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NYC march against anti-gay attacks draws thousands

Police say two more assaults took place hours after protest

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anti-violence, hate crime, Greenwich Village, Mark Carson, gay news, Washington Blade
anti-violence, hate crime, Greenwich Village, Mark Carson, gay news, Washington Blade

Thousands of people marched in New York City on Monday in response to Mark Carson’s murder. (Photo courtesy of Karlo)

Thousands of people marched through the streets of lower Manhattan on Monday in response to the murder of a gay Brooklyn, N.Y., man that police have categorized as a hate crime.

Elliott Morales allegedly shot Mark Carson to death on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village shortly after midnight on May 18. New York Police Department officials told the New York Times and other media outlets that Morales shouted anti-gay slurs at Carson as he and a friend were walking on nearby Sixth Avenue.

The NYPD also said Morales, whom prosecutors have charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon, stalked Carson before he allegedly shot him.

“I am horrified that a gay man was murdered in Greenwich Village after being assailed by homophobic slurs,” New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. “I stand with all New Yorkers in condemning this attack.”

Carson’s family members and Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act on which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in March, took part in the march that began at the LGBT Community Center and ended at the spot where Morales allegedly shot the Brooklyn man to death. Gay New York City Council members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is among those along with Quinn who are running for mayor, also participated.

“We mourn Mark’s tragic and senseless death, and send a message that this violence must come to an end,” said LGBT Community Center Executive Director Glennda Testone.

Both the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council also issued statements on Tuesday that condemned Carson’s death.

“We denounce any and all acts of unprovoked violence,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “No American should be the target of violence — period.”

Anti-gay attacks rattle New Yorkers

Carson’s murder comes against the backdrop of a string of attacks against LGBT New Yorkers in recent weeks that have sparked concern and outrage among local advocates and politicians. The most recent of these took place in lower Manhattan hours after the Greenwich Village march.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters on Tuesday that Gornell Roman allegedly shouted anti-gay slurs at former Philadelphia party promoter Dan Contarino before he struck him several times in the head and the face around 10:45 p.m. on Monday after they visited two East Village bars and a pizza restaurant. Roman turned himself in at a Bronx police precinct late Tuesday.

Fabian Ortiz of Manhattan and Pedro Jimenez of Brooklyn allegedly shouted what Kelly described as “anti-gay derogatory statements” in Spanish and English at two men who were walking on Prince Street in Soho early Tuesday morning.

The Anti-Violence Project in a press release on Tuesday said it also continues to investigate reports of an assault against a transgender woman in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens on Monday night.

“These types of crimes are outrageous and we are going to do everything in our power to see to it that they certainly don’t occur,” Kelly said. “But if they do occur, we’re going to very aggressively investigate them and bring people to justice.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Carson’s murder during the press conference with Kelly as “a cold-blooded hate crime that cut short a life full of promise.” He reiterated his message that the city will do everything it can to combat bias-motivated crimes in the five boroughs.

“New York City has zero tolerance for intolerance,” Bloomberg said.

Kelly noted the number of hate crimes in the city is down almost 30 percent so far this year from the same period in 2012, but those motivated by anti-gay bias are up more than 70 percent over the same time. He also noted hate crimes often go underreported.

While Kelly noted these attacks are not related, Anti-Violence Project Executive Director Sharon Stapel told the Washington Blade on Tuesday “this kind of violence happens every day to LGBT people in New York City.” She said her organization tends to see a handful of high-profile incidents in the weeks leading up to gay Pride month each year that generate a significant amount of media attention.

“The difference between years past and this year is both the severity of the violence — including a fatality — and that there is such a great number of incidents in such a short period of time being reported by the media,” Stapel said.

The Anti-Violence Project on Friday will hold the first of its Community Safety Nights during which volunteers will canvass neighborhoods in which anti-LGBT violence has recently taken place and distribute information and other resources. This campaign will take place each Friday through June.

Quinn on Wednesday will also join Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan Schaefer and other advocates and elected officials at a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall to urge the New York Senate to pass a bill — the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act — that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression before the current legislative session ends at the end of next month.

The New York Assembly earlier this month once again approved the bill.

“GENDA is part of a bigger conversation, which is the context in which this violence is happening is one in which LGBT people are not equal citizens in this country,” Stapel said.

Advocates seek ‘an end to this violence’

Yetta Kurland, who hopes to succeed Quinn on the New York City Council, told the Blade on Tuesday those who took part in the march in response to Carson’s murder were “sad and also while mourning really wanted to put an end to this violence.”

