Monthly Archives: September 2009

Hospital Forces Lesbian to Die Alone; Judge Gives Stamp of Approval

U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan dismissed a lawsuit yesterday, essentially finding that the Jackson Memorial Hospital was within its rights to leave a dying woman alone while denying her present and immediate family permission to visit her, be updated on her condition, or even to provide the hospital with medically necessary information.

Named in the now-dismissed suit were Jackson social worker Garnett Frederick and attending physicians Alois Zauner and Carlos Alberto Cruz, who made the decision not to allow Janice Langbehn, Lisa Pond’s partner, to have standard family access to information, even after receiving durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will naming Janice as legal guardian with authority to make end-of-life decisions.

Jennifer Piedra, spokesperson for Jackson Memorial, released this statement after Judge Jordan said they could continue to turn [lesbian and gay] people away from their dying family members:

We have always believed and known that the staff at Jackson treats everyone equally, and that their main concern is the well-being of the patients in their care. At Jackson Health System, we believe in a culture of inclusion. For more than 90 years, the institution has taken great pride in serving everyone who enters its doors, regardless of race, creed, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. We also employ a very diverse workforce, one that mirrors the community we serve.

Jackson will continue to work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of medical care.

Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable. If only there were a way to judge their words against their actions. Oh wait, there is, and guess what! They’re completely and plainly full of it! In March, Janice told the story of Lisa’s final hours:

On February 18, 2007, Lisa Pond, my partner of nearly 18 years and 3 of our 4 adopted children: Danielle, David and Katie were on board the Rfamily cruise preparing to set sail. Before leaving port, Lisa suddenly collapsed while watching the children play basketball. The kids were banging on the stateroom door saying, “Mommy was hurt!” I opened the door, and took one look at Lisa and knew the situation was very serious. As a medical social worker for many years, I have seen people in critical condition. I knew that my life partner was gravely ill. As the ship was about to leave, we had no choice but to seek medical help in an unfamiliar city. After local medics arrived, we hurried off the ship to the closest hospital in Miami, Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

As Lisa was put into the ambulance I had no idea when she signed “I love you” to the kids and I it would be the last time I would see her beautiful blue eyes. We arrived at the trauma center minutes before her ambulance. I tried to follow her gurney into the trauma area and was stopped by the trauma team and told to go to the waiting room. The kids and I did as we were told.

We arrived shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon, around 4pm, a social worker came out and introduced himself as Garnett Frederick and said, “you are in an anti-gay city and state. And without a health care proxy you will not see Lisa nor know of her condition”. He then turned to leave; I stopped him and asked for his fax number because I said “we had legal Durable Powers of Attorney” and would get him the documents. Within a short time of meeting this social worker, I contacted friends in Lacey, WA, our hometown, who went to our house and faxed the legal documents required for me to make medical decisions for Lisa.

I never imagined as I paced that tiny waiting room that I would not see Lisa’s bright blue eyes again or hold her warm, loving hands. Feeling helpless as I continued to wait, I attempted to sneak back into the trauma bay but all the doors to the trauma area had key codes, preventing me from entering. Sitting alone with our luggage, our children and my thoughts, I watched numbly as other families were invited back into the trauma center to visit with loved ones. I was still waiting to hear what was happening with Lisa, realizing as the time passed that I was not being allowed to see her and if the social worker’s words were any indication it was because we were gay.

Anger, despair and disbelief wracked my brain as I tried to figure out a way to find out what was going on with Lisa. I finally thought to call our family doctor back in Olympia (on a Sunday afternoon at home) to see if she could find out what was happening. While on the phone with our doctor in Olympia, a surgeon appeared. The surgeon told me that Lisa, who was just 39 years old, had suffered massive bleeding in her brain from an aneurysm.

A short while later, two more surgeons appeared and explained the massive bleed in Lisa’s brain gave her little chance to survive and if she did it would be in a persistent vegetative state. Lisa had made me promise to her over and over in our 18 years together to never allow this to happen to her. I let the surgeons know Lisa wishes, which were also spelled out in her Living Wills and Advance Directive. I was then promised by the doctors that I would be brought to see Lisa as “soon as she was cleaned up”. At that point all life saving measures ceased and I asked that she be prepared for organ donation.

