Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Anti-Gay Violence, Hate Crimes & Civil Rights

I grow increasingly weary, not to mention impatient, with certain segments of society that decry the use of the term "civil rights" by the gay community. We don't have a right to use that term, they say. Homosexuality is not an "inherent characteristic" like skin color or other racial characteristics. We've never faced lynching; we've never had separate drinking fountains; never been forced to the back of the bus, never been deprived of voting rights. Therefore, what gay people are fighting for should not be called "civil rights."

Apparently, some people think they've trademarked the term. I find it hard not to frame a sarcastic response. Every minority group in this country faces unique problems. One shouldn't try to compare the experiences of Black Americans to Hispanic Americans or to Asian Americans. The discrimination directed toward women is entirely unique from the discrimination directed toward disabled Americans or Jewish people. Yet each group has had to fight at some time for equal treatment and justice in this nation.

So it is with us. Gay people are murdered, attacked, and beaten just for being gay. We are imprisoned for being gay. Until just a few years ago, merely being gay was cause for arrest in much of America. And the United States has just refused to sign a non-binding United Nations declaration urging the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world -- the only Western nation to decline. So much for the US's world leadership.

Our youth are expelled or suspended from schools at far higher rates. Gay children are ten times more likely to drop out of school due to harrassment and bullying. They are thrown out of their homes. Census estimates indicate that over half the homeless children on American streets are gay kids whose parents have disowned them. There are documented instances of parents forcing their gay children against their will into so-called "conversion" programs, like Exodus International.

We can be fired from our jobs merely for being gay. In many places we can be evicted or denied housing merely for being gay. We may not serve in the military. We may not give blood to a blood bank or a hospital. This is a blatant policy of marginalization targeted at the Gay community. The rate of AIDS infections is soaring among Black Americans. Has anyone dared even to suggest that Black people should be banned from donating blood?

The FBI has just released hate crime statistics for this previous year. The good news is that reported hate crimes are down by 1%. The bad news is that reported hate crimes targeting gays and lesbians are up by 6%. Statistics are also broken down on a state-by-state basis. Michigan, for instance, experienced a whopping 133% increase in anti-gay hate crimes, from 97 attacks to 226. These are just the reported crimes. Many gays and lesbians decline to report attacks or bashings, fearing unsympathetic police officers or for fear of being "outed."

A study conducted at the University of California, Davis indicates that 4 out of 10 gay men have already experienced at least one incident of physical gay-bashing. For lesbians the number is 1 in 8.

The list that follows is only a partial record of some of the most recent and violent incidents directed at Gay men and women.

A. 2007, in Oxnard, California a fourteen year-old student named Lawrence King was shot twice in the head by fifteen year-old student, Brandon McInery the day after King gave McInery a Valentine.

B. In October, 2007, in Washington, D.C. Tony Hunter was murdered by four men as he was about to enter the popular Be-Bar.

C. In Sacramento, CA, 2007, Satender Singh, age 26, was punched in the face and killed by a Ukrainian immigrant while picnicking with friends in a public park. The immigrant, a member of a virulently anti-gay group called "The Watchmen on the Walls," claimed to be offended by Singh's flamboyant dancing with his straight friends. The immigrant subsequently fled the country.

D. In Indiana, 2007, Eric Hendricks, age 73 and wheel-chair bound, was savagely beaten and killed, along with his long-time lover and companion, Milton Lindgren. For months their phone lines and cable had been repeatedly cut and hate messages left on their front door. No one has been arrested, although a neighbor is described by police as "a person of interest."

E. In Oklahoma City, Steven Dohmer, age 62, was kidnapped and murdered by Daniel Lynn Madden.

F. In Seattle, WA Erin Webster and Justin Smith, in separate incidents were attacked and beaten with baseball bats by men shouting anti-gay slurs. The incidents took place on Capitol Hill, a popular gay neighborhood. The perpetrators have not yet been caught. Seattle is experiencing a rising tide of gay hate-crime. Seattle is also a hot-bed of activity for the group, Watchmen on the Walls.

G. In 2008, New York City resident and Equadorian immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay was beaten to death by a man with a baseball bat.