Karlo, a Manhattan make-up artist who also took part in the march, echoed Kurland.

“It doesn’t matter where oppression, homophobia, discrimination and hate crimes happen, it affects all of us,” he told the Blade. “That is why I had to be there.”

Bloomberg added all New Yorkers “can do our part to end hate crimes and spread tolerance.”

“No person regardless of what they look like or who they love should ever walk down the street in fear,” he said.

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Conservative West Virginia state GOP lawmaker comes out during Pride

“I’m still a conservative Republican. That’s rare, I know, but you can be gay and Republican. You can be gay and conservative.”

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Joshua Higginbotham (Screenshot via WCHS ABC News 8 Charleston, W.VA)

CHARLESTON, WVA. – A conservative Republican lawmaker in the House of Delegates took to Twitter and other social media platforms this past weekend announcing that he is gay. Twenty-four year old Joshua Higginbotham said that he felt he owed it to the voters of West Virginia, after recently deciding to share it with his family and friends.

Higginbotham, who was first elected to the House when he was only 19, represents rural Putnam County located alongside Interstate 64 between the state’s capital city of Charleston to the East and Huntington to the West. His campaign adverts have all trumpeted his avid support of the Second Amendment as well as taking a pro-life position.

However, a check of some of his recent legislation shows a more progressive mindset. He is lead sponsor on House Bill 2998, a measure amending the State’s current codes relating to unlawful discriminatory practices in four categories covered by the West Virginia Human Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, adding language that prohibits discrimination based upon age and sexual orientation, or gender identity; and defining “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

That measure, earlier in the legislative session, led to a series of conflicts which involved the state’s only other openly gay lawmaker, Democratic Delegate Cody Thompson (D43-Marion). Republican House Delegate John Mandt, who resigned after posting an anti-gay slur but then was re-elected drew harsh criticism for an extended online diatribe opposing protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity the Associated Press reported earlier this year on February 7, 2021.

In his social media video as well as in an interview with reporter Anthony Conn from the local ABC News affiliate WCHS 8 in Charleston, Higginbotham said, “I am still a Christian. People think that gay people can’t be Christians.  I believe God loves me no matter what. I’m still a conservative Republican. That’s rare, I know, but you can be gay and Republican.  You can be gay and conservative.”

He added referring to his conservative politics that “nothing changes except now [you] know about my personal life.”

The statewide LGBTQ advocacy group Fairness West Virginia applauded the delegate’s decision to come out. “We think that it’s great that Delegate Higginbotham can lead his authentic life now. This must be a big burden that’s lifted off his shoulders,” Executive Director Andrew Schneider told WCHS ABC 8.

There are some in the state who are critical of Higginbotham. One source who asked to not be identified, told the Blade in a phone call Tuesday that Higginbotham’s support of former President Trump raised some doubts as to his veracity especially in issues surrounding Transgender West Virginians.

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Biden admin: Discrimination against LGBTQ kids illegal under Title IX

In contrast, Trump DOJ sided with anti-trans laws

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The Biden administration made official on Wednesday its position that discrimination against LGBTQ kids in schools is illegal under federal law at a time when states have enacted measures prohibiting transgender kids from playing in school sports or obtaining transition-related health care.

The Education Department, in a notice of interpretation signed by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, declared it would enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in schools, to prohibit discrimination both on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination – and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections” Cardona said in a statement. “I’m proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination. Today, the Department makes clear that all students — including LGBTQ+ students — deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination.”

In contrast, the Trump administration had interpreted Title IX to exclude cases of anti-transgender discrimination in schools. In fact, the Justice Department under former President Trump filed a legal brief in defense of an Idaho law against transgender kids in sports in ongoing litigation against the statute.

Just this year, a number of states have enacted similar laws. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, said upon signing into law a measure banning transgender kids, that status would go “based on biology.” Arkansas has enacted a law over the veto of its governor making criminal the providing of transition-related care to transgender kids.

The notice of interpretation is consistent with the executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office instructing federal agencies to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. In his executive order, Biden specifically spelled out students should be able to go school without being  “denied access to the restroom, the locker room or school sports.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Biden administration would follow up on the memo with legal action against states with anti-transgender laws. The Education Department didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry on the issue.

The White House has consistently referred questions on whether the Biden administration would take up legal action against states enacting anti-transgender laws to the Justice Department, which hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

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As NYC Pride nears, ban on police seen as support for trans, BIPOC attendees

Organizers to provide ‘community-based security and first responders’

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A scene from NYC Pride in 2019. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

NYC Pride announced last month that it would no longer allow corrections and law enforcement exhibitors to participate in NYC Pride events until 2025. The decision is in accordance with NYC Pride’s commitment to create safe spaces for marginalized LGBTQ groups including BIPOC and transgender individuals at their Pride festivities.