Yet, the children and I continued to wait and wait. A Hospital Chaplain appeared and asked if I wanted to pray and I looked at her dumbfounded as if I hadn’t already been doing that for over four hours. I immediately asked for a Catholic Priest to perform Lisa’s Last rites. A short time later, a Catholic priest escorted me back to recite the Last Rites and it was my first time in nearly 5hrs of seeing Lisa. After seeing her I knew the children needed to see her immediately and be able to say their goodbyes and begin the grieving process. Yet the priest escorted me back out to the waiting room. Where I was faced with the young faces of our beautiful children to explain “other mommy” was going to heaven.

Lisa Marie Pond <br /> 1967 - 2007
Lisa Marie Pond
1967 - 2007

I continued to assert myself over the ensuing hours again that we needed to be with Lisa. I even showed the Admitting clerk the children’s birth certificates with both Lisa and my name on them… and said if you won’t let me back, let her children be with her. I was told they were “too young”. I thought how old do you need to be to say goodbye to your mother?

In nearly eight hours, Lisa lay at Ryder Trauma Center moving toward brain death – completely alone and I continue to this day to feel like a failure for not being there to hold her hand to tell her how much we loved her, to comfort her and to sign in her hand “I love you”. All my pleas fell on deaf ears.

Lisa’s sister arrived driving straight from Jacksonville as soon as I knew Lisa would not survive. She announced who she was and I was at her side staring at the same person who had been denying me access all those hours. It was only then that I was told Lisa had been moved almost an hour earlier to ICU… and the hospital just kept the children and I waiting in the same waiting room, where Lisa was not even at.

On Monday February 19, 2007 at 10:45am, Lisa was officially declared Brain Dead. It was then that individuals from the Organ Donation Agency became involved (who I must point out are completely separate professionals from Jackson Memorial Hospital) that I finally was validated as Lisa’s spouse. They asked me which organs she wanted donated.

The Langbehn-Pond Family
The Langbehn-Pond Family

Explain to me again how a straight couple would have been split like this even for five minutes, let alone hours. Explain to me how three children would have been kept from their straight mother’s side, how a dying straight person would be treated in such an cruel, vicious, I-don’t-have-enough-words way.

Tell me again why the word “marriage” doesn’t matter. Tell me again that we should just be patient and not rock the boat.

Better yet, tell it to Lisa Pond’s partner and children.

Yesterday a judge shrugged his shoulders and left LGBT victims unprotected. When will Americans demand better? Will Americans demand better?


Kevin Jennings Cleared by the Rest of Brewster’s Story

The Religious Right has been part of the Obama Czar Witch Hunt for some time now. Their most recent victim is Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary (not czar) for Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Sec. Jennings has been a prominent advocate for LGBT teens, founding the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 1990.

The attacks actually began in June, when Family Research Council posted supposedly shocking quotes from Jennings. You can read about it at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters and Good As You, and more recent iterations at Media Matters and Right Wing Watch.

The biggest allegation, and most relevant to Jennings’ job in the Department of Education, is that he failed to report a case of statutory rape. The evidence that supposedly proves their case is a speech Jennings gave to the Iowa chapter of GLSEN in 2000.

I believe this allegation is false — and I have proof.

Below is a snippet of the speech (I don’t know what that sound is either):

And a transcript from Media Matters:

And I said, “Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?” And he said, “Well, I’m tired.” And I said, “Well, we all are tired and we all got to school today.” And he said, “Well, I was out late last night.” And I said, “What were you doing out late on a school night?” And he said, “Well, I was in Boston.”

Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, “What were you doing in Boston on a school night, Brewster?” He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, “Well, I met somebody in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.”

High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people.

I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly, so I finally — my best friend had just died of AIDS the week before — I looked at Brewster and said, “You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.” He said to me something I will never forget. He said “Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.”

The point of Sec. Jennings’ speech seems to have been that LGBT high school students don’t have a built in way to meet other LGBT people, increasing the likelihood that they will enter into dangerous situations in an attempt to understand their difference from everybody they know and feel normal.

Seems spot on to me, and it illustrates the need to create Gay Straight Alliances and GLSEN Safe Spaces to give LGBT students a fighting chance. Jennings hopes to decrease the probability of dangerous situations by addressing the underlying problem.

But let’s move back to the question of age. In this speech, Kevin Jennings quite clearly said that the boy was 15 years old. The age of consent in Massachusetts is 16. Therefore, Jennings clearly should have reported what Brewster told him, right?

