Violent crimes, including murder, increased last year against people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), and people of color among those groups were most likely to be targeted, an advocacy group reports.
A report last month by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a group that supports victims of anti-LGBT harassment, found:
This rise is no surprise to Suzanna Walters, professor of gender studies at Indiana University and author of All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America.
Walters says that ongoing homophobia is hidden because of increased visibility of support for the LGBT community, including New York‘s legalizing same-sex marriage and the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“These positive changes are very real, there is no doubt about it, but the more visible you are as a community the more vulnerable you are, too,” she says. “There is a protection in the closet, as awful as that is. Real homophobia with violent outcomes is not a thing of the past and there is much more work to be done.”
Nationally, violent crimes are in decline, according to the most recent FBI statistics. Preliminary figures published in May show a 5.5% decrease in the number of violent crimes, including murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault from 2009 to 2010.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 gave the FBI authority to investigate hate crimes involving sexual orientation, says Peter Kaupp, FBI supervisory special agent and hate-crimes program manager.
A look at major cities:
Mattie Leyden, 40, was born a man but legally changed her documents to reflect a female identity two years ago. Every day she says she fears becoming a crime statistic. “I’m waiting for it to happen someday,” Leyden says.
As hundreds of jubilant gay couples became newlyweds in New York over the weekend, their well-wishers included many far-flung gays wistfully aware that their own states may never willingly allow same-sex marriage.
“The victories in other states are always a little bittersweet,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of the gay-rights group Equality Georgia. His state is one of 30 that have adopted constitutional amendments aimed at limiting marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.
In a few of those states – California, Oregon and Colorado, for example – activists hold out hope of repealing the bans. That outcome seems improbable, though, in many heartland and Southern states, and gay-rights leaders there are looking at more modest short-term goals.
They’ll soon get a boost from a leading national gay-rights group, the Human Rights Campaign. It plans to launch a bus tour, starting Aug. 12 in Salt Lake City and ending Oct. 30 in Orlando, Fla., which will carry it through 11 states that ban gay marriage.
Stops along the way are planned in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama – all with no statewide recognition of same-sex relationships and no state nondiscrimination laws protecting gays.
“We’re going into the belly of the beast,” said Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president for communications.
Activists on the bus tour will be hosting forums and workshops, offering advice on how gay communities can empower themselves politically even on conservative turf, notably through local ordinances and initiatives.
Even as New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, gay and transgender people in many places “continue to face tremendous obstacles,” said the campaign’s president, Joe Solmonese.
“The bus tour intends to draw attention to these challenges and ensure that this rising tide lifts all boats,” he said.
The tour will start from the Salt Lake City Pride Center, which provides advocacy and support services for gays across Utah.
Two years ago, Salt Lake became the first city in the state to offer housing and employment protections for gays and lesbians; it also has a “mutual commitment registry” that offers some local recognition to same-sex couples. Both measures exemplify goals that activists believe could be achievable in many communities in conservative states.
“We recognize that same-sex marriage may not be right around the corner,” said the Pride Center’s spokeswoman, Marina Gomberg. “But we see different areas where we can change our state and have changed our state.”
As for the news out of New York, Gomberg said, “It’s a boost of energy for me. A success in New York feels like a success here, because as a nation we’re making progress toward equality and acceptance.”
Conservative leaders in some of the states on the bus tour route expressed doubt that the advent of gay marriage in New York would have impact on their home turf.
“I don’t believe it’s a shot across the bow,” said Jerry Cox, head of the Arkansas Family Council. “I would say it’s an indication of how out of step New York is with the rest of the country.”
Any push for gay marriage in Arkansas would face a difficult time with either major party. Gov. Mike Beebe, a popular Democrat who won re-election last year, recently told a gay-rights group that he can’t see himself supporting same-sex marriage or civil unions.
With six states now recognizing same-sex marriage, there will be increasing pressure on Congress and the courts to dismantle the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to married gay couples. Even some conservatives believe the eventual endgame will be some move by Congress or the Supreme Court to require all states, including those with constitutional bans, to recognize such couples.
Such a prediction comes from Texas Gov. Rick Perry – who fought hard for a state amendment banning gay marriage – in his book, “Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington.”
“Gay marriage will soon be the policy of the United States, irrespective of federalism, the Constitution, or the wish of the American people,” he writes.
Kerry Messer of the conservative Missouri Family Network said only a federal court ruling could force his state to reverse a ban-gay-marriage amendment approved with 70 percent support in 2004.
“The attitudes haven’t changed since then,” Messer said. “If anything, I think they maybe have swung a little closer to the traditional marriage idea.”
The bus tour will end in Florida, a swing state in presidential elections but with a heavily Republican legislature that shows little interest in advancing gay rights. In 2008, an amendment banning gay marriage passed with 62 percent support.
