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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 21, 2000

 

Warren may have been killed to silence him

Source says he threatened to tell of sexual relationship with one of his killers

 

by Eric Resnick

Grant Town, W.Va.--It is believed that 26-year-old Arthur Carl "J.R." Warren, an openly gay black man, may have been killed because he threatened to reveal a sexual relationship with one or both of his suspected killers.

The suspects, both white and age 17, have been identified by family members as cousins David Allen Parker and Jared Wilson.

Parker and Wilson were arrested July 4 and charged with first degree murder for allegedly beating Warren to death the night before, putting him in the trunk of a car, dumping his body on the road and repeatedly running over it in order to make the death look like a hit-and-run.

A decision as to whether or not the boys will be tried as adults is expected next week. A closed preliminary hearing was held July 12 before Circuit Judge Rodney Merrifield. Because both suspects are juveniles, the findings are sealed.

However, Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Bunner is dismissing reports of a sexual relationship as "hearsay."

"These allegations of a sexual relationship between the juveniles and Arthur Warren are all hearsay. Thereís no proof of it," said Bunner.

The Associated Press story that first suggested the relationship identified the source only as "close to the investigation," and that they only agreed to talk under the condition of anonymity.

A third teenager, Jason Shoemaker, age 15 (not 16 as earlier released) who was present and witnessed the crime and later told the police, has not been charged.

The APís July 14 story reported that Warren "had a sexual relationship with Parker and there is evidence indicating he was also involved with Wilson."

Because the decision has not been made as to whether or not the teens will be tried as adults, Bunner is not discussing motives for the crime, but has ruled out the possibility of a hate crime motivated by race.

According to Bunner, both boys have confessed to the crime.

Marion County Sheriff Ron Watkins has requested FBI assistance in determining whether the murder could qualify as a civil rights violation under federal law.

West Virginia has laws dealing with hate crimes committed on the basis of race, but not sexual orientation.

There is no federal law for prosecuting hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation.

Angela Dunlap is president of the nearby Fairmont State College Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students group of which Warren was a member. She said that, although they would really like to have J.R. back, they are prepared to use this murder to make the case to the state legislature to pass a hate crime law encompassing sexual orientation and gender.

"Weíre hoping the teens are tried as adults so information about the crime will be able to go before the legislature when the bill comes up again for a vote," said Dunlap.

Dunlap said that there were picketers outside the courthouse during the preliminary hearing, carrying signs demanding that Parker and Wilson be tried as adults.

They may get their way. West Virginia law says that if a juvenile is at least 14 years old and the state shows with clear and convincing evidence that he or she committed a serious crime, including first-degree murder, that their case "shall" be transferred from juvenile to criminal court.

"We are confident that this one will [transfer]," said Dunlap.

Dunlap said she was encouraged about the Marion County community and the general sense that justice needs served, but is concerned that this case may soon fade from the spotlight, even though it shares similarities with the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. That murder has become a rallying cry for the gay community and for the passage of hate crimes legislation.

"Matthew was all-American," said Dunlap. "He was a good-looking, well-to-do white boy. J.R. was none of those things."

Sensing the possibility of racism, Dunlap continued, "This murder has been treated differently. It has not had the coverage, and I donít think people feel the same way about it, even though J.R. and his family deserve all the shock and sadness that Matthew got."

 

 

 

A damp Danciní in the Streets still draws íem in

 

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland--Rain may have dampened the dancers at the sixteenth annual Danciní in the Streets fundraiser for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, but it didnít dampen the dancersí spirits, as 3,500 people turned out July 16 for a nine-hour outdoor party.

The annual event, the Taskforceís largest fundraiser of the year, brought in just under $80,000, lower than last yearís total.

"What hurt us this year was the rain," said Taskforce executive director Earl Pike. "We had a couple of storms around 3 and 4 pm, which is when a lot of people decide to go."

Still, he said, it was by no means a wash-out.

"It was the same enthusiastic, supportive crowd weíve had for the last sixteen years."

