Monthly Archives: February 2009

Second Suspect Arrested for José Sucuzhañay Murder

New York’s WCBS is reporting that the second suspect in December beating death of José Sucuzhañay has been arrested. The first suspect, Hakeem Scott, was arrested on Wednesday and made a full confession, though he pleaded not guilty to second degree murder on Thursday.

José Sucuzhañay was murdered in December by two men who shouted anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs at them while beating him with a beer bottle and an aluminum baseball bat. It is believed that the newly arrested Keith Phoenix was the one wielding the bat.

28-year-old Keith Phoenix was wanted in the Dec. 7 beating of Ecuadorian immigrant José Sucuzhañay on a Brooklyn street.

Phoenix’s alleged accomplice, 25-year-old Hakeem Scott, also of The Bronx, had been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime and held without bail since his arrest earlier in the week.

The NYPD on Thursday released a shocking surveillance video taken shortly after the bias attack in Brooklyn.

Phoenix and Scott were seen smiling as they headed home to the Bronx moments after the beating.

Investigators said the footage shows the two riding in their SUV just 19 minutes after the attack that ultimately ended the life of Sucuzhañay back in December.

“We know that these arrests will not bring our brother back,” Diego Sucuzhañay said. “But at least we have hope that justice is on its way.”

Police said Phoenix lives in the same South Bronx neighborhood as Scott, who was picked up Tuesday near where they live on 161st Street. Scott was arrested and charged with murder as a hate crime. On Thursday the Sucuzhañay family expressed gratitude for the police work.

Go to WCBS’s story to see the surveillance video released this week as well as comments from brother Diego Sucuzhañay.

CO Senator Dave Schultheis Hopes Babies Are Born With AIDS

When did the Square States become the New South? Last week we had State Senator Buttars (“They’re mean… It’s just like the Moslems!”) and State Senate President Michael Waddoups (“We agree with many of the things that he said.”) going all bigoted in Utah. This week it’s Colorado’s turn.

On Wednesday, State Senator Dave Schultheis (R) rose to speak before a vote on SB 09-179, a bill that in part would “require health care providers providing care to a pregnant woman during gestation, or hospitals where a pregnant woman presents for delivery, to test the woman for HIV if she has not previously been tested and allows the pregnant woman to decline to be tested”.

Seems pretty reasonable, yes? The goal is to have an HIV test early so that if the mother is HIV+ steps can be taken to protect the fetus before birth. Note that the mother may decline to be tested.

It seemed like an easy vote until Sen. Schultheis requested to speak. The Colorado Senate ended up passing the bill 32-1, but here’s the transcript and a link to audio of what Sen. Schultheis had to say, both courtesy of the Colorado Independent:

Sexual promiscuity, we know, causes a lot of problems in our state, one of which, obviously, is the contraction of HIV. And we have other programs that deal with the negative consequences — we put up part of our high schools where we allow students maybe 13 years old who put their child in a small daycare center there.

We do things continually to remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior, quite frankly, and I don’t think that’s the role of this body.

As a result of that I finally came to the conclusion I would have to be a no vote on this because this stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can’t vote on this bill and I wanted to explain to this body why I was going to be a no vote on this.

The Face of Evil: Profile
The Face of Evil: Profile

To restate it more succinctly, Sen. Schultheis thinks that unborn babies should not be protected from HIV/AIDS because their mothers are whores anyway. That’s outrageous, but it’s not just me getting hyperbolic. Sen. Schultheis clarified his statement to the Rocky Mountain News later the same day.

“What I’m hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years … begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior. We can’t keep people from being raped. We can’t keep people from shooting each other. We can’t keep people from jumping off bridges. People drink and drive, and they crash and kill people. Poor behavior has its consequences.”

To clarify again, Sen. Schultheis says directly that he’s “hoping” that a baby is born with AIDS so that the mother (who is apparently a whore) will feel bad.

My question to the people of Colorado’s ninth district, (including northern Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, parts of the Black Forest, and the town of Monument) is a simple one: WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?

