So, I want to take a moment to respond to the faux gay-bashing incident that swept me (and the gay media) by storm yesterday.
Yeah, I’m angry.
I think this may have set things back a bit as far as people taking the threat to LGBTQ people seriously in the state of Montana. When someone needs the help of the police because they have been a victim of gay assault, will it be met with deep suspicion and possibly a sneer?
I’m also really worried about the kid who reported the whole thing.
I’m worried that this will ruin his life. I’m worried that this decision to report- however it was made- was possibly made under the influence. Bad decisions are made every day under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Montana is populated with an extraordinary amount of repeat DUI offenders. Our stats are not pretty. When Montana police respond to fights, domestic violence or robbery, they’re mostly alcohol related. Ask any cop. In a 2010 survey of Montana State Prison inmates, 93% had alcohol related to their crime. 93 percent. So I’m worried that an all-too-common clouded decision-making process will become a reason for retribution.
Yeah, I’m worried that the community that so quickly rallied around him will turn just as quickly against him.
I want to argue for some understanding. We don’t know the circumstances. We don’t know the reasons. We don’t know the situation. We don’t know anything- except what the police reports and press releases have told us.
I think that the concern we all had for him can be turned in a new direction- toward trying to understand- and trying to forgive. Youthful indiscretion aside, mistakes are made- and so are apologies.
When his is made, I’m going to do my damnedest to accept it.
Because I’ve made mistakes of my own.
I also know that we’re going to need to remember the response that galvanized a bunch of people around the country into action. Because, someday, we’re going to need to rally around a victim of hate, a victim of injustice, a victim of violence- and I don’t want to have suspicion be the first voice that enters my head. I want compassion to be the first voice.
And I don’t want the memory of this or any incident to overcome compassion’s voice in my heart.
That’s my prayer.
- Update: Homophobic Attack In Missoula (dgsmith.org)
Wipeout Homophobia’s Facebook page posted photos earlier today- I can’t bear to put them up here- they’re upsetting and I don’t think I need to make the point that there are people out there who think it’s okay to beat up people they see as queer- as ‘fags’, as ‘dykes’ as ‘trannies’, as, well, whatever.
There are people everywhere who think it’s okay to do that- not just in Montana.
After the most successful Pride Celebration in Montana history, when more supporters than ever showed up for equality and to support their LGBTIQ brothers and sisters, it’s very hard to see the reality of hate and ignorance that we all have to face every day in the U.S.
It’s not just Montana. It’s not “just” anywhere. It’s everywhere.
And that’s why we can’t be silent. That’s why we need to keep standing up in the face of bullying and violence. It goes against the values of the Montana I know and love. And sadly, bullying and violence still seems to be promoted as a value in some Montana circles (yeah I’m talking about you, Tim Ravndal).
But I still believe more people have our best interest at heart than don’t. The ignoramuses just have the advantage of jumping out of dark alleys.
So, again- please- be careful out there.
Update: Police are now saying that this investigation has taken a turn- from the Missoulian:
Missoula police are examining a videotape that purports to show a young gay man injuring his face while doing a backflip.
The man reported to police that he’d been beaten up outside the Missoula Club early Sunday morning, allegedly because of his sexual orientation.
But the video shows him doing a backflip off a curb on North Higgins Avenue and smashing his face on the sidewalk as he lands.
“Until we finish the investigation, we won’t know the entire story, but it has certainly been a major development in the case,” said Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir.
I’m making no further comments until we know more.
But what I said above applies nonetheless.
- Gay Man Beaten in Homophobic Attack in Missoula, Montana (towleroad.com)
- Hate Crimes = Terrorism: Missoula Responds (Out Into The Wild)
While Missoula County is dealing with an outbreak of new cases of HIV, health officials say the situation is a lot different in Gallatin County.
Missoula County officials recently reported that the county saw 12 new documented cases of HIV in the last five months, enough to classify it as an outbreak.
However, in Gallatin County there have been only seven new cases reported in the last five years. There was one new case last year, two in 2010, three in 2009, none in 2008 and one in 2007.
“It’s nothing, thank goodness, at all like what Missoula has seen recently,” said Gallatin City-County Health Director Matt Kelley.
AIDS Outreach, a Bozeman nonprofit that offers services to people living with HIV and AIDS, estimated that about 80 people have reported living with HIV and AIDS in Gallatin County.
According to the Missoulian, all 12 new cases in Missoula involve adult men who contracted the virus through situations ranging from presumed monogamous relationships to anonymous sexual encounters.
A similar outbreak happened in Yellowstone County a year ago. Six new cases were reported in less than a month between March and April.
There still need to be a lot of people tested here, though. From what I know and understand, there are people at risk who are not getting tested or who are positive and not actively revealing their status to their partners- both gay and straight.
So get tested- and protect yourself. Asking HIV status and using condoms may keep you healthy for years to come. Not doing so may result in a lifetime of financial and social difficulty. Believe me, I know.