Music was supplied by DJ Warren Gluck from New York, but the emotional high point of the event was prominent drag queen Melissa Ross receiving the Silver Spotlight 2000 award, commemorating her sixteen years of support for the event, and for the Taskforce since its inception in 1983.

"It was a really touching moment," said Pike, "because sheíd been there every year for sixteen years."

The crowd seemed to enjoy themselves; the festive atmosphere was infectious. There were, however, some concerns.

"I love celebrating my queerness on the streets of Cleveland," said local woman Mari Englehart. "I only wish more of my friends could afford to go."

"In 1992, the year I came out, tickets were five dollars, and it was jamming," she explained. "I literally came out at Danciní in the Streets. If tickets had been twenty dollars, I donít think I would have come out."

Attendance figures were slightly down from last year, but not significantly. Danciní also moved to a smaller location a few years ago, which holds a smaller number of people.

Next year, however, Danciní will be larger.

"It is the twentieth anniversary of the epidemic," Pike said. "Weíre looking at putting this in a larger format."

"When the history of the epidemic is written," Pike added, "one of the chapters will have to be about how much worse it would have been had the community not started fighting it early and kept fighting."

The money raised from Danciní in the Streets keeps the Taskforce running, and, while the amount raised this year was lower than last yearís, Pike isnít complaining.

"It is kind of amazing, when you look at benefits, itís the sixteenth Danciní, and itís still working," he said. "Our numbers were down, but as an event, it was fabulous. The support of the gay community has been amazing."

Pike said the Taskforce will start announcing details about Danciní in the Streets 2001 in the next month or so.


No officers to blame for Winchellís murder, report says

Military also finds no Ďclimate of homophobiaí on the base where he was beaten to death


by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--An Army Inspector General report leaked to CBS News clears all the officers from the commanding general on down of any blame for the harassment that led to the gay bashing death of Pfc. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Michelle Benecke, co-director of the Sevicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington group that monitors "donít ask, donít tell" and counsels gay servicemembers, said that SLDN was told July 17 that the report would not be released until later this week or possibly next week.

"Someone at CBS must have gotten hold of it and they put it on their evening broadcast," said Benecke. "I have not seen the report."

Winchell was beaten to death in his sleep with a baseball bat in July 1999 at Fort Campbell, following more than four months of anti-gay harassment. Pvt. Calvin Glover and Spc. Justin Fisher were convicted in the case.

The Army initially claimed that Winchellís death resulted from "an altercation."

Winchellís murder and the subsequent findings put the conduct of the Department of Defense and the "donít ask, donít tell" policy on gay servicemembers under the national spotlight.

President Clinton called the policy, "out of whack" in December, adding, "I donít think any serious person could say itís not." Vice President Al Gore and First Lady Hillary Clinton have criticized "donít ask" from their campaign stumps, and called for it to be repealed.

When he announced the murder investigation in December 1999, Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon said, "The inspectors will be looking at the climate. They want to see if there is harassment and how it is being handled by the command."

Among the findings, CBS reported that the Army Inspector General found no climate of homophobia at Fort Campbell and is not blaming any officers for Winchellís death or the harassment that preceeded it.

CBS reported that the Army is laying the blame on Winchellís first sergeant for allowing harassment, and saying that his actions were due to lack of training.

According to CBS, the Army also found that a similar lack of training is Army-wide, not just at Fort Campbell.

When the investigation began, Major General Robert Clark, who commanded Fort Campbell at the time of Winchellís murder, said that homophobia wasnít a problem at his base.

"There is not, nor has there ever been during my time here, a climate of homophobia on the post," Clark said then. "The climate here is one that promotes just the opposite, respect for all."

Careful to respond only to the CBS report, Benecke said, "If the CBS report is true, that the Army will try to claim that there is no harassment at Fort Campbell, then the Army will not have a shred of credibility."

"There is ample evidence on the record of harassment and threats against soldiers at Fort Campbell," added Benecke.

Benecke pointed out possible flaws in the Inspector General report. Among these, the head of the inspector generalís team told SLDN that he was required to turn in any soldiers he found to be gay in the course of investigating their reports of harassment.

