LGBT rights may be making progress, but it’s not going quick enough for Judy Shepard whose son Matthew was the victim of a brutal anti-gay hate crime 15 years ago in Laramie, Wyoming.
Matthew died October 12, 1998 at age 21, six days after he was beaten and left on a fence by two men he met at a bar while he was attending the University of Wyoming.
“Matthew’s death gave Wyoming a perfect opportunity to take the first step toward equality,” Shepard said. “Instead, it has taken two steps back.”
Shepard is shocked the state still has no hate-crime laws, let alone one based on crimes against sexual orientation or gender identity. Because of this, she said a lot of LGBT people in Wyoming choose to stay in the closet.
During an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Shepard also talked about the play The Laramie Project that addressed the town’s reactions to Matthew’s death. The play showed at the University of Mississippi, and some of the audience members shouted antigay slurs at the actors.
“It’s disappointing the nation as a whole isn’t embracing the movement to accept people like Matthew,” she told the Times. “We’ve still got a long way to go. That’s why an incident in Mississippi can still happen.”
Shepard set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation and was described as a “tireless advocate for gay rights.” The foundation’s executive director, Jason Marsden, thinks progress has been made for the LGBT community, pointing out the openly gay state legislator from Laramie that was elected in 2009, Cathy Connolly.
Marsden did, however, dismiss the book The Book of Matt, which claims that his murder was not a hate crime, but instead over drugs. His mother had no statements concerning the book.
Shepard has never been to the spot where Matthew died. She does, however, keep her sons watch, which was rescued from the police evidence room as he was wearing it when attacked. She had given it to him as a graduation gift and now keeps the watch on her dresser “as a reminder of Matthew’s life – and that time goes on.”
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
October 11 is National Coming Out Day. I know this does not mean a lot to most of you, nor should it.
You have been able to take for granted that you could be who you are, and you have been able to take that for granted your entire life. Sure, you have had secrets and have revealed or kept them, some of them big harsh secrets. The majority of you have not had the world tell you to take the core of your dreams, your hopes, your every truly romantic feeling and your real vision of family and hide it away. You have been allowed, and more than that – encouraged, to be yourself and be the best of you that you can be. That is how it should be
That is not how it has been for almost any of the gay people you know.
So today is National Coming Out Day. Here is my suggestion, and request. Take fifteen minutes and think on your marriages, your relationships, your most tender romance, your social life, the looks on your friends and families faces when you announced your engagement. Think of that moment when you realized you were in love and the person loved you back. Now ponder what it would feel like to be asked to make all of that a deathly secret, hide it away, and cloak it in shame. If you do, you may have a sense of what the closet is like, and how it is less “a closet” and more a “dungeon” that some do not survive.
A few months ago, I wrote a public letter to my sons. The point of that letter was the wish that they would never have to “come out” about who they are. I want for those who still have to come out in order to be who they are fully the safety to do so, and to have the potential for the best life possible when they do.
What can you do today? Be open. Be open, so closet doors of others can open and you can lend an outstretched hand to those within. If you live in Maine, Washington, Maryland or Minnesota, you can be even more open and support Marriage Equality in those states so that others can achieve the same level of family responsibility that you can.
Those who vote against Marriage Equality are afraid. I get that. They are afraid that by letting others live fully, they will somehow be threatened, be less valued or be diminished. That is not true. Heterosexual people are not limited resources with finite compassion to share in doled out amounts. You are a spiritual force. The principle of Love is that the more you give away, the more of it you have.
Give. On this day, give. Your acceptance is a boom-a-rang that will not only touch someone else’s world, it will make yours even better.
Two-time U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds not only won a silver medal in the 800 meter race last week at the IAFF World Athletics Championships in Moscow, but he decided todedicate his medal to his gay and lesbian friends.
The Olympian became the first to “to openly criticize Russia’s controversial anti-gay law on the country’s soil.”
Russia’s anti-gay laws, prohibiting “homosexual propaganda,” have been causing a lot of controversy considering the country is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Even president Obama is upset with Russia’s laws, but thinks it’s unfair to boycott the Olympics.
“We’ve got a bunch of Americans that are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” he said. “Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that we’ve been seeing in Russia
Symmonds said he would do all he could for the LGBT community short of getting arrested.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds said. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
Symmonds seems to be true to his word. While he wanted to wear a rainbow flag during his race, the Russian government made it clear they would throw him in jail.