Not so fast, kemo sabe. What if we had another account of Brewster’s story that contradicts the motivational speech Jennings was giving in 2000?

Kevin Jennings: Protecting Kids, Not Hurting Them
Kevin Jennings: Protecting Kids, Not Hurting Them
Sec. Jennings also told about Brewster in his 1994 book One Teacher in Ten. It’s sadly out of print, but through the magic of the internets, we have a copy of that chapter at the Queer Resources Directory (local pdf format here). Here’s some of the pertinent text:

I remember Brewster, a sophomore boy who I came to know in 1987, my first year of teaching at Concord Academy, in Concord, Massachusetts. […] Toward the end of my first year, during the spring of 1988, Brewster appeared in my office in the tow of one of my advisees, a wonderful young woman to whom I had been “out” for a long time. “Brewster has something he needs to talk with you about,” she intoned ominously. Brewster squirmed at the prospect of telling, and we sat silently for a short while. On a hunch, I suddenly asked “What’s his name?” Brewster’s eyes widened briefly, and then out spilled a story about his involvement with an older man he had met in Boston. I listened, sympathized, and offered advice. He left my office with a smile on his face that I would see every time I saw him on the campus for the next two years, until he graduated.

It’s clearly the same story that Jennings told in 2000, right? Same kid, same situation. He didn’t mention the condom here, but it wasn’t quite the point that section. In this case, Brewster’s story is an illustration of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell attitude that people expect of LGBT people. Jennings does say that he “offered advice”, and I’m guessing that’s what he was talking about.

Seven paragraphs later is something that most people miss. Jennings mentions Brewster again.

I remember April 3, 1993, when I went to Club Cafe, a gay restaurant in Boston, for the annual awards dinner of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights. An organization I had helped found, GLSTN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network), was being honored that night, and I had come to accept the award on our behalf. I sat with some friends, my back to the center of the room, and soon got engaged in conversation. From behind me, I heard a familiar voice. “Care for a drink, sir?”

I turned and it was Brewster. Shocked, we were both speechless for a moment, before we hugged each other and caught up. He was now twenty-two, taking time off from college, and living with his boyfriend. His smile showed that he had found his way to a happy adulthood. In that moment, I remembered why I had gone into teaching in the first place.

Did you catch it? In April 1993, Brewster was 22 years old. That means that in spring 1988, when the beginning of the story takes place, he was not 15 years old, but 17. Even assuming a spring birthday, he would have been 16, which if you’ll remember, is the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

Good storytellers embellish a little here and there, sometimes for the particular audience and sometimes because it just makes a better story. Sometimes because it’s been awhile and some of the facts have gotten fuzzy. Maybe that’s what happened with Jennings’ 2000 speech.

Now, if you ask me, this is a secondary issue. To out a gay 15-year-old to her/his parents in 2009 is horrifying. To do it in 1988? Brewster could very easily become one of the many LGBT teens who don’t have a home because their parents found out. Or worse, he could have become one of the many LGBT suicide victims.

Kevin Jennings is not dangerous. He is not unfit to serve the Department of Education. He is not, as Bob Ellis of the Dakota Voice put it today, “The Fox Guarding The Hen House”. (That analogy would, of course, render Jennings a rapist. Classy!)

Quite frankly, I dare you to find one who is better qualified than Secretary Kevin Jennings. He is doing what he’s been doing for nearly two decades: Protecting our students, providing safe learning environments, and helping a new generation of students not learn to hate themselves. For that, he deserves our gratitude, not lies and slander.

By the way, I do recommend that you read that entire excerpt from One Teacher in Ten.

Resources from Yesterday’s Committee Hearing on ENDA

The House Education and Labor Committee heard testimony yesterday on Resolution 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I failed to mention it here because, well, I didn’t have access to the live feed and details in text were hard to come by.

But that’s all taken care of now, as the Committee has made available an archival video of the hearings. Click here to view the full three hours. (Opens in Windows Media Player, at least for me.) Alternatively, you can check out the Department’s youtube channel for shorter snippets of testimony and flickr account (yes, really) for pictures from the hearing.

All Witnesses on the third panel
Witnesses in yesterday's hearing, via flickr

Witnesses before the committee were:

Thanks to Committee Chair George Miller (D-CA) for making these impressive and forward-thinking resources available.

