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Tyler Clementi roommate sentenced to 30 days in county jail

Parents of defendant deliver emotional statements at sentencing hearing

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A New Jersey judge today handed down a sentence of 30 days in jail for the former Rutgers University student convicted of committing a bias crime for using a webcam to spy on a dorm room tryst between his gay roommate Tyler Clementi and Clementi’s boyfriend.

Clementi took his own life days later by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, creating an uproar among gay activists and attracting international media attention over the issue of anti-gay bullying and harassment.

Some claimed the action by defendant Dharun Ravi, 20, was responsible for Clementi’s suicide. But Ravi’s attorney argued during the trial in March and Middlesex County, N.J., Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman said in court on Monday that Ravi should not be held responsible for Clementi’s death.

“I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi,” Berman said in explaining his sentence. “He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity.”

Berman said the bias crime to which Ravi was convicted is not the same as a hate crime. He called the sentence he imposed “measured” and “balanced.”

He said he will recommend to U.S. immigration authorities that Ravi not be deported upon the completion of his jail sentence, but said immigration officials rather than he would make the final decision on that issue.

Ravi, who was born in India, came to the U.S. as a child. His mother told the court he no longer speaks his native language and was raised as an American. Ravi obtained permanent resident status but is not a U.S. citizen. Under U.S. immigration law, he is subject to deportation for a felony conviction.

A jury convicted Ravi on several felony counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering and hindering efforts by police to investigate the case. He faced a possible sentence of 10 years in prison.

Middlesex County prosecutor Julia McClure told the judge Ravi “has shown no remorse” since his conviction. She said all of Ravi’s actions toward Clementi “were planned, they were purposeful and they were malicious,” disputing claims by the defense that Ravi had merely committed a youthful “prank.”

In addition to 30 days in a county jail, Berman sentenced Ravi to three years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and a total of $11,900 in fines and assessments. He also ordered Ravi to undergo counseling for cyber bullying and education on “alternate lifestyles.”

The sentence came at the end of a two-hour hearing that included emotional statements from Clementi’s mother, father, and brother and both parents of Ravi, all of whom struggled to hold back tears.

Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, told the court Ravi appeared uninterested in becoming friends with her son from the time she met him when she and her husband helped Tyler move into his Rutgers dorm room. She said she believed Ravi chose not to be more welcoming to her son in the ensuing weeks because he learned her son was gay.

Ravi’s mother told the judge her son isn’t a hater and “has never hated anyone,” saying he has suffered immensely in the time since his 2010 arrest in connection with the case. As she finished speaking she embraced her son, who was sitting at the defendant’s table as both wept.

In the months leading up to Monday’s sentencing hearing, some gay activists and gay bloggers joined Indian-American groups in speaking out for leniency for Ravi, saying a sentence as long as 10 years would be an injustice.

New York gay attorney Bill Dobbs, who has argued that hate crimes laws violate First Amendment rights of free speech, was among those who called for a less severe sentence for Ravi.

Berman’s sentence of 30 days came as a surprise to some court observers, who noted that the judge spoke harshly of Ravi’s action in a statement immediately prior to delivering the sentence. Berman also pointed out that Ravi remained seated as he began issuing the sentence rather than stand, which is the normal practice in sentencing hearings. Ravi’s attorney rose to his feet, saying it was he who failed to remind Ravi to stand and it was he who should be blamed for the defendant remaining seated.

Those calling for a lenient sentence for Ravi have noted that his webcam spying on Clementi, which resulted in his arrest, has been incorrectly reported by many media outlets, including network TV news programs and bloggers.

“It became widely understood that a closeted student at Rutgers had committed suicide after video of him having sex with a man was secretly shot and posted online,” New Yorker magazine reported earlier this year. “In fact, there was no posting, no observed sex, and no closet,” the magazine reported in a lengthy piece on the case.

The New Yorker and other media outlets later reported that the webcam, which was viewed only by Ravi and some of his friends, showed Clementi and his boyfriend kissing.

Since the time of the incident, news surfaced that Clementi was out to his parents and his gay brother, James Clementi. Prosecutors at the trial presented evidence that Ravi nevertheless subjected Clementi to an illegal invasion of privacy that was motivated by bias based on Clementi’s sexual orientation.

Evidence presented at trial, including records of Ravi’s computer messages and Twitter postings, showed that he observed on the webcam Clementi “making out with a dude.” He then reported what he saw in Twitter messages. According to prosecutors, Ravi placed his webcam in the room to spy on Clementi two days later and invited others to watch. This time, Clementi, who already had seen Revi’s Twitter postings, turned off the webcam.

Additional evidence showed that Clementi reported the incident to a dormitory official, requested a change of room, and viewed Ravi’s Twitter feeds about the incident a total of 38 times, prosecutors said.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. RJM

    May 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Here we go again with the, “It’s a Hate Crime”, “It’s a Hate Crime”, CRAP, it was a STUPID PRANK!

  2. Jay

    May 22, 2012 at 8:57 am

    It was a crime. Invasion of privacy, destroying evidence, witness tampering, bias intimidation. He was duly convicted of 24 charges on 15 counts. The little bastard is an adult. The guy who spied on the ESPN reporter in her hotel room got 30 months in prison. The judge in this case perpetuated a miscarriage of justice. I hope the prosecution appeals the sentence and that after serving a prison sentence Ravi is deported to India.

  3. Lauren A.

    May 22, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    What a crock of s it! Another judge with hatred in his heart. Poor little immigrant comes here and drives a U.S. citizen off a bridge. C’mon! convicted of 15 felonies!? If this was you or I we being gay or lesbian would be eating government food for as long as the maximum sentence. This is a white wash. This boy that’s a man should be sentenced by a gay judge. One felony conviction should have gotten him at least 2 years in PRISON, not a county jail. I hope bubba gets that …….

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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