H. In Richmond, CA on December 13, a young lesbian was raped repeatedly by four Hispanic men ages 31, 21, 16, and 15. The perpetrators identified their victim by a rainbow flag bumper sticker, followed her, kidnapped her and raped her. The victim has not yet been publicly identified. This represented one of the few times in which a gay hate-crime has received national attention from the news media.

The list goes on. Anti-gay violence is on the rise. Keep reading.

1. The arson of the The Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 24, 1973 killing 32 people.

2. The stabbing death of Robert Hillsborough in San Francisco, California June 21, 1977 by a man shouting "faggot."

3. On November 27, 1978, openly gay San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated by political rival Dan White at San Francisco City Hall, along with Mayor George Moscone. Outrage over Milk's and Moscone's assassinations and the short sentence given to White (7 years) prompted the White Night Riots.

4. Tennessee Williams was the victim of an assault in January 1979 in Key West, being beaten by five teenage boys. He escaped serious injury. The episode was part of a spate of anti-gay violence inspired by an anti-gay newspaper ad run by a local Baptist minister.

5. The beating death of Terry Knudsen by three men in Loring Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 5th, 1979.

6. The beating death of Les Benscoter on June 15, 1979 in his St. Paul, Minnesota apartment with the words, "fags will die" written in toothpaste on his furniture.

7. The beating of Rick Hunter and John Hanson by Minneapolis police outside the Y'all Come Back Saloon on January 1, 1982. Hennepin County Hospital emergency room staff employees testified in court that the police called the two men queers and sissies while the men were being treated for their injuries.

8 The beating to death of Declan Flynn in Fairview Park, Dublin in 1983. The murder and subsequent suspended sentences of the perpetrators who pleaded guilty to murder saw the emergence of a more vocal gay community in the aftermath.

9. The drowning death of Charlie Howard in Bangor, Maine in 1984.

10. On May 13, 1988, Rebecca Wight was killed when she and her partner, Claudia Brenner, were shot by Stephen Roy Carr while hiking and camping along the Appalachian Trail. Carr later claimed that he became enraged by the couple's lesbianism when he saw them having sex. Carr claimed the woman taunted him by having sex in front of him.

11. The fatal stabbing of James Zappalorti, a gay Vietnam veteran (1945 – 1990)

12. The death of Julio Rivera in New York City on July 2, 1990 by two men who beat him with a hammer and stabbed him with a knife because he was gay.

13. The killing of Paul Broussard, a Houston-area banker (1968-1991)

14. The killing of an unknown homosexual man in Lillehammer, 21st of August, 1992. The police investigations took about a year before Bård Faust, the drummer of the band Emperor, was arrested and convicted of the killing. Apparently the man had suggested gay sex to Faust and after they arrived at a nearby forest, Faust stabbed the man 14 times.

15. The murder of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Allen Schindler by a shipmate who stomped him to death in a public restroom in Japan on October 27, 1992. Schindler had complained repeatedly about anti-gay harassment aboard ship.

16. The rape and later murder of Brandon Teena, a transsexual man (1972 – 1993). The events leading to Mr. Teena's death were depicted in the movie Boys Don't Cry.

17. On March 9, 1995, Scott Amedure was murdered after revealing his homosexual attraction to his friend Jonathan Schmitz on The Jenny Jones Show.

18. The murders of Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill, a lesbian couple in Medford, Oregon in 1995, by a man who said he thought their "lifestyle" was "sick."

19. The bombing of the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, by Eric Robert Rudolph, the "Olympic Park Bomber," on February 21, 1997; five bar patrons were injured.

20. The October 6, 1998 death by beating and exposure of Matthew Shepard, a gay student (1976 – 1998)

21. The fatal beating of supposedly gay teenager Jeff Whittington in Wellington, New Zealand on May 8, 1999.

22. In May 1999, Admiral Duncan pub, a gay bar in Soho was bombed by David Copeland, killing at least 2 people and wounding 73 people.

