservatives support the full panoply of gay rights, including marriage, and promise to actively combat rising intolerance of gays and others among Muslims. McCain and the GOP, of course, oppose any affirmative legal protection for gays and too often cave in to the their xenophobic wing.

    The unfortunate irony for Republicans is that they claim the mantle of opposition to Islamists worldwide, even while depending upon conservative Christians who would impose their own (much milder) religious intolerance at home on gay Americans. Of course gay Republicans don't buy into that double standard and align with other moderates in the party looking to change things -- a difference also lost on most gay observers.

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    April 18, 2008

    Shepard Act sandbagged by Reid?

    Posted by: Chris

    Harry_reid I missed this tidbit from a couple of weeks ago on Blog Cabin, the gay GOP group's blog, about whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has sandbagged the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. It's actually taken from a Washington Blade story:

    One congressional source familiar with the hate crimes bill said a number of GOP lawmakers believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not want to bring the hate crimes bill to a vote because doing so would help the re-election chances of moderate Republican senators who support the bill.  Among them are Sens. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who face strong election challenges by Democrats in November.

    That's pretty damning, given that Democratic Party leaders promised activists they would do anything possible to push the hate crimes bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act through in the current session, and perhaps even the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    Of course the Blog Cabin post leaves off the paragraphs that follow in Lou Chibarro's Blade story:

    Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Reid, disputed that assertion, saying Reid’s deliberations over the bill had “nothing at all” to do with the election.

    Manley also disputed a claim by another congressional source that Reid and other Senate Democrats were reluctant to bring up gay rights bills at a time when Democrats are focusing most of their attention on the economy and a mortgage crisis that is causing Americans to lose their homes through foreclosure.

    Senate Democrats can deny all the rumored explanations they want, but they can't escape the fact that both bills have been passed by the House and are awaiting action in the Senate.

    ENDA is no doubt hobbled by the fact that dozens of LGBT groups actually hope for its failure since it lacks transgender rights protections in its current form. In reality, Democrats would be better off passing a gay-only ENDA now and blaming Republicans for leaving out "gender identity." Otherwise the pressure will be overwhelming for a trans-inclusive ENDA to pass early next term, after being deferred yet again one more time.

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    March 27, 2008

    Say whaaaa?

    Posted by: Chris

    I've read this article twice, about how upset some Marylanders were when a small town council member responded to a question about school bullying by noting the higher incidence of bullying of gay and gender-nonconforming kids:

    At a town hall meeting in Clarksburg last week, Councilman George L. Leventhal said many victims of bullying are gay after a resident commented about that her daughter was being bullied at school.

    ‘‘It was totally inappropriate,” said Kathie Hulley, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association. ‘‘If the County Council is going to come out to a town meeting and somebody in distress asks a question, to go off on a tangent, which has no bearing to what she was asking, is really bad.”

    Councilman Marc Elrich, who also attended the meeting, said ‘‘I don’t know why [Leventhal] went there.”

    Huh? Were they upset because the remarks suggested the daughter was gay? Or minimized her victimization if she wasn't? The article never says, dancing around it in some sort of silly suburban code.

    Even more bizarre than the reaction to Leventhal's answer was the rambling question he was responding to:

    During a question-and-answer segment, Derwood resident Valerie Ricardo described how her daughter was being bullied at an area middle school. Ricardo went on to discuss the county’s anti-discrimination law covering transgendered individuals, and also discussed her fears of being approached by ‘‘a man with an exaggerated walk, a female walk” and ‘‘evil intent in his eye.”

    ‘‘So I want to say that the risk is real and I think that we need to take these situations of violence and bullying and crazy situations for what they are and begin to do something about it,” Ricardo ended her statement.

    Double huh? So we feel sorry for her daughter -- and we do -- and we blame it on men who prance a bit too much?

    Can anyone else translate this for me?

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    March 26, 2008

    The quiet death of ENDA, hate crimes

    Posted by: Chris

    Joesolmonesehrcla We all remember the days after Democrats took control of Congress in the November 2006 election, promising among other things that they would get right to passing long-delayed gay rights legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. Some of us grumbled that the vaunted "gay agenda" ought to go further, considering those bills have already passed in one form or another for a decade.

    More than a year after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were sworn in as speaker and Senate majority leader, it now appears even our most limited expectations have been dashed. Consider this nugget from a speech by Joe Solmonese at the Human Rights Campaign's Los Angeles gala:

    A number of hurdles, as you know, made it impossible to move those bills any further this session.

    Say what? Last we heard, Ted Kennedy was introducing ENDA in January or February and would be searching for other legislative vehicles to attach the Shepard Act, after House Dems rejected it as an amendment to a big Defense Department. No excuses this time, we were assured, about how our civil rights being too "hot button" in an election year.

    But instead of lobbying from HRC to push these bills forward, we get a lecture from Solmonese about being impatient:

    When did we all say to ourselves -- OK, that civil rights thing -- I'll give it a year, maybe two - then everything should be done.

    A year? Who is he kidding? Solmonese may be late to the gay rights party, joining the movement only after he got a quarter-million-dollar job running HRC, but for most of us this ain't the first time at the rodeo. ENDA came with a vote of passing in 1996 -- more than a decade ago -- and both bills have been backed by a large majorities of the public and their reps in Congress for years.

    Hell yes we're impatient. Rather than motivating us into action and pressing Congress to do better, Solmonese is wagging his finger at us -- at us! -- and tamping down expectations. Call it the fierce urgency of next year.

    There's plenty of blame in Congress as well, of course. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Pelosi deserve credit for getting both bills passed the House -- the trans-inclusive Shepard Act sailed through and ENDA hobbled through in gay-only form. But Reid has seemingly done nothing in the ENDA. (Maybe Hillary will do better as Senate majority leader next year?)

    Yes, the primary culprits here are congressional Republicans, who rejected a trans-inclusive ENDA and balked at backing the Shepard Act add-on to the DOD bill, as well as President Bush, who threatened to veto both. But the GOP doesn't rake in gay money, votes and loyalty based on promises to get things done. Democrats do. And it's HRC that hoovers up gay dollars nationwide, promising to bring change, while never delivering.

    They all have some 'splainin to do.

    (Photo of Joe Solmonese at HRC's L.A. dinner via Bilerico/Karen Ocamb)

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    March 19, 2008

    The de-gaying of 'gay'

    Posted by: Chris

    _44489463_bully416 Me thinks the bullies of the world are protesting too much when they claim the word "gay" has been transformed into an innocuous insult that means "lame" or "stupid." On its face, it doesn't excuse using a word that describes a group of people as an insult. Would it be OK to use the names of other groups that way?: "That shirt is so Jewish!"

    A new survey of schoolteachers in the U.K. confirms that "gay" is only one in a series of homophobic words that top the list of student insults. Here's the list of insults, according to the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers; the percentages indicate what proportion of teachers heard the particular word on a regular basis:

    • Gay (83%)
    • Bitch (59%)
    • Slag (45%)
    • Poof (29%)
    • Batty boy (29%)
    • Slut (26%)
    • Queer (26%)
    • Lezzie (24.8%)
    • Homo (22%)
    • Faggot (11%)
    • Sissy (5%)

    Of the top 11 insults, eight words (including Brit slang like poof and batty boy) are explicitly homophobic, and three words (bitch, slag and slut) suggest promiscuity and are usually used against girls.

    And yet somehow the adult "experts" are buying into the claim by kids that gay has been 'de-gayed' and isn't anti-gay when hurled as an insult:

    One reason for this increase in use could be because "gay" has partly lost its sexual connotations among young people, says slang lexicographer Tony Thorne. While still pejorative, for the majority of youngsters it has replaced words such as "lame".

    "I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals," says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. "It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant."

    Whether or not the teens who use "gay" intend it to be homophobic, it's place at the top of a list of other popular insults -- almost all explicitly anti-gay -- suggests otherwise. So does the history of how it became an insult:

    "In the early 19th Century it was used to refer to women who lived off immoral earnings," says Clive Upton, professor of Modern English Language at Leeds University. Around the 1970s it was claimed by the homosexual community as a descriptive term for their sexual orientation, now its most popular meaning. By the 1980s it was finding its way into schools as a playground insult.

    "Every generation grows up with a whole lexicon of homosexual insults, in my day it was 'poofter' or 'bender'," adds Thorne. "They were used much more because they were considered more offensive than 'gay', which is more neutral."

    I've noticed how the use of "gay" as an insult has come out of the playground and crept into pop culture, including films and TV shows. I hope our friends at Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who've done a bang-up job the last several years consigning "fag" to the dustbin of unacceptable slurs, can reclaim the word gay from being further cheapened as an insult that is somehow not homophobic. 

    (Photo of bullying via BBC)

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    March 01, 2008

    Europe on road to sharia law?

    Posted by: Chris

    Religionofpeace7 There's an excellent column out by gay author Bruce Bawer ("A Place at the Table," "While Europe Slept") about how the liberal multiculturalism has left Europe vulnerable to a rise in attacks by young Muslims against women and gays:

    The reason for the rise in gay bashings in Europe is clear – and it’s the same reason for the rise in rape. As the number of Muslims in Europe grows, and as the proportion of those Muslims who were born and bred in Europe also grows, many Muslim men are more inclined to see Europe as a part of the umma (or Muslim world), to believe that they have the right and duty to enforce sharia law in the cities where they live, and to recognize that any aggression on their part will likely go unpunished. Such men need not be actively religious in order to feel that they have carte blanche to assault openly gay men and non-submissive women, whose freedom to live their lives as they wish is among the most conspicuous symbols of the West’s defiance of holy law.

    Multiculturalists can’t face all this. So it is that even when there are brutal gay-bashings, few journalists write about them; of those who do, few mention that the perpetrators are Muslims; and those who do mention it take the line that these perpetrators are lashing out in desperate response to their own oppression. …

    It’s very clear what’s going on here – and where it’s all headed. Europe is on its way down the road of Islamization, and it’s reached a point along that road at which gay people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is being directly challenged, both by knife-wielding bullies on the street and by taxpayer-funded thugs whose organizations already enjoy quasi-governmental authority. Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners, but it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face – and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people.

    Bawer references the attack on me and my boyfriend a few years back in Amsterdam for holding hands in the street. I think most gay Europeans have awakened to the fact that "tolerance" cannot be extended to the intolerance of others; it requires the kind of forceful push-back that Bawer offers.

    But with the Archbishop of Canterbury, of all people, advocating a place for sharia within British law, there's no evidence that realization has reached Europe's liberal leadership.

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    January 26, 2008

    The sound of hateful callousness

    Posted by: Chris

    Melissaarrington You may have heard the awful story about how a woman arrested in Arizona for killing bicyclist Paul L'Ecuyer laughing with a friend in a tape-recorded jailhouse phone call about the fact her victim was gay. A friend tells Melissa Arrington she deserves "a medal and a fucking parade because you took out a fag, a cyclist, a tree hugger and a Frenchman in one shot."

    Now an Associated Press has the chilling audio, complete with Arrington's laughter in reaction. The judge was right. The whole exchange is breathtakingly callous. Arrington definitely didn't get the last laugh, however. The judge refused to buy Arrington's promise to launch a Mothers Against Drunk Driving-type organization after her release from prison; she got 10 years, which is likely more than double what she would have received otherwise.

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    January 05, 2008

    Time for ex-gay hate crime protection?

    Posted by: Chris

    Gregoryquinlan_2 I couldn't resist sharing this priceless argument made to a committee of the New Jersey Assembly against adding "gender identity" to New Jersey's hate crime law, which already covers "sexual orientation" as a protected category:

    Gregory Quinlan of New Jersey Family First identified himself as a former homosexual and said he felt discriminated against because former gays are not included as a protected class under the proposal.

    However, attempts to amend the bill to include people who identify themselves as formerly gay or transgendered failed to gain support in either the Assembly or Senate.

    The legal irony here is that if Quinlan were the victim of a crime based upon his (alleged) former sexual orientation, it most likely would be covered by the existing law. I say "most likely" because ex-gays are rarely (ever?) so victimized. As a result, the actual question has never been put to the test (that I'm aware of). But it would flatly irrational for the law to protect someone if they're gay or straight but not if they're straight but used to be gay.

    Still, if Quinlan were right, would that mean transgender protections should wait until the votes are there to also cover the ex-gays -- not to mention the formerly transgender folks who decide to revert back to their biological gender?

    (Dude with the 'do: Quinlan photo circa 1998 via ProFamilyNetwork.org)

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    December 29, 2007

    All for naught?

    Posted by: Chris

    Bush_nov_8_2006 President Bush vetoed the massive Defense Department funding bill over a relatively obscure provision he said he fears would exposre the new Iraqi government to Americans with billions in legal claims against the previous regime of Saddam Hussein. The decision came as a surprise to Republicans and Democrats alike,  and puts at jeopardy funding for the Iraq war and a pay hike for the armed forces. Democrats are, of course, trying to score political points on the decision, only solidifying the "pox on both your houses" that already registers as public disgust with both parties on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in public opinion polls.

    The Bush veto also puts a well-deserved exclamation point on the failed strategy of passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which would have added sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability to existing federal hate crime laws. Fearing a threatened veto of the Shepard Act as a freestanding measure, Senate Democrats attached it to the Defense Department bill. But when House Republicans threatened to bail on the bill, House Democrats couldn't muster enough votes, since some of their own wouldn't vote to spend additional sums on the war in Iraq.

