ISSUE DATE 11-12-99
Hearings open on adding gays
to Ohio hate [crime] law
Columbus—The House Criminal Judiciary Committee heard proponent testimony for a bill to include gays and lesbians in Ohio’s hate crime law on November 9.
The bill, H.B. 277, which is sponsored by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D) of Columbus, would revise Ohio’s 1987 "ethnic intimidation" law to include sexual orientation, gender, and disability. It would also expand the measure, which presently covers only misdemeanors, to include felonies.
Testimony lasted an hour and a half. Five proponents testified, including representatives of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, the Ohio NAACP and Ohio Coalition of Jewish Federations.
Sarah Fox, communications director of It’s Time, Ohio, a transgender advocacy group, testified. Fox, who has testified before, was surprised that the opponents stayed away.
"This hearing must have been below their radar," she said. "There were no pickets and no Bibles."
Committee members were able to ask questions of those giving testimony. According to Fox, most of those questions centered around why the legislature should give "special protections" to a group of people.
Fox added that every person who testified answered that question competently, but that committee members, especially the Republicans, didn’t seem to be listening to their answers.
"My feeling is that they were being deliberately obtuse," she said.
Fox was pleased that Rep. Peter Lawson Jones (D) of Shaker Heights spoke up at that point.
"He mentioned that the questions had been answered and asked the other members to listen to the answers," said Fox.
A committee hearing for opponent testimony on the bill has not yet been scheduled. |
Redding, Calif.—Saying he was "obeying the laws of the Creator," one of two brothers charged with killing a gay couple in July has admitted shooting them in their bed, the Sacramento Bee reported.
In a jailhouse interview, Benjamin Matthew Williams insisted on November 4 that his younger brother, James Tyler Williams, who also is charged in the killings, had nothing to do with the crime.
Williams told the newspaper that he killed the men because he believed their homosexuality violated God's laws. He said he hoped his violence would incite more killings. He added that he has no remorse over the slayings.
"I'm not guilty of murder," said Williams, a 31-year-old landscaper. "I'm guilty of obeying the laws of the Creator," which he said holds that homosexuality must be punished by death.
"You obey a government of man until there is a conflict," he said. "Then you obey a higher law. So many people claim to be Christians and complain about all these things their religion says are a sin, but they're not willing to do anything about it. They don't have the guts."
Both men, who go by their middle names, have pleaded not guilty in court.
Tyler Williams, 29, declined to be interviewed, but in July told the Redding Record Searchlight that he did not participate in the killing.
The elder Williams' court-appointed attorney, Frank J. O'Connor, told the newspaper he wasn't surprised by his client's comments.
"It's not a whodunit," O'Connor said. He confirmed that his client is hoping to use a "religious defense" when the case goes to trial.
The brothers face charges of robbing and murdering Winfield Mowder, 40, and Gary Matson, 50, who were found dead July 1 in the rural Northern California community of Happy Valley. The victims' home had been burglarized and their car stolen.
Williams’ admission didn't seem to surprise those involved in the case, since he has clearly relished the limelight, smiling in court and trying to sell his story to national media outlets.
"It's not anything that surprises us a great deal," Shasta County Sheriff's Lt. Bradd McDannold told the Bee. "He seems anxious to tell his story. Any admissions, we're going to look at and analyze to see if it fits the evidence."
The district attorney's office has said it has tentatively decided to seek the death penalty in the case.
Investigators have said that evidence found in the brothers' homes also link them to fire bombings which did nearly $1 million damage to three Sacramento area synagogues and an abortion clinic in June, including hate literature, handwritten notes about synagogue members and news accounts of the fire bombings.
They have not been charged in those cases, which are under investigation by the FBI and a hate crime task force.
Matthew Williams declined to discuss the firebombings during the interview, saying he didn't "feel like saying 'I did it' right now." |
Laramie, Wyoming–In a deal that spared him the death penalty, Aaron McKinney, convicted of killing gay college student Matthew Shepard, has received two consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole.