 

Sen. Schultheis, oddly enough, is on Twitter! His current status, posted at around 5:00 yesterday (well after the story broke in Colorado), is “Should government be used to ameliorate the negative consequences of immoral behavior. I say NO.” I am SOOOO following Dave!

CO Senator Scott Renfroe: Gay = Murder

State Senator Dave Schultheis (R) isn’t the only one stinking up the Colorado Senate floor this week. Joining his brothers-in-hate from the Square States is Colorado State Senator Scott Renfroe.

In Monday’s debate on SB 09-088 (pdf), which would offer health benefits to domestic partners of gay state employees, Sen. Renfroe had this to say, transcript courtesy FreeColorado.com:

Homosexuality is seen as a violation of this natural, created order. And it is in a sense to God, the creator, who created men and women, male and female, for procreation.

Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.”

Leviticus 20:13 says, “If there is a man who lies with a male as though to lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act, and they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them.”

Then Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

And that’s what we’re doing here. We’re suppressing the truth. The truth is what the family was created for in the beginning. That is the a husband, a wife, and children. And that is why we are here, and this goes against that. And this is just a continuation of the traction of the family.

I left out a bunch of preliminaries that you can see on the video. Basically, Sen. Renfroe is arguing that state law should be decided based on [his understanding of] the Bible, which is pretty far into the territory of the government establishing a religion and abridging the rights of those who don’t follow that religion.

He also, in case you missed it, suggested that the government of Colorado should follow Leviticus 20:13, which [according to his understanding] explicitly sets the penalty for homosexuality as death. One wonders where Sen. Renfroe would place the firing squad, inside his district so he could get the revenue, or outside his district so he wouldn’t get complaints about the noise of the gunfire.

But wait! There’s more!

And I’m not saying that this is the only sin that’s out there. Obviously we have sin, we have murder, we have all sorts of sin. We have adultery, and we don’t making those legal, and we would never think to make murder legal.

Here we have an official elected to serve his government suggesting that my having sex with another man is the same as murder. It’s far from the first time I’ve heard it, but one would hope our elected officials would be above that. Oh, and as far as I know, adultery is legal in Colorado, so -100 points on that one too.

Sen. Jennifer Veiga (D), who is the bill’s sponsor, responded to Sen. Renfroe’s speech:

“You say, up here at this microphone, that God created us in a certain structure,” Veiga said.

“I will stand here today and tell you that God also created me. And the last time I checked, I am who I am, people.”

Veiga called Renfroe’s comments “somewhat sad,” and said afterward that “(his statements) are hurtful, but what am I supposed to say?”

Scott Renfroe is the Senator for the 13th district, including Greeley, Evans, Eaton, and most of Weld County. Citizens of the 13th district, does he speak for you? For serious?

 

P.S. Sen. Renfroe is on Twitter! Shockingly, he hasn’t updated his status since last Tuesday. Must be busy with something else!

NYPD Arrest Suspect in José Sucuzhañay Murder

Multiple news sources are reporting the arrest of Hakeem Scott in the December murder of José Sucuzhañay. The Brooklyn real estate agent had been walking home with his brother Romel on December 10, 2008 when Scott and Keith Phoenix stopped their SUV. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Scott approached José Sucuzhañay and smashed a beer bottle over the back of his head, the police said, and then chased Romel Sucuzhañay.

Mr. Phoenix then took an aluminum baseball bat from the rear of the vehicle and struck José repeatedly on his shoulder, ribs and back until he fell, the police said.

“At that point Phoenix struck José several more times, full force, with crushing blows to his head,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who announced the arrest at a news conference at Police Headquarters on Wednesday evening with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney. Once in custody, Mr. Scott “made a full confession,” Mr. Kelly said.

“He said words to the effect that he had seen the news accounts,” Mr. Kelly said. “It had troubled him and, as a result, he wanted to get it off his chest.”

Romel Sucuzhañay, who had been staying with his brother and was visiting on a two-month visa from Ecuador, was not seriously injured.

New York’s CBS affiliate details the investigation:

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said his detectives were able to make the bust thanks to good old fashioned police work. They tracked a Ford Explorer witnesses at the scene described.

