What Are The Top Hate Crimes Committed Against The LGBTQ Community?

New studies on how often hate crimes are perpetrated against certain minorities and what kind of crimes are most likely have been conducted during President Trump’s time in office, and the outlook is much as expected — the LGBTQ community is targeted at a disproportionate rate than other minority communities. They are almost four times more likely to become the victim of a hate crime.

These crimes often involve violence, which is what most of us think about when we hear the phrase “hate crime.” But there are other types of hate, and much of it is directed at property instead of people.

For example, many LGBTQ individuals who publically flew a rainbow flag in their yard acknowledge that the flag was vandalized, stolen, or destroyed. Minneapolis resident Troy Kriech decided to fly his own flag when he lived in Webster with a friend — but that it was quickly taken. He posted a video on Facebook of a fellow resident using homophobic slurs while burning the flag in full public view.

Brandt said, “I called the cops. They came over and took my statement. We had [the flag] screwed onto the house. There are still pieces of the flag hanging there. Then the video blows up on Facebook on Saturday. People are posting it and reporting it, just doggin’ him out and everything. I showed the cops the video before he deleted it. Then someone else had managed to save the video.”

Sadly, Day County State Attorney Danny Smeins doesn’t seem to acknowledge that vandalism is a crime! Smeins said to Forum News, “I don’t think there’s a crime itself in the burning of the flag. It’s a crime to steal it and it’s a crime to trespass on property to remove it. I haven’t seen the video year to see if there’s a threat being stated in it. There’s some loose ends as far as the investigation goes. I don’t know what going to happen with this. It’s complicated by the fact is the person complaining about it abandoned it, so it’s really not his property unless there was an agreement.”

Property damage attorney Ray Collins does not agree. Collins said, “Mr. Kriech lived on the premises where the flag was taken and then vandalized, and there was also damage to the property itself. Yes, trespassing is a crime. Yes, theft is a crime. But willful destruction of another person’s property is a crime too. Burning someone’s flag is something that opens the perpetrator up to both criminal and civil action — and both should be taken in conjunction with one another to show the person responsible for doing this that these actions are unacceptable in our society.”

The video depicts an obvious hate crime, which is also against the law and carries additional criminal penalties. 

The South Dakota Attorney General’s website defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity/national origin.”

And yet, the burning of the flag is still controversial when someone says it is a hate crime:

Can The Supreme Court Overturn Its Previous Ruling On Marriage Equality?

One of the most problematic consequences of the Trump administration is the lack of safety and security for minority groups, including the LGBTQ community. Trump has been allowed to seat dozens of judges, all of whom hold conservative values — which means many of them don’t necessarily believe in the rights of the LGBTQ community over, say, religious freedom rights (and, let’s face it, religious freedom is an excuse to hate on everyone who doesn’t agree with what they say or do).

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away last month, it provided Trump to nominate a third Supreme Court justice during his first (and hopefully last) presidential term. Her likely replacement is Amy Coney Barrett and will give the Supreme Court a conservative leaning of two-thirds. The LGBTQ community is rightly fearful of the future.

Acting Executive Director for Equality New Mexico, Marshall Martinez, said, “Given the history of Barrett, if she is confirmed, this ruling could be very bad for services and for folks seeking services across the country. But here in New Mexico, where the majority believes in equal access and equal opportunity, one organization could determine what is best to do with taxpayer money based on its own religious beliefs.”

Marriage equality is important for the LGBTQ community. Alcoholism, depression, and teen suicide and fallen ever since the Supreme Court ruling that legalized it through federal law. But overturning the previous ruling would kick the decision back to the states, which could even provide more conservative leaning areas the opportunity to nullify marriages already on the books. Activists are scared that the conservative majority’s potential rulings could embolden anti-LGBTQ groups to enact more discriminatory laws. 

Martinez said, “Two very conservative justices took the first opportunity they can to attack marriage equality under the guise of freedom of religion. I think this is a reminder to the LGBTQ community and their allies that there are still folks who are going to use every opportunity they can take away the rights we fought for.”

