Tag Archives: Gay

Laramie, 10 Years Later

I’d love to take credit for this, but I stole it from Newsweek… nothing I could say could match those who lived through it. –Ryan

Has Anything Changed?
The creators of ‘The Laramie Project’, a play about Matthew Shepard, returned to Wyoming on the 10-year anniversary of his death.

By Moisés Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Stephen Belber and Andy Paris | Newsweek Web Exclusive

The fence where Matthew Shepard met his brutal demise now removed from towns history.

The fence where Matthew Shepard met his brutal demise now removed from town's history.

One month after the brutal murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998, 10 members of the Tectonic Theater Project , led by playwright and director Moisés Kaufman, went to Laramie, Wyo., to interview residents about the killing. Those interviews served as the basis for “The Laramie Project,” a play that chronicles how the community grappled with the slaying. On the 10th anniversary of Shepard’s death, which has become a rallying cry for gay rights and hate-crime laws, the theater company returned to Laramie. These are their observations:

In returning to Laramie, Wyo., 10 years after the murder of Matthew Shepard, the pressing question for all of us was: how has the town changed since 1998? But soon a different question arose: how do we measure that change?

On the state level no hate crime legislation has passed; the fence where Matthew Shepard was murdered has been dismantled; the Fireside Bar where Matthew met his killers has been renamed; and the University of Wyoming still has yet to grant domestic partner benefits to its gay and lesbian faculty and staff. And when you ask of the people of Laramie how has the town has changed, many say, “We’ve moved on.”

“Moved on to what?” asks Reggie Fluty, the policewoman who was the first to arrive at the fence where Matthew was tied. “If you don’t want to look back, fine. But what are we moving towards?”

Certainly the university has taken several concrete actions to promote inclusiveness: they’ve added gay and lesbian study classes to the curriculum, created a resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and permanently renamed the Social Justice Symposium after Matthew Shepard. They’ve also recently joined Matthew’s mom, Judy Shepard, in memorializing Matthew on campus. (Judy is the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.)

As for the rest of the town, Shepard’s former academic adviser Jon Peacock says, “I think when you’re so close to an event like this you become more sensitized. You start to pay more attention to those issues.” Detective Sergeant Rob Debree, the lead investigator in Shepard’s murder, adds, “I think overall, there’s just more acceptance.” Debree became a forceful national advocate for Federal Hate Crime legislation alongside Officer Dave O’Malley as a result of this murder.

“The fact that cops like DeBree and O’Malley, law officers in positions of real power, are committed to gay and lesbian people and their protection, that should be construed as concrete change,” says Beth Loffreda, author of the book, “Losing Matthew Shepard.” “You won’t find that in a statute or in a public monument to Matt, but that’s real and meaningful change.”

A real cause for concern, however, is the emergence in Laramie of a narrative that has gained many proponents in recent years: one that states that Shepard’s murder by two local residents, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, was only “a robbery gone bad” or “a drug-fueled murder” and not a hate crime. “That’s nonsense,” says Fluty. “All you have to do is look at the evidence.” O’Malley, lead investigator of the Laramie Police Department agrees, “I’m convinced that these guys killed Matt because he was gay.”

Debree of the Sheriff’s department adds: “We went in depth reviewing [the murderers’] blood for any kind of drugs or anything to that effect. There was nothing.” The fact that this was a hate crime was decisively proved at the trial when in excerpts of McKinney’s confession, the jury heard him tell DeBree: “[Shepard] put his hand on my leg. … I told him I’m not a f—ing faggot” before beginning to brutally beat Matthew Shepard.

Catherine Connolly, the first openly gay professor at the university, also takes issue with this willful ignoring of the facts: “This distortion of history, this is what kids 18, 19 years old think now. It’s devastating to us. This is our history.”

So why has this distortion of the truth become so prevalent? One hypothesis is that because Laramie was portrayed in the media as a backward town where hatred and bigotry were rampant, forcing the citizens to question their identity as an idyllic community, a “good place to raise your children.” “And when we have a theory about who we are,” says Laramie resident Jeffrey Lockwood, “and the data goes against that theory, we throw out the data rather than adjust the theory. We are hardwired as human beings not to contemplate our own complicity in things.”