Not long after the attack surveillance video from the Triboro Bridge toll plaza showed Phoenix and Scott in an Explorer driving to their homes in the Bronx.

Witnesses helped police track down the SUV, and through a prior accident report Phoenix was identified as a suspect and then linked to Scott, Kelly said. The investigation eventually led them to Scott, who has a lengthy rap sheet, including arrests for assault, robbery and weapons possession. Scott was apprehended without incident near his residence on East 161st Street in the Bronx on Tuesday.

“[Scott] said he had seen the news reports and that they had troubled him,” Kelly said. “He said he wanted to get it off his chest.”

Scott will be arraigned Thursday on second-degree murder charges.

Police continue to search for Keith Phoenix (below), who is currently on parole for armed robbery. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Phoenix should contact Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Keith Phoenix, still at large
Keith Phoenix, still at large

Gay Families Pay More at the YMCA

There are always unforeseen effects of broad policies, and DOMA is certainly no exception. Today Genia at Sisters Talk discovered one of those effects.

As a sidenote, I asked the clerk, “Does the Y allow same-sex domestic partners to take advantage of the family membership?” The clerk responded with, “No. We only allow a mom-and-dad household to use the family membership because that’s what a family is: a mom, a dad, and their children.”

Since Genia is a fabulous lesbian, she took the initiative and called YMCA headquarters and talked to Mike Ace, the Executive Director.

Mr. Ace apologized profusely and stated that he was sure the clerk never intended to offend me and that she was most likely only doing her job. Since the YMCA is federally funded 501(c)(3) organization, they are obligated to define family the way the federal government defines a family. Any federal funds the YMCA receives cannot be used to provide funding to non-traditional families not officially recognized by the federal government.

…at which point we return to DOMA. You guessed it, YMCA policy is governed by the definition found in DOMA. And since DOMA defines the word “marriage” as opposite gendered, the word “family”, as defined by the YMCA, necessarily excludes same gender families. (Note that there is a separate designation for single-parent families as well.)

I did a little math based on the monthly rates published by the YMCA, and the LGBT Penalty is a bit larger than I expected.

A family (mother, father, kids under 21) costs $62/month. For a same-gender family to get the same plan, they would have to apply for Single Parent Family ($50.75/month) and one adult ($41.75/month), totaling $92.50/month with a difference of $30.50 every month.

The LGBT Penalty comes to $366 every year. Just because the parents are of the same gender.

The good news is that Mr. Ace seems to be aware of the issue and working to correct it.

Mr. Ace informed me that even though the federal government does not allow their organization to use federal funds to provide discounted membership rates to same-sex couples, the organization has been discussing various ways to address the issue. One possible solution (and Mr. Ace did not make any promises about this) was to push some of the organization’s private funds over so they can be used to help same-sex couples offset the cost of their membership. Other non-traditional families (like unmarried couples living with children, grandparents raising children, and divorced couples still living together) will also be allowed to use private funds to help offset the cost of their membership.

Mr. Ace made it very clear that this has been an issue the YMCA has been addressing for a little while now. He also stated that all the Executive Directors for Wisconsin YMCAs will be meeting soon and the topic of non-traditional families is on the agenda. His final comment was, “How the YMCA views families is changing, but that change is coming slowly.”

YMCA, that sounds like a good plan until DOMA is repealed. Seriously, haven’t The Gays saved you a FORTUNE in publicity costs?

"It's expensive to stay at the Y-M-C-A!"
"It's expensive to stay at the Y-M-C-A!"

h/t to Thomas Waters

Another Veteran Fired For Being Gay

Yesterday we looked at the case of Todd Belok, the gay George Washington University freshman who was removed from the Navy ROTC just months after joining. Today, we’ll head westward to Topeka, Kansas where Iraq war veteran Amy Brian was removed not because anyone in the military had a problem with her, but because a civilian did.

"My close friends knew I was gay."
"My close friends knew I was gay."

Amy was a member of the Kansas National Guard Reserve for a total of nine years, first from 1991-1994, then re-enlisting in 2003. In 2004 she shipped out to Iraq.

