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The Dive: Anti-LGBTQ Murders Once Again Hit An All-Time High

GayRVA Staff | January 26, 2018

It’s time to wind up the week once again here at GayRVA.com by plumbing the depths to let you know about all the LGBTQ news we didn’t have a chance to cover in more depth this week. Put on your scuba mask — let’s dive.

Anti-LGBTQ Murders Reached an All-Time High In 2017. As we continue into 2018, 2017 leaves with us the staggering reminder that LGBTQ homicides have increased 86% from 2016 to 2017. Over the course of 2017, at least 52 LGBTQ people were recorded as having lost their lives to violence. Queer people of color are the most vulnerable, making up over 70% of the reported homicides in 2017, according to A Crisis Of Hate, a report released by the Anti-Violence Project. 22 of these victims were trans women of color — which is sad partly due to its predictability.

The hate didn’t just fall on trans women, though — there was a distinct increase in homicides of queer, bi, or gay cisgender men, rising from four reported incidents in 2016 to 20 in 2017. In addition, over the course of 2017, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented information on 27 hate-violence related murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people, compared to 19 in 2016.

The garbage fire that is the current administration, and its specific targeting of LGBTQ people by the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, and others, has no doubt fueled this epidemic, leaving this writer to continue to count down the days until midterm election day. (AG)

Latest GLAAD Poll Reports Drop In Acceptance Of LGBTQ People In The US. Speaking of the current administration’s targeting of the US LGBTQ population, and what sort of hatred it may be fomenting or emboldening, we’ve got some evidence on that front — GLAAD and The Harris Poll’s latest Accelerating Acceptance Poll has found a drop in support for the LGBTQ community. Support has steadily trended upward since the poll was initiated in 2014 — this is the first drop GLAAD and The Harris Poll have seen. Eep.

The erosion of support depended on the specificity of questions; 79 percent said they supported equal rights for LGBTQ people, which held steady from the previous poll. However, in specific situations such as their children having an LGBTQ teacher, finding out their doctor is LGBTQ, or having LGBTQ history being taught to their children in schools, the percentage of non-LGBTQ people answering that they’d be “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable has risen right back to 2014 levels.

Meanwhile, a significant increase was noted in LGBTQ people reporting discrimination. Specifically, there was an 11 percent increase in reports of  discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity of respondents. As well, GLAAD tracks the percentage of non-LGBTQ respondents who are considered “Allies” (those who are either “very” or “somewhat” comfortable in all situations involving LGBTQ people), vs “Detached Supporters” (those whose comfort level with LGBTQ people varies depending on the situation) and “Resisters” (those who aren’t ever comfortable with LGBTQ people).

The percentage of respondents classified as “Resisters” has held steady over several years, but this year saw a four-percent shift from “Allies” to “Detached Supporters,” which, in conjunction with the other responses from non-LGBTQ people, shows the same sort of general trend toward saying the right thing in detached situations but going the wrong way in specific ones that has been a hallmark of the Trump era thus far. Hopefully this isn’t how things will continue to go, but we shall see. (MDN)

Helen Grace James, photo via NewNowNext

Lesbian Military Vet, Kicked Out of US Air Force In 1955, Gets Honorable Discharge at Age 90. Here’s some slightly better news for you — finally, at 90, Airman Second Class Helen Grace James is being recognized with an honorable discharge and having her rights as a veteran restored. Finally.

James, who now lives in California, was kicked out of the military over sixty years ago for being a lesbian. She initially joined in 1952 as a radio operator. Three years later, in 1955, she was arrested as part of a massive hunt to remove gay and lesbian service members known now as the “Lavender Scare.” This came during the McCarthy era, when Senator Joseph McCarthy stoked national fears of Communism and anything that threatened conservative American values. Allegedly gay and lesbian service members were thought to be more vulnerable to Communist blackmail due to their sexuality.

Specifically, James recalls minding her own business enjoying sandwiches in a parked car with another female service member, only to be followed off base and interrogated by Air Force police. However, it was when officers threatened to go to her parents that James signed off on her own discharge papers in order to end the questioning, ultimately leaving her with nothing. “I had to move myself away. I couldn’t be around my family and friends,” she said to the Washington Post. “I couldn’t be in the same area with that shame.”

James’ story is hardly an isolated incident. Many other veterans who were previously discharged for being gay are now demanding change of their dishonorable discharges as well. (AG)

Amazon Attacker Finally Found Guilty of Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crime. Back in 2015, we reported on an employee at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chester, VA who had been attacked by a coworker because he was gay. Well, finally, three years later, James William Hill III has been convicted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

It seems like it should have been easy to get this conviction — after all, Hill had told both his supervisor and Chesterfield County police that he didn’t like gay people, and that he felt gay people should expect to be assaulted. Nonetheless, this charge was handed down in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals this week due to the fact that initially, in 2016, a judge found Hill not guilty of a hate crime. That initial decision made reference to the fact that current Virginia hate crime laws do not cover those attacked due to their sexual orientation — something that multiple bills in the current General Assembly are hoping to address (though, unfortunately, SB 112 has already been defeated, four bills related to this topic still remain in play in the House Of Delegates).

The District Court Judge who initially dismissed the hate crime charges against Hill did so on the basis that the incident did not constitute a disruption to interstate commerce, since it was just one guy beating up another guy with his fists. If interstate commerce is not disrupted, the judge argued, there’s no basis for bringing these charges in Federal court. Thankfully, the three-judge panel at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and sent the case back to trial, where this week a jury found Hill guilty of committing a hate crime in his assault against his coworker.

Hill now faces up to 10 years in prison; a sentencing date has not yet been set. (MDN)

A Married Lesbian Couple Is Suing the Government to Recognize Their Son as a U.S. Citizen. American Citizen Allison Blixt and her wife Stefania Zaccari, who is Italian, were denied United States citizenship for their son Lucas, even as they were granted citizenship for his brother Massimiliano. Now they are suing the US government to recognize Lucas as an American citizen.

Blixt and Zaccari each carried one of the children, both of whom were born to them in 2015 in their adopted home of London, England. However, when Blixt and Zaccari went to the US Embassy office shortly after to secure US citizenship for their sons, Lucas was denied citizenship, as he had been carried by Zaccari, an Italian citizen.

This is where it gets complicated. Despite the fact that Blixt and Zaccari were legally married in the UK when their children were born, and both of their names are on their children’s birth certificates, they are still denied because Lucas is not recognized as Blixt’s blood relative. The State Department’s website tells us that “at least one biological parent must have been a US citizen when the child was born.” Of course, for gay parents, having a child with two biological parents is impossible. So then the question is, are all children of gay unions reduced to second class citizens by this emphasis on biology?

Blixt was told of the option to sponsor Lucas as his stepmother. Understandably she declined. “The principle of that is just a bit too hard to swallow,” she told The Washington Post. “I’m not his stepmother. I’m his mother.” Blixt and Zaccari continue to reside in London until they are allowed to return to the country as a family. (AG)

Written by Marilyn Drew Necci and Ash Griffith. Top photo via GayRVA archive.