Yet there are many people who found in this murder an opportunity to reflect deeply about the role that the culture and values of Laramie played in the crime. “This whole thing forced us to look at our warts,” says Dr. Don Cantway, the physician who treated Matthew’s injuries. “To look at our bigotry, the hatreds, the intolerance that exist here.”

These two stances, denial and self-reflection, have divided the town. “This is where I choose to live,” insists Jonas Slonaker, a gay man who chose to come out after Shepard’s murder, “and this is a state that always votes Republican and is pretty conservative. So there’ll be a lot of resistance [to change]. It might be a situation where those rights will come from a federal level down before it comes to the state level.”

But nationally, the situation regarding gay rights legislation mirrors Wyoming’s. In 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act passed in both the House and the Senate but the legislation never made it out of Congress—because of a Bush veto threat and the bill’s attachment to a defense authorization measure.

Still, shifts are occurring: Wyoming’s Governor Dave Freudenthal, says, “If you really believe in that Western ‘live and let live’ [philosophy] then you wouldn’t have homophobic violence. So there’s a contradiction. We tolerate an awful lot of violence in this state and we have to look at that.” In 2005, the neighboring town of Casper elected a gay man as mayor and professor Connolly is running for a State House seat in the coming election. In addition, the faculty at the university continues to fight for same-sex partner benefits.

Measuring change is not an exact science: the markers can be elusive or blurry, yet no less meaningful. Peacock says, “I think it does a great disservice to the power of the story around Matthew’s death to measure it by whether there’s been definitive or quantifiable change like a law passed. We know that there has been so much qualitative and transformational change. So I think it does a real disservice to the story to measure it that way. I just think that’s too thin of a measure.”

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3 Down, 47 To Go

Well, the breeding grounds of those freedom and equality-loving treacherous “liberals” has expanded: Connecticut will overturn its ban on same-sex marriage.

Now, those heathens can profess their love openly and legally, and have the same full-fledged rights under the law.

Watch your white picket fence, Sammy and Sally Republican… for those Homer Sexuals can now commit such grizzly acts as:

  • File taxes as a married couple!
  • Visit their husband or wife in the hospital!
  • Command one’s estate after death!

Oh, the humanity!!

What’s next? Tolerance? Acceptance? When will this madness end?

Ok, ok, I’ll drop the act now. The one thing I don’t like about this, is that the Governor of Connecticut doesn’t support it, and is only backing the state Supreme Court because she thinks attempts to reverse the overturning will fail. Such was the idea in the South during the Jim Crow era. But I digress…

Well, the economy will grab a little jolt in Connecticut now, because if there’s one thing my people are willing to spend money on, it’s a party. Wedding planners, rejoice.

I’m currently planning my first dance at the reception should Nevada happen to get a clue.

Truly,

Ryan

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Savagely Stolen News: Big Brother High, Crimethought 101

Judge: Florida principal mistreated gay students

PONCE DE LEON – A federal judge scolded a Panhandle school principal, saying the administrator led a “relentless crusade” against gay and lesbian students at Ponce de Leon High School and violated their First Amendment rights.

Student Heather Gillman and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Holmes County School District, saying that the principal prohibited the teen from wearing gay pride clothing, stickers and buttons in 2007.

Students, including Gillman, had begun showing support after the taunting of a gay student at school. In response to the taunting incident, David Davis told the gay student it wasn’t right for her to be homosexual and held a morality assembly, according to testimony.

He also suspended several students for supporting Gillman, court records show.

A two-day trial was held in May, but U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak’s 36-page opinion wasn’t released until last week.

Smoak ruled that Davis violated Gillman’s rights by silencing all pro-gay messages. The principal also interrogated students about their sexual orientations, warned gay and lesbian students to stay away from other students and said that homosexuality was a sin.

“I emphasize that Davis’s personal and religious views about homosexuality are not issues in this case. Indeed, Davis’s opinions and views are consistent with the beliefs of many in Holmes County, in Florida, and in the country,” Smoak wrote. “Where Davis went wrong was when he endeavored to silence the opinions of his dissenters.”

Smoak ordered the Holmes County school District to pay more than $300,000 in damages.

School Superintendent Steve Griffin said Monday that Davis is no longer a principal; he now teaches American government classes at the high school. In response to the ruling, all teachers are undergoing senstivity training this summer, he said.