I Hate Defending My Enemies

…but that’s just what I need to do. It’s a good thing too, because I learned something about them in the process, something that we might be able to use to finally defeat them.

Remember last week when I told you about Elaine Donnelly’s insipid article declaring that it was Lt. Col. Fehrenbach being falsely accused of rape was his own fault? Remember how I linked you to her original article and quoted from that?

It seems that the folks at American Family Association (AFA) propaganda site OneNewsNow have much lower standards. Last week, ONN reporter Chad Groening decided to try to pass their spin of Ms. Donnelly’s words off as her words sans spin. Apparently her prose just wasn’t biting enough. (Screencap of Donnelly article and AFA distortion)

Here is a comparison between the two. First, from AFA, in red:

“The third party was a criminal justice student. He had actually been contacted or contacted Victor Fehrenbach on a gay website,” Donnelly explains. “They got together to engage in activities unbecoming an officer — and later on in the evening there was a report of sexual assault.”

I’ll piece together as much from Ms. Donnelly as possible, in yellow:

Now we know that the “third party” was Cameron Shaner, a criminal justice student claiming Air Force authorization to investigate alleged “HIV parties” involving military personnel. (The Air Force Office of Special Investigations denied Shaner’s claims.) Shaner told the Boise police that he met Victor Fehrenbach through a gay website, and he had gone to the aviator’s home on May 12, 2008, after Fehrenbach sent him a text-message invitation and “stud” photographs.<br /
…. At 3 a.m. Shaner called Boise police to report a sexual assault. Fehrenbach asserted that the encounter was consensual and was cleared of the rape charge, but his admission of homosexual conduct triggered discharge proceedings.

You’ll notice that I skipped AFA’s “activities unbecoming an officer”. That’s because Ms. Donnelly never uses that phrase. The closest she gets is this:

The fact remains that despite provisions of the UCMJ (Article 131), which impose higher standards for “officers and gentlemen,” Fehrenbach showed very poor judgment.

Though I vehemently disagree with Ms. Donnelly’s assertion that sex is necessarily poor judgment, she doesn’t make the leap that AFA attributes to her. Ms. Donnelly’s “poor judgment” comment seems to refer to sex in general. AFA’s “conduct unbecoming” seems more strictly tied specifically to gay sex.

That distinction is made clearer in the second passage from AFA, again falsely attributed to Ms. Donnelly:

“As we saw with the Tailhook scandal, any kind of conduct unbecoming an officer would pretty much end someone’s career,” she points out. “Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was a victim of nothing else but his own poor judgment. But certainly the circumstances of his case should not be used to justify repeal of the law.”

And here are the actual quotes from Ms. Donnelly:

SLDN lawyer Emily Hecht told the Idaho Statesman, “Because of the criminal allegation, Victor confirmed the fact he was gay. That’s all the Air Force needed. Had his accuser been a woman, he’d have gone back to work with no further issue.” (Dozens of former naval aviators whose careers were ruined by the 1991 Tailhook scandal, even without evidence of misconduct, certainly would disagree.)<br /
…Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is not a “victim” of anything but his own poor judgment. His admitted misconduct supports retention of current law, not its repeal.

Again, to Ms. Donnelly, any sort of sexual encounter, whether gay or straight, is “poor judgment”, and therefore homosexuality, which she defines solely through the sexual component, is necessarily bad.

AFA’s definition is different. To them, sex is bad, but if it’s two dudes it’s extra special bad.

I strongly disagree with both Ms. Donnelly and the AFA, but there’s a greater point here. This sometimes subtle distinction might be useful in addressing each of their attacks. By learning what’s behind the rhetoric, we can learn to attack each of their arguments with greater precision.

Oh, and you should never trust one word published by AFA or OneNewsNow. That too.

HIV-Affected Green Cards Held in Preparation for Final Rule

An encouraging report from the Immigration Equality Blog this morning:

[U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)] has just issued a memo directing its officers who decide “green card” applications to hold applications in abeyance pending the final HHS rule. In other words, if someone has submitted a green card application and USCIS would deny it based solely on the fact that the applicant is HIV-positive, it will hold off on a decision.

For individuals who are eligible for waivers, USCIS will continue to adjudicate waivers and approve them where the standard is met. If USCIS finds that the applicant does not qualify for the waiver, it will hold the denial in abeyance — that is neither grant nor deny the application, pending the publication of the regulations.

