in the news
Volume 16/Issue 21

Task Force Condemns Savage Bashing;
Charges Right Wing with Increase in Anti-Gay Rhetoric

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force condemned a recent Gay bashing in Laramie, Wyoming where a student was severely burned, beaten, and left to die. The Task Force linked the violence to an increased climate of anti-Gay hostility and political attacks in nearby Fort Collins, the Wyoming legislature, and in the US Congress.

"Anti-Gay rhetoric and anti-Gay violence go hand-in-hand," said Tracey Conaty, NGLTF communications director. "The right wing is creating the most hostile atmosphere for GLBT people in recent memory. Hate violence is a logical extension of these rhetorical, legislative, and electoral attacks, " she added.

Matthew Shepard, a 22-year-old political science student at the University of Wyoming, was found tied to a fence the day after having been left to die by his assailants. He had burns on his entire body and had been beaten so severely with a blunt object that his skull was crushed. He is on a respirator at a nearby hospital in Fort Collins, CO. Shepard had been beaten recently and attributed the attack to his sexual orientation. In that attack, he suffered a broken jaw.

The Task Force charges that right wing groups have fostered a climate conducive to such violence. Recently in Fort Collins, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, a right-wing opposition group, ran a series of ads denouncing the measures and urging voters not to support "special rights" for homosexuals. A similar organization sponsored a forum with an "ex-Gay" spokesperson, which claimed sexual orientation can be changed, and therefore does not deserve inclusion in Fort Collins' Human Rights Ordinance.

Right wing forces in Wyoming have stymied passage of a hate crimes bill claiming it would give "special rights" to GLBT people. Nationally, right-wing organizations have hypocritically portrayed their anti-Gay efforts as "compassionate and loving." In June, Senate majority leader Trent Lott compared homosexuality to kleptomania and sex addiction. Recent anti-Gay measures in Congress were introduced while right-wing groups launched a major advertising campaign to "change" GLBT people. These groups have also announced a new series of TV ads seeking to "reject homosexuality and go on to live healthy normal lives."

The Task Force has documented a link between increases in anti-Gay violence and the escalation of anti-Gay rhetoric during ballot initiative campaigns. Immediately before Colorado1s Amendment 2 passed in 1992, Colorado activists documented a 129 percent increase in anti-Gay assaults. In the two months following the vote, nearly 40 percent of the annual total was reported. Hattie Mae Cohen, a Lesbian, and Brian Mock, a Gay man, were killed when their home in Oregon was firebombed during that state's 1992 ballot battle. In Maine in 1995, incidents of anti-Gay violence jumped to 10 during the six months of an anti-Gay initiative campaign in 1995, compared to four incidents for the entire previous year.

"When anti-Gay rhetoric escalates, so does anti-Gay violence. Hate crimes are a result of that intolerance," continued Conaty. "No one should condone violence against any group of people, nor should they contribute to an atmosphere that fosters such intolerance and violence."

A bill languishing in Congress, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would make hate violence against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and transgender people and other minorities a federal crime. The Task Force urges Congress to swiftly pass this measure.

The Superdome Murders: An Interview
by Toni J. P. Pizanie

Although author Remi Cuviers is a native of Illinois, her heart belongs to New Orleans. Remi will be returning to her adopted home in late October for the release of The Superdome Murders>. You can meet her at Barnes and Noble, Metairie on Fri., Oct. 30, 7pm and the FM Bookstore, 600 Frenchman St. in the Marigny on Sun., Nov. 1, 3 - 5pm.

This is the first in a series of several murder mysteries set in and around New Orleans' French Quarter. The second, Murder in Congo Square, is due out in Feb. The Scalpel Murders, the third of the series will be out in June, 1999.

Remi is an artist as well and will be doing the covers for her novels. She explained that she hired an artist for the first book and was disappointed that he didn't completely capture her ideas. She decided to turn this lifelong hobby into part of her creative works.

The subjects for her mysteries are real New Orleans legal case histories. The characters, although fictional, are real New Orleans style personalities. Her hero is Jake Thibodeaux, a detective with NOPD, a Cajun style Nick Nolte. You'll also meet Jake's secretary Millie, and cousin, Coroner Mark Guidry, who bring a sense of reality to these very entertaining writings.