Testing, safe sex kits and information available at AIDS Outreach www.AIDSOutreachMT.org
- Missoula County Sees Spike In HIV Infection (dgsmith.org)
A piece in today’s Missoulian by 6 UM Law School professors gives us an excellent reason to keep up the calls for his resignation and/or dismissal: the irreparable damage to impartiality. Excerpt:
Racism and sexism work in pernicious ways. Although there are still open racists and sexists everywhere, thanks to the civil and women’s rights movements much of what we now see resides in more subtle institutional arrangements and private, informal interactions that define our daily existence. Racism and sexism lurk in systemic processes, in implicit understandings, in gestures and jokes. Hidden from the light of public scorn, they thrive in structural formalities, personal relationships and private interactions.
Every once in a while, we catch a rare glimpse of these manifestations. U.S. Chief District Judge Richard Cebull’s e-mail and equivocations provided the latest example. Sent an admittedly racist and misogynistic email, Cebull chose to promote it to others. And when caught having forwarded the disturbing message, Cebull tried to distinguish the email’s content from his intent and his act from his character, demonstrating a profound misunderstanding of racism and sexism.
I know that I certainly would not feel comfortable having him decide a case involving me- or anyone I know for that matter. I would probably be able to make a case- as would anyone who has spoken out against him- for recusal. I would feel suspicion and mistrust- and fear. Not the feelings a Federal Judge should engender….
We acknowledge Cebull’s contributions to our profession. We also hear his contrition and recognize that we have all made mistakes. But his is not a simple lapse in judgment or momentary moral failing. As a federal district judge – the chief judge of Montana – the consequences of his actions are that racial and ethnic minorities, women and even people with whom he disagrees politically now have clear reason to question his ability to be fair and impartial when they appear in his court. The cynical may even try to exploit his revealed biases.
Cebull has irreparably compromised his ability to promote the independence, integrity and impartiality of the United States District Court in Montana.
Agreed. I just hope we can do something about it.
A.J. Otjen, University of Montana Professor and 2010 GOP Congressional Candidate has an Op-Ed in the Missoulian that flies in the face of the arguments by Treasure State Politics about LGBT rights (see previous post) and takes on the Montana GOP’s Notorious Platform Plank:
(The) Montana Supreme Court heard an appeal giving same-sex couples the protections that heterosexual couples enjoy. We should demand that our Republican leaders support this decision. But, the Montana Republican party platform says homosexual acts should remain illegal.
Apparently, the party that favors smaller, less intrusive government wants bigger, more intrusive government when it comes to our domestic arrangements. Three’s a crowd in the bedroom, folks.
Worse, the party line doesn’t fit with what most Republicans think. The latest Gallup poll says that 85 percent of Republicans want their candidates to focus on the economy, not social issues.
It will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win general elections if party leaders try to block the Supreme Court ruling or this troubling clause stays in the Republican state platform. Almost two-thirds of independents supported legalizing same-sex marriage in a 2010 Gallup poll.
Anecdotal evidence from online posts shows thousands of voters saying they would vote Republican except for the GOP’s rigid stance on gay issues.
Almost one-third of Republicans supported legalizing same-sex marriage in the 2010 Gallup poll. Over 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support legalizing same-sex marriage, up 16 percentage points from 2010. This “overwhelming” number in favor of marriage equality “makes the trend toward growing acceptance both clear and unstoppable,” says Jon Walker at Firedoglake. (emphases mine)
I am delighted and cautiously optimistic.
Of course I want her to be a bellwether, and having A.J. Otjen singing “The Times, They Are A-Changing” (with statistics) might be the wake-up call the Montana GOP needs. But will they hear it?
The Tea-Party Christianists seem to have a loud voice, if not large numbers- and the fact that this plank was “sneaked in” past the majority of delegates- as some maintain- doesn’t leave me with a helluva lot of faith in the process.
I want to believe it. I do. I like what she’s singin’, God bless her. It’s rational, reasonable, and backed by scientific data.
But I know a few people who’ll run to unplug the speakers as fast as they can. Especially because it’s rational, reasonable and backed by scientific data.
Stay tuned- and read the whole piece here.
- ACLU Asks Montana Supreme Court to Grant Legal Protection to Same Sex Couples (dgsma.wordpress.com)
- In Which I Am Insulted, But Not Named (dgsma.wordpress.com)
…about health care. Apparently, the legislators decrying health care reform with the loudest voices, have chosen to receive state financed health benefits worth up to $733.00 a month- and they’re on the run.
From Mike Dennison at The Missoulian:
Legislative officials agreed Friday to a Lee Newspapers request to release the names of all legislators accepting health insurance benefits from the state, revealing that all but seven of the 150 lawmakers chose to receive the health benefits, worth up to $733 a month.
Within hours of the information’s release, the Montana House refused to consider a bill putting into state law that the information on lawmaker health benefits should always be made public.
Don Pogreba had this to say from Intelligent Discontent:
As always, Representative Knox best represented the values of today’s Republican Party. He voted against the blast motion on SB 284 today, despite championing transparency about state spending two days earlier:
But let’s not end with Representative Knox today. Another well-known champion of liberty has apparently been seduced by the Marxist wiles of state bureaucracy and largesse. Even Representative Derek Skees has been transformed from a Galtian hero into a puppet of the state, gladly accepting benefits he knows to be socialistic.
I see chickens circling the henhouse- and the sun is going down…