Soldiers told Beneckeís group that they could not meet with inspectors under threat of expulsion, nor could they participate honestly in the focus groups, because merely expressing an interest or concern about anti-gay harassment "would bring them up on the radar screen" or cause other soldiers to start harassing them.

Fort Campbell commanders refused to run an SLDN classified ad in the base newspaper giving soldiers the Inspector Generalís hotline number to anonymously report harassment.

Base commander Clark put a known gay-friendly establishment in Nashville, Tennessee, The Connection, off limits to soldiers.

A document produced by Benecke from photographs, affidavits, testimony in the murder trials, and statements from gay soldiers discharged from Fort Campbell concludes that anti-gay harassment "was as common as the uniform."

Twenty soldiers said they came out and faced discharge because they had no other recourse or escape from the harassment.

Pvt. Javier Torres expressed concern over Winchellís murder, prompting others to ask him about his sexual orientation. A friend warned him that he was also in danger, so he came out in order to be discharged for the sake of his safety.

Torres reported leaders using anti-gay terms while berating slow or weaker soldiers. He also reported that a non-commissioned officer of his used the training run cadence, "Faggot, faggot, down the street, shoot him, shoot him, until he retreats."

Another discharged soldier, Specialist Michael McCoy, photographed anti-gay graffiti in bathrooms and on buildings around the base, including a drawing of a three-foot-long baseball bat inscribed with the words fag whacker.

McCoy also photographed large black letters on a building reading, "All fagets (sic) in the Army will be killed."

In December 1999, fifteen members of Congress wrote Secretary of Defense William Cohen calling for accountability at Fort Campbell.

Noting that "one of the principal reasons for the continued harassment of, and violence toward, servicemembers who are gay or lesbian or are perceived to be is the climate of hostility that is tolerated and even perpetuated by those in positions of authority," the members requested a meeting with Cohen.

Noting Cohenís failure to respond to the first letter, the members sent a second one last month. Cohen still has not responded to either request.

Clark was transferred to a command away from Fort Campbell in June despite the protest of congressional leadership, who demanded that his transfer wait until the release of this Inspector General report. He will be vice director of "J-3," the operations office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Washington Post reported in May.

Immediately before changing command, Clark admitted that Fort Campbell had 120 gay discharges this year, a 1,900 percent increase over the six discharges for the previous year. Clark attributed the increase to "hypersensitivity to this issue" created by "distorted media attention" and the new Army training on the "donít ask, donít tell" policy.

"We have a lot of questions, as you might guess," said Benecke, "including whether or not the IG report addresses these things."

Major Pamela Hart, Fort Campbellís press officer, would not comment on the report.

"Fort Campbell has not received a copy of the report," she said. "It hasnít been officially released from the Pentagon and none of the personnel here have seen it."

Winchellís mother Pat Kutteles has filed suit against the Army under the Military Claims Act for the wrongful death of her son, including that commanders knew about the harassment he faced and did nothing to stop it. According to her lawyer Charles Butler, what was reported by CBS News may bolster some of her claims, especially that the Army doesnít hold anti-gay harassers accountable.

"Issues overlap," said Butler, but this report has no direct impact on Kuttelesí suit because the Secretary of the Army will rule on that.

Butler said if the CBS News report is accurate, "the findings are shocking."

"It will be difficult to accept that they cleared all the officers of blame," said Butler.

Butler said that Winchellís company commander, Capt. Daniel Rouse, knew of the harassment Winchell faced and did nothing. Winchell filed a complaint to that effect with the Inspector General.

"Now they claim to have lost the complaint," said Butler.

The official release of the Inspector General report is expected before the end of July. Also scheduled for July release is a plan to eliminate anti-gay harassment that Secretary Cohen ordered a group of high-level uniformed and civilian officials to create in March.

 


News Briefs

Clinton asked to resign his honorary Boy Scout post

Washington, D.C.óEleven members of the House of Representatives, three of them former Boy Scouts, sent President Clinton a letter July 13 asking him to resign his post as honorary head of the Boy Scouts of America in light of a Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the Scouts to bar gays.