23. The murder of Pfc Barry Winchell on July 6, 1999. He was dating Calpernia Addams, a transgendered author.

24. John Atherton, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, was hanged for sodomy under a law that he had helped to institute. His lover was John Childe, his steward and tithe proctor, also hanged. Anonymous pamphlet, 1641.

25. The July 1, 1999, murders of gay couple Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder by white supremacist brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams. Matthew Williams claimed that by killing the couple he was following "obeying the law of God," because he believed homosexuality violated God's laws. Williams said he hoped his actions would inspire further violence against homosexuals and ethnic minorities.

26. The murder of Steen Fenrich by his stepfather, in September 1999. His dismembered remains were found in March 2001, with the phrase "gay nigger number one" scrawled on his skull along with his social security number.

27. In November 1999, Blah Bar, a gay bar in Cape Town, South Africa, was bombed injuring 2 people.

28. The murder of Arthur "J.R." Warren by three teenage boys on July 3, 2000, who believed Warren spread a rumor that he and one of the boys had a sexual relationship. Warren's killers ran over his body to disguise the murder as a hit-and-run.

29. One notorious incident of gay-bashing occurred on September 22, 2000. Ronald Gay entered a gay bar in Roanoke, Virginia and opened fire on the patrons, killing Danny Overstreet and injuring six others. Ronald said he was angry over what his name now meant, and deeply upset that three of his sons had changed their surname. He claimed that he had been told by God to find and kill lesbians and gay men, describing himself as a "Christian Soldier working for my Lord".

30. Aaron Webster, a gay man in Vancouver, British Columbia, was beaten to death in Stanley Park in 2001.

31. On June 16, 2001, Fred Martinez, a transgender student was attacked and beaten to death by 18-year old Shaun Murphy.

32. On June 30, 2001, hundreds of soccer hooligans attacked participants of the first Serbian Pride Parade in Belgrade.

33. The 2002 homicide of Nizah Morris, a transgender in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the mishandling of the case by the Philadelphia Police Department.

34. The non-fatal stabbing of Bertrand Delanoë, a gay politician, Mayor of Paris, France, in 2002
35. The killing of Gwen Araujo, a transsexual woman (1985 – 2002). Michael Magidson, Jaron Nabors, and José Merél were charged with the murder as a hate crime, with Jason Cazares charged as an accomplice. Nabors made a deal with prosecution, receiving a manslaughter conviction in exchange for testimony, but his testimony was largely considered unreliable. The jury hung on Cazares, who then pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter to avoid a retrial. Magidson and Merél were convicted of second-degree murder, but the hate crime enhancement was not accepted by the jury.

36. Sakia Gunn (May 26, 1987-May 11, 2003) was a 15-year old African American lesbian who was murdered in a hate crime in Newark, New Jersey. On the night of May 11, Gunn was returning from a night out in Greenwich Village, Manhattan with her friends. While waiting for the #1 New Jersey Transit bus at the corner of Broad and Market Streets in downtown Newark, Gunn and her friends were propositioned by two men. When the girls rejected their advances, by declaring themselves to be lesbians, the men attacked them. Gunn fought back, and one of the men, Richard McCullough, stabbed her in the chest. Both men immediately fled the scene in their vehicle. After one of Gunn's friends flagged down a passing driver, she was taken to nearby University Hospital, where she died.

37. On June 17, 2003, Richie Phillips was murdered by Joseph Cottrell. His body was later found in a suitcase, in Rough River Lake. During his trial, Cottrell's relatives testified that he lured Phillips to his death, and killed him because he was gay.

38. On July 23, 2003, Nireah Johnson and Brandie Coleman were murdered by Paul Moore, when Moore learned after a sexual encounter that Johnson was transgender.

39. On July 31, 2003, 37-year-old Glenn Kopitske was killed by 17-year-old Gary Hirte. Hirte pleaded insanity, claiming he killed Kopitske in a murderous rage after a consensual sexual encounter with the victim, because he felt a homosexual act was "worse than murder."

40. On June 5, 2004, Jamaican Gay rights activist Brian Williamson was murdered with a machete, suffering several stab wounds to neck and face.

41. On September 28, 2004, Sierra Leonean gay and lesbian rights activist FannyAnn Eddy was murdered while she was working late in her office. Her attackers have escaped from prison and have never been recaptured and prosecuted.