Legal Advocates Call To Action For LGBTQ Asylum Seekers

Many of the Central American asylum seekers — you know, those men, women, and children who are legally entering our country from the south only to be called illegals and see their families split apart — are members of the LGBTQ community. These individuals face even greater obstacles than other mostly hispanic asylum seekers. The Trump administration has plotted to stop as many of these individuals from entering the country as possible to no avail. 

Transgender Law Center attorney Emem Maurus said, “It’s not a deterrent in the sense of ‘Oh, I’m not going to do this right now. I’ll go next year.’ It is certainly having a practical impact, I do want to say that. These policies are causing people to be hurt, they are causing people to die, truly. These are causing a lot of harm and in that sense, they are practically impeding asylum, but I don’t know that it’s causing people to be like, ‘Oh, I’ll wait until next spring’ necessarily.”

Last year, many children had died in ICE captivity, ensuring that human rights groups would continue their calls to action to see barbaric practices stop — and also to see families reunited. But those news stories mostly ended as bigger news stories developed toward the end of the year. Impeachment sapped attention for months, and now COVID-19 has everyone looking elsewhere.

Human Rights Watch released a report that said, “The COVID-19 pandemic served as the pretext for the [border] closure, but for years, the Trump administration had adopted increasingly severe measures aimed at preventing asylum seekers from ever reaching the United States and expelling them quickly if they ever did cross the border.”

Estuardo Cifuentes told reporters for the Los Angeles Blade that he was a gay man from Guatemala seeking asylum without actually knowing anything about how the U.S. system worked. “I went back to Matamoros without knowing anything, without knowing anything about the process,” he said.

Other LGBTQ individuals have already succumbed to death because of that same process — like Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who was not provided with adequate care for her HIV when she arrived at ICE custody in New Mexico. She died on May 25, 2018, still in detention. Trans woman Medina Leon died on June 1, 2019 only three days after her release — but also due to complications from HIV that were ignored while she was detained.

LGBTQ individuals are among those most likely to seek asylum in the U.S. due to violence in Central America.

Human Rights Watch Senior LGBT Rights Researcher Neela Ghoshal said, “As long as this kind of violence and discrimination do persist, LGBT people from the Northern Triangle will continue to travel north to the United States to attempt to seek asylum and what the Trump administration has done in the last two years — which is to make asylum so restrictive that there’s barely an asylum system left to speak of — is unconscionable and it puts LGBT people at great harm.”

LGBTQ Pride Month Transforms Into Something Far Greater

LGBTQ citizens of the United States have called for police reforms to start pride month off with a bang, joining the “Black Lives Matter” movement to prove that social injustice for one group means social injustice for all of them. BLM protests have been built in small towns and large cities across the U.S., quickly expanding to countries all across the world — becoming one of the biggest and most effective movements in history.

This has all happened as another year has gone by without a “Pride Month” proclamation from President Trump. This is hardly a head-scratcher considering his stance on gay rights. But it’s also a particularly strong slap in the face to activists who watched the president issue separate proclamations for National Homeownership Month (really?), National Ocean Month (he loves oceans so much he wants to raise sea levels!) and Great Outdoors Month (he loves the outdoors so much he’s trying to drown most of it with the ocean!).

Many LGBTQ citizens joined with their African American friends and family to protest.

Congressman Mark Takano (Democrat-Riverside), who happens to be openly gay, said, “We must acknowledge that racist police brutality has gone without impunity for far too long in America. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, are the most recent cases of black men and women who have died at the hands of police — that we know of. Too often, the results of investigations into these instances of police misconduct amount to nothing and true justice is never served. This cannot, and must not, go on.”

Let’s do our best to remember those names!

Fairfield, CA Solano Pride Center wrote, “As a collective of LGBTQIA people from a range of backgrounds and life experiences, we have benefitted immeasurably from black leadership and actions that have brought greater civil liberties for all. As a center, we aspire to do more and do better at serving and focusing on African American lives, needs, voices, hopes, achievements and beyond.”