"In order to disavow this policy of intolerance, as well as to clarify any misperception of implicit presidential approval, we urge you, the leader of our nation, to resign as the honorary head of the BSA," the representatives wrote.

The role of honorary head is mostly symbolic, and has been given to every sitting president since William Howard Taft. The presidentís signature appears on certificates given to boys when they become Eagle Scouts, and the president is invited to speak at the quadrennial Jamboree.

"Now that the Boys Scouts have been outed as a bigoted organization," said Scott Cozza, a former troop master, "Clinton definitely has to relinquish his honorary position. Heís supposed to be a voice for human rights and people who have been discriminated against."

Cozza \founded an organization with his teenage son Steve called Scouting for All, committed to ending the Scoutís anti-gay policies.

The White House has not yet issued a response to the letter.

In addition, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D Calif, has introduced a bill to repeal the Boy Scoutsí federal charter, which was granted in 1916.

"We're not saying they're bad," Woolsey said July 18. "We're saying intolerance is bad, and I don't see any reason why the federal government should be supporting it."

 

Navratilova now in tennis hall of fame

Newport, R.I.óMartina Navratilova has won enough Wimbledon plates to throw a dinner party, has come out as a lesbian, appeared in Subaru commercials, but her sweetest accomplishment came June 15, as she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Navratilova, born in 1956 in Czechoslovakia, turned professional at the age of 17, and became and American citizen in 1981. She won nine Wimbledon titles, six of them in a row, three Australian Opens, two French Opens, and four U.S. singles championships before retiring from singles competition in 1994.

Navratilova is one of the few openly gay tennis stars. She was introduced at the ceremony by Dr. Renee Richards, a transsexual tennis player and longtime friend.

 

Arrested bishop faces church charges

ChicagoóMethodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, who was arrested twice at his churchís May national convention in Cleveland, is facing charges in ecclesiastical court filed by a lay member of the United Methodist Church.

John Juergensmeyer, a lawyer, is accusing Sprague of promoting writings about Christ that violate church doctrine, having a role in May protests, using church money to promote gay causes, and neglecting administration.

Sprague, of Chicago, was arrested twice by Cleveland police, once with 190 other Soulforce members for blocking an exit, and again the next day with a smaller group of delegates on the convention floor.

Both protests were against the churchís restrictive policies on gay and lesbian members. Spragueís spokesperson declined comment.

 

Court lets TG woman change birth sex

San Juan, P.R.óThe Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled last week in favor of a transsexual woman who requested her gender be changed on her birth certificate.

Torres Andino, who had gender reassignment surgery in 1976, asked a court in 1995 to have her name and sex changed on her birth certificate. The courts only allowed the name change, refusing to change the sex.

After five years of appeals, Andino, now married in New Jersey, is legally a female in the eyes of the government of Puerto Rico.

The court ruled that forcing Andino to offer explanations for personal questions regarding her appearance when applying for a job or a passport renewal intrudes on her right to privacy.

Gay civil rights advocates are hoping that the courtís upholding of the right to privacy will help with a separate case involving Puerto Ricoís sodomy laws, which have been upheld by lower courts.

"A logical conclusion is that once you recognize the right to privacy and intimacy, the sodomy law topples on its own weight," Ada Conde, president of Puerto Ricoís Human Rights Foundation, told the Orlando Sentinel.

 

Saudis behead six gay men

DubaióThree men, convicted in Islamic court of homosexual acts, impersonating women, and "raping children," were executed July 11, followed by another trio three days later.

Saudi Arabia upholds Islamic law, executing murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and those violating Muslim precepts banning gay sex. The country also amputates the hands of thieves, stones adulterers, and flogs people who are caught drinking alcohol.

The accusation of child rape could refer to sex with any person under the age of 21, and is usually only leveled against gay men.

Attiya bin Ubaid Attiya, Rajeh bin Ibrahim Issa and Rajhi bin Hamad bin Ali were all decapitated with a sword in the southern city of Abha for committing sodomy, transvestism, "homosexual marriage," and drugging youthsóages not given--with sleeping pills, raping them, and photographing them for the purposes of blackmail.