42. On October 2, 2004 two men in Waverly, Ohio beat Daniel Fetty to death with bricks and boards. Prosecuters believe it was because Fetty was gay.

43. On January 28, 2005, Ronnie Paris, a three-year-old African American child died due to brain injuries resulting from abuse by his father. According to his mother and other relatives, Ronnie Paris, Jr., would slam his son into walls and force him to "slap-box" because he was concerned the child was gay and feared his son would grow up a sissy.

44. On March 11, 2005, Jason Gage -- an openly gay man -- was murdered in his Waterloo, Iowa apartment by an assailant who claimed Gage had made advances and was killed when he fought with the victim. The district attorney in the case noted neither the victim or the perpetrator, or the apartment bore any signs of struggle. Gage was bludgeoned to death with a bottle, and stabbed in the neck with a shard of glass.

45. On June 30, 2005, Yishai Shlisel, a Haredi Jew stabbed three marchers in a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Israel, claiming he acted on behalf of God.

46. Jody Dobrowski, murdered in 2005 in London, the two murderers were later sentenced to life in prison.

47. In September 2005, Lauren Harries, a former child antiques expert who had gender realignment surgery to become a woman, her father and brother were attacked by 8 young men in their home in Cardiff. According to court, the youths were shouting and swearing and were heard to shout out the word "tranny" - a term of abuse associated with hate crime.

48. In December 2005, a Jamaican mob chased an alleged gay man who, fearful of the crowd, jumped into the water and drowned.

49. In February 2006, Gisberta Salce Júnior, a homeless Brazilian transsexual living in extreme social exclusion in the Portuguese city of Oporto, was tortured and anally raped with sticks over a period of three days and then thrown into a pit and left to die in an abandoned construction site. A group of twelve to fourteen adolescent boys between the age of 12 and 16 admitted to committing this crime.

50. On February 2, 2006, 18 year-old Jacob D. Robida entered a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts, confirmed that it was a gay bar, and then attacked patrons with a gun and a hatchet, wounding at least three.

51. In April 2006, students rioted at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and attacked an alleged gay student.

52. On April 6, 2006, two American television producers, CBS Evening News senior producer Richard Jefferson and 48 Hours producer-researcher Ryan Smith, were beaten with a tire iron outside the Sunset Beach Bar on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten by a group of four men and two women. The attack left Smith unable to speak properly, having suffered a skull fracture and brain damage.

53. On June 10, 2006, Kevin Aviance was robbed and beaten by a group of men who yelled anti-gay slurs at him

54. On July 30, 2006, six men were brutally beaten after leaving the San Diego, California Gay Pride festival. One of the gay men was beaten so badly that he had to undergo extensive facial reconstructive surgery. All but one of the attackers were adults the exception being a 15-year-old. The attackers were charged with hate crimes.

55. On October 8, 2006, Michael Sandy was attacked by four heterosexual young men who lured him into meeting after chatting with him online, while they were looking for gay men to rob. Sandy was hit by a car while trying to escape his attackers. He died five days later, never having regained consciousness.

56. On February 14, 2007, three gay men and the gay activist Gareth Williams were stoned by a huge mob in a homophobic attack in Kingston, Jamaica. International human rights organisations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world.

57. On April 8, 2007, approximately 100 men gathered outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man in Mandeville, Jamaica. According to mourners, the crowd broke the windows with bottles and shouted, “We want no battyman [gay] funeral here. Leave or else we’re going to kill you. We don’t want no battyman buried here in Mandeville.”

58. On May 12, 2007, Roberto Duncanson was murdered in Brooklyn, New York. He was stabbed to death by Omar Willock, who claimed Duncanson had flirted with him.

59. On May 16, 2007, Sean William Kennedy, 20, was walking to his car from Brew's Bar in Greenville, SC when Andrew Moller, 18, got out of another car and approached Kennedy. Investigators said that Moller made a comment about Kennedy's sexual orientation, and threw a fatal punch because he didn't like another man's sexual preference.