Brian worked 12-hour shifts on a vehicle maintenance crew. Later, she was assigned to narrate award ceremonies, write evaluations and perform office work. She did not see combat, but she did see Iraqi children in the camp hospital being treated for injuries that included missing limbs from roadside bombs.

According to Amy, everyone knew she was a lesbian when she was in Iraq. It was an open secret, one that nobody seemed to have a problem with. Nobody, that is, until three years after she returned home in 2005.

“I’d never really tried to hide my homosexuality to the close people I worked with,” she said. “And they didn’t really seem to care or think any different of it.”

But in August 2008, a Kansas Army National Guard lieutenant informed Brian she was being investigated for homosexual conduct after a female civilian co-worker at the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office said she had seen Brian kissing a woman in the checkout line at a Wal-Mart store.

From the moment the co-worker made her statement, Brian’s performance record and the sacrifices she had made to serve her country in Iraq no longer mattered.

Just so we’re clear: Amy Brian was not outed during her 12+ month stretch in Iraq. She was not outed by military personnel, many of whom already knew that she was a lesbian. She was outed after she returned to Kansas by a co-worker who has a problem with The Homosexuals kissing.

Brian said the effort to remove her from the Guard started with a barrage of anonymous e-mails referencing her sexual orientation and a networking Web site where her photo was posted. The e-mails were sent to her chain of command, including the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office.

According to the Kansas City Star, the person sending the emails was not Amy’s coworker. This was another person whose identity she still doesn’t know.

Watson said the separation process began when Brian waived her right to a board hearing. Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the Kansas adjutant general, signed off on the separation in December, and the separation became effective Jan. 13.

Brian received a “general under honorable conditions” discharge, Watson said. As a result, she lost all of her benefits, including educational assistance and discounts.

Maag said Brian was given a low re-entry code, which would make it easier for her to re-enlist in the military if the “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy is changed.

Several things to point out here. First, Amy waived her right to a board hearing, according to the Kansas City Star, to remove the possibility of a dishonorable discharge. Because she was given a general discharge, her master’s degree had to be put on hold.

Again, this had nothing to do with Amy Brian’s service record during her nine years in the Guard. No one has impugned her service, nor have any service personnel objected to her presence in their unit. This has happened wholly and solely because Amy Brian is a lesbian, and an uninvolved anonymous person outside the US Military complained.

I’ll close this post with one more point from Amy Brian, one that proponents of DADT should give some thought.

Most of all, she has had a difficult time rectifying the discharge in her mind. She said she served with heterosexual soldiers who were found guilty of adultery, sexual harassment, and credit card fraud and received disciplinary actions instead of discharges.

She worked with civilians — including her accuser — whose jobs were protected by laws guaranteeing they couldn’t be fired because of their sexual orientation.

DADT Claims Another Victim

Two new victims of the US military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law have surfaced recently. I’ll have a post about Lieutenant Amy Brian tomorrow, but today let’s look at the case of 18-year-old Todd Belok.

"I have known I wanted to serve since early high school."
"I have known I wanted to serve since early high school."

Todd Belok, student at George Washington University and former member of the school’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program, knew that DADT meant he’d have to be officially in the closet while he was at University, but he didn’t count on informants from a frat party where he kissed his boyfriend, who had come to visit GWU for the weekend. Senior Nick Trimis and Freshman Dave Perry decided that they’d rather not have homos in their unit and reported the kiss, ending Belok’s career in the NROTC.

Both Trimis and Perry commented to the school’s newspaper.

“I am not homophobic, I do not dislike gays,” Perry said. “It was just an uncomfortable situation for other midshipmen.”

“I was hoping he would just leave so he could go to OTS (Officer Training School) later,” Perry said. “I wish I had just let it go so Belok would not have gotten kicked out.”

Rough translation: “I’m okay with fags as long as they don’t act like fags. Fuckin’ fags with their fag germs.”

“It was drilled into me for a good 13 weeks that if someone does something wrong you are supposed to say something,” said Trimis, who enlisted in the Marines before coming to GW to finish his education. “There are certain rules in the military and when you tell, this is the way it plays out, but it is unfortunate.”