Immigration Equality worked with the American Immigration Lawyers Association to press USCIS to release a memo on this issue and we’re very happy to see another step forward towards fairness under the immigration law for people with HIV.

This is great news for anyone who has filed for a green card hoping that the ban will be fully lifted before USCIS makes a decision on his or her application.

Here’s a pdf of the three page USCIS memo.

In 1987, a law was passed requiring the denial of immigration and even travel visas based on an applicant’s positive HIV status. President Bush signed a bill in 2008 reversing that law, but the Department of Health and Human Services has not yet removed HIV from its list of banned communicable diseases. HHS officials have indicated that removal may happen in the very near future.

Playboy Magazine Turns You Gay

I wasn’t quite sure how I could top Bryan Fischer’s “interesting” take on the First Amendment from last weekend’s Values Voter Summit. Thanks to Rachel Maddow, we have a double dip: shades of racism followed by overt homophobia, with a dash of Bill O’Reilly (about whom I won’t be commenting).

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The video of Michael Schwartz’s entire speech is below.

By the way, the word he’s searching for at 3:22 is “hate”. Kudos to him for realizing that someone might be taping his speech. It’s interesting that Mr. Schwartz wanted to talk about hatred of homosexuality by preteen boys.

We’ve learned quite a bit about that this year. Too much, really. I would suggest that Mr. Schwartz focus on teaching those boys not to hate rather than telling them that porno will turn them into One Of Them.

Here’s some background on the speakers.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO):

  • Acting Majority Leader in the House of Representatives in 2008
  • Majority Whip from January 2003 – January 2007
  • Minority Whip from January 2007 – January 2009
  • Announced in February 2009 his candidacy for the 2010 Senatorial election
  • Revealed as a Birther in July 2009.

At you’ll find that his donor list is heavy with oil/electric and financial services companies. Rep. Blunt, by the way, sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

michael-schwartzMichael Schwartz:

  • Chief of Staff for Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) since November 2004
  • Looks to be making about $132,000 this year in that capacity
  • Vice President for “Government Relations” for Religious Right lobbyist firm Concerned Women for America from 2000 – 2004
  • Before that, was then-House Rep. Coburn’s Administrative Director

I list Rep. Blunt’s and Mr. Schwartz’s accomplishments to illustrate again what I said yesterday. These aren’t random people on the internet saying something stupid. These are men in powerful leadership positions who effect policy.

We don’t have the luxury of just ignoring them.

* * *

Transcription of Michael Schwartz speech, via ThinkProgress:

You know, if you don’t have love in your life, it’s not a very complete life. And yet, we don’t want to talk about it. And we especially fail to talk about it to our sons and to our friends. They’re the ones who need to hear it the most because they’re still making up their minds about what do I want to be when the time comes. And believe me, the temptations are out there. One of the temptations that your sons are going to run into is pornography.

Pornography is a blight. It is a disaster. It is, it is one of those silent diseases in our society that we haven’t been able to overcome very well. Now, I may be getting politically incorrect here. But one — It’s been a few years, not that many, since I was closely associated with pre-adolescent boys, boys who are like 10 to 12 years of age. But it is my observation that boys at that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people.

They… [long pause]… speak badly about homosexuality. And that’s because they don’t want to be that way. They don’t want to fall into it. And that’s a good instinct. After all, homosexuality, we know, studies have been done by the National Institute of Health to try to prove that its genetic and all those studies have proved its not genetic. Homosexuality is inflicted on people.

I had a very good friend who was in the homosexual lifestyle for a long time and then he had a religious conversion in the eighties. And he bought a old motel and turned it into a hospice for some of his former associates who were dying of AIDS. He helped, he helped almost 300 men die. This man was a real hero.

But he knew that he wasn’t as healed as he thought he was. He was able to resist temptation. He was able to resist sin. But he wasn’t healed enough to take on the responsibilities of marriage. And he was a brilliant man in the sense that he knew himself. And he knew his limits. And he and I had good conversations about, about the malady that he suffered.

And one of the things that he said to me, that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark. He said, “all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. Now think about that. And if you, if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to go out and get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants.” You know, that’s a, that’s a good comment. It’s a good point and it’s a good thing to teach young people.

[Someone asks about Schwartz’s friend]

His name is Jim Johnson. He’s a friend of mine. He ran an organization called Beyond Rejection Ministries. And I consider him one of the most heroic men I’ve ever met. But all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. And that in fact is what it does.