On July 14, three Yemeni men in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Jabli, Yehya Faraj, and Faraj Hajuri were also beheaded with a sword. They were convicted on charges of same-sex marriage, homosexuality, transvestism, and luring boys into sex.

 

Motive unclear in hammer attack

Princeton, W.Va.--A gay man is in critical condition at Charleston Area Medical Center following a severe beating with a claw hammer by another man July 12. The motive is unclear.

Roger Butcher, 30, of Princeton near the stateís southern border, was beaten by another Princeton man, Derrick Witcher, 21, after the two left a party together. The two did not know each other prior to the party.

Witcher has been charged with malicious wounding and is being held on a $40,000 bond at the Southern Regional Jail in Beckley. If Butcher dies, he could be charged with first degree murder.

Witcher claimed to police that Butcher "tried to take beer from his apartment and one thing led to another."

The party was at the home of Maurice Brooks, who said that Witcher left the party, then returned by himself and asked "if Roger was ready to go."

According to Detective M.L. Gillis, Witcher "briefly mentioned" that Butcher had made advances.

"Weíre not sure if it had anything to do with [the crime] or not," he added.

 

Adoption treaty has gay restrictions

Washington--Legislation needed to implement an international treaty on foreign adoptions passed the House on July 18 after months of gridlock over whether it would allow gay adoptions.

The treaty, known as the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, was created to establish guidelines for international adoptions and include provisions to end smuggling and fraud.

The bill the House passed would give various federal agencies the authority to implement the treaty once it is ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The United States signed the measure in 1994.

Senate aides say lawmakers there may take up the measure soon and even ratify it before Congress leaves for its August recess.

The measure had hit a snag in recent months as lawmakers debated whether it would allow gay adoptions.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., successfully lobbied for a provision that requires the United States to adhere to the laws of countries that may have marriage requirements or guidelines dealing with sexual orientation.

Several countries, such as China, Romania and Bulgaria, prohibit gay adoptions.

More than 15,000 international adoptions are expected to take place this year. The majority of children adopted in the United States will come from China, official said.

 

Salt Lake may restore school clubs

Salt Lake CityóThe city school board may once again allow student clubs to meet in its schools, beginning as early as September.

The board made headlines in 1996 when it banned all extracurricular clubs, from the Chess Club to monster truck fans, rather than allow the East High School Gay-Straight Alliance to meet.

Board members first proposed ending the ban in June, when they learned that the stateís self-insurance agency may not pay their legal costs in a suit filed in April by two East High students who wanted to form a gay, lesbian and straight club called Prism.

A federal judge issued an order in May requiring the school to allow Prism to meet until the lawsuit is resolved.

School board members are hoping the students will drop the suit if the district ends its ban on student clubs.

 

P-FLAG wonít meet in South Carolina

Columbia, S.C.--Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays has canceled plans to have its 2003 national meeting in Greenville because the group says it supports a boycott over the Confederate flag flying on Statehouse grounds.

"P-FLAG works for the equal rights and fair treatment of all people and we recognize that the Confederate flag is for many people a symbol of slavery," President Paul Beeman said July 17.

The flag was removed July 1 from the Statehouse dome and moved to a monument on the grounds that honors Confederate soldiers.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People started a tourism boycott of the state in January to force removal of the flag. But the NAACP says the new location still is too prominent and is continuing to push the boycott.

P-FLAG said it initially chose Greenville, in the heart of the Bible Belt, for its meeting because of the efforts of its chapter there.

Greenville County Council in 1996 passed a resolution saying homosexuality was incompatible with community standards and, as a result, the Olympic torch was shrouded on its run through the county and the Tour DuPont bicycle race scratched the county from its itinerary.

Greenville also is the home of Bob Jones University, a private Christian fundamentalist school that bars gays from most parts of its campus.

Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman, Brian DeWitt, Patti Harris and Eric Resnick.

 

 

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