Nonetheless, the state has a vibrant gay community and several of its cities have established domestic-partnership registries on a local basis.
Brian Winfield, communications director for the gay-rights group Equality Florida, said he and his longtime partner, Kim Byrd, are considering getting married in New York this winter, then returning to Florida even though their union wouldn’t be recognized there.
“Florida is moving in the direction of equality,” Winfield said. “We’ve been able to carve out some victories in a very difficult environment.”
As a prelude to the bus tour, the Human Rights Campaign conducted a national survey on Americans’ attitudes on gay-rights issues. The lead pollster, Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, said she was struck by the finding that acceptance of gays was virtually as high in the South as in other regions, even though Southern legislatures oppose gay rights.
“The elected officials tend to be more conservative than voters,” she said. “But what I think you’ll see is a diminishing of this issue as a wedge in electoral politics … It becomes something you don’t talk about.”
Recently released U.S. Census data shows that the number of same-sex couple households is surging across the country, including in the conservative states on the bus tour route. In Georgia, for example, the number of same-sex households increased from 19,288 in 2000 to 29,844 in 2010.
So far, that trend has not been reflected by passage of gay-rights measures in the legislature. However, Graham, of Equality Georgia, is hopeful that might change as more gay families surface in Atlanta’s northern suburbs and other areas that produce many of the state’s political leaders.
For now, Graham sees little chance of repealing the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage.
“However,” he said, “there’s going to come a point where Georgia’s efforts to attract new business will run up against the discriminatory laws that we have here.”
New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., along with National Organization For Marriage Chair Maggie Gallagher, spent a sizable portion of their anti-gay marriage rally on Sunday denouncing another anti-gay marriage group, the Westboro Baptist Church.
Their rally and march, which took place the first day same-sex marriages were legally performed in New York, were attended by several thousand people, many of them Hispanic members of the Bronx church run by Diaz, who is also a Penetecostal minister. It began in front of Governor Cuomo’s New York City offices on Park Avenue and then proceeded, for reasons that went unexplained during the speeches, to the United Nations. Men and women waved bibles and sang hymns; cries of “Jesus, Jesus” and “Let the People Vote” reverberated through the city streets. Also in attendance were a cluster of Orthodox Jewish men from the group Jews for Decency.
Although state polls consistently show that gay marriage is supported by nearly 60% of New Yorkers, the need for a direct vote on the issue of marriage equality was the theme stressed most often by speakers onstage at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Diaz and Gallagher announced the launch of a website and anti-Cuomo campaign called LetThePeopleVote.com.
“We’re here to put those politicians on notice,” Gallagher said, warning of retribution for state lawmakers who had voted in support of gay marriage. “We are standing up for the good in God’s eyes.”
Speaking to the crowd in Spanish with an English interpreter, Diaz Sr. announced that he planned to initiate a lawsuit against same-sex marriage next week. “Everything they’re doing today is criminal and it’s wrong,” he said.
Both inveighed against the Westboro Baptist Church, a fringe group of attention-seeking protesters who sent five or six people with profane signs to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau this morning, and sent a similarly-sized group to an area near the NOM/Diaz rally. “You are not speaking for us, you are not with us,” Gallagher said, and Diaz went even further, albeit while referring to the group as the “Westberry Baptist Church.”
“We are not down with that,” the state senator said, according to a translator. “We say it is sin … but we don’t hate nobody.”
But Diaz also spoke of the gay marriage vote as a choice between “the church” and “the homosexuals.” He railed against any and all politicians who had voted for gay marriage, saving special ire for Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who he claimed “gave me his hand, he gave me his word,” to vote against gay marriage and then did not. Diaz also referenced rumors that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had offered campaign cash to Senate Republicans on the bubble to support gay marriage.
Might I just add a moment of reflection by saying this: Imagine how different the U.S. would be today if we had allowed the majority of Americans throughout history to vote on the rights of the minority.
New York Times ticker as of 10:31PM EST on June 24, 2011:
BREAKING NEWS10:31 PM ET
Gay Marriage Approved by New York Senate
Apparently that is what former New York Giants receiver, David Tyree, thinks. In an article posted by CNN on June 17, 2011, Tyree steps into the political scene by announcing his opposition to same-sex marriage in the form of an appearance in a video released by the National Organization for Marriage on the same day as the New York State Assembly approved the same-sex marriage bill.
The part that I found most intriguing about David Tyree’s opposition was his reasoning that “same-sex parents are ill-equipped to raise a child of the opposite sex.” I can only assume from this argument that Mr. Tyree is also opposed to single parent households, adoptive, biological, or step parents raising children of another race, ethnicity, or nationality, and a number of other barriers that prevent a parent from understanding exactly what their child is going through. Given that same-sex couples, along with those parents aforementioned, are already raising our nation’s well adjusted and healthy youth, I do not see the validity in this argument.