I know couples now who are struggling with the husband’s addiction to pornography. It’s a terrible thing. And that’s what happens. And, you know, if it doesn’t turn you homosexual, it at least renders you less capable of loving your wife. And it’s something you need to be healed of.

The First Amendment, as Distorted by the Religious Right

This week I wanted to bring you a few pieces of video from last weekend’s Values Voter Summit, the big ultra-conservative hoe-down when all the leader Religious Right groups get together with Religious Right followers and dignitaries to lay out the Religious Right philosophy in a room of cheering supporters.

The first is from a speech by Bryan Fischer, Executive Director of American Family Association (AFA) Affiliate Idaho Values Alliance. Even I was surprised by Mr. Fischer’s misinterpretation of the US First Amendment.

I found this video at the fantastic Right Wing Watch, and Peter quite correctly pointed out the obvious problem with Mr. Fischer’s self-serving, oh-so-convenient interpretation.

Today Fischer went a good bit further than televangelist Pat Robertson, who notably called church-state separation a “lie of the left.” According to Fischer’s interpretation of the First Amendment, here’s what religious liberty means: Congress has the liberty to promote religion in any way, as long as it does not single out one Christian sect or denomination and make it the nation’s official religion. That’s it.

So by his definition, a state legislature could declare itself an officially Christian state. Or an officially Baptist or Mormon state. Presumably any public school, city council or state government could require students to attend Christian worship or profess certain religious belief. […] So to these prominent Religious Right leaders, preventing a state from demanding that its employees swear to certain religious beliefs is an attack on Christianity. And any court that tries to stop a state from imposing religious beliefs on its citizens is judicial activism.

Before you wave this off as just another extremist with a microphone, remember that the audience cheering for Mr. Fischer’s views included not just self-appointed Religious Right leaders and their salivating followers, but important high-ranking elected leaders in Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), former House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO), and former Governor/future Presidential nominee Mike Huckabee (R-AR) all gave their own speeches last weekend, and they all clapped along with the rest of the crowd.

Next time they’re up for election, remember that these congressmen view the Constitution differently than the rest of the nation; indeed, differently than the founders. To them, it is distinctly Conservative-Christian with a decided theocratic streak. Are you comfortable with that?

Gay Man’s Life Worth Six Months

Several months ago, I told you about Tony Randolph Hunter, a gay man murdered last September in Washington DC by Robert Lee Hannah. Hannah had just decided to use the Gay Panic defense, claiming that Hunter had groped him before the assault, which is disputed but obviously makes murder okay.

Yesterday, exactly one year after Hunter’s death, D.C. Superior Court Judge Rafael Diaz accepted the prosecutor’s plea agreement, reducing the charge to misdemeanor assault. From the Washington Blade:

[Chris Farris, co-chair of Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence] said the Hunter case is one of several recent assault cases involving crimes against LGBT people where the U.S. Attorney’s office has appeared reluctant to bring the case to trial and instead sought plea bargains or dropped charges against defendants.

“There seems to be a reluctance within the [the U.S. Attorney’s office] to pursue assault prosecutions involving the LGBT community because of a sense that they may have difficulty with juries in those cases,” Farris said.

“And I would simply remind [them] that we are on those juries too. They need to trust the juries. The juries are made up from the community and we are a part of that community.”

And from Metro Weekly:

At the Thursday hearing, [U.S. Attorney Kevin ] Flynn asked Diaz to hold Hannah in jail until sentencing.

Defense attorney Joseph Caleb countered that Hannah is ”extremely reliable,” and that his attendance record with this case is evidence of that. Caleb also argued that Hannah would not pose a threat if free until sentencing in that, according to the defense, Hunter provoked Hannah: ”He was offended by the way [Hunter] touched him. … He had a knee-jerk reaction.”

That’s right, it’s not his fault. The fuckin’ faggot touched him.

The maximum sentence Robert Lee Hannah will face? 180 days.

That’s how much our lives are worth to the U.S. government. Six months. Half a year. Maybe. He’ll probably get less than that.

The National Equality March is scheduled for October 10-11 in Washington D.C. Let this be a reminder to all those attending to come prepared to defend yourself, because the U.S. government sure won’t.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go vomit and try to stop shaking.

