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Activists condemn media coverage of Ohio murder

Trans woman stabbed to death; body tied to concrete block, dumped in pond

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Cemia Ce Ce Acoff, transgender, Cleveland, murder, gay news, Washington Blade
Cemia Ce Ce Acoff, transgender, Cleveland, murder, gay news, Washington Blade

Cemia ‘Ce Ce’ Acoff, a 20-year-old transgender woman and Cleveland resident, was found stabbed to death on April 17 in Olmsted Township, Ohio. Police say her body had been tethered to a block of concrete and dumped into the pond. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

LGBT activists were scheduled to hold a protest rally and memorial tribute outside the Cleveland City Hall Wednesday afternoon in response to the murder of a 20-year-old transgender woman whose body was identified April 29 by police in the Cleveland suburb of Olmsted Township.

Olmsted Township police said the initially unidentified body of Cemia “Ce Ce” Acoff was found April 17 tethered to a concrete block and dumped in a pond. The body was found about three weeks after Cleveland police announced Acoff had been reported missing by family members.

According to Olmsted police, Acoff had been stabbed multiple times and her body was found naked from the waist down. Police responded to a call from a nearby resident, who saw the body in what police described as a retention pond.

“The Olmsted Township Police Department has been working around the clock on this investigation, and will continue to diligently pursue all leads,” Police Chief John Minek said in a statement. “I have dedicated two senior members of the department (Lt. Vanyo and Det. Sonneborn) to this investigation. Since this is an active investigation, we cannot comment any further on any details pertaining to this investigation.”

Mineck told reporters the case remains open and that several detectives were investigating the murder. He declined to say whether any suspects have been identified.

The local news media, including TV stations and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, initially identified Acoff only by her legal name, Carl Acoff, which was released by police. Media reports repeatedly referred to her as “he,” even though authorities reported the body was found dressed in female clothes.

The national LGBT advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the state LGBT rights group Equality Ohio, the group Trans Ohio, and the Cleveland LGBT Community Center criticized what they called a display of blatant insensitivity by the mainstream media in its coverage of Acoff’s murder.

Among other things, the groups complained that media stories referred to Acoff’s body as being “oddly dressed” and reported extensively on court records showing she had a history of several misdemeanor arrests in Cleveland that were unrelated to the murder.

“Acoff’s criminal record is almost certainly irrelevant to the story, especially when provided without any context concerning the trans community and law enforcement,” GLAAD’s director of news and field media Aaron McQuade said in a statement.

The Plain Dealer reported that in January 2012 Acoff pleaded no contest and was found guilty by a judge of “possession of dangerous drugs involving hormones.” She was sentenced to 100 days in jail and fined $1,000, the Plain Dealer reported.

Transgender activists have said transgender people in the process of transitioning from male to female who don’t have the resources to obtain a doctor’s prescription for the hormones needed for the transition sometimes resort to the black market to get the drugs.

In a separate case, Acoff was charged with assault for squirting Mace in a man’s face while riding on a bus, the Plain Dealer reported. Activists said the newspaper should have explained that transgender people are often the target of violent attacks by assailants hostile to gender identity and that Acoff could have used the Mace in self-defense.

Other media outlets reported that Acoff appeared to identify as both female and male at different times, including when interacting with Cleveland police.

“The truth is, when someone like Cemia appears to identity as female sometimes and male other times, it’s because it’s still socially unacceptable (and often dangerous) to be transgender,” McQuade said in the GLAAD statement.

“The fact that some people in Acoff’s life didn’t know she sometimes identified as female, and the fact that her legal identification might not have reflected her gender identity, doesn’t change the fact that she was a transgender woman,” McQuade said in the statement.

GLAAD and the other groups said they have urged news media outlets to follow the Associated Press guidelines in covering the transgender community, which call for referring to transgender people by the gender with which they identify and by the name that reflects that gender.

“Also very disturbing is the fact that no report would lead readers to believe police are working diligently to find the murderer,” said David Badash in the New Civil Rights Movement blog.

“Not one report stated police are asking for assistance or seeking help in finding her killer,” he said. “The murder was a heinous crime, the mis-gender identification by news media organizations who have not taken the time to learn how to report on issues related to transgender people is offensive.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Adifah Crista Kelly Sadler

    May 6, 2013 at 2:52 am

    This is SAD!!!!

  2. Mickiy Hollens

    May 13, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Horrific and very sad. We need to ask why the USA, Brazil and Honduras have the world's highest known transgender murder rates. The USA, which claims to be civilised and tolerant is only too often quite the reverse.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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National

Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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