    Now it appears that even if the Democrats could have managed to hold together, Bush would have vetoed the bill anyway, and might have even blamed the Shepard Act as well as the provision on legal claims against Iraq. Clearly, this massive bill was not the right vehicle to slip the hate crimes bill into law. The onus remains on Democrats to keep up the pressure and find another measure in January.

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    December 12, 2007

    How HRC spent winter break

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrc_division Now we know what the Human Rights Campaign was doing when it wasn't marshaling its considerable resources to save the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act from being stripped from the Defense Department bill. It was busy strategizing  how to make nice with transgender activists still fuming that HRC backed out on its promise to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when trans protections were removed.

    Martiabernathy My old friend Marti Abernarthy blogging at Trans Advocate, somehow got hold of an internal memo by HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse that summarizes a conference call HRC recently had with trans leaders. In the memo, Rouse also strategizes how to mend fences and "redouble" efforts to pass federal trans rights legislation.

    The Rouse memo, the authenticity of which is not yet confirmed, is remarkably humble and proposes a laundry list of concrete actions HRC should take on behalf of its trans constituents. First, the crow eating:

    • We recognize that HRC’s decision to follow a different strategy to secure a fully-inclusive bill was hurtful to some members of our community and we regret that.
    • The first step in rebuilding our trust in HRC must be for HRC to own up to the fact that we were promised one thing and the promise, for whatever reason, was broken. Members of the transgender community I’ve spoken to want an apology and an explanation, and the explanation must be sincere and convincing. They want to see a stop to public announcements that contradict private activity which many believe is still going on. Until that is done, it will be near impossible to get increased participation from the transgender community.

    But beyond that, Rouse suggests a long list of concrete actions HRC is prepared to take not just to "win back" trans support but move forward with the case for passing a trans-inclusive ENDA:

    • immediately launch a new public education campaign designed to continue the mainstreaming of transgender issues;
    • conduct the state of the art professional survey to teach us just what the American people understand about trans and what they don’t;
    • research the 110+ jurisdictions with protections and characterize what was done right and what was done wrong;
    • work with NCTE to find trans persons to target those 50 or so Congresspersons, and give them the data to help them lobby;
    • work with GLAAD to develop video and PSAs for the targeted states and Congresspersons;
    • redouble the corporate work — they’ve been doing a great job;
    • complete a health insurance survey to increase coverage for medical and surgical transition;
    • offer to assist NCTE for psychiatric members and those who would have contacts that could help us remove GID from the DSM;
    • engage with an organization-wide effort to redouble our educational efforts around gender identity and expression;
    • reposition all of HRC’s messaging to be more inclusive of transgender people, and more humble/apologetic about HRC’s past exclusion of the transgender community;
    • recognize that transgender people are not “new” – that they were present at Stonewall and other early uprisings;
    • encourage transgender people to come out and tell their stories, perhaps providing forums where they can do so safely;
    • require each HRC Regional Steering Committee to undergo transgender awareness training, and to actively work to increase transgender participation on the Committee;
    • hold “lunch and learn” sessions at HRC headquarters, where staffers can hear from transgender people directly on topics such as trans law, history, insurance, healthcare issues etc.;
    • urge HRC staffers to consider transgender people for job openings.

    You would think that however trans activists feel about the ENDA debacle, they would be pleased to see HRC doing what it can to say it's sorry and move forward. But then you would be underestimating the level of acrimony and bitterness that pervades transgender rights activism generally. Those of us who have dared to disagree with them in the past know firsthand just how mean-spirited they can be.

    Rouse_marty_rdax_111x155 Still, it's a bit breathtaking to read Marti Abernathy's point by point dismissal of everything Rouse wrote, no matter how supportive of trans views; not to mention the "hang 'em high" amen chorus of comments to Abernathy's post. I have a great deal of respect for Rouse, ever since his productive work on gay health issues during the Clinton administration. Considering how far he bends over backward to mollify trans concerns, it's distressing to see him get stepped on so.

    Abernathy and I can at least agree on one thing, however. She writes:

    I’ve been told by multiple sources that David Smith has said that HRC will NEVER oppose a gay rights bill (even if it’s not transinclusive). This seems to be the place where the rubber meets the road.

    I don't know if the citation to Smith, HRC's vice president of policy, is accurate, but I certainly agree that "the rubber meets the road" on this question. It ought to be a no-brainer that HRC (or any group that claims to work on behalf of gay and lesbian Americans, will never oppose a gay rights bill, whether or not it's trans-inclusive.

    Hands down the most depressing thing about HRC's "Project Win Back," if such exists, is the last line from Rouse's memo:

    HRC has the political and financial clout to do all this. We have two years to prepare for the next volley in Congress. I think this would be a good start.

    That sounds very much like HRC has (once again) drank the Democrat kool-aid and will make no effort to push ENDA through the Senate early next year. If this was all HRC expected or demanded this entire time, then its long past time for heads to roll -- starting at the top.

    We need a gay rights lobby that spends its resources on forcing the hand of feckless politicians on the Hill; not a coterie of lobbyists so immersed in Beltway minutiae that they accept whatever table scraps -- like late-coming symbolic votes -- offered by our so-called political friends.

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    December 11, 2007

    NY Times schools HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Pelosisolmoneseshepard UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    What does it say about the inside-the-beltway captivity of the gay rights movement today when a mainstream newspaper is more aggressive and passionate on our behalf than "the nation's largest gay rights group"?

    First, let's recall the tepid statement from the Human Rights Campaign after House Democrats bailed from the Defense Department bill containing the hate crimes provision so they could cast a symbolic vote against the Iraq war:

    "Today’s decision is deeply disappointing, especially given the historic passage of hate crimes legislation through both Houses of Congress this year.  After more than ten years and several successful bipartisan votes, it is heartbreaking to fall short this close to the finish line," said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. …

    "The exhaustive efforts of Majority Leader Reid, Senator Kennedy, Senator Smith, Senator Levin, Representative Conyers, Representative Kirk and other allies of equality on Capitol Hill, to keep the Matthew Shepard Act as part of this bill should not go unnoticed.  We thank them for their efforts and know that they will continue to work with us to find a way to get this legislation to the President’s desk," continued Solmonese.

    Contrast that thank-you note to the Democratic leadership that failed (yet again) to actually pass our legislation with the blistering editorial in yesterday's New York Times:

    Congressional leaders, who have disappointed frequently this year, have done it again. This time, the House leadership has failed to find a way to get a bipartisan law against hate crimes passed and signed into law. Racial, religious, sexual and other minorities have waited long enough. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to do more than just express her support for the bill; she must find a way to make it the law. …

    Ms. Pelosi says she is still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Act passed, perhaps early next year. That’s nice, but it is time for her to explain how she intends to do it — and then to make it happen.

    When will the Human Rights Campaign stop acting like a wing of the Democratic Party and more like a wing of the gay rights movement? Even the Stonewall Democrats managed to sound more forceful than HRC:

    "Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate support passage of the Matthew Shepard Act (Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act). The Democratic Leadership, which guided this legislation to successful passage in their respective chambers, are now burdened with a moral obligation to see their work completed.

    "If the National Defense Authorization Act is not the appropriate vehicle for passage, then we encourage the Democratic Leadership to work with our community to find the most expedient way to place this legislation on the President's desk within this Congress." - Jon Hoadley, Executive Director.


    It seems I'm not the only one doing a compare/contrast between HRC and the mainstream press today. Gay and AIDS activist Michael Petrelis takes a look at HRC's statement in response to Mike Huckabee's outrageous views on HIV and a Washington Post editorial on the same subject and asks which one of these things is not like the other?

    Hmmm, the Washington Post is practically falling over itself to use the "h" and "g" words and hold Huckabee to account for his AIDS _and_ gay views, while the leaders at HRC are much more interested in invoking a brave heterosexual kid with AIDS, an "innocent victim" who doesn't raise any troubling icky issues like male-on-male anal transmission of HIV. HRC never says the word gay in their statement!

    How can HRC go out of its way to omit the concerns and voices of gays with AIDS in this debate? Maybe the HRC leaders have forgotten that gay men are the largest category of people living with HIV/AIDS in America. Whatever the reason for the omissions, HRC continues on its well-worn path of spinelessness.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For a complete news summary, click or bookmark:

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    December 06, 2007

    'Deeply disappointed' over Shepard

    Posted by: Chris

    TWO UPDATES: At the end of this post.

    The Human Rights Campaign has issued a statement calling the removal of the hate crimes bill "deeply disappointing" -- wording that is somewhat eerie for me only because I wrote the exact same thing in my post a few hours ago. Joe Solmonese also echoed my hope that congressional Democrats will find "another legislative vehicle, in the second half of this Congress, to move the Matthew Shepard Act."

    Tacking the Shepard Act on something less controversial that a bill relating to the Iraq war strikes me as more promising than Barney Frank's suggestion that the Senate pass the hate crime measure as a stand-alone bill, which exposes it to a threatened Bush veto.

    The HRC statement also makes a point of detailing the organization's lobbying efforts to keep the Shepard Act intact as part of the DOD bill:

    On November 14th, HRC sent an e-mail to all Capitol Hill offices urging the retention of hate crimes legislation in the Department of Defense Authorization conference report.  Additionally, HRC organized and signed onto a coalition letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Armed Services Committees urging them to retain the Hate Crimes amendment as part of the conference report.  Timed to correspond with Members returning from the Thanksgiving recess, on November 28th, HRC launched a nationwide action alert to all of its members urging immediate grassroots action to Members of Congress.

    An email and a letter? That's it? 

    That's nothing compared to the "10 in 10 days" campaign HRC launched that generated 80,000 calls and emails to keep the "gender identity" protection in ENDA. Or the 100 HRC board members and volunteers who stormed Capitol Hill to lobby members directly on trans rights. Or how HRC staffers "worked around the clock" when the transgender protections were at risk because of the House whip count.

    Solmonese also thanked Democratic leaders in both houses for their "exhaustive efforts… to keep the Matthew Shepard Act as part of [the DOD] bill." At what point do we actually get to complain about the failure of congressional Democrats to pass hate crimes, despite a vote of 237-180 in the House and 60-39 in the Senate?

    Still nothing from the Task Force on the hate crime bill. Apparently Matt Foreman and his United ENDA allies are still too exhausted from their divisive attempt to sink gay workplace protections to notice that Congress just tanked the first transgender rights measure ever to pass both houses.

    UPDATE #1:

    Kudos to Judy and Dennis Shepard for speaking with a much more powerful voice about today's congressional shenanigans:

    “We are truly dismayed to find that Congress now will put aside its leadership on passage of federal hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

    “At this time of year that fills us all with hope for humankind, we are sad to find that a Congressional majority of each House who have already adopted the Matthew Shepard Act cannot yet come together. 

    “Make no mistake; this is a small triumph of process over principle.  We are dedicated to redoubling our efforts next year to achieve our vision of a hate-free America that truly includes everyone.  This has never simply been about Matthew Shepard and our family, this legislation is a gift delayed but never forgotten for all America’s families.”


    UPDATE #2:

    The Task Force has weighed in for the first time publicly in weeks on the Shepard Act, also expressing "deep anger and disappointment" that it was jettisoned from the DOD bill. Despite its inexplicable inaction for weeks now, the Task Force claims in its statement to have been busy behind the scenes, "mobiliz[ing] its members through action alerts, lobb[ying] congressional offices and organiz[ing] other national partners to pressure Congress not to give in — again — to right-wing opposition to LGBT legislation."

    Riiiight. Even taking that claim at face value -- which I don't -- the comparison to the Task Force's balls to the wall push on trans protections in ENDA -- and then to sink the compromise version -- couldn't be more striking. And Matt Foreman's strategic advice at this point?

    "We call on the Senate to immediately advance a stand-alone version of hate crimes that matches the version passed by the House earlier this year and send it to the president’s desk. When the president vetoes the bill — as he has repeatedly promised to do — everyone will see just how subservient this administration is to America’s anti-gay industry. Force his hand, for goodness sake, rather than hiding us away."

    Ahh yes, let's have a purely pyrrhic victory rather than, as at least Solmonese suggested, finding some other vehicle to push hate crimes through Congress and to an actual presidential signature.

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    Matthew Shepard Act RIP?

    Posted by: Chris

    Nyrally_2 Is the Matthew Shepard Act dead?

    Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Edward Kennedy acquiesced this morning to demands by Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee to remove the Matthew Shepard Act from the Defense Department funding bill, the Washington Blade and 365gay.com are reporting. That deeply disappointing decision comes several weeks after press accounts first surfaced from Capitol Hill that the hate crime measure was caught in a wedge in the House between conservatives who opposed the hate crime add-on and liberals who opposed Iraq war funding.

    In an (unfortunately typical) unbylined story that cites no sources, 365gay.com reports: "In a private meeting Wednesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that if the Senate continued to insist on the hate crimes provision the defense legislation would fail." (Usually when Logo's 365gay engages in such irresponsible (and illegal) journalism, it means they've stolen the story outright from another media source, probably in this case Congressional Quarterly, which restricts most of its web content to subscribers. Who knows, in this case. As it turns out, 365gay stole the info from AP, which 365gay at least pays for but did not appropriately credit.)

    That AP report quotes an unidentified House as saying the hate crime inclusive DOD bill was "40 votes short, not four or six."

