In The Fight For Equality, Awareness Is Not Just A Challenge For the Straight World But It Essential For the Gay Community As Well
As we approach the Sixth Anniversary of Legalized Same-Sex Marriages in Massachusetts and the first in the nation on May 17th, I find myself in a bit of an ethical dilemma. For 5 Years, my husband, Alexander Westerhoff and I have stood on the steps of the Massachusetts State House with an 8 foot sign which reads, "Thank You Massachusetts For (fill in) Years of Equality." We have publicly committed to do this for the rest of our lives as a commemoration of not only our own marriage (May 17, 2004 officiated by Rev. Peter J. Gomes in Manchester-by-the-Sea)but as a Thank You to our Commonwealth including our Legislators. And I can tell you, we usually stand for at least 10 hours, once in the pouring rain.
But today, one day before our Anniversary, I woke up. Yes, marriage equality is a very important aspect of what the gay community is fighting for--by virtue of our relationships, we will be recognized as human beings and given the protections of American citizenship (which is our birthright). And yes, Massachusetts was the leader in terms of organization, groundwork, strategies, court challenges, national groups, religious groups, legislators, and most of all, the people of our Commonwealth, gay and straight who came together to make this happen.
But can there be Equality (of course on a state level) when Transgender People are still not protectedin Massachusetts? When they still can be fired, thrown out of their rental housing or worse...And lately all this "Bathroom Bill" rhetoric. The LGBT Leadership calls that reference derogatory and unacceptable, the Anti-Gays such as Kris Mineau and NOM who are whispering in the GOP's Charlie Baker's ear calling it "a threat to public restroom safety." KnowThyNeighbor embraces this bill and language and asks the GOP, "Where do you expect transgender people to pee?" and asks the Democrat Super Majority in the MA Legislature, "What the heck is your problem in getting this bill passed?" Three years STILL no result.
I felt so sure of my yearly statement, my yearly commitment to stand all day on May 17th Thanking Massachusetts for Equality...but now I feel a bit elitist, a bit "non-inclusive," and a whole lot incomplete. Becoming more aware however, which is a good thing. And to answer that question earlier posed, "Can we have Equality in Massachusetts without Transgender People?" Of course not.
This is what I will reflect on tomorrow when I celebrate my anniversary...
You may remember in December 2008 when there were reports on an attack in New York City that left one brother dead from his skull being cracked open when it was hit with a baseball bat by one of two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs prior to the attack. Somehow, a Brooklyn jury has found this to be neither a murder nor a hate crime. We have come so far in some ways, yet sadly we still have a long way to go. The saddest thing I see in this whole case is that these were brothers, not lovers, the fact that one was holding the other helping him stand as they walked home was the reason they were attacked. Our society is still so virulently anti-gay that not only can a crime like this be committed, it can still go unpunished.
By DEEPTI HAJELA
17 hours ago
NEW YORK — A man who smashed a beer bottle over the head of an
Ecuadorean immigrant was convicted Thursday of manslaughter, but a jury
decided he did not commit a hate crime.
Hakim Scott faces 25 years
in prison on the manslaughter charge when he is sentenced June 9. The
state Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn acquitted him of murder and hate
crime counts. A second jury was deliberating charges for his
co-defendant, Keith Phoenix.
Scott faced steeper prison time had
he been convicted of hate crimes in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay in
"For Hakim Scott, this was never about hate or
prejudice and that's exactly what the jury came back with," said his
attorney Craig Newman. He believed there would be an appeal.
and the Sucuzhanay family did not comment. Jorge Lopez Amaya, Consul
General of Ecuador, said he would wait to speak until the second
verdict, but praised the work of the prosecutors.
accused of breaking the bottle over the head of Sucuzhanay as he walked
arm-and-arm with his brother, Romel, on a cold night in Brooklyn. The
brothers were returning home from a bar; Jose was drunk, and Romel was
helping him walk.
Prosecutors said Scott, 26, and Phoenix, 30,
mistook the brothers for gay men, and yelled anti-Hispanic and anti-gay
slurs at them. Scott smashed the bottle over Jose Sucuzhanay's head and
chased after Romel with the broken bottle, while Phoenix beat Sucuzhanay
with an aluminum baseball bat so badly he cracked open his skull,
prosecutors said. Sucuzhanay died several days later at a hospital.
has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, manslaughter and
attempted assault, all as hate crimes. His jury began deliberations
Scott's actions may not have resulted in the death of the man he attacked, but to say this wasn't about hate is such a travesty of justice it makes me glad my spouse has decided to pursue a degree in law. We need more people in positions of education and leadership in our society that can influence both public policy and opinion towards a more just outcome.