Were You Discriminated Against During The COVID-19 Crisis?

The world is approaching an awe-inspiring 500,000 cases, but the count is accelerating every day. Within a week or two, we’ll see a million cases or more. The fatality rate will skyrocket. Most of us are paying attention to our employment status, quality of insurance, and overall health. But it’s important to remember that some of us have to worry about these things on a daily basis — and then some.

For the LGBTQ community, times are especially tough.

While everyone else pays attention to the viral outbreak that causes the disease COVID-19, sometimes cases involving discrimination against the LGBTQ community fall through the cracks. Does it seem like no one is paying attention? You’re not alone.

And the potential for discrimination that goes unnoticed by authorities isn’t all. The community watches the pandemic with bated breath, noticing obvious parallels to the AIDS epidemic that affected it throughout the 80s, not the least of which is a president pretending that the illness isn’t really a big problem.

It’s almost worth noting that COVID-19 could be particularly damaging to the community as a whole. While rates of smoking, depression, drug use, and suicide are all decreasing with time, those rates are still among the highest of any minority demographic. Each of these represents an “underlying condition” that can make one much more susceptible to COVID-19, which has a relatively high fatality rate when compared to illnesses like the seasonal flu.

What can you do to help prevent spread among members of the community?

First and foremost, stop perusing apps like Grindr and Tinder. These only compel members to hook up. The close contact makes transmission much easier. Don’t go outdoors. Don’t see family or friends until notified it is okay to do so by the CDC. This crisis will not go away on its own, and the longer we avoid social distancing options, the longer we’ll have to do it.

Many of us currently feel that COVID-19 reactions have been overblown and that the disease isn’t really all that dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fatality rates are tens of times higher than the seasonal flu. The underlying cause of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, is far more contagious. It’s possible that its infectiousness eclipses even the Spanish flu, which was the deadliest pandemic in modern human history.

Should we fail to recognize the severity of the threat and act to stop it (as China and South Korea successfully did), then millions of people could pay the ultimate price. This is serious. We should treat it that way.

South Carolina Sex Education Under Suit For Excluding LGBTQ Relationships

Sex education in the south has always been under a great deal of scrutiny by those who live in the north. And that’s no surprise. Unwanted teenage pregnancies are a much bigger problem for those who live in southern states, in part due to stricter abortion laws and relaxed sex education standards. One of those relaxed standards involves the concept of homosexual sexual relationships — which are banned in the classroom by South Carolina law.

Oh, with one exception: Talking about sexually transmitted diseases in the context of homosexuality is perfectly okay.

Basically, teachers can only talk about heterosexual relationships — and even talking about that is restricted by South Carolina law. Now, a federal lawsuit aims to challenge the state law.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal have combined their resources to sue South Carolina’s Comprehensive Health Education Act of 1988, which they say violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The lawsuit said, “The law singles out LGBTQ students for negative treatment. It prevents LGBTQ students from receiving any health education about their relationships except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases, without imposing any comparable restriction on health education about heterosexual people.”

The 1988 law goes even further by specifically stating that teachers can be fired simply for discussing homosexual relationships or “alternative lifestyles.”

Defendant Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education, actually agrees with the plaintiff. When the lawsuit first arose, she went straight to Alan Wilson, the South Carolina Attorney General. She asked him to provide a legal opinion on whether or not the old state law remained constitutional under state and federal laws. He said that courts would likely overturn the law. 

Spearman said, “I agree with the arguments and evidence presented in the opinion. I also believe that parents should continue to have the final say in whether or not their child participates in health education curriculum.”

Like in many other parts of the country, parents can choose to remove their children from sex education courses.

When asked about the law, Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Julie Wilensky, said, “This stigmatizes LGBTQ kids. It sends a message to all students that LGBTQ kids and people are associated with diseases.”

Wilson said, “This office has consistently supported and will continue to support the protection of religious liberties in every context. Important free exercise of religion rights must be protected, while at the same time, ensuring that anti-gay discrimination which violates the Constitution is not present in the classroom.”