    Regardless, the saga surrounding the Matthew Shepard Act is most striking in contrast to what happened with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The parallels are obvious: a House whip count showed the votes weren't there for transgender protections in ENDA, so they were stripped and the compromise bill passed the House. It appears the same fate befell the Shepard Act as part of the DOD reauthorization, although it's unclear whether the inclusion of "gender identity" helped tank the hate crime bill, too.

    Even if the Shepard Act would have siphoned off too many votes from the DOD bill as a gay-only measure, the Democrats don't get a bye on this one. The tactic of adding the hate crime bill to the Defense Department bill was suspect from the beginning, but it was Kennedy and Reid who decided to do so, knowing the Iraq war already made that legislation a white-hot button. Granted, they did so because President Bush threatened to veto a stand-alone Shepard Act, but having chosen that path the onus was on Congressional Democrats to see the measure through to passage.

    This is the rub on the Democratic Party and gay rights on the federal level. Despite overwhelming support for hate crimes and workplace protections for years now, the Democrats have not made either measure a sufficiently high priority to get the job done, even when they controlled one or both houses of Congress and the White House. A gay-inclusive hate crime bill has passed the House and Senate several times before, only to die because Republicans killed it in conference, Now that the Democrats are in charge, and we get the same result.

    Also on the hook are Matt Foreman, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the so-called "United ENDA" organizations. These groups managed to mount a massive lobbying push after Barney Frank announced that trans protections were being pulled from ENDA so that it could pass the House. But despite weeks of advance notice, they stayed almost entirely silent when the fate of the Shepard Act -- which is trans-inclusive -- hung in the balance.

    There's no excuse for that, and it makes that earlier ENDA fight look less and less like one over principle and more and more like Beltway posturing by the Task Force to elbow the Human Rights Campaign out of favor with grassroots GLBT groups. HRC isn't off the hook either, having waited until after the Thanksgiving holiday, losing two critical lobbying weeks, to issue its first action alert signaling the hate crimes bill was in jeopardy. During the ENDA fight, HRC also mounted a no-holds-barred lobbying effort for the trans provision, but inexplicably we saw nothing like that for the Shepard Act.

    Thankfully, the Blade is also reporting that Barney Frank, for one, hasn't given up the fight on hate crimes and is calling on the Senate to pass the Shepard Act again as a stand-alone measure by the end of February. Considering the hate crime bill got 60 votes in the Senate even as a controversial add-on to the DOD bill, that should be an easy sell. So should be finding a less controversial bill to tack the Shepard Act on as an amendment, shielding it from a possible Bush veto.

    But as always, we wait for Congressional Democrats (and our Washington, D.C. lobbying groups) to actually produce results.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For a complete news summary, click or bookmark:

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    December 05, 2007

    'United' for the Matthew Shepard Act?

    Posted by: Chris

    Lccr_letter The Human Rights Campaign has issued another action alert warning supporters that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, passed by the House as a stand-alone bill and by the Senate as part of the Defense Department reauthorization, remains in jeopardy. According to the HRC alert, House Democratic leaders may decide as early as Wednesday whether to keep the hate crime amendment.

    As I posted several weeks ago, the hate crime add-on is caught in a political wedge between conservative House Republicans who oppose its inclusion in the defense bill and liberal House Democrats who oppose the defense bill because of unrelated provisions on the Iraq war. Moderate Democrats, on the other hand, are doing what moderate Democrats all too often do, declaring a "moral victory" in passing the hate crime bill while suggesting it be jettisoned to save the bigger legislation.

    It took two weeks, but HRC finally alerted its members late last week that the bill was in jeopardy. Now Congressional Quarterly is reporting that informal House-Senate conferees have resolved all outstanding issues relating to the huge defense bill except the hate crimes amendment. CQ reports:

    House Democratic leaders plan to decide in the next day or two whether to include the provision, aides said. It is considered vital by many in the Democratic constituency who have been lobbying House leaders to include it in the final defense bill.

    But the provision could jeopardize the whole bill. In the House, liberals upset over war spending could join forces against the bill with conservatives concerned about the hate crimes language.

    This is the time when the rubber meets the road, and all that pro-gay rhetoric from Democratic Party leaders needs to be backed by action. It was Democrats -- Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts among others -- who decided to peg the Shepard Act to the DOD bill, primarily to discourage a threatened veto by President Bush. But having committed to that strategy, now is not the time to abandon it.

    Curiously silent in the weeks leading up to this moment are Matt Foreman, the Task Force and their "United ENDA" crowd who launched a website, lobbying effort to encourage Democrats to bail on ENDA if transgender protections were removed. It is beyond curious that they have been so silent when a bill that has already passed both houses and does include transgender protections hangs in the balance.

    HRC did release a missive on the letterhead of the Leaderschip Conference on Civil Rights -- the same group that along with HRC came out in favor of Barney Frank's compromise ENDA -- that calls on ranking Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committtees not to bail on the Shepard Act. And the Task Force and a number of other "United ENDA" groups are listed as signatories.

    But signing a letter is not real lobbying and is nothing compared to the full blitz they put into effect on ENDA.  The Task Force website, remarkably, still devotes one of its top three "alert" positions to the ENDA battle -- one of the other two is on the pressing needs of LGBT Asian-Pacific Islanders -- and there's nothing on the entire site I could find about the hate crime bill.

    Funny how the Task Force could devote so much energy to an ENDA battle that coincidentally cemented its relationships with the grassroots at the expense of rival HRC and now cannot muster only the energy to sign on to a letter for the Shepard Act.

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    December 02, 2007

    The science of anti-gay hate

    Posted by: Chris

    Dsc00862 Talk about stories hitting close to home. This UPI story out of Amsterdam certainly did:

    "Amsterdam to study why Moroccan Dutch gay bash"

    Dutch authorities are commissioning a study to determine why Moroccan men target gays in Amsterdam, considered one of Europe's most gay friendly cities. Amsterdam has experienced a growing number of attacks on gays and lesbians, Der Spiegel reported Friday.

    In 2006, the Dutch metropolis registered 32 hate crimes directed at gays, but during the first half of 2007, 26 had already been counted, the newspaper said.

    Mayor Job Cohen commissioned the University of Amsterdam to conduct a study on the motives behind the attacks. Half the hate crimes were committed by men of Moroccan origin. Some researchers believe they lashed out at local gays after feeling stigmatized by Dutch society, the newspaper said.

    Regular readers of this blog know that my partner and I were holding hands as we walked through the gayest neighborhood in "the gay capital" of Europe when we were bashed by seven men who looked of Moroccan origin. I wrote a column about the experience for the Washington Blade and it blossomed into a big news story over there -- probably because it touched lots of buttons, including the threat to tourism and the cultural effect of so many Moroccan and Turkish immigrants to Holland's famously tolerant society.

    It's depressing to see that the next year, in 2006, there were so many gay bashings, and considering the number that always go unreported the true figure was likely at a rate of one per week. And the number so far in 2007 is even worse.

    Mayor Cohen was wonderful to us, including an invitation back to Amsterdam for Gay Pride weekend in 2005, and it's good to see he's continuing to take the problem seriously.

    My only concern is the direction the university study might take, according to the UPI report, which is itself a translation of an article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel. The theory that Moroccan Dutch lash out against gays to protest their own mistreatment is not a new one. Scott Long of Human Rights Watch advanced a similar hypothesis about our attack.

    "There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society," Long told PlanetOut in an interview back then. "Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities that they have to suffer."

    It was extraordinarily dispiriting and offensive to have a so-called human rights activist excusing a violent attack because of "inequities" allegedly suffered by our attackers. I wrote another column back then taking Long to task, and he subsequently backed off some. But the Der Spiegel account makes clear that the "blame the victim" mentality still holds water in at least some P.C. circles.

    It's not just that whatever connection between mistreatment of Moroccans and gay bashings is extremely indirect, if causal at all. But it sends the signal that bashings gays is a legitimate way to register protest against Dutch racism. What's more, it lets off the hook those who could actually improve the climate in a much more direct way.

    The city of Amsterdam and especially it's gay community were incredible after our attack. Not so incredible were local Muslim leaders, who criticized me for describing the physical features (and accents) of our attackers, despite the growing trend of bashings there now obvious to everyone.

    I waited in vain to see one of these "leaders" take the initiative to condemn violence against gays, whatever their own beliefs about what the Koran says on homosexuality. Unless and until cultural leaders respected by the thugs in the street isolate and condemn the intolerance, expect it to continue.

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    November 30, 2007

    Two weeks later, HRC wakes up

    Posted by: Chris

    Bnnr_actionalert Way back on Nov. 16, I posted about media reports that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act was in serious jeopardy, even though it had passed both the House and the Senate. The problem then, and now, was that Senate Democrats attached the hate crimes measure to the Defense Department reauthorization, setting up a classic political squeeze.  Now House conservatives are objecting to the hate crimes addition and House liberals are objecting to aspects of the DOD bill dealing with the Iraq war.

    In classic Clintonian Democrat fashion, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) pressed his colleagues to jettison the hate crime add-on, saying that to do so "does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill." Funny, even as it "does no harm" to the principle of the hate crime bill, it kills for this session the bill itself.

    I wrote in response, way back on Nov. 16:

    What's truly striking about this legislative machination is not the willingness of some Democrats to once again ignore promises to pass even basic gay-friendly legislation. We've come to expect that after 8 years of Bill Clinton and 15 years of off-again, on-again Democratic Congressional leadership that has yet to enact anything.

    No, what's truly striking is the dead silence of all those voices that screamed so loudly at the prospect that "gender identity" would be jettisoned from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act under not-so-different circumstances.  All that lobbying mobilization, all the hand-wringing, all the flurry of press releases and "United ENDA" coalition building. Now? Nada. Zippo. Nothing from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the rest of the usual suspects.

    Finally, this week, two weeks after the media reports about Democratic machinations that threatened the hate crimes bill -- which is trans-inclusive by the way -- the Human Rights Campaign finally put aside its turkey leftovers long enough to alert is members.

    The Task Force, which you'll recall was the loudest voice of division over ENDA, has remained completely silent about the hate crime measure -- even when it issued a press release about the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which ironically recounts the victims of hate crimes based on gender identity.

    The National Center for Transgender Equality, the leading trans rights group, has also been struck dumb by the threat to the Shepard Act.  There's an alert about an archaic regulatory action by the Department of Homeland Security, but nothing on hate crimes. The NTCE issued seven -- count em -- press releases during the ENDA debate and yet nothing about this new threat to the hate crimes bill.  Some allies.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For complete news coverage, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

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    November 16, 2007

    Beware Democrats bearing 'principles'

    Posted by: Chris

    I posted earlier today about the uncertain fate of the gay and trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard
    Hate Crimes Act, which was passed as a free-standing measure in the House but was tacked on by the Senate as an amendment to the Defense Department reauthorization legislation. That step was intended by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the hate crime bill's sponsor, of making it impossible for President Bush to follow through on a veto threat.

    First the Washington Blade reported that some 20 House Democrats are threatening to vote against the DOD bill, even with the hate crime amendment added on in conference with the Senate, as a protest of the Iraq war. Now The Hill newspaper is reporting that House Armed Services Committee leaders are balking at the hate crimes add-on because they fear they lack the votes for the overall Defense bill if it's included.

    Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), a senior authorizer and one of the conferees, said that there could be a middle ground.

    Art21 “This is a strategic question, not a tactical question. The middle ground is to recognize that and realize to put the defense bill out as is, as opposed to changing it,” he said. “It does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill.” …

    He also pointed out that the House already passed a stand-alone hate crimes bill earlier this year. For that reason, defense conferees will not be diluting the principle behind the hate crimes provision if they drop the language from the authorization measure, he said. 

    How's that for Orwellian? It "does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill" to jettison it from the DOD legislation. No, it just does harm to the prospect of actually passing it.

    What's truly striking about this legislative machination is not the willingness of some Democrats to once again ignore promises to pass even basic gay-friendly legislation. We've come to expect that after 8 years of Bill Clinton and 15 years of off-again, on-again Democratic Congressional leadership that has yet to enact anything.

    No, what's truly striking is the dead silence of all those voices that screamed so loudly at the prospect that "gender identity" would be jettisoned from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act under not-so-different circumstances.  All that lobbying mobilization, all the hand-wringing, all the flurry of press releases and "United ENDA" coalition building. Now? Nada. Zippo. Nothing from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the rest of the usual suspects.

    As if we needed further proof that transgender rights have usurped boring old gay rights as the core goal of our movement activists, this is it.

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    October 18, 2007

    Chatroom target = hate crime?

    Posted by: Chris

    Given all the emotion surrounding Michael Sandy's tragic death, it can be difficult to accept that the case is really a square peg trying to fit into the round "hate crime" hole.  But an example from today's headlines will illustrate the point.

    Boykin1_2 Police in Miami-Dade are concerned about a rash of crimes similar to what happened to Sandy, where the bad guys use telephone and online chatrooms to choose their prey, then rob or even kill them when they meet up for sex.

    The Miami Herald reports of the cold-blooded killing of a gay south Florida man that is even worse than Sandy's robbery-gone-bad, in which the promising black gay designer was killed when he fled the defendants and ran onto a nearby highway, where he was struck and killed.

    In April, 19-year-old Darnell Boykin, pictured, climbed into the car of a homeless advocate named Albert Merritt, 41, outside a Little Haiti church. The two had met through a popular telephone chat line.

    Moments later, Merritt was shot dead. Boykin stole his Nextel phone and sold it, police say. Soon, Boykin was charged with murder.

