Contemporary Expression

A decade
July 6, 2009, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Coming Out, Equality

Total solar eclipse of August 1999

A decade has gone by… a decade and some change since Matthew Shepard, a decade to the day since Barry Winchell. Back in 1999 I had also just come out of the closet to friends and family. I had to change my career and I had to start all over again in so many ways. My partner and I had already been together for over a decade and we wanted to start the second one completely out and open.

For me it was Matthew, I just couldn’t bear the grief isolated. I joined the then active LGCJ (Lesbian and Gay Coalition for Justice) in Nashville to see how I might plug in to my activism. Then, in short order, came Barry. Watching the Nashville leadership find a way to be helpful and effective was part of our growth as a community. I still remember the early meetings and the collaboration with SLDN and the Equality Federation.

Now, as a board member of the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation (the educational c-3 arm of TEP) I am proud to see all the work that has been done to stop hate crimes and to see them punished to the full extent of the law. Join the TEP FaceBook Page

Hate crimes are a vicious assault on the humanity and safety of our community. TEP wants to help victims of hate crimes get the justice and protection they deserve. If you are the victim of a hate crime or if you would like to report a hate crime, please complete the form on this page. Someone from our Hate Crimes Task Force will respond to your report.

  • Save this number to your cell phone to call in to leave a message to report of a hate crime in Tennessee:
  • If you are in any danger, please call 911 first


The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed in the US House April 29, 2009 on a 249 to 175 bipartisan vote.

The bill expands federal hate crime laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. It also would eliminate a requirement that the victim was engaged in one of several “federally protected activities” at the time of the crime in order to be protected by these laws. Under current federal hate crime laws, perpetrators can be prosecuted for violence motivated by race, color, religion, and national origin only if the crime involves a federal activity, such as voting or traveling across state lines.President Obama released a statement on the bill prior to yesterday’s vote. He said “I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.”The bill was also reintroduced in the US Senate the same week by a bi-partisan coalition. In the Senate, the bill is known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.* Previous versions of the bill faced various legislative roadblocks under the Bush administration: similar bills did not make it out of committee in several Congresses between 2002, when the legislation was first introduced, and 2007, when the bill finally passed the House, but was never voted on in the Senate. President Bush had indicated that he would veto the bill if it was passed by Congress.

*Sen Alexander was quoted recently that “state laws are sufficient” when asked about his vote.

A decade has gone by.


  • Gay Bias Killings Highest Since 1999
    Incidents Up By 28 Percent
    MARCUS FRANKLIN, Associated Press Writer
    POSTED: 12:17 pm CDT June 16, 2009

    NEW YORK — The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated incidents increased by 28 percent in 2008 compared to a year ago, according to a national coalition of advocacy groups.
    Last year’s 29 killings was the highest recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs since 1999, when it documented the same number of slayings, according to a report released Tuesday by the coalition.
    “What we’re also seeing, more disturbingly, is the increase in the severity of violence,” said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which coordinates coalition.
    Stapel theorized that at least some of last year’s violence was backlash against issues that arose during the during the presidential campaign. She cited debates about same-sex marriage, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as possible flash points. “The more visibility there is the more likely we’re going to see backlash, and that’s exactly what we see here,” Stapel said.
    Overall, the number of victims who reported anti-LGBT violence in 2008 increased by two percent compared to 2007, said the New York-based coalition of programs in 25 states.
    Coalition officials say their figures are more accurate than those from law enforcement agencies. As an example, they say, the FBI doesn’t record bias crimes against transgender people because gender identity isn’t covered by federal hate-crime law.
    Also, victims sometimes are reluctant to report bias incidents to police because they don’t want to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity and/or they fear bias from police, officials said.
    Reports of physical abuse by police increased to 25 incidents last year from 10 in 2007, the report said.
    For the new report, programs in Milwaukee, Minnesota, Chicago, Los Angeles, Colorado, Columbus, Ohio, Houston, Pennsylvania, New York City, Kansas City, Missouri, Michigan and San Francisco submitted data.
    Programs in Vermont and the Boston area participated in the 2007 report but not the current one. The program in Rochester, N.Y., participated in 2008 for the first time.
    The largest increase — 64 percent — was in Milwaukee, where the number of reported incidents rose to 18 in 2008 from 11 in 2007, the report said.
    Officials weren’t sure whether reported increases were attributable to more people reporting incidents or an actual rise.
    Meighan Bentz, a victim outreach advocate at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, which includes an anti-violence project, said, “I think it’s a combination.”
    “Certainly there are more people reporting,” Bentz said, adding that the project started in 2005. “As time goes on there are more people aware of our program as a resource.”
    Bentz added, “I do believe there are ongoing issues of violence and its affect upon LGBT individuals. It’s a vulnerable population.”
    Many of 2008’s incidents made headlines.
    In December, a man was beaten to death in New York City while he walked arm in arm with his brother as their attackers yelled anti-gay and anti-Latino epithets. Two men have been charged with murder as a hate crime.
    In February 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence King was shot to death at school in Oxnard, Calif., near Malibu after enduring harassment after he told classmates he was gay; a classmate is charged as an adult in the killing, which prosecutors classified as a hate crime.
    Last June, a surveillance tape was publicized showing Memphis, Tenn., police officers beating Duanna Johnson, a transgender woman, and shouting slurs in a jail booking area; a public outcry erupted.
    In November, Johnson was found fatally shot on a Memphis street


A decade has gone by.

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