“I’m trying to tread that fine line of being respectful as a guest in this country and also speaking against some serious injustices that I see,” he said. “As adamant as I am about this issue, I don’t know what me sitting in jail is good for.”
Symmonds will stay civil during his races, but as he explained in a column for Runner’s World, his gay and lesbian friends will stay in his heart.
“I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport.
“If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union.”
This article is brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
“We are incredibly excited to have Catie Curtis as the first brand ambassador for TomboyX,” said Fran Dunaway, CEO of Tomboy Exchange. “She’s a creative, talented woman who has never been afraid to stand up for what she believes in.”
The New Yorker dubbed her a folk-rock goddess and according to TomboyX she’s strong, smart and awesome – the perfect TomboyX woman.
“Sometimes I feel like an impostor in the women’s department, with its frills, flowers and bows–while men’s clothes don’t fit me either,” said Catie.” I’m so grateful to have discovered TomboyX where the clothing is made for women like me!”
Along with being a talented musician she is a role model. Catie started the “Aspire to Inspire” initiative to provide funding to the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). The Foundation helps raise funds to purchase instruments for young musicians who can’t afford to buy their own.
As her music progresses to inspire, so does her Philanthropy. After benefit concerts for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in 2012, Catie and a group of well known comedians took on a music video for Voices United 2– including Jane Lynch from Glee.
Look for Catie’s collaboration with TomboyX when the TomboyX Original Collection launches in July.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Dr. Lauren Boswell (Hilarie Burton) is certainly stirring up a storm with Grey’s Anatomy’s power couple, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), affectionately known as “Calzona.”
On the show’s season finale, Lauren shamelessly flirted with Arizona, causing even more tension between her already rocky marriage, and fans were not happy about it. In fact, Burton told Huffington Post she was receiving death threats.
“I don’t engage in social media, which has its good and bad sides, I guess – but the good side is when people hate my guts, I’m kind of oblivious to it. I’m just worried about my kid and my dog here at the house,” she said.
Lauren is a complex character because she is both good at her job and engaging, but also the “other woman,” which was something Burton found tricky to portray.
“I don’t flirt [with] married people but Lauren does,” Burton said. “So that’s what I had to do for a couple days. You just buck up and get your flirt on.”
And get their flirt on they did. Grey’s Anatomy is now on hiatus until the fall. Will Calzona still be intact when we see them next?
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Tuesday, as the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault showed an alarming increase in cases, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013. In an effort to reduce sexual assaults within the military and help the victims of this crime, the Combating MSA Act would address a number of gaps within current law and policy and build upon the positive steps the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has taken in recent years. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2011 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported.
“When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation,” said Murray.
“Not only are we subjecting our men and women to this disgusting epidemic, but we’re also failing to provide the victims with any meaningful support system once they have fallen victim to these attacks. And while I applaud recent efforts by the Department of Defense to turn the tide on this mounting crisis, we must do more to root out the culture that fosters this behavior and provide substantive assistance to those who face these tragedies alone,” Murray said, adding: “I am proud to join Senator Ayotte in introducing the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, to reverse this trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad this bipartisan legislation is taking meaningful steps to do right by our nation’s heroes.”
Ayotte said, “The United States continues to have the best military in the world—primarily because of the character, quality, and courage of our men and women in uniform. But when a service member fails to live up to our values and commits sexual assault, we must ensure the victims have the support they need and the perpetrators face justice.”
“Sexual assault presents a serious threat to the morale, discipline, and readiness of our armed forces. I look forward to working with DoD, Senator Murray, and my Senate colleagues to strengthen existing laws and policies so that all victims can come forward without fear of retribution and with confidence that they will receive the support, care, and justice they deserve,” Ayotte added.
The Combating MSA Act would:
- Provide victims of sexual assault with Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process.
- Enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat MSA across the Armed Forces and regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rate, number of cases brought to trial, and compliance with appropriate laws and regulations within each of the individual services.
- Refer cases to the general court martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.
- Bar sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent.
- Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC) are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.
Last month, Murray questioned the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, and General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, about the alarming rate of reported sexual assaults within the Marine Corps. In the coming weeks, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) will introduce companion legislation to the Combating MSA Act in the House of Representatives.
During a Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing in March, Ayotte questioned DoD officials about a January report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified problems in ensuring proper care for service members who are victims of sexual assault.
