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National LGBT groups: ‘Trayvon deserves justice’

Joint statement by 34 LGBT organizations and ACLU cautious over federal prosecution of Zimmerman

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Trayvon Martin, gay news, Washington Blade
Trayvon Martin, gay news, Washington Blade

Trayvon Martin (Photo released into the public domain by the family of Trayvon Martin)

A coalition of 34 national LGBT rights organizations and the ACLU issued a joint statement late Monday expressing solidarity with the family and supporters of teenage shooting victim Trayvon Martin following the acquittal on Saturday of the Florida man charged in his death.

“We cannot begin to imagine the continued pain and suffering endured by Trayvon Martin’s family and friends,” the statement says. “We stand in solidarity with them as they continue to fight for justice, civil rights and closure.”

The statement adds, “Trayvon Martin deserves justice and his civil rights. We support the organizations and community leaders who are urging the federal government to explore every option to ensure that justice is served for Trayvon and that his civil rights are honored and respected.”

The National Black Justice Coalition, a national LGBT group; and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force initiated the statement, which the groups are calling an open letter entitled “Trayvon Deserves Justice.”

Nearly all of the most prominent national LGBT groups signed on to the statement, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, GLAAD, the Transgender Law Center, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

The statement comes two days after a jury of six women in Sanford, Fla., found neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed.

The case triggered a heated debate throughout the country over racial profiling, with back civil right leaders and many supporters arguing that Zimmerman assumed Martin was a criminal because he was black. Zimmerman is white and Hispanic.

Zimmerman told police he followed Martin after seeing him walking through his gated community. He claimed he shot Martin in self-defense after the two got into a fight and Martin allegedly knocked him down and began pounding his head into a cement sidewalk.

Prosecutors noted that Martin was living in the community with his father and had done nothing wrong. They told the jury Zimmerman was responsible for his death by starting a confrontation based on the false assumption that Martin was a potential criminal.

The statement by the LGBT organizations stops short of a national online petition circulated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that calls for the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute Zimmerman on one or more federal civil rights law violations.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday that the Justice Department he heads is continuing an investigation into the case begun last year. He said the department would make a determination on whether or not to prosecute Zimmerman based on “the facts and the law.”

The national LGBT organizations said in their statement that the advocacy for justice and civil rights should not end with the final outcome of the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trayvon Martin case.

“[W]e will honor Trayvon Martin by strengthening our commitment to end bias, hatred, profiling and violence across our communities,” the statement says.

“We represent organizations with diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies. Our community has been targets of bigotry, bias, profiling and violence,” says the statement. “We have experienced the heart-breaking despair of young people targeted for who they are, who they are presumed to be, or who they love…”

“Justice for Trayvon” rallies are being planned in 100 cities around the country for Saturday. In D.C., demonstrators are planning to gather at noon Saturday at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave., N.W.

Following is the text of the statement by the national LGBT organizations and the names of the groups that signed it:

An Open Letter: Trayvon Deserves Justice

We cannot begin to imagine the continued pain and suffering endured by Trayvon Martin’s family and friends. We stand in solidarity with them as they continue to fight for justice, civil rights and closure. And we thank everyone who has pushed and will continue to push for justice.

Trayvon Martin deserves justice and his civil rights. We support the organizations and community leaders who are urging the federal government to explore every option to ensure that justice is served for Trayvon and that his civil rights are honored and respected. But our work does not end there: we will honor Trayvon Martin by strengthening our commitment to end bias, hatred, profiling and violence across our communities.

We represent organizations with diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies. Our community has been targets of bigotry, bias, profiling and violence. We have experienced the heart-breaking despair of young people targeted for who they are, who they are presumed to be, or who they love: Rashawn Brazell, Lawrence King, Ali Forney, Brandon Teena, Brandon White, Matthew Shepard, Marco McMillian, Angie Zapata, Sakia Gunn, Gwen Araujo and countless others.

Every person, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, must be able to walk the streets without fear for their safety.

Justice delayed is justice denied and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “a right delayed is a right denied.” We honor Trayvon by seeking justice for all people.

All Out
American Civil Liberties Union
Believe Out Loud
BiNet USA
Bisexual Resource Center
Center for Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom to Work
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network)
GetEQUAL
GMHC
GLAD
GLAAD
Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality
Lambda Legal
Movement Advancement Project
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Minority AIDS Council
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG National
The Trevor Project
Trans Advocacy Network
Transgender Law Center
Trans People of Color Coalition

