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Gay Bashing, Cold Cases and Justice Delayed

Feb. 21, 2017
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Photo Credit: Michael Fleshman (Flickr CC)

The case of the brick. Back in June of 2008, ironically on the first night of PrideFest when its opening ceremony celebrated a survivor of gay bashing, six assailants set upon two gay men. While shouting homophobic slurs, an attacker took a garden brick and struck Chad Kemp, one of the gay men, on the head causing serious injury. Kemp was hospitalized with a concussion and swelling of the brain. The wound required 15 stitches to close. Police response was reluctant. Writing for an LGBT newspaper at the time, I was told to “keep a lid on it” by the then anti-violence advocate at the LGBT Community Center. The optimistic idea was to let the district attorney do his job rather than badger and make his task a political issue. After several months, the city advised the victim there would be no charges. Nearly nine years later it is categorized as a “cold” case.

Earlier this month, for the third time since I reported an initial attack in December, an LGBT health facility was vandalized. This time “fag” was scrawled in spray paint on its façade. The first attack resulted in a broken glass door and was posted on social media. The second followed days later when a plate glass window was smashed. It didn’t even get a mention on the agency’s online feed. The rationale was that dithering denial of “We don’t know it was a hate crime.” This last time, however, the press was finally notified. Security cameras have since been installed. Third time’s a charm, I guess. 

Some argue that responding to attacks validates the attacker. It’s an easy retreat, a familiar turning-the-other-cheek strategy in which LGBT people long invested to prove their moral credibility. It also excuses inaction and offers another opportunity to stew in the juices of our own victimhood. 

Another story: A friend of mine, a scrappy young black gay guy with his share of life’s hard lessons, got a new job at a warehouse. First day on the job, some of coworkers, also black, harassed him and called him a “fag.” He threatened to kill them. They all got fired, including my friend. But, he left with his dignity. Would he have killed his coworkers? I don’t doubt it. 

Speaking of dithering, Milwaukee’s LGBT leaders have drafted a statement. It’s a declaration, defining our resistance to discrimination. It’s relatively inclusive in its mention of solidarity with certain other targets, particularly religious ones, on the regime’s enemies list. The idea is to release the statement should there be a Federal Religious Freedom Act or decree that would encourage discrimination against LGBTs.

But why wait? Today various states including Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming, among others, are busy proposing their own so-called religious protections bills. According to the ACLU’s website, 60 bills have been introduced by state legislatures that, if passed, will negatively impact LGBT rights. Transgender rights are already being rolled back. 

Women and Latinos are already responding to the assaults on their rights. Complacency and reactive strategies are no longer an option. Our LGBT declaration of rights should be released now and nailed on the doors of the state capitol and of every politician who needs to hear our message.

The Sports section of the Shepherd Express is brought to you by Miller Time Pub.

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