Atlanta Police: Raiding Gay Bar ‘More Fun Than Raiding Niggers With Crack’

Nearly a week ago, gay bar Atlanta Eagle was raided. The Atlanta Police Department seem to have taken notes from June’s Ft. Worth gay bar raid. Since it’s been almost a week since the clearly discriminatory raid, here are some details to bring you up to date.

  • September 10, 2009, 11:30pm: Atlanta police arrived at the Atlanta Eagle with ten police cars, three paddy wagons, fifteen officers, and five to ten plain clothes officers. Police ordered all patrons to lay on the ground, regardless of suspicion. Patrons were handcuffed indiscriminately seemingly for no reason before being searched, most of them at least twice.
  • Yesterday the Southern Voice published the anonymous tips from May and July that led to this September raid. (Local copies available here and here.) The complaints allege nude dancers, sex parties, sex outside the Eagle, speakers pointed to neighboring buildings blasting sounds of sex (I’m not kidding), drug use, drug sales, and bags with drug residue strewn around the neighborhood. The online complaint is listed as a prostitution complaint.
  • Witness Allan Vives had this to say: “Of the officers present, there was one female who was running searches on the IDs of those whose licenses were collected. She was not only rude but seemed to be enjoying the event. At one point, she stopped what she was doing and walked over to the television and asked her colleagues what the score to the game playing on the television was… this point there were still innocent patrons laying face down on the floor.”
  • Background checks were performed on patrons were allowed to leave. No patrons were arrested.
  • Du-Wayne Ray, store manager of Rawhide Leather, which operates below the Eagle, said that he and one of his employees heard one white uniformed officer say to another, “This is a lot more fun than raiding niggers with crack.”
  • By 1:00am, eight Eagle employees were arrested for “providing adult entertainment without a city permit.” As Dan Savage noted, that sounds a lot like homophobic police speak for “those homos don’t have thar shirts on.”
  • All eight arrestees were kept in jail overnight, with two remaining until the following afternoon when two city council candidates coerced a judge into finally setting bail.
  • In an article published by the Southern Voice Monday, Richard Ramey, Eagle co-owner, spoke about the charges.

Ramey said he didn’t understand the need for the raid, saying they have a good relationship with the police and their neighbors. He said that while he doesn’t have a permit for paid dancers, the dancers the Eagle employs are covered under their nightclub permit because they are not nude. Also, nothing illegal was found in the raid, he said.

“No drugs found in my bar or on any patron, and that says a lot about my bar and my patrons. I have wonderful customers,” Ramey said. “We don’t have drugs at Eagle, we don’t allow it. The only drug we have is the alcohol.”

  • Steven Gower, volunteer for a local neighborhood watchdog group had this to say:
  • I can assure you that the raid was not initiated by MPSA or its patrol, and we have never received any complaints, reports, or observations about criminal activity in any way associated with the Eagle. Further, I have spent much time on the streets of Midtown, and look under every rock to identify problem spots. Eagle is not one of those problem spots, and we have always considered the Eagle to be a good neighbor.

  • Police later claimed that the raid took place because undercover officers had twice seen sex taking place in the bar on previous visits. No arrests were made during those alleged instances.
  • The Atlanta police LGBT Liaison, Officer Dani Lynn Harris, was kept completely in the dark about the raid, only finding out about it when members of the press started calling her.
  • (Thursdays are “underwear night”, with bar employees and some patrons in their underwear. Not dancing, not stripping, just in their underwear, which is more than you would see at the beach or swimming pool.)
  • In an interview after being released from jail, one of the arrested employees had this to say:

Tadareius Johnson, 24, was dancing in the the bar’s cage when police came into the club Thursday and was one of the men arrested and charged with providing adult entertainment without a permit. He said those charges are unjust.

“I’m dancing [in underwear] and what I think is a SWAT team comes in. Some are telling me to stand still, some are telling me to get down. It was big confusion,” he said Friday at the bar.

The police were really tough, especially on our older customers. I understand police have to be safe, but there was no reason for them to treat people the way they did — especially when someone is 60-65. They weren’t even helping them up after making them lay on the ground.”

Johnson said he was accused of exposing his penis and pulling his underwear down while dancing. He denied those charges.

“You can’t do that. There’s cameras in here. I’m very conscious of the laws. I know men can’t grope, you can’t be naked. That’s why we were in our underwear,” he said.