On Thursday, November 4 McKinney accepted a deal from the prosecutors. Shepard’s parents approved the deal, in which McKinney agreed to waive his rights to any appeal, and because, they said, their son would have wanted it that way. The deal was finalized while the jurors were waiting for the sentencing phase of the trial to begin.
The defense approached prosecutors about the deal after a jury verdict was read, according to Detective Sgt. Rob DeBree of the Albany County Sheriff’s Department and lead investigator for the prosecution.
McKinney was found guilty November 3 of two counts of felony murder, a less serious crime than first-degree murder, which requires premeditation. Under Wyoming law, felony murder applies when a killing occurs while another felony is being committed. McKinney was also convicted of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and second-degree murder.
"I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process, Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, told McKinney in court. "Every time you wake up in your cell, remember you had the opportunity or the ability to stop your actions that night."
McKinney and Russell Henderson pretended to be gay to lure Shepard from a bar on October 6, 1998. They then drove him to a remote spot, where they tied him to a fence, robbed him of $20, pistol-whipped him into a coma, and left him for dead. He was found the next day, but never regained consciousness, and died five days later.
Henderson pleaded guilty in April to kidnapping and murder, and is serving two life sentences.
Prosecuting attorney Cal Rerucha said that he could have won a death sentence for McKinney, despite the fact that the jury had acquitted him of premeditated murder.
Before the verdict was read, McKinney expressed regret for his role in the killing. "I really don’t know what to say other than I’m truly sorry to the entire Shepard family," he said.
However, twenty minutes after he was convicted, McKinney was back in jail, smiling, laughing, and watching himself on television, according to DeBree.
"We are worried about the effect he may be having on younger inmates," because McKinney is reportedly becoming a celebrity among them. DeBree said November 8 that McKinney had laughed about the case and repeatedly used derogatory terms for gays to refer to Shepard.
The crime has intensified cries for national anti-hate crime legislation, and condemnation from President Bill Clinton.
Clinton praised the verdict:
"This verdict is a dramatic statement that we are determined to have a tolerant law-abiding nation that celebrates our differences, rather than deepening them," he said. "We cannot surrender to those on the fringe of our society who lash out at those who are different."
The former girlfriend of Aaron McKinney, last of the four defendants arrested in the death of Matthew Shepard, has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge for helping get rid of the bloody clothes of one of the killers.
Kristen Price was originally charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Her charge was reduced to interfering with a police officer, a misdemeanor. Price was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but received 120 days of credit for time already served, and the remaining 60 days were suspended.
Chasity Pasley, Henderson’s girlfriend, is serving 15 months to two years in prison after pleading guilty to an accessory charge for helping to dispose of Henderson’s bloody clothing. |
Kent, Ohio--An interest group seeking to establish Delta Lambda Phi, a national social fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men at Kent State University could achieve preliminary "colony" status as early as December 1, according to organizers.
But the effort is not without its detractors, according to Shawn Brown, who is the current president of the campus Lesbian Gay Bisexual Union and member of the Delta Lambda Phi interest group.
"Fliers posted on campus telling of the fraternity are not up for more than half an hour," said Brown.
Delta Lambda Phi was formed nationally in 1986 and is open to all men regardless of age, race, socioeconomic background, religion or sexual orientation. There are 24 chapters nationally. The two nearest to Kent are at Ohio University in Athens and Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
Delta Lambda Phi was founded to fill the needs of gay and bisexual men have to join fraternities that will welcome them as well as to counter the homophobia that exists within Greek campus organizations.
Brown says he experienced that homophobia when he rushed (applied to join) Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity.
"All fraternities at Kent claim non-discrimination," said Brown, "but the president told me he couldn’t see me getting through the pledge process. In fact, his words were ‘I am phobic when it comes to gay people’."
"Homophobia is common in the black Greek system," said Brown.
Mike Collins, who is communications director for the Kent LGBU, and a member of the Delta Lambda Phi interest group, said he encountered homophobia when he rushed the primarily white Sigma Chi.
Collins, a sophomore, did not get a bid to pledge Sigma Chi.