Apparently Rainbow Cake Is Anti-Religion

One Kentucky girl was recently expelled from her Christian school. Why, you ask? Well, according to the school officials, it was because she posed for a photo dressed in a rainbow shirt. It must’ve added salt to the imaginary wound when they saw the rainbow cake. School officials said the photo presented “a posture of cultural acceptance contrary to that” of the school’s.”

In other words, rainbows equal gay and gay equals wrong.

High schooler Kayla Kenney wasn’t out before the school decided she should be expelled for rainbows, though, and so her family is fighting the school’s decision in court by arguing it was essentially an invasion of privacy. 

The lawsuit provided details on the family’s stance: “This decision (of stating one’s sexual identity) is one which can ripple, leading to repercussions in untold aspects of someone’s personal, social and family life. This decision — when, where and how to ‘come out’ — is a profound endeavor that is the sole right of an LGBTQ person. And yet (Kayla), an LGBTQ child, has been denied that right.”

Regardless of the fact that society at large has debunked the idea that homosexuality is a disease, the Whitefield school maintains that it is.

The school dismissed the idea that the expulsion was based on rainbow clothes and cakes. “In the fall,” a statement said, “we met with the student to give her a final chance to begin to adhere to our code of conduct. Unfortunately, she did not live up to the agreement, and therefore, has been expelled.”

It’s an expulsion, so it must’ve been pretty serious! You know, drugs, guns, physical violence, that sort of thing. But we couldn’t find any evidence of it. There were Juul pods — for which she was put on probation — but rainbows seem to be the primary concern.

The problem is that Kayla’s parents had never discusser their child’s sexual orientation. She was not “out.” And because of that, the expulsion and the reasons behind it do indeed present an obvious invasion of a young girl’s privacy. 

According to the lawsuit, there were no new disciplinary measures after the Juul pod incident. Kayla was counseled to read a book called Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry. The author of that story describes her own struggles with (and against) homosexuality. You know, the sort of thing that can damage someone who is already struggling with unsupportive school staff. 

Her parents described the birthday experience as pleasant. “It was a happy moment,” her mother said. “We were celebrating her 15th birthday. The day God gave me her. Not supporting any sexuality or anything like that.”

The LGBTQ+ Community Supports The Impeachment Of President Donald J. Trump

LGBTQ+ voters — or at least those who ticked the box indicating they plan to vote in the 2020 Democratic primaries — say they support the impeachment of our current president, Donald Trump. This should not surprise those who have paid attention to the Trump administration’s treatment of the community while in office. In addition to rescinding or altering long-established protections for LGBTQ+ members, the number of hate crimes has continued to rise over his years in office.

90 percent of these LGBTQ+ voters believe that Trump should be both impeached and removed (it should be noted that many surveys ask these questions separately, i.e. “Do you believe Trump should be impeached?” versus “Do you believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office?”).

Only 5 percent said they did not believe Trump should be impeached and removed.

94 percent of survey respondents said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of Trump’s job performance.

Only 5 percent said they approve of Trump’s job performance.

Those who responded to the survey characterized their feelings for politicians like House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and freshman New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as somewhat favorable or very favorable. 89 percent of respondents held the opposite views on Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump is poised to become only the third president in the history of the United States to become impeached. After a lengthy debate session, a Democratic House of Representatives majority is expected to impeach a sitting president, whose case will then be turned over to the Senate for a most likely quick and superficial trial led by a Republican majority that will almost certainly keep him in office regardless of the blatant abuses of power of which he has been accused.

This will transpire only a day after Trump apparently sent Pelosi a scathing letter, once again decrying the process as unfair. He says that the facts uncovered do not exist.

Trump wrote: “The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

What started as a somewhat coherent — yet inaccurate — letter written in opposition to the process quickly devolves into a six-page rambling stream of thought, often accusing other government officials of criminal activity (which is something he often does: deflect the accusations made against him back to those who made them in the first place.