    It doesn't even matter if Boykin is straight or not, since Anthony Fortunato, one of those responsible for Michael Sandy's defense, tried that route.  Under broadly written hate crime laws like the one on the books in New York, all that matters is that Boykin and Fortunato  purposefully targeted their victims on a gay chatline.  To the extent there is a substantive difference between the two crimes, Boykin's was actually worse since he pulled the trigger, while Sandy's perpetrators put him in a situation where he was life was in danger and was ultimately taken.

    In any event, there is no evidence either was a true hate crime, motivated by hatred of gay people.

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    October 17, 2007

    A hate crime minus the hate

    Posted by: Chris

    Lost in all the headlines about whether to include transgender protection in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a brewing debate over the scope of the other gay rights law set to pass Congress: the federal hate crime law. Only the debate isn't over whether to include "gender identity"; it's already included in the version of the Matthew Shepard Act that has passed the House and the Senate.

    Amd_michaelsandy1 Until now, conservatives have opposed the Shepard Act based on the completely erroneous notion that somehow it would criminalize anti-gay speech or anti-gay sermons. They know full well that there is a specific provision that outlaws the use of any evidence of a defendant’s speech or beliefs unrelated to the offense itself.

    Hate crime laws can be difficult to reign in, however, as a jury in Brooklyn found out last week, when two young men were convinced of manslaughter and an anti-gay hate crime, even though jurors were convinced they weren’t homophobes.

    John Fox and Anthony Fortunato were prosecuted for the tragic death of Michael Sandy, a promising black gay designer (pictured). They had lured Sandy on a gay chatroom with the promise of meeting Fox to smoke marijuana and have sex. When Sandy showed, he realized it was a trap and ran onto a nearby freeway, where he was struck and killed by an oncoming car.

    Jurors didn’t break a sweat over whether the two were guilty of manslaughter, but they were deeply troubled about the hate crime charge.  That's because the judge had ruled back in August that under New York state's hate crime law, it wasn't necessary to prove that the defendants were motivated by hatred toward gay people. The prosecution only had to establish that Sandy had been targeted because he is gay.
    Even so, the defense gave it their best shot.

    Fortunato Fortunato's lawyer took the bigger gambit, having his client admit to being gay with the hope of convincing the jurors that he couldn't have been motivated by hatred toward gays since he was one himself.

    It almost worked. The jurors convicted Fortunato of the hate crime enhancement but were apparently very disturbed by the judge's ruling back in August. The jury foreman even said he and others wept while casting their votes because they felt compelled to do so even though they disagreed with the scope of the law.

    That's pretty powerful stuff, and it should give us pause about whether hate crime laws should be applied beyond the core type of offense they're intended to prevent. Hate crime laws are really a form of anti-terror legislation. Crimes motivated by hatred against a particular group have the same effect, after all, as terrorist acts: they send a message to the target group that they should be scared for their safety.

    But the Michael Sandy case and others where the victim is targeted simply for being gay aren’t intended to terrorize gays. They aren’t even motivated by some sort of anti-gay bias, unlike gay men targeted for robbery as they leave bars based on a belief they are weak and easy marks, or men targeted while cruising for sex in public parks because it’s assumed they'll be too embarrassed to report the crime.

    In the Sandy case, the defendants presumably thought that it was simply chose to lure a gay man to meet them in a public place with the promise of sex, something they just as easily could have tried with a straight man if any of them had been women. But if they had gone that route, seeking out a man in a hetero chatroom, would they have similarly been guilty of a hate crime, since they would have targeted him because he is heterosexual?

    All three types of cases go beyond the scope of what hate crime laws really should target: crimes motivated by hatred of the targeted group, but at least the gay bar and park cruiser examples involve anti-gay bias.

    Fortunately, the Matthew Shepard Act appears to be more narrowly crafted that the New York hate crime law. I say "appears" because hate crimes are defined one way in one part of the statute and another way in another part.

    The New York law defines a hate crime as "intentionally selecting" the victim "because of a belief or perception regarding" the sexual orientation of the person. The Shepard Act, on the other hand, requires the crime be "motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived" sexual orientation of the victim.

    So crimes motivated by hatred toward gays are covered by both statutes, and the gay bar and park cruising examples are covered under both laws. But the Sandy case, at least as I read the statutes, would not be a hate crime as defined by federal law.  As horrible and tragic as Michael Sandy's death was, that is the correct result. It's bad enough to prosecute a hate crime minus the hate, but to go after a bias crime minus even the bias goes way too far.

    I would limit hate crime laws even more, to require proof that the victim was targeted not simply because of his sexual orientation, or even based on prejudice against his sexual orientation, but based on hatred of the gay people. It's those violent crimes, motivated by hatred of gay people, that are intended to send a larger message of intimidation and terror to gay people generally, and which therefore deserve federal involvement and a heavier sentence.

    For complete coverage of the Michael Sandy trial and hate crimes generally, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    For complete coverage of black GLBT stories, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/black

    For complete coverage of GLBT-related crimes stories, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch/crime

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    October 03, 2007

    A more thoughtful Jena 6 response

    Posted by: Chris

    I promised in an earlier post to publish a more thoughtful response I received to my Jena 6 posts, considering all the noise with so little light that we've seen on the subject.  The response comes from Darryl! L.C. Moch, who despite the unusual first name (that exclamation point is no typo) is a longtime black gay activist from Atlanta (and now Washington) whose views I definitely respect.

    I've posted all of his email, which he's given me permission to publish, in the jump to this post.  But I'll respond to the gist of each point.

    • First you trivialize the need for the "gay" community to be actively involved with the issues at heart with the black community.  It is more than back scratching it is about building a stronger more diverse movement.

    Guilty as charged.  The post wasn't intended to be my overall view on the Jena 6, and a number of folks who took me to task for not telling "the whole story" or short-handing too much treated it as if it were.  I thought (naively) that by saying I understood and agreed with the broader issues being raised by the Jena 6 that I could focus on the narrow issue of whether a gay rights group should get involved.

    I do think the gay community should support issues important to the black community when they align with the issues we are fighting for in our movement.  I don't believe so much, however, in support that's merely the result of scratch-your-back politics or white guilt.  It's important for black gays not to pander or guilt white gays into supporting them.  If you respect us, then you should make your case and hear what we have to say in response.  Real dialogue goes in two directions.

    • The LGBT community has a lot of work to do in really seeking to understand the magnitude of pain (historically from generation to generation) that Black and other communities of color feel in response to systemic and institutional racism and discrimination.

    I know this wasn't intended to be patronizing, but that's how it is received.  I have done a great deal of "work" in my life to educate myself about racial discrimination. Far, far, far more than the average black heterosexual has done to understand my own victimhood.  Do you honestly believe that the average white person is going to go running to the encyclopedia in response to an exhortation like that? There is racism among whites and blacks both in the gay community, and I confront it everywhere I see it, including in myself.  For the most part, however, there is far less racism among gays than among straights.

    One thing I'm pleased to see is that many African Americans seem ready to move past this history, now that the laws in the U.S. have been equalized for a generation and so much has been done to eradicate racism.  They realize there are lingering issues, including those raised in the Jena 6 case.  But they also recognize that victimhood is a big ole trap that sucks out energy that could be spent making a new future.  That's why Barack Obama is so popular and such a breath of fresh air.  He speaks in a positive way about the future without wagging the figure about white guilt for the past.

    And just since we're being real here, it is a bit tiresome to hear young black folk who were born long after Jim Crow was dismantled complaining about slavery and generations of discrimination.  I heard the same thing in law school, from black fellow students who came from far greater economic privilege than me and still benefited from affirmative action (in college, law school, and hiring and promotion afterward).

    • We all want to see justice done and served for everyone of them; but we want that justice to be dispensed fairly and appropriately.  How often in this country do you hear people being charged with attempted murder during a high school fight?

    I have heard that but it's always said in passing.  And when it's said in a way that dismisses the Jena 6 beating as "a high school fight," then I frankly don't believe it.  How often does "a high school fight" involve six guys blindsiding, beating and kicking the other unconscious and sending him to the hospital? That never happened in my high school!

    What happened in Jena was also not a "fight," and here's where I'd like Darryl! and others to really listen.  This is the heart of what set me off.  It's not "a fight" when six guys surprise and beat up one.  It's an attack, and in Jena, it was a very violent attack.  Not attempted murder, I agree, but then that charge was dropped.  But not "boys will be boys" scuffle either.  To say so doesn't just diminish what happened in Jena, it is a slap in the face to gay teens and adults who've experienced similar cowardly beatings by jock-types. Including me.  Understand now?

    • I also want to say that I think Donna Payne was where she needed to be doing what we both expected and needed her to do.  Stand for us and represent us.  I think again you threw her name into your article and glossed over her purpose and representation.  Do you or have you gotten to know her perspective on this issue?

    Donna wrote her op-ed piece on Advocate.com and said what she said mischaracterizing what happened at Jena.  I didn't attack her personally; I responded to what she said.  In response to the email from Darryl!, I asked Donna to share her views.  Like others at HRC, she chose not to even reply.

    (The complete email from Darryl! is available at the jump.)

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    October 02, 2007

    Racial condescension and the Jena 6

    Posted by: Chris

    Jena_6 Through almost 15 years of involvement in the gay rights movement, I've frequently heard black and white leaders alike talk about the critical need for "real dialogue" on racial issues. But what follows, in my experience, is a one-way conversation full of condescension and nothing approaching anything "real."

    That's because the white liberals who generally speak up feel so burdened by accusations of "white privilege" that their primary goal is simply to say whatever it is they think will most please their black listeners. The only time things get heated is when they guess wrong, much like Bill Richardson mis-pandered when Melissa Etheridge asked him whether being gay is a "choice."

    But look what happens when a white person does attempt "real dialogue" on racial issues in the gay rights movement. He is rewarded with additional heaps of condescension from black and white alike, along with the usual unfounded accusations of racism. I'm talking of course about the reaction to my posts about the decision by the Human Rights Campaign to defend the "Jena 6" -- six (black) high school football players who beat and kicked unconscious a fellow student.

    As a victim of a violent hate crime myself, I had argued that the gay rights movement should not take up the cause of schoolyard jock bullies who beat up a defenseless fellow student; it mirrors too closely the violence that gay teens and adults already face. I agreed with the Jena 6 protesters that in general the criminal justice system is unfair to African Americans, through not just prosecutorial abuses but from lopsided jury verdicts and harsher sentences. I also pointed out that by arguing the Jena 6 were acting in some racially retaliatory strike, HRC had only succeeded in turning a senseless schoolyard attack into an actual hate crime motivated by race.

    Every one of those points was completely ignored by most of those who responded to what I wrote. Instead, they just piled on the condescension and, in some cases, insinuated that I was a racist. Some "real dialogue" huh?

    Alexbio_2 The worst offenders were on the so-called Bilerico Project, a vanity site for Bil Browning (whoever he is) out of Indiana that appears to be an "experiment" in how fun it would be if gay and transgender liberals sat in a virtual circle and nodded and shook their heads in unison. First there was Alex Blaze, a mouthy white 20-something with zero credentials who channels Dana Carvey's Church Lady by wondering, without any support, why in the world I would dare to part from the party line on the Jena 6. Could it be -- could it be, yes it is -- racism!

    Sounding a similar note was Michael Crawford -- a Washington, D.C. based black gay blogger who goes by the name Bloggernista. Crawford is a regular comment contributor to this blog and his comments are often thought-provoking and interesting.

    BloggernistabioBut over on Bilerico, Crawford just can't help himself, and instead compares me to Bill O'Reilly in response to my post that questioned the timing of vocal black support for the gay hate crime bill, coming right after HRC joined in the Jena 6 rallies. Rather than address what I actually wrote, Crawford condescends to lecture me on how black leaders have historically supported gay rights issues. Well, duh. I've written many times about black support for gay rights issues and certainly don't need Crawford to lecture me on the subject.

    Then there is Rev. Irene Monroe, who kindly forwarded me an op-ed she wrote for the Advocate's website that also disagreed with my position on the Jena 6. Monroe was nice enough in the email to thank me for supporting her early op-ed work while I was editor of the Washington Blade, and her column was thankfully free of condescension. She wrote, in part:

    Chris Crain, the former editor of the Washington Blade and the man behind the popular blog and syndicated column “Citizen Crain,” balked at HRC’s president, Joe Solmonese, for appearing at the rally.

    “Why pick this case? It doesn't involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race,” Crain wrote. “But ... why pick the Jena 6, … a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard, as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?”

    Irene_monroe Wow -- she's responding to what I actually wrote! Is there actually hope for real dialogue? Read on…

    When your identity, like mine, is the intersection of these two marginalized groups, the question is moot.  Crain’s question is similar to the mindset of Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, who said gays never had to sit in the back of the bus. …

    Crain’s question, however,  cannot be summarily dismissed, because it is an important one. But his question should be hurled at the Goliaths leading the Jena 6 protest and not at the Davids who followed African-American leadership.

    For a different reason than Crain’s, I too, ask a question: “Why a rally in support of these six black boys but not the seven black lesbians who defended themselves against an anti-gay attack and were charged with beating and stabbing a white filmmaker? The filmmaker instigated the violence by threatening them and actually trying to choke one of them in the Greenwich Village in August 2006?”

    I don't quite get why the question is moot for Monroe, or why she's comparing me to a virulently anti-gay member of the King family, except that for Monroe identity politics trump everything. If that were really true for me, then as a white Southerner I should disagree with the whole point made behind the Jena 6 protesters. But as noted above, I agree with their broader criticisms, just not their selection of these particular civil rights "heroes."