60. On May 29, 2007, Michael Marcil, better known as drag queen Dixie Landers was beaten outside of an Ottawa, Ontario gay pub. Andrew Lefebvre and Sheri-Lee Rand have been charged for the attack.

61. On July 7, 2007, 30 participants at a gay pride event in Croatia were attacked by multiple assailants. The attackers had also prepared Molotov cocktails but were stopped by the police before using them. Many people taking part in Gay Pride marches in Eastern Europe (e.g: Romania, Russia, Serbia) have been beaten after leaving the marches.

62. In September 2007, Osvan Inacio dos Santos, 19, was attacked and murdered in a street near a bar where he had just won the local "Miss Gay" competition in the town of Batingas in northeast Brazil. dos Santos' naked body was found on Sunday morning and forensic examination found his skull had been fractured and indicated sexual assault.

63. On December 3, 2007, Craig Gee was attacked by four men whilst holding his boyfriend's hand walking down Crown Street in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia. Part of his skull was reduced to powder and his leg was broken during the attack. This incident prompted a vigil against the rising level of homophobia in the city and alleged apathy from police [38], and despite the attack, Gee and his boyfriend joined the Chief of Parade Margaret Cho to lead the 2008 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

64. In January, 2008, three gay men were attacked in the privacy of their dwelling by an angry mob who had days before threatened them if they did not leave the community in Mandeville, Jamaica. According to reports, two men were hospitalised, one with serious injuries, while another man is still missing and feared dead.

65. In February 2008, Brazilian gay rights activist Alexandre Peixe dos Santos was attacked and beaten at the Sao Paulo's Gay Pride Association offices in Brazil. Activists estimate that more than 2,680 gay people were murdered in Brazil between 1980 and 2006.

66. In February 2008, transsexual Duanna Johnson was beaten by a police officer while she was held in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center. Johnson said the officers reportedly called her a “faggot” and “he-she,” before and during the incident. In November 2008, she was found dead in the street, reportedly gunned down by three unknown individuals.

67. On February 12, 2008, Lawrence "Larry" King, a 15 year old junior highschool student was shot by a classmate at E.O. Green School in Oxnard, California. He was taken off life support after doctors declared him brain dead on February 15. According to Associated Press reports, "prosecutors have charged a 14-year-old classmate with premeditated murder with hate-crime and firearm-use enhancements".

68. In Rochester, New York on March 16, 2008 police say Lance Neve was beaten unconscious because Neve was gay. A man attacked Neve at a bar leaving him with a fractured skull, and a broken nose.

69. In Baltimore County, Maryland on May 29, 2008 eighteen year old Steven Parrish—a member of the Young Swans subgroup of the Bloods—was murdered by Steven T. Hollis III and Juan L. Flythe after they found "gay messages" on his cell phone. They felt having a gay member would make their gang appear weak and that by killing Parrish they could prevent that perception.

70. September 7, 2008 - Tony Randolph Hunter, 27, and his partner were attacked and beaten near a gay bar in Washington DC. Hunter later died from his injuries on September 18th. Police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.

71. On November 7, 2008 in Newton, NC the home of openly gay Melvin Whistlehunt was destroyed by arsonists. Investigators found homophobic graffiti spray painted on the back of the house.

72. On November 14, 2008, transwoman Lateisha Green was shot and killed in Syracuse, NY because the alleged perpetrator thought she was gay. Local news media reported the incident with her legal name, Moses "Teish" Cannon.

73. On December 7, 2008 Romel Sucuzhanya, a 31 year old straight Equadorean and his brother Jose, were attacked on a Brooklyn, New York street for appearing to be gay and for being Hispanic; they were walking arm-in-arm, which is normal for brothers in their culture. Romel later died from his injuries.

74. On December 12, 2008 in Richmond, California a 28 year old lesbian was kidnapped and gang raped by four men who made homophobic remarks during the attack.

Again, the list is not comprehensive. Anti-gay violence is on the rise, fueled by the rhetoric of the religious right and groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council, among others. New groups like The Watchmen on the Walls are also on the rise.

The question that confronts us now is this: as a community and individually, how will we defend ourselves?


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