He continues, “Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress as though it were said by me. His shameless lies and deceptions, dating all the way back to the Russia Hoax, is one of the main reasons we are here today.”

What Is The “Gay Panic” Defense For Violent Hate Crimes?

Although LGBTQ rights have taken a hit under the Trump administration, overall they continue to improve year by year, at both the state and federal level. Recently, LGBTQ activists have called on governments to slam the door to the “gay panic” defense shut. This common courtroom strategy asks juries to blame a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity in order to justify violent crimes — and indeed, often murder. 

The panic defense isn’t an explanation for what happened or why during the commission of a violent crime. It’s an excuse. This is another way that judicial authority — and a jury of our peers — sometimes successfully reduce LGBTQ individuals to second class citizens. 

The panic defense was used during the nationally recognized Matthew Shepard case, which followed the criminal defense of two men who brutally beat and murdered a 21-year-old student in 1998.

LGBTQ advocates are sick and tired of this legal strategy. 

New Jersey Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino said, “Make no mistake, the gay and trans ‘panic’ defense is flat-out legal malpractice and it’s time for New Jersey to outlaw this horrific and discriminatory legal strategy.”

A new bill to ban the “gay panic” defense is scheduled for a vote early next week in the New Jersey state Assembly. Should the bill be signed into law, perpetrators of violent crimes against members of the LGBTQ community would be banned from being granted lesser charges by arguing they became upset in the heat of the moment when learning of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dean Dafis is a gay Maplewood committee member and supporter of the new bill. “It’s affirmation that we matter,” Dafis said. “That we will not be erased because when the violence against you is legitimized and excused, then you are erased as a victim and what’s happened to you — it’s like it doesn’t matter to anyone.”

Eight other states have already banned the panic defense.

The defense is usually used to complement one of several other legal strategies: insanity, diminished capacity, provocation, or self-defense. All of these defenses are outrageously illogical and only serve to do additional harm to the LGBTQ community, which is already struggling with increased violent crimes during the dogmatic years of the Trump presidency.

If the New Jersey state assembly approves the bill, it will be forwarded to the Senate for another vote. Should it pass through the Senate successfully, Governor Phil Murphy will hopefully then sign it into law.

Chelsea Manning Has Been Imprisoned Since March 8, 2019

With all this talk of whistleblowers, one might think we’d be hearing a little bit more about Chelsea Manning — perhaps the “first” big whistleblower. She was called a traitor and a spy too, so it’s no surprise that Trump is using those exact same terms to describe whoever blew the lid off his conversation with Ukraine’s president. Manning’s 35-year prison sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama back in 2017 after she had already served seven of those years.

She was called before a grand jury earlier this year in order to answer questions about what she knew about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange — questions that perhaps should have already been asked and answered (and were) the first time she was sent to prison. And that’s why it’s somewhat discomforting to know that the exact same crimes for which she was imprisoned the first time have landed her in jail again.

She refused to answer the grand jury’s questions. The judge held her in contempt of court, sending her to stew in a prison cell until she changed her mind and decided to answer those questions. In addition, she was hit with outrageously high fines for her lack of cooperation. Fines that no reasonably well-off American could possibly afford to pay.

Activists are still championing Manning and her story, but perhaps enough of us aren’t even aware that she’s in trouble again.

She was temporarily released in May. When a new grand jury arrived, she was once again ordered to testify about WikiLeaks. Once again, she refused and was sent back to prison with the same $1,000 a day fine attached to her sentence.

Before being reincarcerated (the second time), Manning said, “The government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles.”

Opponents of her incarceration believe that she is simply being used as a piece on a chess board to charge Julian Assange with a number of new crimes (as if they didn’t have all the evidence they needed to charge him with whatever they like already). Even so, Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge was directly related to providing Manning with help in electronically disseminating documents classified by the United States government.

The truth is this: the prosecutors, and the government, have yet to clarify exactly why they require Manning’s help. All we have are educated guesses.