“Effective immediately, NYC Pride will ban corrections and law enforcement exhibitors at NYC Pride events until 2025. At that time their participation will be reviewed by the Community Relations and Diversity, Accessibility, and Inclusion committees, as well as the Executive Board,” reads NYC Pride’s statement. NYC Pride is scheduled for June 27. 

To make sure that safety regulations are still adhered to at events, NYC Pride will “transition to providing increased community-based security and first responders, while simultaneously taking steps to reduce NYPD presence at events.”

Police officers being banned from participating in Pride parades and festivities is not an unfamiliar conversation to LGBTQ advocacy and activist groups in North America. In 2018, Capital Pride in D.C. announced that uniformed officers would not be allowed to march in the Pride parade. In 2019,  Pride Toronto announced that uniformed police officers would not be permitted to attend any Pride Toronto events. 

The announcement was preceded by a voting session that took place among Pride Toronto members. Global News, a Canadian news platform, reported a final result of 163-161, disallowing police participation in Pride Toronto events.

Global News also reports that Pride Toronto committed to using their $1.25 million federal grant to examine the LGBTQ community’s feelings regarding police, and to forge a way forward. 

In solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Vancouver Pride Society announced in 2020 that police officers were no longer welcome to march and exhibit during any of Vancouver Pride Society’s festivities. 

“The roots of Pride are in righteous anger, riot and uprising against police brutality. These riots against the violence of the police were led by Black and Brown trans women and queer people. The Stonewall Riots propelled gay movements from assimilationist tactics towards unapologetic Pride. These riots worked,” reads Vancouver Pride Society’s statement. 

The organization also pledged to ensure public safety by participating in calls to defund the police and “commit to learning and convening community dialogues about what these alternative forms of managing public safety look like.”

Why ban the police? The decision from NYC Pride was simple: given the law enforcement’s history of police brutality in America, there is a need to ensure that BIPOC and transgender individuals who attend Pride events can do so comfortably, without feeling vulnerable at events meant to be safe havens that allow full, unabashed identity expression and manifestation. 

“After many interactions between the police and LGBTQ community locally, [including] the passive aggressive moves between the NYPD and peaceful protestors in Washington Square Park last year, we have to look at the history,” said André Thomas, NYC Pride co-chair. “The ability to welcome Black, Brown, and trans Americans at our events is an even higher priority than for someone to be able to wear police uniform in a parade.”

It is no secret that BIPOC and transgender communities are some of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to interactions with corrections and law enforcement officers. 

Mapping Police Violence reports that in 2020, Black people constituted 28% of those killed by the police despite only constituting 13% of the country’s population. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey also reports that Black transgender people were 50% more likely to report that their interactions with police officers as suspecting them of soliciting sex work and leading to an arrest. In addition, the Movement Advancement Project reports in a 2017 study that nearly 40% of incarcerated girls identify as LGB and 85-90% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth are LGBTQ youth of color. 

With this in mind, NYC Pride’s goal is to make their events harm-and-fear-free for members of the LGBTQ community. 

To supplement the absence of corrections and law enforcement officers at NYC Pride events, the organization will provide community-based security companies and first responders who will ensure that Pride events are secure and will also be on standby in case of emergencies. 

As part of their training, the security companies are primed on how to deal with all kinds of situations including responding to an active shooter. 

“Our staff has gone through active shooter training and everything it entails including what they’re wearing and how they’re identifiable to the community,” said Thomas. “We want to ensure people that even though the NYPD may be a block away, there is still security [present] to take care of your needs.”

A lot of NYC Pride’s information regarding security measures is currently being relayed through social media and reportage from various news sources. 

“We tweeted about our meetings that we had with the NYPD to reinforce public safety after the initial news broke out of what’s been going on,” said Thomas. 

Regarding whether NYC Pride will implement this year’s model for next year’s Pride, “[NYC Pride is] figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” said Thomas. “We’re trying to do things in a hybrid model with some limited in-person and some virtual events. We’re going to figure out what to keep and what to change, and this will influence the planning and processes that we do.”

As for future Prides, Thomas wants everyone to remember this: “It’s always someone’s first Pride, and so, you want to be able to give someone that special experience. So, for future Prides, we’ll be working on greater inclusivity and representation.”

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