Jake lives in an apartment on Dauphine and St. Peter above a bar. You know the corner. It's where the old Sterling Club used to be. He works out of the French Quarter Precinct so you'll be reading with anticipation about places you know.

Remi's knowledge of these cases stems from her varity of careers. While living in New Orleans, she managed Frenchmen's Creek, a bar located at guess where? She also lived for a time in the very apartment where our hero, Jake, lives. Our real life heroine has worked as a paramedic and mortician. She has recently retired from nursing after seven years. Interesting combinations, right?

As a mystery writer wannabe, I asked for suggestions or advice.

"Don't be intimidated by the pen, just write. Don't worry about the technical stuff like punctuation; just tell your story," said Ms. Cuviers.

I asked Remi if she was "out" during her years here.

"New Orleans helped me to realize who I am," she replied. Well, yes, we are always willing to help new family explore their sexuality.

She plans to move back to New Orleans' French Quarter soon. Friends here are encouraging her quick return and now her work is here also.

Be sure to set aside time to meet Remi at her book signings in Metairie or Marigny. "It is important that I do well at Barnes and Noble," she confided, "as that will depend on how many more stops there will be on my signing tour."

That's our cue to show Barnes and Noble that our community does support our own. Enjoy!

Ford Foundation
Makes $100,000 Grant to UFMCC

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), the oldest and largest spirituality organization touching the lives of Gays and Lesbians, has received a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, the world's largest philanthropic foundation.

The grant is designated for UFMCC's programs for at-risk Lesbian and Gay youth.

The surprise announcement on the grant was made at UFMCC's 30th anniversary banquet in Los Angeles on Oct. 6 where Willie Brown, mayor of San Francisco, was the keynote speaker.

UFMCC has a long history of commitment to Gay and Lesbian youth. The world's first alternative public high school for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered youth, The Eagles Nest, was sponsored and housed by UFMCC in Los Angeles.

The $100,000 Ford Foundation Grant will be used to sponsor UFMCC's flagship youth program in West Hollywood and to replicate at-risk youth programs in two additional cities. The additional cities will be announced later. The West Hollywood youth program is operated by UFMCC's founding church, Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles.

"We are deeply grateful to the Ford Foundation for recognizing and supporting UFMCC's commitment to at-risk Gay and Lesbian youth," said the Rev. Troy D. Perry, UFMCC Moderator and veteran human rights activist.

"This is a significant step forward in our relationship with the Ford Foundation and marks an historic milestone on behalf of LGBT youth," added the Rev. Nancy Wilson, Senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles.

The Ford Foundation grant of $100,000 follows recent grants of $50,000 from the Gill Foundation and $10,000 from the Wells Fargo Bank Foundation.

French Courts Rule on Photos

Two French courts have considered cases attempting to censor the coffeetable book INRI, novelist Serge Bramly's and photographer Bettina Rheims' effort to retell New Testament scenes in contemporary language and images, some of them portrayals of Gays and Lesbians. On Oct. 7, a court in southwestern Bordeaux refused to stop the book's sale, but did prohibit its display, declaring the cover photo of a crucified woman wearing only a loincloth to be "of a nature likely to deeply shock religious feelings," both provocative and mocking. The book went on sale in France Oct. 1, after a Paris court refused Sept. 30 to ban either sale or display of the book, as the traditionalist group AGRIF had sought.

Although condemned by right-wing political groups and the Catholic Church in France (spokesperson Father Olivier de la Brosse said the book "swims in an unhealthy atmosphere of homosexual and Lesbian images"), Bramly and Rheims say they are trying to make the story accessible to young people, and are following a tradition popular until the 16th century of telling Christ's story in contemporary costumes and settings. Jesus and Mary are portrayed as people of various ages and ethnicities as well as sexual orientations, and in contemporary settings including some very mean streets. The production of the book was subsidized by the national Ministry of Culture. An exhibit based on the book will be touring around the world in the coming year. [NewsPlanet]

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