    The really unfortunate thing is that you won't read even Monroe's effort to engage what I actually wrote if you see the column on Advocate.com. That's because the editors there decided to paraphrase the five paragraphs above in one sentence:

    This is clearly evident in white gay blogger Chris Crain's attack on HRC and its associate director of diversity Donna Payne, a black lesbian, for “inventing a hate crime” in Jena 6.

    Mmm, I love the smell of political correctness in the morning. Don't you?

    I feel no need to apologize or condescend on racial issues. I have fought for racial equality when it wasn't popular for me to do so. As a freshman at conservative, mostly white Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, I was one of the co-founders of the Racial Environment Project, which was formed in response to some racist slurs found on the walls in student dormitories. Through REP, I lobbied for years for scholarships to improve the racial diversity on campus.

    As editor of the Vanderbilt school newspaper and later its magazine, I wrote editorial after editorial criticizing the segregation of fraternities and sororities, which essentially controlled the school's social life. It wasn't until my junior year that for the first time a white sorority pledged a black student. My columns  angered the Vanderbilt administration and alums, alienated many Greek friends, and I even wound up moving off campus after receiving threatening phone calls that called me a "nigger white" and a "nigger lover."

    I don't write this because I expect a prize or a lot of sympathy, but to explain why I feel no need to apologize to anyone about being white or taking a stand on issues of race. I do believe there's value in real dialogue, and I am ready to listen to substantive responses to what I actually wrote. (I did receive one by email that I'll write about later.)

    Until then, I won't hold my breath.

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    September 28, 2007

    A curious time to rally round the gays

    Posted by: Chris

    Naacp_ad It's wonderful to see the recent voices from the African-American civil rights movement in favor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to existing hate crime laws.

    Some of us have been saying for months that a vocal response was needed to counter a campaign by conservative black clergy (and white clergy too) making the spurious claim that the hate crime law would somehow subject preachers to arrest for delivering anti-gay sermons.

    In just the last week, we've seen the NAACP take out a full page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen has been targeted by influential local black clergy for his hate crime support. (An enlarged copy of the ad, where the text is readable, is available for viewing on the jump from this post.)

    Then Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an influential young African-American professor at Princeton, penned a piece on Huffington Post calling on black Christians to answer the ridiculous claims by conservative black clergy about how the hate crime bill would impinge their religious freedom.

    Just yesterday, legendary African-American Professor Cornel West, also of Princetown, wrote an opinion column for the Boston Globe making the same arguments in even more blunt fashion:

    The truth is that the Matthew Shepard Act protects all First Amendment rights. And, although that is a given, this bill goes out of its way to protect the free speech of ministers. Those pastors who wish to continue condemning and dehumanizing the gay community will be free to do so.

    Well said, though I can't help but notice the curious timing for this groundswell of vocal support for the hate crimes bill. Two factors could explain the trend.

    The more neutral would be that the bill was up for a vote this week in the U.S. Senate. Of course, the prospect that it would come up for a Senate vote has been around since at least July. The other is the decision by the Human Rights Campaign, the bill's strongest backer, to take its own vocal stance last week at the controversial Jena 6 rallies in Washington, D.C., and Jena, La.

    I'd like to believe the timing is because of the Senate vote this week, but I can't help but wonder… What do you think? Was this scratch-your-back politics at work?

    For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

    (An enlarged version of the NAACP follows in the jump)

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    September 27, 2007

    Hate crime bill barely survives vote

    Posted by: Chris

    Correction: Nine Republicans, not eight, crossed party lines to put the hate crime bill up for a vote. The original post omitted Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman.

    The Senate today voted 60-39 to cut off debate on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to federal hate crime laws.  There wasn't a vote to spare, considering the measure needed 60 to end any threat of a filibuster. Immediately after the cloture vote, the Senate approved by voice vote, with no dissents, adding the amendment to the massive Defense Department authorization.

    A few interesting angles:

    • Sen. Larry Craig voted with his GOP colleagues against cloture, hoping to kill the measure.
    • Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who some have said will be the next target for outing activists, was vocal in his opposition. "The president is not going to agree to this social legislation on the defense authorization bill," said Graham. "This bill will get vetoed."
    • Complaints like Graham's about the attachment of "non-germane" amendments are bipartisan old hat in Congress, as is the strategy of amending needed legislation with controversial amendments. Both sides do it; both sides complain when the other side does.
    • Backers of the law will need 7 more votes, assuming they don't lose any, to override President Bush's threatened veto.
    • But before that happens, they've got to get the bill passed, no easy task since they've attached it to the DoD reauthorization, which is itself encumbered by debate over the Iraq war.
    • Nine Eight Republicans crossed party lines to vote with the unanimous Dems to end debate on the hate crime bill.  They were: Susan Collins (ME), Judd Gregg (NH), Richard Lugar (IN), Gordon Smith (OR), Olympia Snowe (ME), Arlen Specter (PA), George Voinovich (OH), John Warner (VA) and Norm Coleman (MN).
    • The minimal crossover only emphasizes the need to reach out to moderate Republicans. HRC under Joe Solmonese has become so closely tied to the Democrats that it is incapable of doing that work. And Log Cabin? Well Log Cabin has virtually disappeared from the scene since the departure of Patrick Guerrierro.
    • Andrew Sullivan sounded a dissenting note, calling the measure "a completely symbolic and utterly irrelevant 'hate crimes bill.'" Ouch. He also buys into the revisionist view of the Matthew Shepard's murder as more the work of drug-addled thugs than homophobes: "the Shepard case was not devoid of homophobia, even if it was grotesquely distorted as a pure hate crime by the usual suspects."

    I support hate crime bills, because I see them as a form of anti-terror legislation, since the target of both types of criminals isn't just the victim, but a broader group and societal peace as a whole.  I part ways with those who see it as "thought control," since all criminal legislation includes a "mens rea" or criminal intent element, and the thoughts here aren't punished unless they give way to action.

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    A bit more Jena 6 scrutiny

    Posted by: Chris

    Jamie Kirchick chimes in on the Jena 6, hitting many of the same notes I did, in a column for Advocate.com:

    It says much about the state of the American civil rights establishment when its foremost organizations recast a group of brutal thugs -- the “Jena 6” -- as heroic victims persecuted by a racist judicial system. And it says even worse things about the country’s preeminent gay rights group when it somehow contorts that dubious cause into its own.

    But that’s what happened with the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement of the movement to free the Jena 6, a group of black teenagers who beat and stomped a 17-year-old white boy into unconsciousness last December.

    Likewise over at Gay Patriot, Gay Patriot West (that would be Dan), takes things a step further, making an interesting point about HRC's use of the Jena 6 beating to draw hate crime analogies:

    The alleged injustice here was not the absence of such legislation, but the presence of prosecutorial misconduct. But, I guess that’s irrelevant to Joe when he has a chance to join his fellow leftists in attacking Bush. (If anything, a hate crimes law might justify the prosecutor’s alleged excesses if he believed that the Jena 6 assaulted the white teen because of his race.)

    I'm in favor of hate crime laws, though I've made the point previously that the prevailing apologist explanation for the Jena 6 beating actually elevates it from a senseless beating to a race-motivated hate crime. It's nice to see others reaching some of the same conclusions and asking more questions that HRC will probably never deign to answer.  Stay tuned…

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    September 25, 2007

    A hate crime hits home

    Posted by: Chris

    14194458_240x180 I wonder if Joe Solmonese will finally get it now. After ignoring anti-gay hate crimes in Alabama and New York in favor of the  "Jena 6" bullies in Louisiana, now one of HRC's own has apparently been bashed outside a Northwest D.C. bar.

    The victim, an HRC intern who previously worked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left BeBar on 9th Street at 1 a.m. on Saturday and was hit from behind by a group of three who shouted anti-gay slurs. Local TV station NBC-4 reports (video here):

    "He suffered injuries to the back of his head, as well as to his face," friend Joe Solmonese said.

    Solmonese works with the victim at the Human Rights Campaign. "He went to the emergency room Saturday night," he said. "He was taken by ambulance. He had some stitches in the back of his head. He's bruised in his face. He was given an MRI, checked out internally. He's back at home and recovering now."

    I wonder if HRC will finally get it now. D.C. police had said more than a week ago that they were investigating a series of gay and transgender-bashings in the city. Preoccupied up until now with race politics and the Jena 6, HRC said and did nothing.

    Now, unfortunately, it's hit one of their own. I'm betting we won't hear HRC's diversity director Donna Payne dismissing this attack simply because the young victim was "treated and released" at the hospital. That's what she did in an oped for the Advocate, minimizing the Jena 6 attack that left  Justin Butler battered and unconscious, saying "The white student was sent to the hospital and released the same       day."

    I wish the BeBar bashing victim a very speedy recovery, and I hope the bruises on his face heal soon. If any good at all can come from such violence, let's hope it wakes up Solmonese, Payne and HRC to where they should be focusing their attention.

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    September 22, 2007

    Meanwhile back at the movement

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrclogos While the Human Rights Campaign is busy defending schoolyard bullies who blindside and stomp unconcious defenseless students, the "nation's largest gay lesbian bisexual transgender rights organization" is MIA in the actual fight for equality.  In addition to completely ignoring the hate crime murders of gay men in Alabama and New York, HRC has avoided like the plague the gay marriage debate heating up in two states.

    Maryland's high court last week rejected a challenge to the state's hetero-only marriage law, crushing local and national activists who had hoped for at least a New Jersey-style civil union compromise. HRC's idea of a response was a press release. Meanwhile, gay Marylanders rallied on their own to build momentum for marriage or civil union legislation. But when the state Senate president threw cold water on the idea and the governor reneged on private promises to support full marriage equality, HRC was struck dumb — silent, that is.

    Meanwhile out in California, the Republican mayor of San Diego held an emotional press conference to announce that his relationship with his own lesbian daughter had caused him to reverse course and support a lawsuit there challenging the exclusion of gays from marriage. HRC — you guessed it — issued a press release

    The mayor's powerful appeal comes as gays in the nation's most populous state are trying to pressure Gov. Arnold Schwarzegger to back away from threats to veto a gay marriage bill passed (for the second time) by the California Legislature. When Arnold renewed his veto vow last week, HRC'ers didn't even manage a press release in response, though they did manage to let us know the cast of "Ugly Betty" will be making an appearance at the org's ubiquitous black-tie dinner.

    How can HRC get energized about the Jena 6 but remain ho-hum about gay marriage? Easy -- it's all about the politics. Democrats like HRC -- that's Hillary Rodham Clinton -- are loathe for gay marriage to emerge now as a hot political issue, so HRC does nothing to stoke the flames in Maryland or California.  Maryland is especially dangerous territory, since the Senate president and turncoat governor are both Democrats.

    It's mind-blowing to think of the sums wasted in support of this behemoth gay group, which spends more energy broadcasting morning news reports and a satellite radio show -- that one gets its own website -- than it does actually rallying suport for gay rights.

    (Credit to The Malcontent for the HRC "less than" -- or rewind -- logo.)

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    September 21, 2007

    HRC invents a hate crime?

    Posted by: Chris

    An update on my post on "Joe and the Jena 6" from yesterday:

    A reader points out that Donna Payne's column in the Advocate alleges Justin Butler was targeted by the "Jena 6" for a beating in response to an incident in which Justin attacked a black student.  Payne wrote:

    In one notable incident an African-American student was assaulted and hit with a beer bottle at a party attended mostly by whites. In return, six African-American students beat unconscious the white student who had allegedly taunted the victim at the party. But although the white student was sent to the hospital and released the same day, the six African-American students -- who have come to be known as the “Jena Six” -- were arrested and charged with attempted murder. Five of the six teenagers were charged as adults.

    I haven't seen any legitimate news source report this serious allegation that Justin, the beating victim, is himself guilty of a hate crime.  Forgive me if I don't take the word of Payne, HRC's associate director for diversity, who is hardly a model of credibility.

    Donnapayne_2 For one thing, she writes in the same column that she's horrified that "five of the six teenagers were charged as adults." What she doesn't mention is that four of those five actually are adults. Only 17-year-old Mychal Ball, who police said instigated the attack on Justin and delivered the blindside knockout blow that began the beating, was an actual juvenile tried as an adult.

    The prosecutor, who has loads of credibility problems himself, claims he tried Ball as an adult because he considered the Butler beating serious and because Ball had a record. The Louisiana Appeals Court overturned Balls' conviction, not because he has a colorable claim of innocence, but because  it disagreed with that decision to try him as an adult.  (Another fact conveniently omitted by Payne.)  The appeals court may well be correct, but is this what makes him a civil rights hero?

    I'm struck by how Payne seems untroubled tossing around an unsubstantiated allegation of a hate crime, even at someone who's been the victim himself of a beating.  (Blame the victim, anyone?)  But her careless accusation backfires, more than she realizes. Because if she's right that the Jena 6 were retaliating against a Butler, a white student, because they believed him a bigot — well, then, they're guilty of a hate crime as well.

    Hate crime laws cover any crime motivated in part by the protected categories, in this case "race" not "black."  So if the black students targeted the white student, they're ever bit as guilty of a hate crime as he allegedly was.

    Just remember that I'm not the one saying the Jena 6 are guilty of a hate crime. Donna Payne is.