One wonders whether Mr. Trimis reported the underage drinking occurring at this frat party. Even though it may not have been hurting anybody, rules are rules, you know. And that’s without even getting to the hooking up that was no doubt occurring. Mr. Trimis is a Mormon, so one would assume that he took umbrage to the straight couples getting it on.

Interesting wrinkle in the case of Todd Belok: Though the US Navy and NROTC actively discriminate against gay men and women, George Washington University has a policy that clearly bars such discrimination.

The University’s policy, however, states any group using its trademarks will not “discriminate against any persons or groups based on age, ancestry, belief, color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status or other illegal basis, or in any other way that would be a violation of University antidiscrimination policies.”

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said, although the policies clash, the University supports and has upheld the federal law.

“These are very, very sensitive, delicate issues,” Schario said. “Unfortunately the military can discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

Federal law says that any federal money a university receives, for anything from financial aid to research grants, can be withdrawn if the school does not comply with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or denies ROTC the right to recruit on campus.

Another translation from Matt: “The leadership at George Washington University, including Chairman of the Board W. Russell Ramsey and President Steven Knapp endorse discrimination as long as we get money for it.”

Pathetic.

Todd Belok, meanwhile, continues to hope for a career in the US Navy after DADT is overturned. Until then, he’s decided to work with the SLDN help the cause to repeal the US Government’s active discrimination.

Dustin Lance Black’s Moving Acceptance Speech

Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black was awarded with an Academy Award last night. His acceptance speech was both touching and sincere. I almost cried.

I’m a little late and everybody else has already posted this, but I’m going to do it anyway. So there.

When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.

I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you, thank you, and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk.

Utah Senate Republicans Reward Buttars

In a news conference Friday, Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) announced that State Senator Chris Buttars would be removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, both of which he had formerly chaired. The move was in response to Sen. Buttars anti-gay screed released last week, and was in part intended to be a “freeing mechanism that will allow Sen. Buttars to more fully function…express his freedom of speech rights.” Waddoups went on to say, “We [Utah State Senate Republicans] agree with many of the things that he said.”

Here’s audio of the Sen. Buttars’ comments, followed by Sen. Waddoups’ press conference:

[mp3=http://blog.mattalgren.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/butters_on_gays.mp3]

[mp3=http://blog.mattalgren.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/waddoups-buttars-news-conference.mp3]

I’ve been trying all weekend to figure out how to add anything to the analysis of Jim Burroway and Timothy Kincaid over at the Box Turtle Bulletin. This morning, I decided that I can’t, so I’m going to post a few bits from their articles.

First from Timothy Kincaid:

The Mormons and the Republicans were sure upset that the tape of Buttars was released. But it wasn’t because they find the attitude behind his anti-gay rants to be offensive. They just didn’t like how Buttars’ raw hatred reflected on them.

There was no indication that the leadership of the Mormon Church or the Republican delegation have anything but complete agreement that gays are mean buggers, without morals, looking for superiority, similar to Islamic terrorists, and the greatest threat to America. Which makes me wonder, just what could Buttars have possibly said in his most irrational and ranting moment that would have caused them to say, “I disagree”?

Michael Waddoups cherishes an opportunity to wear lip gloss.
Michael Waddoups cherishes an opportunity to wear lip gloss.

And from Jim Burroway:

So let’s put all this together, shall we?

  • The Utah GOP “agree(s) with many of the things he said,” and,
  • Now that Waddoups did Buttars the favor of removing him from the committees, it “frees Senator Buttars to feel more at ease in saying how he personally feels.”

So, when the Senate decided to remove Buttars, a former LDS bishop, from two committees, was it a sanction for saying the wrong thing? Or was it a reward that gives Buttars free reign so that he can now tell us what he really thinks? Because I have to tell you, the way Waddoups frames his actions it really sounds more like the latter.

I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I’d rather people who harbor such hate and prejudice not be entrusted with so much power, so I think Buttars should step down. On the other, he does have a right to say whatever he wants, just as we have a right to point it out when he’s saying something hateful and prejudiced.