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. George Kafantaris

    July 16, 2013 at 2:06 am

    The prosecutors should have made better use of the 14 recorded screams loud enough to be captured on the neighbor’s call to 911. They should have played those screams at the outset of their rebuttal — a time when the defense was a sitting duck — and they should have played those screams again at the very end — so that the jurors would have retired to the jury room with those haunting screams ringing in their ears.
    Nor did the Court’s ruling disallowing expert testimony on the 911 call prevent the prosecutors from playing the call during final argument; or prevent them from drawing common-sense conclusions from what is heard.
    As for Zimmerman saying it was he doing the screaming — and just as Martin was prying his gun away — then why do we have none of Martin’s DNA on the gun? There should have been something there, even if Martin had merely touched the gun, let alone grabbed it, or struggled with it. Indeed, we might expect a struggle for control to leave a heavy DNA imprint on the gun. Yet, it left none.
    What about the silence, that dead silence we note after the gunshot? Does it tell us anything? If Zimmerman was the one crying for help the ensuing silence after the shot is revealing — unless he can plead for help and hold a gun to shoot at the same time.
    And remember, Zimmerman says he screamed during his struggle with Martin. If this is so, then we would expect the screams to have been interrupted. They were not. Rather, the cries for help are steady, though growing more desperate, but at the same tempo as they had started. This is not plausible from a man having his head pounded on the pavement; it is not plausible from a man struggling to keep his gun.
    No, those steady heart wrenching howls were from someone who was held at gunpoint; someone who had felt the cold steel of a gun in his side; a teenager untested with the dangers of life; a juvenile who suddenly realized he was way over his head, and firmly believed his life was about to come to an end.

  2. Phoenixstar9

    July 16, 2013 at 12:35 am

    I’m happy that people are uniting and having these conversations.

  3. Cailin Smith

    July 16, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I feel like the jury knew more about this than I do, so I'm going to defer to them on this case.

  4. Tim MacGeorge

    July 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I have to agree with Cailin Smith … the jury of six women listened to all of the evidence the Court allowed, deliberated with thoughtfulness and attention to detail, and concluded that the burden of proof for a conviction was not met. I would much rather see these organizations spend their time (and some of my membership dues!) on their specific issues and not on a particular case that has been settled in our judicial system.

  5. Dharma Guada

    July 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    we should not be supporting any sort of justice for an issue that isn't about us.. get it..nothing, I will no longer be donating or raising funds for this sort of behavior. find a cause that is about our well being and support. this is just unacceptable behavior.

    the boy was a drug dealer, abusive to all, beat bus divers to get onto buses free.. and burglary homes and apartments.. stop jumping on bandstands for causes the cause we share is to big as it goes.. etc, etc, etc,… u want to show support be quiet for human cause. not being another sort of racist action. how dare u.

  6. Trish Madsen

    July 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    dharma, i am so disappointed by these comments. trayvon did not have a criminal record, was never arrested and, frankly many, many teens smoke weed. heck, many of my friends in their 30's, 40's, 50's and beyond smoke it. on the other hand, go to the orange co. public records website and do a search for george michael zimmerman. it will pull up his ARREST for felony resisting arrest with violence and felony battery on a law enforcement officer, later reduced to a misdemeanor resisting arrest. Zimmerman was also previously under a restraining/protective order filed by a former girlfriend, and a family member has come forward and given statements to the fbi that zimmerman sexually molested her starting when she was 6. zimmerman was also fired from his job as a "bouncer" in NY for being too aggressive with customers…including one incident where he picked up a drunk female and threw her…..i could continue and discuss his so called injuries, but frankly, i think i would be wasting my time….i am just very disappointed to see such untrue statements coming from someone who is usually very informed… :-(

  7. Dharma Guada

    July 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Trish Madsen actually he did it is public record and had been published ,,, its not about feelings its the law which has sides. and all these extra sides are for what. the jury spoke,,, sorry to disappoint u,,,

  8. fockinmeen

    July 16, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Thank you so much for providing me with a list of queer non-profits that will no longer receive my financial support!

    • fockinmeen

      July 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      I am going to add something to what I wrote:

      Mentioning Shepard and Martin in the same sentence made me vomit.

      Queerdom is doing itself some very BIG harm here by wading into this shit. Was Trayvon a baby fag? He might have been because he had the requisite fat, ignant “gf” (the one who can’t read “cursive), but until we know that he was shot for being a faggot, this is not our fucking territory.

      I will tell you who killed Martin.

      The grand state of Florida. For allowing any mammal to have a gun or multiple guns, to carry a gun anywhere and basically use it at any time. When you permit a cop reject-wannabe to carry a gun under the guise of a vigilante (ahem, neighborhood my ass watch), you get a dead kid. And when the dispatcher said to cease pursuit and he did NOT, then he is guilty of stalking and any other actions he takes against the suspect are criminal. (Does FL even have a law against stalking?)

      B U T …..

      Under FL law, nothing Zimmerman did was criminal! So if people (and the kid’s family) want to HONOR TRAYVON MARTIN, they will work tirelessly to change the gun possession laws in FL; they will make any actions after a citizen is told to cease pursuit a felony.

      Will they do that? Fuck no. They will stir up racial hatred, which will stir up more racial hatred and achieve nothing in honor of this dead kid.