Ayotte is a former prosecutor who has worked extensively with victims. During her time as New Hampshire’s Attorney General, she chaired the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Jason Collins took a huge step in major American sports by coming out today. ”If I had my way, somebody would have already done this…I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport but since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”
The support has been pouring in.
Kobe Bryant “Don’t suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others”
Bill Clinton “I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend”
Nick Swisher “I will always support people for being who they are”
The Rock “Being real and authentic is very powerful”
Last Friday, the Boy Scouts of America proposed maintaining its ban on adult gay leaders, while dropping the ban on gay scouts. Several faith leaders quickly expressed their disappointment in the proposed policy change.
All faith leaders continued to call for a fully inclusive scouting program that included qualified gay leaders, even while some expressed joy that gay scouts would no longer be removed.
The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian (UUA), issued the following statement:
While long opposing the BSA’s discriminatory policies, the UUA has consistently noted the many benefits that scouting offers to boys and young men, and we applaud the fact that these benefits will potentially be available to all boys and young men who want to participate in scouting. However, it is abhorrent to continue to discriminate against scout leaders.
As a religious community, Unitarian Universalists are called to affirm the worth and dignity of every person regardless of sexual orientation. Starting in 1985, the UUA has spoken out in opposition to the BSA’s discriminatory practices.
This resolution further illustrates how the BSA remains out of touch and inconsistent with their own values of respect and kindness, but also with the changing attitudes of the American public.
The proposed resolution from the BSA is a step in the right direction, but it falls short of ensuring equality for gay scout leaders. Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that there is still time to persuade the BSA to move from discrimination and prejudice to inclusion and respect for all Americans who wish to participate in scouting.
The United Church of Christ, which sponsors over 1,000 troops, cheered that gay scouts would be accepted by the Boy Scouts of America, but expressed bitter disappointment at the continued ban on gay adult leaders. Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, United Church of Christ Minister for LGBT Concerns said the following:
Because youth are a primary concern, I support the proposed Boy Scouts of America (BSA) resolution to change their membership policies to allow gay youth to participate in scouting programs. I urge the delegates at the upcoming Annual Meeting to adopt the change and I encourage the scouting program to take all the necessary steps to welcome gay scouts, and provide a safe and nurturing space for their full participation.
At the same time, I’m dismayed by the decision to maintain the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with regard to gay scout leaders. This aspect of the proposal sends a mixed message to both youth and adults. It communicates to youth that if you’re “out” about being gay you will not be allowed to one day become an adult scout leader and share the leadership and other skills you have learned; a not so subtle message that you are not as good as your fellow straight scouts. To adults, it communicates that if you want to be a scout leader you must stay in the closet about your sexual orientation, compromise your integrity and live with the stress that should someone choose to out you, or you decide to come out, you must face the scandal of being removed. This current policy of excluding gay scout leaders is inconsistent with the core values of scouting and there is no good reason for it to continue.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Reconciling Works: Lutherans for Full Participation, noted the tension that many Lutheran congregations feel about being welcoming to all people, while sponsoring a troop that continues to practice discrimination. Currently, Lutheran churches sponsor nearly 4,000 troops across the country.
Lutherans are one of the biggest groups of Christians in the United States. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Lutheran congregations throughout the United States that host Boy Scout troops. Many of these congregations welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people not only on Sunday mornings at worship, but also LGBT people who may be part of the Boy Scout troop that uses the building at other times. When these churches say all are welcome, they really mean all. To accept gay scouts but not openly gay leaders results in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” double standard. This standard would be detrimental to gay scouts who would come to believe that in order to succeed they would have to hide who they are.
We applaud the faithful service of the many scouts and troop leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities whose work is a witness to what Scouting is all about – helping boys develop values such as loyalty, helpfulness, kindness, thrift, bravery, and duty to God. We call upon the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to set a policy that welcomes and includes all.
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her seven-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Democratic representative Tammy Baldwin gave us another reason to celebrate on November 6, 2012 by making history in becoming the first elected openly gay senator. Congrats Wisconsin and Senator Baldwin!
By: Brandy Black
Does kissing defuse anger? These two women kissed in front of demonstrators who gathered to oppose the bill which would allow gay marriage and adoption in France. The women of Marseille, France explained later that they were straight but simply wanted to draw attention to the issue with a gesture of solidarity.