April Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter

Lambda Legal’s 2005 Workplace Fairness Survey showed that nearly 2 out of every 5 workers experienced ‘some form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace because of their sexual orientation’ during the period 2000-2005 . . . More than 1/3rd of GLB (gay, lesbian, and bisexual) African Americans and half of GLB Euro-Americans report job discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Robert Hill “Incorporating Queers: Blowback, Backlash, and Other Forms of Resistance to Workplace Diversity Initiatives That Support Sexual Minorities. Advances in Human Resources. Vol. 11, No. 1 February 2009.
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Same-sex marriage rights is an issue that refuses to go away. The Miss USA contest helped to impassion the debate again. Miss California was asked her position on same-sex marriage. Her answer was controversial. She stated that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. Unfortunately, her answer showed a lot of ignorance. She stated that gay people can choose to get married in her country. That is not true. Given the fact that millions of dollars were spent during the recent Proposition 8 fight in California, it is amazing she was not aware of the fact that same-sex marriages are not legal in California. While Miss California seems to be blaming her loss on being asked the question about same-sex marriages, some people feel it was her ignorance of the issue that might have cost her the Miss USA contest.

There is a cost to being racist. Political and community leaders are no longer able to openly display racist attitudes, or to make racist comments without paying a price. If Miss California lost the Miss USA contest because of her position on same-sex marriages, we might be seeing public figures paying a price for homophobia and homo-negativity.

For many years, people have been critical of American beauty pageants. Concerns have been expressed that beauty pageants emphasize physical beauty, and encourage very sexist views of women. There have even been criticisms of beauty pageants as portraying the ideal American woman as uninformed and unintelligent. Unfortunately, the Miss California’s answer in the Miss USA contest showed the ideal American woman to be uninformed and either homo-negative or homophobic. Miss USA is idealized by many young ladies. Young American women deserve a role model that is not openly homophobic.

Both sides appear to be making same-sex marriage rights an issue over which they are prepared to wage very long legal and political battles. Recent events show a few victories for those who support gay marriages. A PBS You Tube video discusses the legalization of same-sex marriages in Vermont, and the legalization of gay marriages by the Supreme Court in Iowa. The Human Rights Campaign celebrated the approval of same-sex marriage in Vermont and Iowa. Videos of the Vermont and Iowa state flags being raised by the Human Rights Campaign in celebration of the victories can be seen on the HRC You Tube Channel.

A popular gay You Tuber, Rob Much, gives a brief evaluation of the reasons why same sex-marriages were approved by the courts in Iowa. His review of the reasons why same-sex marriages were approved in Iowa can be seen on the Rob Much You Tube Channel. Rob’s video also describes gay rights in Australia.

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Hate crimes legislation is in the news again. One reason is due to Judy Shepard speaking out in favor of hate crimes protection for gay people. The Human Rights Campaign You Tube Channel recently added a video of Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, speaking about the need for hate crimes legislation. In the video, Judy Shepard calls for the passing of federal hate crimes legislation. The video can be watched on the HRC Channel.

There is another reason why hate crimes legislation is getting a lot of attention. North Carolina Congressman Virginia Foxxx spoke against hate crimes legislation. Her comments were controversial, due to content and perceived insensitivity. She is reported as having said that it is a “hoax” that Matthew Shepard’s death was due to homophobia. The comments would have been insensitive at the best of times. Given the fact that Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, was present when the comments were made, Virginia Foxx’s remarks are generally seen as grossly insensitive and inappropriate.

Virginia Foxx appears to be ignorant of some important facts about Matthew Shepard’s murder. He was targeted for crime, due to his perceived sexual orientation. The lawyer representing one of the men who was convicted in connection with Matthew Shepard’s death attempted to use gay panic as a legal defense against the charge of murder. When a person is targeted for crime, due to perceived sexual orientation, and the people who commit the crime attempt to get a reduced sentence due to the victim’s sexual orientation, a hate crime has taken place.

In an interview, appearing on the WXIItv You Tube channel, Virginia Foxx said she was “speaking off the cuff” and “simply choose a poor word.” She said to the effect that choosing the wrong word happens all of the time and “sometimes it gets blown out of proportion.” She said that she was “sorry she used the wrong word.” When Foxx was asked if she now believed that Matthew Shepard was targeted because he was gay, Foxx said, “I think I used the wrong word and . . . we should just let it go at that.” Foxx says she wrote a note to Judy Shepard stating she was sorry “if I said anything that offended her . . .”

Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with Foxx’s remarks in the interview. She is sorry that her homophobic comments got “blown out of proportion,” not that said homophobic things. Virginia Foxx’s comments do not state she changed her opinion about Matthew Shepard’s murder. In fact, she did not address that concern at all. She only apologized for having used the wrong word, not for having stated things that were incorrect. She knew good and well her comments were offensive. Instead of sending a handwritten note stating she was sorry “if” she said anything that offended Judy Shepard, Virginia Foxx should have said she was sorry for the offensive remarks she made. The apology Congressman Foxx offered is not a genuine apology, and that underscores her intense insensitivity and ignorance. Judy Shepard is cited in an MSNBC news article as saying Virginia Foxx apologized for “semantics but not her sentiment, her insensitivity or her ignorance.”

Congressman Virginia Foxx voted against the hate crimes bill, because she feels “it divides people in this country. It sets up special classes of people.” What Virginia Foxx does not seem to get is that hate crimes themselves set up special classes of people - those who are able to live in relative freedom, and those who are targets of systemic abuse, oppression, discrimination, and violence. Hate crimes legislation helps level the playing field for members of minority groups.

Keith Olbermann gave Virginia Foxx the “Worst Person in the World” rating. A video on the You Tube system gives Olbermann’s comments.

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One of our correspondents forwarded us information about a lawsuit filed by two Florida High School students against their school board for refusing to let the students form a club that promotes tolerance of gays and lesbians. The Associated Press article states the suit against the school board was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the Associated Press article, the ACLU won a lawsuit against another school district. In that case, a judge ruled to the effect that schools “must provide for the well-being of gay students” and are not allowed to discriminate against gay-straight alliances in schools.

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Anybody with news about hate crimes or discrimination is welcome to email us.

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