“We’re working on training our teachers on First Amendment rights and free speech,” said Griffin

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Ahhh summer…

Went to “The Cove” to swim today with the fam.  It’s a beach on the Nanticoke River, which empties a few miles away into the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s a great place for kids since the waves are tiny.  Definitely a good place to take children to learn to swim before allowing them to brave the waves of the Atlantic in Ocean City, Maryland (known as OC to us locals )or Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (both about 35 miles east of The Cove).

Of course OC is a party sport, especially for college kids, and is chock full of high rises and condos.  I prefer Rehoboth Beach because it has more of a community feel.  The town is still a livable town.  Whereas OC is much more commercialized.  Also I should note that Rehoboth Beach is the east coast beach destination for gays and lesbians.   While it doesn’t matter to me if the beach is shared with homosexuals, I want to paint an accurate portrait of the place for readers.

Cheers,

Tom

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Filed under Gay Rights, Life, travel

Another Republican Indicted

Seriously folks, how many “conservative” convictions does it take before the religious people abandon the party?  How in the name of their god and the rules set forth by their book can they in good conscience continue to vote for people that are criminals?

The latest is Ted Stevens.  He’s currently the longest serving republican senator.  The AP described his case as being indicted on “seven felony counts of concealing more than a quarter of a million dollars in house renovations and gifts from a powerful oil contractor that lobbied him for government aid.”

I know, I should not jump to conclusions, but I have been told that this case is rock solid.  It’s virtually a lock.

Last year some of you might remember gay, uh I mean, republican senator Larry Craig of Idaho.  He pleaded guilty to charges that came from him apparently trying to get some man-on-man action by playing footsie while sitting on the toilet with a man in the stall next door.  As a side note, a man can get his ass kicked for that…

And for the record, the last sitting senator to be indicted in federal court was Republican David Durenberger from Minnesota.  He pleaded guilty of conspiring to file fraudulent claims for Senate reimbursement of $3,825 in lodging expenses.

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Sorry Unmarried Couples, No Hospital Visitation For You!

Maryland State Senator, who is currently running for the House of Representatives, Andy Harris voted against a bill that would have allowed domestic partners the same rights married couples enjoy.  BTW straight couples are getting married less and living together more- whether you know it or like it- you are at the heart of the domestic partner law.  You, as a straight couple, do not currently have the same rights as a married couple- even if you have been together longer.  A couple of 18 year olds who get married have more rights in most states than 90 year olds that have been in a relationship since their teens!  All because religious zealots do not want to give ground on their idea that marriage is a “christian” concept- in spite of the fact that every culture pro or anti-christ has a form of marriage and has since long before the christian god got a hankering to impregnate a 14 year old Mary.

Here is a summary of the law (as taken from Votesmart.org):

Grants the following rights to domestic partners (sec. 1):

    – Control over final arrangements for their partner’s body, including the right to give consent for a postmortem examination of their partner’s body and the right to decide how the body will be disposed if not specified by the deceased partner
    – The right to make decisions about their partner’s health care if their partner is incapable of doing so unless they have appointed a health care agent or guardian
    – The right to visit their partner in hospital unless the hospital does not allow visitors, it would threaten the patient’s health, or the patient has requested that the partner not visit
    – The right to accompany their partner in an emergency vehicle

– Requires proof of a domestic partnership such as an affidavit or supporting documents for an individual to exercise these rights except for accompanying a partner in an emergency vehicle or hospital visitation, for which only a good faith statement is required (sec. 1).

– Provides that nothing in the bill may be construed to define marriage as anything other than an arrangement between a man and a woman in the state of Maryland (sec. 3).

Voting against this is simply wrong.

Cheers,

Tom

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I’m Straight You Dolt!

In response to some emails and comments I’ve received…

Why is it every time a person asserts that gays should be treated equally as straight folks people assume they are gay?

I am straight, married and have a child and friends of mine would tell you how absurd it is to “assume” I’m gay because of my view on freedom for gay people.  It’s that kind of narrow-mindedness that is intolerable.

Look at civil rights, I know the popular portrait of the movement is that only black folks such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X fought for their people, but white folks had a major role in influencing the white congress and white president (LBJ) to sign title seven. Likewise, straight folks have a role in showing the wider culture that gay people are “just people” and should be treated equal under the Constitution of the United States.

If God exists he/she can do with them/me what it wants to after death, but while they are citizens of the USA they should have equal rights.

Cheers,

Tom

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