He does not necessarily blame homophobia, but said, "I don’t know how out I could have been there."
Collins says he went to a white T-shirt party where the purpose was for members to write embarassing things on the shirts with markers.
"They put things on T-shirts making fun of LGBU," said Collins. "They also wrote things like ‘I like little boys’ and arrows saying ‘Insert here’."
Collins believes that fraternities are challenged by anything that "fits out of the traditional masculine roles."
The interest group began in April 1999 and is expected to file a petition with the national Delta Lambda Phi next week, which will give them status as a "colony." Then, they must get approval from the Inter-Fraternity Council on campus, which may not be easy.
Todd Mashlan, who serves as the programming director for LGBU, and is the leader of the Delta Lambda Phi interest group, is optimistic about approval.
"The level of homophobia at KSU is no more than the culture at large," he said.
"The university requires that we jump through hoops and tend to details. It will require us to introduce ourselves to other fraternities and to press flesh," said Mashlan. "But I anticipate that we will be admitted."
Brown is not so sure. "The official line given to the Kent Stater [campus newspaper] by Inter-Fraternity Council president Ara Simonetti is that they would have ‘no problem’ with a Delta Lambda Phi chapter here," said Brown, "But what they are whispering to us is that we should file as a student organization, which would not be part of the Inter-Fraternity Council."
Typically, a reason for denial could be that there is already a fraternity on campus which serves the same purpose.
"But clearly, that is not the case here," said Collins.
The interest group currently has nine members. |
San Francisco--In what is being hailed the "the write-in miracle," openly gay Supervisor Tom Ammiano is positioned to become the nation’s first openly gay big-city mayor in a runoff election against gay-affirming incumbent Mayor Willie Brown.
Brown was the top vote-getter in a four-way race November 2 that included Ammiano, former mayor Frank Jordan and political consultant Clint Reilly.
Ammiano entered the race three weeks before Election Day as a write-in candidate. People questioned his sincerity as a candidate.
When the votes were counted, Brown, who spent $2.3 million, got 38.7 percent of the vote and Ammiano got 25.4 percent, spending a paltry $25,000.
Since no one got a 51% majority, a runoff between Brown and Ammiano is set for December 14.
Both Brown and Ammiano are left-leaning Democrats. San Francisco mayoral elections are non-partisan.
However, Ammiano is seen as the more liberal. He has long been called "the city’s most liberal elected official."
Brown, the city’s first African-American mayor and former speaker of the California House, is building his coalition with centrists and Republicans. Ammiano is appealing to progressives, and voters under 30, a group which gave him 43 percent of their vote.
Jordan, who tended to draw support from older voters hinted November 5 that he will endose Ammiano.
Both Ammiano, 58, and Brown, 65, are seasoned politicians. Ammiano, who moonlights as a standup comedian, is president of the board of supervisors and was the president of the city’s school board. He is known as a populist who often takes positions against establishment.
As the city’s highest openly gay official, Ammiano gained national fame when he killed a resolution commending Ret. General Colin Powell’s attempts to raise money for his foundation in San Francisco because of Powell’s stand against gays serving in the military.
Ammiano got the city to take funding away from the Salvation Army because it refused to provide domestic partner benefits to its employees. Ammiano also supported the controversial drag queen activists Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence holding a street celebration on Easter Sunday. To opponents of that decision, Ammiano replied, "I say to you, walk a mile in my pumps."
Brown is a staunch advocate of gay civil rights. He did not back down to United Airlines and the airline industry in his enforcement of the city’s domestic partner laws, and has been one of the strongest national proponents of gay rights and AIDS issues.
Ammaino’s campaign is capitalizing on his insurgent strength and the enthusiasm of his supporters, most of who are gay. They are also counting on the lack of enthusiasm among Brown’s supporters.
Gavin Newsome, a Brown supporter who lost to Ammiano in last year’s supervisor elections, told the San Francisco Examiner that Ammiano "absolutely has a chance" to upset Brown. "Never underestimate the power of his supporters," said Newsome. |
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