  • We learn in the same article that Eagle co-owner Robby Kelley was made to spend the night sitting in a plastic chair and the arrestees weren’t permitted to use a telephone for 14 hours.

Repeating, the raid supposedly happened because of public sex and/or prostitution, but the only reason for the eight arrests was a code violation. Patrons and employees were thoroughly searched multiple times and NO drugs were found. NO public sex arrests were made. NO prostitution arrests were made.

But that’s not all! Yesterday at least nine complaints against the Atlanta Police Department were filed. Among the charges:

  • One man said officers grabbed patrons who didn’t immediately lie down by the neck and forced them to the ground. The man said he was kicked in the ribs while lying down. “Then I heard laughing and giggling and saying this is more fun than raiding niggers with crack. They also told us to shut the fuck up unless we were spoken too [sic].” The man said he heard one person told that if he spoke again he would be hit by a chair. He also reported that one officer “said to everyone in general that all you all do is flash your asses and show your cocks.”
  • An Eagle employee said he did not know what he was charged with until he got to jail. “A lot of officers were laughing and high-fiving each other, and I heard one officer say I thought this was a sex club.”
  • Another patron described listening to officers chat about their cell phone plans as he lay on the ground. “I was forced down by physical force. They grabbed my neck and pushed me down. They put their boot on my back and told me to stay down. … If anyone asked anything they were told to ‘shut the fuck up.'”
  • Another patron said he saw officers forcing people to the ground by officers pushing their shoulders or the backs of their heads. He said he asked to move because there was broken glass on the floor where he was lying, and he was told to “shut the fuck up.” The customer recounted hearing anti-gay slurs: “I heard several slurs such as ‘I hate homosexuals.’ I also heard ‘I don’t like fags.’ One officer asked me if I was married and had any children, and he told me I should be ashamed for being there.” The customer recounted having his diabetes medication, which was in an unmarked container, taken and not returned. He recounted hearing another customer told that if he didn’t be quiet, an officer would hit him over the head with one of the barstools. “There were several officers standing over me that started joking about this is a lot of fun, we ought to come back and do this every week.” The customer said he heard an officer say pictures of men on the walls made him sick, and make comments about people’s appearance, including calling him “big boy.” He also said officers were watching the football game on TV during the raid.
  • A customer said he at first thought the bar was being robbed because the first police officer to yell “get the fuck on the floor” was dressed in civilian clothes and did not display a badge.
  • An employee who was arrested said that after the customers were allowed to leave, “the officers started high fiving and jumping up in the air bumping into each other like they were at a football game.”
  • An employee who lives in an apartment over the Eagle, who said he was not working that night, said someone started pounding on his door. He opened the door to two cops who asked if anyone was having sex there. They asked why there was a bed and he said it was because he lives there. He was made to come downstairs and was arrested with the other employees. He recalled hearing comments like “You people are despicable.”

I’m sure someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but generally speaking, do the police show up with ten cars and 20-25 officers when a straight bar is raided for sex charges? Would a straight bar be raided or would somebody just call them up and talk about the problem before gassing up the fleet? If a straight bar were raided, would officers run background checks and search everyone for drugs? Is that even legal on a code violation raid? And when an officer makes an arrest, is it generally accepted to high five your partner?

Come to think of it, do you usually call three paddy wagons and make arrests for simple non-violent code violations? And if you allegedly spend MONTHS investigating public sex complaints at a prominent gay bar, what possible reason (other than to get them faggots) would you have for excluding your LGBT Liaison, or at least informing her that she might hear some complaints?


Ohio House Passes LGBT Discrimination Protections

Details are still sketchy and obtained through Twitter, but minutes ago the Ohio House of Representatives passed the Equal Housing and Employment Act (EHEA) with a final vote of 56-38 with six Republicans voting for the measure.

I last mentioned EHEA back in June, when testimony was underway. The bill adds LGBT employment and housing protections to Ohio anti-discrimination laws. Basically, it’s a state-version of the national Employment and Non-Discrimination Act.

The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate. All analysis I’ve seen suggests that the Senate is unlikely to pass the legislation.

Still, this is a cause for celebration. For the very first time, an Ohio legislative body has passed a pro-LGBT bill. While I don’t feel any safer than I did last night when that one guy started using the word “Homo” (true story!), it’s good to know that progress is slowly being made.