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    September 20, 2007

    Joe and the 'Jena 6'

    Posted by: Chris

    Shame on you, Joe Solmonese. Whatever moral authority you had to lead a gay rights group, much less the movement, you squandered today.

    Solmonese_2I usually skew toward being the lawyerly type, focused on policy and legal rights and such. Rarely do I read or see stories that cause in me a visceral emotional reaction. But the Joe Solmonese speech about the racial strife in Jena, Louisiana, kicked me square in the stomach.

    I met Joe Solmonese on a spring afternoon two years ago in Washington, D.C., after he accepted my invitation to a get-acquainted lunch. He had recently been appointed to run the Human Rights Campaign, and I wanted to introduce myself as editor of the Washington Blade.

    But unfortunate timing meant this was no ordinary lunch. I had recently returned from Amsterdam, where I had been spat upon, kicked and beaten by seven men who attacked me for holding hands with my partner in the street. My nose was still in a cast, my eyes still bruised and bloodshot.

    Hate_2 Joe was very solicitous and sympathetic at the time. And event though he had not been particularly active in the gay rights movement up until then, but he certainly seemed, at least on that spring day two and a half years ago, to "get it."

    I don't think he "gets it" now. If he ever did, then he certainly lost it today.

    I understand the politics of why HRC became involved in the campaign to "Free the Jena 6." African-American and other civil rights leaders have been very supportive on the issues we say are important to us, and now HRC is being supportive on the issues they say are important to them. It's scratch-your-back and no doubt for some based on a genuinely felt bond among civil rights groups.

    Still, why pick this case? It doesn't involve discrimination of the type suffered historically by gay Americans. I would agree completely that there is racial discrimination in this country, and that the criminal justice system suffers from prosecutorial abuse, biased jury verdicts and lopsided sentences based on race.

    But if these injustices are as common as Joe and I both believe they are, then why pick the "Jena 6"?  Why pick a case of six bullies who beat, kicked and stomped a defenseless teen unconscious in a schoolyard -- as the one for the GLBT movement to take a stand?

    JustinbutlerblogWhen Joe spoke today at a Washington, D.C., rally to "Free the Jena 6," here was the head of the nation's largest GLBT rights organizations standing at a podium comparing the senseless beating of Justin Butler at Jena High School to a hate crime.  But he wasn't comparing victims. Oh no. He was invoking the image of James Byrd no less to side with the six macho bullies who punched and kicked Justin unconscious on the ground.

    I'm sorry but that just goes too far. Way too far.

    Solmonese tried to explain the presence at the rally of HRC, and by extension gay people generally, by saying, "We are here because we know about bigotry. We know about hate. We know the pain in high school of standing apart. Of being taunted. Of standing up, only too often, to be shut down."

    Mychalbell We certainly do, Joe. We know what it's like to be punched and kicked to the ground by teenage jocks filled with macho bravado. And that's exactly what the "Jena 6" were arrested for doing to Justin Butler.

    Football player Mychal Bell (pictured) blindsided Justin as he left the school gym with a punch to the head that knocked Justin to the ground unconscious. There the "Jena 6" commenced to kicking and stomping on him like he was a bug, causing injuries so serious they required hospitalization. If not for the intervention of an uninvolved student, things could easily have been even worse.

    I understand the broader racial issues here, and that tensions were already high because some ignorant, bigoted white students at the school hung nooses around a tree they stupidly claimed was their exclusive social property.  But no one has suggested Justin was connected to the nooses or even that his beating was racially motivated, as if that would somehow excuse it. 

    The "Jena 6" are the type of macho bullies (of all races) who victimize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students (of all races) every day outside school gymnasiums across this country. You remember those victims, don't you Joe?  They're the ones you're supposed to be defending.

    For the head of HRC to claim to stand up on behalf of gay people and compare the perpetrators of this kid's brutal beating in any remote fashion to the experience of those of us who have actually been victimized by hate crimes, whether because we are black or gay or from any other group, is deeply misguided, politically craven and downright shameful.

    Shame on you, Joe.  And shame on you, Donna Payne, HRC's associate director for diversity, for dismissing the severity of the "Jena 6" beating by noting that Justin was "sent to the hospital and released the same day." Gee Donna, I was never knocked unconscious and was treated and released from the hospital in several hours. Does my hate crime even count with you?

    Scottyweaverblog If the two of you really need to be reminded what a hate crime actually is, then why don't you drive the few hundred miles from Jena, Louisiana, to Bay Minette, Alabama. If you did, maybe you'd learn that just last week, the last of three people pled guilty to beating, stabbing and mutilating Scotty Joe Weaver because he is gay. That's where you ought to be leading a rally, calling out the local media for claiming "there's no such thing as a hate crime in Alabama." That's where you ought to be drawing comparisons to James Byrd.

    Michaelsandy_2 But there were no HRC press releases about Scotty Joe Weaver; no big speeches from Joe Solmonese or poignant op-eds by Donna Payne. They haven't even spoken out this week, as three men go on trial in New York City for the hate crime murder of African-American gay man Michael Sandy.

    Instead, Joe is in Washington and Donna is in Jena, standing up for less serious sentences for violence against the defenseless.  Far too many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths are tormented by bullies just like the "Jena 6."  And quite a few of us have the bruises to show for their handiwork even as adults. The last thing  we need is the likes of Joe and Donna standing up on our behalf for the likes of them.

    Shame, shame, shame on you both.


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    September 15, 2007

    'There is no such thing as a hate crime in Alabama'

    Posted by: Chris

    That's what WKRG-TV reporter Debbie Williams wrote in response to a complaint by a good friend and reader of this blog in response to my original post on her story on the Scotty Joe Weaver murder. My friend wrote, "Why no mention of the hate-crime angle in your story, Debbie?" She responded:

    As you know, there is no such thing as a "hate-crime" in Alabama.  I did mention the fact that prosecutors believe part of the motivation for the killing was because Scottie is gay.  It was mentioned in the Gaines trial but never brought up again until after the Kelsay plea deal.

    I wonder if she appreciates the irony in her response.  As if "there's no such thing as a 'hate crime' in Alabama." It reminds me of so many others from the same God-fearing region of the country who express their opposition to our "lifestyle" by sneering, "I don't believe in homosexuality."

    Honey, this fairy ain't like the tooth fairy. You don't get to decide whether you believe or not. You just get to decide whether to remain ignorant and intolerant -- like your forbears who "didn't believe" in women working or "didn't believe" in integrated schools.

    I hope they like the view from the dustbin of history because that's exactly where they're choosing to live.

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    September 13, 2007

    Straight-washing a hate crime

    Posted by: Chris

    Nicolekelsaycourtroom A third guilty plea was entered yesterday in the brutal murder of 18-year-old Scotty Joe Weaver, in Bay Minette, Ala. Prosecutors say he was beaten, cut, strangled and burned beyond recognition in July 2004 part because he is gay.

    Yesterday, lifelong "friend" Nicole Kelsay, 21, received a 20-year sentence but will be eligible for parole in six. Earlier Christopher Gaines pleaded guilty to capital murder and got life without parole, and Robert Gaines also pleaded guilty for his role and got consecutive life sentences. The facts of the case are bone-chilling. Scottie lived with the three people responsible for his death and had even been there for Nicole in the past when she needed help.

    According to Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone, Weaver was robbed of less than $100, then beaten, strangled, stabbed, cut, partially decapitated and set on fire. Whetstone has said the brutal nature of the murder "is suggestive of overkill, which is not something you see in a regular robbery and murder," and that there is "not a doubt in my mind" that Weaver's sexual orientation played a part in his murder.

    An August 2004 report by Laura Douglas-Brown of Southern Voice offered a bit more detail:

    A coroner’s report revealed Weaver was “beaten, strangled, stabbed, cut and burned,” sustaining injuries to his neck, torso, and “some other parts of the body that I won’t describe, but I will say they were curious,” Whetstone said.

    Scottyweaverblog_2 A local TV news report this week about Kelsay's guilty plea did an excellent job of showing the devastating impact of the horrible crime on Martha Weaver, Scotty's mother. WKRG's Debbie Williams reports:

    For the first time since the ordeal began Martha Weaver addressed the court and specifically Kelsay. Afterwards her questions were still unanswered. "Why did she do it? Why did she plot to hurt him like that?

    Alabamans are left to wonder the answer to that question becuase the WKRG report (video available here) leaves out any mention of the anti-gay motivation that might cause so-called friends to act with such brutality to score $100.

    Also omitted was any mention of the fact that Alabama has no hate crime law, or that a federal hate crime law passed the House earlier this year and a vote is expected soon in the U.S. Senate. There's no excuse for sanitizing hate from such a brutal crime, especially when Alabamans clearly need reminding of the vicious price of homophobia. Laura did a much better job of putting things in context for SoVo readers:

    Alabama was one of only 13 states with a sodomy statute on the books when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated such laws in 2003. A year earlier, then-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore denounced homosexuality as “an inherent evil and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it” in a legal opinion denying a lesbian mother custody of her three teenage children.

    Attempts to add sexual orientation to Alabama’s hate crimes law have failed repeatedly. Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized the state for failing to report apparent hate crimes to the FBI, including the 1999 murder of gay Sylacauga resident Billy Jack Gaither.

    Charles Monroe Butler Jr., 21, and Steven Eric Mullins, 25, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Feb. 19, 1999, death of Gaither, 39. Gaither’s attackers beat him to death with an ax handle, then burned his body atop a pyre of kerosene-soaked tires on a rural creek bank.

    Debbiewilliams I think Debbie Williams needs to hear from us that straight-washing hate crimes does a terrible disservice to the victim, to other members of that minority group, and plays a part in perpetuating a culture of hate.

    For a complete news summary of anti-gay hate crimes, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

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    July 23, 2007

    Karl Rove should be flattered

    Posted by: Chris

    At least he should if it's true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Because Rove-ian (Rove-like? Rove-ish?)  is the only way I can describe how some gay Democrats react when a fellow 'mo dares to suggest that The Party could do more and do it faster on gay rights.  Faced with criticism, however reasoned and based on facts, these partisan apologists go immediately into a shoot-the-messenger mode that would make Karl and his GOP cronies proud.

    That's what has happened in response to my recent blog post, "Something rotten in the Senate," which questioned the strategy of attaching the gay-inclusive hate crimes bill to the massive Defense Department reauthorization, which was itself burdened by the Democrats' effort to force a withdrawal from Iraq.

    On an invitation-only list serv for politically active gays, two prominent gays affiliated with the party apparently took me to task, albeit in a way that denied me the opportunity to respond. From the way the posts were described to me, one even made light of my gay bashing in Amsterdam and only credited my opinion as worth listening to because of it. This is sadly typical; anyone criticizing Democrats must be some sort of closet Republican. Of course my Republican past — now a decade behind me — only opens that door.

    Except in this case, I anticipated that favored straw man, and answered it in my post:

    And just to get this out of the way (for the 100th time): By criticizing these Democrats, I am not saying Republicans are better. Of course they're not. And anyone who suggests differently should have their head examined. But the question is whether our energy is better spent complaining about conservative Republicans we’ll never change or pressing "friendly" Democrats who actually control the fate of gay rights legislation. Even our friends in Congress are politicians first and will take the path of least resistance. We need to make action more attractive than inaction for them. Look no further than the anti-war movement’s unrelenting pressure and the way Democrats have responded.  Only we have the votes on our bills that they do not.

    All too often, gay Democrats generally say they like the idea of activists pressing the party on our civil rights, but then they go immediately into defensive-apologist mode when it happens. You would think, as sophisticated as the gay rights movement has become, more of our "leaders" would welcome the good cop-bad cop approach — and would relish the "good cop" role since they play it with such gusto and they're certainly not out protesting in the streets.

    Another prominent gay party apologist apparently claimed on the same listserv that we should be satisfied that gay rights legislation has at least been introduced, as if that was some sort of victory. Except any member of Congress can introduce legislation, and in 2007, with overwhelming pubic majorities favoring workplace rights, hate crime protection, gays in the military and more, we deserve actual votes on our bills.

    HRC and the Democrats are claiming that the DOD authorization was a good strategic vehicle for the hate crime bill because President Bush wouldn't veto it. That strategy makes little sense if the same legislation also includes the Iraq withdrawal, which he surely would veto. It makes no sense, that is, unless the plan is to delay a hate crimes vote until later this year, putting off pressure to act on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Uniting American Families Act and any number of other gay rights bills currently languishing.

    Of course hate crimes legislation isn't more important than Iraq or other issues of national security. But Congress has already passed dozens of bills on a staggering variety of topics, and there's no indication that taking up hate crimes would absorb more than a moment of the Senate's time. The fact that Harry Reid and other leading Democrats won't take that time says it all.

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    July 20, 2007

    Something rotten in the Senate

    Posted by: Chris

    Harry_reidThere's disappointing (if not surprising) news on the fate of a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill in the U.S. Senate. According to HRC's Back Story blog, the debate on Iraq has dragged down with it the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention/Local Law Enforcement Act, the bill's official title. The blog quotes an explanation from HRC legislative director Allison Herwitt:

    After a protracted debate about the Iraq war, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid temporarily suspended consideration of the Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization bill.  Earlier, Senators Kennedy and Smith had filed hate crimes as a potential amendment to the DoD bill.  As a result, consideration of both the bill and hate crimes will be delayed for the moment.  Reid pulled the bill after the Levin-Reed amendment failed to garner the necessary 60 votes -- a procedural hurdle needed to end a filibuster against the amendment. Levin-Reed would have called for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring.  This could mean that a vote on hate crimes may not occur before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

    Our congressional allies -- including Senate leadership -- remain committed to getting a vote on hate crimes this year.  Senators Kennedy and Smith continue to look for ways to advance this crucial legislation.

