28 April 2009

Walt Whitman High Students in Maryland Respond to WBC's Message of Hate

This is the counter-protest by students in response to the arrival of 7 protesters from the Westboro "Baptist Church." It's a shining example of what happens when young people aren't taught from day one that being LGBTQ is a shameful thing they must hide. When young people who are LGBTQ are accepted for who they are by those who are closest to them - parents, friends, teachers - they stand up for themselves and put hateful bigotry in it's rightful place - silenced.

Kudos to Walt Whitman High School and it's students, faculty, parents and friends.

27 April 2009

One more reason why I love the UCC: JPANet: Support Vital Hate Crimes Prevention Laws!

Home: Justice and Witness Ministries

A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities by targeting a group of people, not just the individual victim. A law protecting all of our citizens against senseless hate violence is long overdue.
Current hate crime statutes offer no federal protection against bias motivated crimes rooted in sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) would include these categories and permit federal authorities to help investigate and prosecute cases when local authorities are unable or unwilling to do so.
Tell Congress that now is the time to ensure protection for all people and all communities against bias motivated crimes!
The sacred scriptures of many different faith traditions speak with dramatic unanimity on the subject of hate. Crimes motivated by hatred or bigotry are an assault not only upon individual victim’s freedoms, but also upon a belief that lies at the core of our diverse faith traditions - that every human being is created in the image of God.

A vote is just days away. It's up to us to demand that Congress help protect our communities from the terror and brutality of hate-driven violence.
Some critics of this legislation have erroneously asserted that enactment of the measure would prohibit the lawful expression of one’s deeply held religious beliefs. These fears are unfounded. H.R. 1919 does not in any way violate the First Amendment protections of offenders. Hate crime laws do not restrict free speech. They target only violent criminal activity motivated by prejudice.
Make sure Congress hears from you. Email here or Call 866-346-4611 (TOLL FREE)* and tell your member of Congress to vote for the Matthew Shepard Act.
* Phone number made available Monday-Wednesday, April 27-April 29 by our friends at LCCR

Fight Hate Now part 2: Response From Congressman David Scott

Unlike Saxby Chambliss, here is an example of someone who gets it...
Thank you, Congressman Scott! 

From: Congressman David Scott <imaga13@mail.house.gov>
Date: Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 9:08 AM
Subject: Response From Congressman David Scott

 Dear Kristi:


Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. I am honored to have the opportunity to respond to you on such an important issue.


I recognize your concern with respect to hate crime legislation. I personally, along with all of my fellow Democratic colleagues, support preventing acts of crime in all circumstances. I also feel strongly that a responsible society must identify and strive to protect individuals and groups most vulnerable to bias-motivated crime. In the past, I have co-sponsored bills to end hate crimes against gays and lesbians and supported a policy to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, religion, or race. You recently expressed a concern for H.R. 1913, which would provide federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes. We must do what we can to promote a society that values liberty and free expression and where all Americans possess equal protection under the law. As you may already know, H.R. 1913 is under review by the House Judiciary Committee. Though I am not a member of this committee, please be assured that should this legislation come to the House floor, I will be sure to keep your views in mind while voting. 


I appreciate that you contacted me to share your thoughts. I hope you will continue to give me the benefit of your opinion in the future. Also, I encourage you to visit my website at http://davidscott.house.gov, where you can view the latest news and obtain information on issues and legislation that are important to you. You can also sign up for my electronic newsletter, and receive periodic updates on my activities as your representative in Washington. I thank you again for contacting me, and I look forward to continuing to serve you.



David Scott

Member of Congress


"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."  - Anne Lamott

23 April 2009

Fight Hate Now

Angie Zapata
On July 16, 2008, in Greeley, Colorado, Angie Zapata, 20, was fatally beaten after her date discovered she was transgender. Her body was discovered on July 17th, by her sister.

Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay
The two brothers from Ecuador had attended a church party and had stopped at a bar afterwards. While walking home arm-in-arm, a car pulled up and three men came out of the car shouting anti-gay and anti-Latino epithets at the brothers.

Lawrence King
Lawrence King, a 15 year old junior high student, was shot and killed on school grounds on Tuesday, February 12, 2008. King, who self-identified as gay, had recently been harassed at school by students for having painted nails and wearing feminine accessories.

Ryan Skipper
Ryan Keith Skipper, 25, was brutally stabbed to death in Eloise, Florida. The suspected killers, 20 year old David Brown and 21 year old Joseph Bearden, are in custody and the investigation is proceeding as a hate crime.

Sean Kennedy
Sean William Kennedy was punched in the face by Stephen A. Moller as he used anti-gay slurs. The blows caused Kennedy to fall and strike his head on the pavement and he died later in the hospital.

Duanna Johnson
Duanna Johnson was arrested on charges of prostitution and was sitting in a chair in a holding area at the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar Avenue when an officer walked up and punched her several times.

David Ritcheson
David Ritcheson was viciously attacked by two individuals because of his heritage as a Mexican-American. Ritcheson was sucker punched and knocked out, and dragged into the back yard for an attack that would last for over an hour.

The U.S. Department of Justice—Federal Bureau of Investigation released a Hate Crimes Statistics Report in October 2007. It noted the following:

An analysis of data for victims of single-bias hate crime incidents showed that
• 52.0 percent of the victims were targeted because of the offender’s bias against a race.
• 17.1 percent were victimized because of a bias against a religious belief.
• 15.9 percent were targeted because of a bias against a particular sexual orientation.
• 14.1 percent were victimized because of a bias against an ethnicity/national origin.
• 0.9 percent were targeted because of a bias against a disability.

Of those bias, or hate, motivated crimes, the only group of victims not protected by Federal hate crime laws are those victims who were targeted based solely on their percieved sexual orientation.

On that note...here is the response I received when I sent an email to Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) urging him to support H.R. 1913:

"Dear Ms. Wright:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your thoughts on hate crime legislation. I appreciate hearing your concerns on this matter.

There is little evidence that indicates that violent crimes motivated by "hate" go unpunished in the United States. Most states already have criminal laws that prohibit the anti-social behavior addressed by hate crime legislation - including laws against murder, rape, arson, assault, and battery.

I oppose the creation of Federal hate crime legislation for a variety of reasons. First, I do not believe the Federal government should interfere with the criminal laws already on the books in our states. Second, many hate crime bills attempt to establish a "protected class" of crime victims who would receive special protection under the law. And finally, we already have laws to prosecute individuals who commit violent crimes. Those people guilty of violent crimes against anyone should be prosecuted under existing law."

Senator Chambliss is missing the point.

Bias crimes committed against one person tend to have the effect of terrorizing an entire group of people, whether they are motivated by race, color, religion, sexual orientation or any other class. There are already federal protections for race, color, religion, national origin. These federal protections enhance the penalties for violent acts committed as a result of bias.

H.R. 1913 (or The Matthew Shepard Act, as it is commonly known, named for the gay Wyoming college student who was severly beaten, tied to a fence and left to die by his attackers) would strengthenalready existing federal hate crime laws in three ways:

1) Expand the law to authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Current law only includes race, color, religion or national origin.
2) Eliminate a serious limitation on federal involvment under existing law which requires that a victim of a bias-motivated crime was attacked because he/she was engaged in a specified federally-protected activity such as voting, serving on a jury or attending school.
3) Add "gender" and "gender identity" to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act