    All this still begs the question of why in the first place HRC and its Democratic allies in the Senate chose to burden the hate crimes bill by linking it to easily the most controversial piece of legislation in Congress. The hate crimes measure has bipartisan majority support in the Senate and so would pass if voted on as a free-standing measure (or attached to something germane and not so controversial).

    There is the potential for filibuster, of course, which would raise the bar to 60 votes for Senate passage, but there's no guarantee (or even a specific threat) that the Republicans would target such a popular measure or that there'd be too few votes to overcome a filibuster if attempted. In fact, the last time the gay-inclusive hate crimes bill passed the Senate, in June 2004, the vote was 65 to 33, with 18 Republicans voting in favor. That's not only enough to overcome a filibuster, it's just shy of enough to override a veto.

    And yet once again, like so many times before, through years when Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress and even the White House, gay rights bills wallow as low priority items. There's no talk of votes in the House and Senate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act either, even though it has majority support in both chambers. We shouldn't be surprised. Democrats and their lackies at HRC have been hinting privately since January that "the deal" with the party's leadership is that only hate crimes would get a vote this year, so this "frustrating delay" fits the pattern.

    What further evidence do we need that gay rights are little more than a political football to Howard Dean, Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders? They called for votes on gay rights measures when the GOP controlled Congress and they knew Republicans would kill them, but they sit on their hands when they're in control.

    They sit on their hands not because they oppose our civil rights. Their support is real, if mostly rhetorical. But they know that if a hate crimes bill passes, or even if it's vetoed, the gays will start clamoring for a vote on ENDA. If ENDA passes or is vetoed, then "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is next on the list. And as we travel down that list, the political risk to Democrats grows. Or worse yet, a lame duck Republican president might sign hate crimes or ENDA, and the Democrats' lock on being the party of equality would be challenged.

    It all boils down to this: Democrats have controlled Congress for six months now, and no gay rights bill has made it to their priority list for passage. Now, according to HRC, all we've got is a "commitment" for a vote on hate crimes "this year." Even if that happens, that still leaves ENDA, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and a half-dozen other gay rights bills languishing in Congress.

    And when "this year" is over, and maybe hate crimes at best will have gotten a vote, we already know what we'll be told because we've heard it so many times before: 2008 is an election year, and gay rights is too hot a potato to touch right now. Now more than ever is the time for action from our "courageous" Senate allies Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They've all promised "leadership" on gay rights if elected president, so let's see some "leadership" now and demand a vote in the Senate on the gay rights bills that are pending.

    And just to get this out of the way (for the 100th time): By criticizing these Democrats, I am not saying Republicans are better. Of course they're not. And anyone who suggests differently should have their head examined. But the question is whether our energy is better spent complaining about conservative Republicans we’ll never change or pressing "friendly" Democrats who actually control the fate of gay rights legislation. Even our friends in Congress are politicians first and will take the path of least resistance. We need to make action more attractive than inaction for them. Look no further than the anti-war movement’s unrelenting pressure and the way Democrats have responded.  Only we have the votes on our bills that they do not.

    Regular readers will remember my tete-a-tete with "Bloggernista," who wrote on his blog, Pam's House Blend and Bilerico last week that Andrew Sullivan and I should quit sniping at HRC and focus on "the real work" of the gay rights movement: calling Senate offices to pass the hate crimes bill. Like that would have made a difference. Now I have a question for Bloggernista: When will we wake up to the reality that HRC's willingness to be co-opted by the Democrats, and the Democrats willingness to play politics with our equality, is really where we need to focus our attention?

    If the gay blogosphere and its supporters really want to be effective, we’ll put aside championing lost causes like Mike Gravel and join together to press HRC and the Democrats for a vote on hate crimes by the end of the summer, and ENDA by the end of the year. Bring our bills to a vote! Bring our bills to a vote!

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    July 19, 2007

    Lose some even winning some

    Posted by: Chris

    For those of  you keeping track of when we gays are on the wrong side of civil rights battles, of when our activists fail to keep their eyes on the prize, consider two more examples from our progressive friends in the U.K. and Canada.

    Johnreaneyihr_228x223 First there's merry olde England, where gay groups are celebrating the victory of John Reaney, a gay man who won his case before an employment tribunal. Reaney had applied to be a youth worker for the Church of England and was shocked during his job interview with the Bishop of Hereford, Rt. Rev. Antony Priddis, about his sex life. Priddis' position was that anyone, gay or straight, involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage would be turned down for the position.

    Bishopofhereford185_155383a This is a gay rights triumph? The government stepping in and telling a church that it cannot follow its own religious code in its hiring decisions? I call it a gay rights nightmare. Not only do I think church-state separation ought to be a two-way street, but the right reverend's position, however wrongheaded, was consistent as to sexual orientation.

    Yes I know that gays can't marry (even in England, where civil partnerships are civil union equivalents) and  yes I know that the Church of England is not "separated" from state the way religious faiths are on our side of the pond. That's beside the point. The gay rights movement is about ensuring equal treatment by our government and equal opportunity in the workplace. It's not about forcing churches to make exceptions to their own teaching in the hiring of youth workers.

    Steveboissoin Then there's our friends up north, in Canada, where yet another minister has gotten himself into hot water with the gays. Youth pastor Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to his local newspaper, the Red Deer Advocate, warning the populace of the evil gay menace.  Here's what he wrote, taken from a report on Canada.com:

    "From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators," he wrote. "Your children are being warped into believing that same-sex families are acceptable; that kissing men is appropriate."

    Boissoin went on to attack gay activists as "spreading their psychological disease," saying they were "just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities."

    This diatribe upset Darren Lund, even though he's not gay but is (or was) a high school teacher, so he filed a complaint with the human rights tribunal in the Alberta province. He's even arguing that Boissoin's letter is to blame for "fostering the hate" that led to a gay bashing two weeks later. The Alberta government is backing Lund's claim, he's been called a "Peace Hero" by the Action Committee Against Violence, and Exemplary Multicultural Educator of the Year by the Canadian Council for Multicultural and Intercultural Education.

    Lund21 Thankfully, the gay rights group EGALE (Equality for Gays & Lesbians Everywhere) has said — and bless them for this! — that Boisson has a right to express his views, however despicable, in the public arena. EGALE has it exactly right, and we should join in telling Lund thanks, but no thanks, for being straight, supportive and unfortunately narrow. It ought to be anathema to anyone who believes in civil liberties along side their civil rights that someone could be brought up on charges for a letter to their local newspaper. You don't get more core "free speech" than that.

    And, of course, the worst part about the Reaneys and the Lunds of the world pushing at the margins of civil rights protections for gays is what it does to the rest of us. Those of us who live in places where the battle to decide if we have these rights is not yet decided, even in core disputes like being fired from your job or beaten up in the streets for being gay.

    Knowing that fair-minded majorities will side with us on those example, are opponents are forever on the lookout for thoughtless efforts like Reaney's and Lund's, so they can scare those same fair-minded people into believing the cure we offer is worse than what ails.

    Shame on Reaney and Lund all of their supporters for not understanding that. Why we oughta sue…

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    June 29, 2007

    Voices from Brazil's Bermuda Triangle

    Posted by: Chris

    Jardins_protestMore than 200 people marched through a São Paulo neighborhood protesting violence against gays. The banner reads 'Homophobia Kills: We want a Brazil without homophobia.' (Photo courtesy of ClubWhirled)

    Kudos to my pal Kevin Ivers over at ClubWhirled for bringing international attention to the recent murder of two young men in the Jardins neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil, and the lackluster reaction from the local police and gay population.

    Johnclaytonbmp The unexplained violence, which many suspect is the work of neo-Nazi skinheads, has some gays calling the wealthy neighborhood a "Bermuda Triangle" of sorts. 

    The recent violence is by no means the first time, either. I wrote back in April 2006 for the Washington Blade Blog about another apparent gay-bashing in Jardins, when a group of swastika-toting skinheads stabbed a 22-year-old in the chest. The attacks this week were also stabbings.

    So Kevin was justifiably proud to participate in a protest held in the neighborhood two days ago calling for hate crime legislation, and posted about it here. Our mutual friend over at Made In Brazil also helped spread the word.

    I agree with Kevin that it's curious the protest organizers chose not to make specific mention of the two murders or pause at the sites where they occurred. But the important thing, as Kevin points out, is that they put some pressure on the police to take action and hopefully encouraged closeted gay residents to report attacks when they occur.  You'll can watch one short video taken by Kevin of the protest here; he posted a second as well over at ClubWhirled.

    With the help of Kevin and some very close Brazilian friends, Anderson and I plan to move to São Paulo in a few weeks. One of our reasons was the city's reputation as being safer than Rio. Obviously we'll be watching things closely there and look forward to helping Kevin spread the word internationally about anti-gay attacks in the area.

    Click here for a complete summary of gay news from Brazil, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    Click here for a complete summary on news about anti-gay hate crimes, compiled by Gay News Watch.

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    June 21, 2007

    Waking up on the wrong side

    Posted by: Chris

    Melbournegaybar It's 'gays only' at Tom McFeely's bar (above) in Melbourne, Australia, which won the right to exclude heterosexuals so gay men aren't forced to deal with 'hens' night out.' (Photo courtesy of AFP)

    Having spent the last 15 years of my life involved in one way or another in the movement for gay rights, I'll risk my credentials in saying some days I wake up and think we're on the wrong side of things.

    Not generally, mind you. And not on any of the big issues. But some gay folks have got a crazy mixed-up idea of what gay rights laws ought to be used for.  A few examples:

    Tom McFeely is unapologetic for seeking an anti-discrimination exemption for his Melbourne gay club to refuse entry to heterosexuals and lesbians. The Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal granted a three-year exemption for the Peel Hotel last week, accepting McFeely’s claim that gay men felt uncomfortable with the number of heterosexuals and lesbians in the venue. “When it came to the stage where a gay guy can feel uncomfortable in a gay club, that’s when I felt I needed to do something about it,” McFeely said. Contrary to media reports, he said fear of violence was not the motivation. “We don’t really get any violence at the Peel. Historically the only violence has come from lesbians, particularly when they start fighting around the pool table,” he said. “It does make gay guys uncomfortable. That’s partly why I also put lesbians in this exemption.”

    A woman who was turned away from a Montreal gay bar has filed a human rights complaint. Audrey Vachon was recently refused service at Le Stud in Montreal's gay village after sitting down with her father for a quiet afternoon pint. A waiter came over and told her father, Gilles, that the bar doesn't serve women. Vachon, 20, says the waiter avoided looking at her during the conversation. "On the spot I didn't believe it, I thought it was a bad joke," Vachon said. "I didn't say a word until I'd left. I was too shocked. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I felt guilty that I'd even gone there, like I'd done something wrong."

    The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued today for refusing to offer its services to gays and bisexuals. A suit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay. Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option. They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gay men and lesbians denied access to the dating service. eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

    A lesbian couple barred from holding their civil union ceremony at a beachfront pavilion in Ocean Grove, N.J., has filed a state civil rights complaint against the church group that owns the property. The couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster alleged in a complaint filed two days ago with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights that they were denied use of the boardwalk pavilion because of their pending status as same-sex civil union partners. "They have weddings there all the time," said Bernstein, a semi-retired educational consultant. "We wanted to have our ceremony on the boardwalk, on the beach, because it's a beautiful setting, just like any married couple would want to do." Division on Civil Rights Director Frank Vespa-Papaleo said the complaint was the first to deal with discrimination in public places under New Jersey's new civil union law, which took effect in February.

    Prosecutors dropped a felony hate-crime charge today against one of two female high school students accused of handing out an anti-gay fliers at their suburban school. In exchange, the 16-year-old pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting a peace officer, both misdemeanors. She faces punishments ranging from court supervision to juvenile detention at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 13. Authorities say the teens handed out fliers at Crystal Lake South High School with a picture of two males kissing and hateful language about gays.

    For the most part, these cases show how gays who live in the friendliest of places are willing to fight "civil rights battles" on the very margins of what the law allows. They do so oblivious to how they play right into the trap that gay rights is really "politically correctness" run amok.  And worse yet, they recklessly endanger the ability of gays elsewhere to enact the very type of laws they are bending out of shape.

    A vote for civil union laws is a vote to force churches to perform gay weddings! All the opposition has to do is cite the incredibly lame-brained lawsuit out of New Jersey.

    A vote for hate crime laws will make a crime out of free speech! A quick reference to the out-of-control prosecutor in the high school flier case should suffice.

    "Tolerance" for gays is a one-way street!
    Sure sounds that way when gay bar owners want the right to exclude heteros or women to preserve their own "safe space"; something no one else is allowed. Cyberspace isn't even safe from lawsuit-happy lesbians, who think they're (somewhat justified) "offense" over eHarmony's exclusion of gay relationships somehow amounts to a "civil right."

    With so many example of real-life, down-and-dirty actual discrimination and mistreatment of gay people worldwide, you'd think our more fortunate brothers and sisters in the gay-friendliest of places would tone down the "offense" setting on their P.C. meter long enough to let the rest of us win some basic equality.

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    June 12, 2007

    Matthew Shepard all over again?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hall_king1 Coleman King, 18, in front in stripes, and Garrett Gray, 19, behind, are claiming 'gay panic' caused them to brutally beat to death Shorty Hall, 35, in Crothersville, Ind.

    A reader of Gay News Watch submitted a story from an alternative newspaper in Bloomington, Ind., that we should all do our part to spread the word about. A young, slightly built man was brutally beaten to death on April 12 because, his suspected assailants claim, he made a pass at one of them.

    The shocking murder of Aaron Hall, known by his friends as "Shorty," and the use of the so-called "gay panic" defense by those charged in his murder, have yet to attract media attention from bigger newspapers in Indiana, much less outside the state.  It is incumbent on all of us to make sure it is investigated as a possible hate crime and, if confirmed, Americans see the violent result of homophobia.

    Reporter Steven Higgs of the Bloomington Alternative lays out the facts:

    The simple facts in Shorty Hall's murder shout major media. … The 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming is commonly invoked in comparison.

    Thirty-five-year-old, 5-foot-4, 100-pound Aaron Hall was brutally beaten on April 12 for hours by two teens who have described the murder in chilling detail to police. Each says Hall precipitated the violence by making a homosexual suggestion.

    The beatings included repeated pummelings with fists and boots and dragging Hall down a wooden staircase by his feet as "his head bounced down all of the steps," in one of the accused's words. He died naked and alone, in a field, where he had crawled after his killers dumped his body in a roadside ditch.

    Police found Hall's body 10 days after his death wrapped in a tarp in the garage of Jackson County Deputy Coroner Terry Gray, whose son is one of the accused.

    The Crothersville Times has more, quoted by Higgs:

    "King said they were all drinking beer and whiskey when Hall grabbed him in the groin, asking King to perform oral sex. King said he punched Hall, then jumped on him, punching him several more times. King said Gray also punched Hall while King held Hall down."

    Gray said King left the room after initially assaulting Hall. Gray said he walked over to ask Hall if he was all right. "Gray then admitted to striking Hall several times in the eye area causing significant damage," the Times reported.

    Gray told police that King walked back into the room and moved Hall to the couch. "According to Gray, King then straddled Hall and began physically assaulting him multiple times with his hands," the paper said. Hendricks said the beatings "went on for several hours before Hall was loaded into Gray's pickup."

    Before dragging Hall down the steps to Gray's Ford Ranger pickup, Gray said they assaulted him again on the deck. King said he and Gray "continued beating Hall as Hendricks drove south to the dirt farm lane." There they dumped Hall in a ditch and threw his camouflage coat over his body.

    "King admitted to striking Hall a few more times," the Times said. "The trio then left Hall in the ditch."

    The cold-hearted brutality of the murder is truly shocking.  One of those allegedly involved is said to have even sent a text message photo to a friend that showed the beating victim between two of his attackers, almost as a hunting trophy.

    There is some question about whether the victim, Aaron Hall, was actually gay or whether his alleged attackers are counting on homophobia to stigmatize the victim and hopefully lessen their punishment.  Regardless, gay rights groups, the gay media, the blogosphere and the media generally need to pay attention to this case to make sure it is investigated properly -- including the possibility that it was an anti-gay hate crime.

    For a full report on recent crimes investigated or determined to be motivated by anti-gay hate, visit the Gay News Watch summary here.

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    May 08, 2007

    Hating the haters

    Posted by: Chris

    While we wait for our friends at the Washington Post to finally answer the questions raised in their hate crime story last week, our even better friend Stephen Colbert reveals the true victims of hate crime laws:

    Note that Colbert uses a Washington Post report in the report. Smell the irony.

    At least Jonathan Weisman's report in Friday's WaPo remembers the law only covers violent acts, reporting, "Conservative religious groups said the bill would make criminals of clergymen who speak out against homosexuality, then inadvertently inspire violence from misguided followers." But like Hamil Harris' article last weekend, Weisman never allows the bill's backers, much less the language of the statute itself, answer that charge.

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    May 06, 2007

    Dandy Dan redux

    Posted by: Chris

    Well Dandy Dan Riehl couldn't resist, and offered up his tit for my tat, or something like that. If you're curious how we got here, a quick background is in the jump to this post. But I'll skip that, along with the temptation to respond to his (sometimes amusing) personal insults to get to the substance of what he wrote — since there actually was some this time.

    In a post titled "My Crain Headaches," Riehl writes:

    As straight-forwardly as I can be, here is my point [about hate crime laws]. You and [Andrew] Sullivan rail against the source of moral instruction as, for who knows why, you've come to view it as the primary source of societal division. I strongly disagree, believing that contemporary, as opposed to classical, liberalism is the source of such divide because of its unending addiction to grouped-ness.

    It's whole point of existence is to tear societies apart. It prefers people in these myopic little groups with special needs, then promises legislation to serve those needs and it uses that offer as its lever to power - its actual ultimate goal. If we aren't going to tear down all hate crimes legislation, adding one, or another, or any group to it simply broadens our divide by further legitimizing today's prevailing liberal doctrine.

    What really amazes me about Riehl's world view is how breathtakingly inaccurate it is historically. Does he remember the 1960s?  The liberal focus on "myopic little groups" like blacks and other racial minorities did, as he says, result in "legislation to serve those needs," namely civil rights laws.  Does Riehl claim that legislation tore us apart? 

    Those laws caused substantial push-back and divisiveness in the short term, from conservatives who resisted the idea of equality based on race.  But survey after survey shows Americans view those of a different race with much greater tolerance and acceptance than they did before.  Does Riehl think this happened in spite of liberals and civil rights laws?  Which side exactly were conservative Christians on in those battles? The side of dividing or uniting?

    It wouldn't be fair to saddle contemporary conservative Christians with the racist beliefs of their predecessors.  But at the same time, the current crop should hardly be heard to complain that a liberal focus on minority rights drives wedges in society!

    The fact is that civil rights laws — whether based on race or sexual orientation — not only constrain reprehensible conduct like hate crimes and workplace discrimination.  They also make plain that ours is a society that treats difference with respect , not disdain.  That doesn't drive a wedge, except among a certain percentage of conservatives who are, generation after generation, are forever in fear that their "way of life" is being challenged by progress.

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    May 05, 2007

    Dandy Dan's diatribe

    Posted by: Chris

    Danriehl Apparently I touched a nerve over at the conservative blog Riehl World View by having the temerity to defend hate crime laws. I had posted yesterday in response to Dan Riehl, whoever he is, because he had misinterpreted both me and Andrew Sullivan on the issue.  Rather than read what I actually wrote in response, Riehl vented in one of those rambling, indignant blog-atribes that give the web a bad name — second only to the "Amen corner" commenters who of course high-fived him for standing up to the sissy.

    In "Confession: I've Been Gay Bashed," Riehl accuses me of calling him a "Christianist," which is funny because (a) I only used the word in quotes to relate back to an Andrew Sullivan post and (b) never at all about Riehl.  In my concluding paragraph, I did use the phrase "conservative Christians," which I prefer to Sully's "Christianist," but I was summing up the whole post, not labeling Riehl, whatever he believes.

    Riehl takes some serious umbrage that I would assume to be a Christianist, but it doesn't stop him from making a major "ass" out of "u" and "me" in return.  Without even bothering to skim my blog bio,  he guesses I grew up with little access to organized religion: wrong, I was raised in a church-going, deeply religious, loving Southern family.  He assumes I have no respect for Judeo-Christian values: wrong, I am a firm believer in many of them, though I do loathe how they have been and are being twisted to justify all sorts of division. He labels me on the Left: wrong, I am recovering Republican now proudly independent, though like Andrew I am forever being pushed Left by the likes of Riehl.

    Regardless, Riehl spends very little time actually addressing the issue of hate crime laws, except to repeat his silly suggestion that they're useless since we were gay-bashed in Amsterdam despite the existence of such legislation in Holland — as if the continued existence of crime proves the futility of laws against it.  He does, however, manage to suggest two fairly creative reasons why we were apparently asking for a good beating:

    Were the Left and its now affiliated minority groups to expend half the energy it does in shouting Look at me, I'm a fag, or a Black, or I'm fat! and direct that energy into constructive dialog around how to foster and retain the morals and values we require as a society to survive, I suspect, given time, the assorted members of your too many to here name special interest groups wouldn't find themselves being beat up on the streets at night.

    And I doubt very much that's it's really happening at the hands of genuine church goin' folk now, Crain. It was 2 AM. I suspect for the most part, they were home in bed. Just curious, were you by any chance out catting about in what some might call a decadent slice of Netherlands night life you no doubt rejoiced in helping to bring about? Perhaps not, and I'm not suggesting it excuses the crime, though it might help to explain it.

    Be careful what you wish for, Crain. One tremendous irony I have discovered in life, is that, when you get it, it can come back to kick your ass.

    Finally, there it is.  If we'd spend less time flaunting and — God forbid — enjoying ourselves, then maybe I wouldn't have wound up with a broken nose and two black eyes.  Nice.  Kiss your mother with that mouth?

    Best of all, Riehl proves my point about the way conservative Christianity (and Islam) foster intolerance in society generally.  He writes:

    Crain, and the Left, cite thug-ism and waywardness as one root of evil, blame that on Religion - WITH ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF AT ALL - because they either fear or detest religion, it's as simple as that. Yet, a not formally religious-ized conservative like myself sees the very values religion engenders as the only effective way to combat thug-ish-ness and waywardness in modern man, because I have observed it happen, time after time.

    Since Riehl wasn't actually raised in religion, or apparently spent much time reading the Bible, he has missed entirely Jesus' central message of love and compassion, especially for those different from yourself.  Instead, he hones in on the judgmental, law and order version preached by conservative Christians and right-wing mullahs. How else can you explain why a religious man like Riehl would call the Dixie Chicks "the Dixie Clits," and when he disagreed with a blogger named Matthew Ortega, call him "a water boy" "ringing the Taco Bell" and question the legality of his parents.

    Mmmmm, feel the conservative Judeo-Christian love.

    For an educated person like Riehl, conservative Christianity's judgmental, love-only-thy-like-thinking-neighbor message gets translated into immature misogynist bigotry. To his less intellectually endowed, more inebriated brethren, it can translate into yelling slurs at a gay couple holding hands in the street, spitting in their faces and, sometimes, beating the crap out of them.

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    May 04, 2007

    I know he's being sarcastic…

    Posted by: Chris

    …but sheesh!

    Let us have hundreds and thousands of Chris Crains and Matthew Shepards. Let these deprived, deviant homosexuals live in fear and self-loathing.

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    Islamists of a Christian feather

    Posted by: Chris

    33060218l I mentioned yesterday that Andrew Sullivan had posted my Amsterdam photo while making an excellent point about the real reason conservative Christians, who Andrew calls "Christianists," oppose adding gays to hate crime legislation:

    Christianists simply regard homosexuality as an evil and a sickness. Any law that implies that being gay is an identity and deserves equal respect and protection as other identities is anathema to them. Implicit in their worldview — and absolutely implicit in the position of the president — is that it's okay to attack gays in a way that it's not okay to attack, say, Jews or blacks. This is the core position of the Christianists — which is why I refuse to call them Christians.

    I agree entirely with him that their opposition springs primarily from resistance to any legal recognition of gays as a minority deserving of protection ("special rights" etc).  I don't completely agree that it's implicit in their view that it's OK to attack gays in a way it's not for Jews, blacks and other groups, though that is arguably the message their position sends.

    The opposition of conservative Christians to the Shepard Act is rooted, in addition to the first reason cited by Andrew, in a deep discomfort that attacks on gays involve misguided reactions to teachings they themselves espouse.  That, of course, is a far cry from attacks on blacks.   (Though racist attacks remain the moral legacy of a similar message of intolerance preached from the pulpits of conservative Christians a generation ago.)

    Granted, many of these same conservative Christians also preach that Jews, Muslims and other people of other religious faiths are Hell-bound, but including religion as a protected category is a political priority for conservative Christians, who have more than bought into the idea they are a "victimized majority."  That brings us to the final thing we can say about their opposition to the Shepard Act: They value protecting people from hate crimes less than they value protecting their own reputations as they preach intolerance.

    One blogger who reacted to Andrew's post took him to task for not clarifying that my boyfriend and I were attacked in Amsterdam by "radical Islamists" not "radical Christianists." And there's more, from Riehl World View:

    The real problem for Sullivan is that the Netherlands already has more stringent laws than anything being considered here in the US. He neglects to point that out along side his provocative example of Islamist Gay bashing.  The laws did absolutely no good. … Clearly Sullivan has the wrong -ist on his mind.

    Riehl World needs to step in to the real world.  First of all, it's silly to suggest hate crime laws are useless because we were gay bashed.  So I guess that means murder laws are useless, since homicides are a daily occurrence?  What's more, Andrew's comparison works because "Christianists" pose an indirect threat to gay Americans in a way very similar to "Islamists" in Europe. 

    The seven Moroccan 20-somethings who spat on us and beat us up for holding hands weren't "radical Islamists."  They weren't hanging out on the streets of Amsterdam at 2 a.m. on Queen's Day because they were headed to the mosque for prayer.  They were the Islamic equivalent of our own rednecks: macho thugs who have absorbed the prejudices of their culture, which persist in large part because their own conservative religious leaders dress up the bigotry and legitimize it.

    I'm not surprised to see conservative Christians freak out at the comparison with their hated Islamic foes. But when they regularly advocate the imposition of their own religious views in the law, the connection is more than well deserved.

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