      Last comment. People who run these NPs — the ones that signed this dreck letter — need to be fired for they are causing self-destuction of their agencies. I ran a number of NPs decades ago and not one of them would EVER sign such a letter or take any position on such an inflammatory issue. If I had brought this to one of my boards, I would have been shown the door. Such a pronouncement alienates donors (which means white donors because they are those who have money and donate), so they are placing the futures of their agencies in jeopardy.

      If you ever want proof that queers can be assholes, this is a major example!

  9. Asa Khalif

    July 16, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Injustice for one..is injustice for us all !!

  10. Steven Feldner

    July 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Whenever hate is involved no one ever wins, what this man did to that young man can not be changed, but we can go foward. the law needs to be changed in Florida and around the country to protect free america from rednecks cop wantabes like George.

  11. Richard Rosendall

    July 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I shared Dharma's disgusting comments with a friend, who said, "Her writing says much of what I need to know about her. Her comments say the rest. Where do people get these blatant lies? Do they just make them up as they go? Just any caricature will do." I can only add: Dharma, please cite your sources. Because then we will know the source of the lies about Trayvon. He was an unarmed teenager going about his business. Your hateful reaction to this injustice is morally and socially depraved.

  12. Charles Butler

    July 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Do you know Dharma?

  13. Richard Rosendall

    July 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    No.

  14. Arjuna Alexander Jennings

    July 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    I find it interesting how the George Zimmerman case is a highlight of this website after the Peirs Morgan interview last night.

  15. RSG

    July 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Rick, I’m surprised that you, normally the voice of rationality, have bought the LGBTQXYZ party line on this; particularly as we find out from Piers Morgan Tonight, his best friend claimed he thought he was being stalked by a ‘gay rapist’—in addition to the physical injuries sustained by the acquitted.

    This begs the question that if the death was reversed, would the accused’s counsel employ the “gay panic” defense?

  16. Rick Rosendall

    July 17, 2013 at 9:44 am

    RSG, Trayvon was 17. He was being stalked by a stranger at the time, not pontificating from his sofa. Some of us are trying to overcome problems, not throw gasoline on them.

  17. Ryan Perry

    July 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    I know this topic — race, another black male dead and the murderer walks free — is a very tender subject in our country. And, what happened was a terrible wrong — all around.

    I find it extremely disturbing that people resort to character attacks on Martin, and on Zimmerman. I find it troubling that people also ignore important facts of the case, readily. It is jarring to hear the boy almost constantly referred to as “an unarmed teenager” when we know that, armed or not, he assaulted the other man and did a lot of damage. It is tragic that so many Americans, on this emotionally-charged topic, seem incapable of separating facts, and logic, and legality, from their impassioned personal wishes and opinions. And it is sad that a majority of people are talking victimhood without seeing any lessons in the story — for everybody.

    White people do bad things. American justice has failed many minority Americans over the years. But that doesn’t mean black people only do good things.

    It is NOT a good idea to assault another person. Whether being followed, or not, there was no cause to resort to violence. The violence made Martin the aggressor. If he ‘won’ the fight he had started, if Zimmerman had not had a gun and used it, then it is Martin who would be in jail today, and the nation would be going about its business-as-usual without having heard of this case.

    Martin was in the wrong. Period. How were his civil rights infringed? How was he racially profiled? Racial bias was not proven, and it is being assumed.

    We know that Martin was a drug user, we know he had been expelled from school and that is why he was living with his father Florida, we know he had been strongly suspected of theft in the school, and we know — merely from his choices on that fatal night — that he had a propensity for violence.

    Is this worthy of “honor”? Is this the kind of character with which we want to stand in “solidarity”? Not to my mind, no.

    None of these facts about Martin make it right, or acceptable, that Zimmerman shot and killed him. It doesn’t make Stand Your Ground a reasonable, or defensible, law.

    But equally, having been in the wrong as the aggressor and the one who used violence and assaulted another human being, it doesn’t make Martin an innocent victim, and it doesn’t make him worthy of honor, of special ‘support’, or of this reverse style of justice wherein the aggressor, who died as a result of his own bad choices that night, is now honored as some kind of hero.

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity

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Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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Florida

Prominent LGBTQ+ activist found dead in Florida landfill

Diaz-Johnston was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz & he led the fight for marriage equality

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Photo courtesy of Don Diaz Johnston

Police in Florida’s capital city confirmed that the body of Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, who had been reported missing was found in a Jackson County landfill Saturday morning.

Diaz-Johnston was last seen alive Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, more than an hour from where his body was found, according to a missing person notice released by police. Detectives are investigating his death as a homicide, a police spokesperson said.

Diaz-Johnston, was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz. As an LGBTQ advocate he led the fight for marriage equality, he and his husband were plaintiffs in an historic 2014 lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County.

ABC News reported at the time that a South Florida circuit court judge sided with Diaz-Johnston and five couples suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida dropped its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

His husband wrote in a poignant Facebook post; “There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston. I can’t stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Jorge. He and his husband Don were two of the brave plaintiffs who took on Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban and helped win marriage equality for all Floridians,” Equality Florida said adding, “Our deepest condolences to Don and Jorge’s extended family.”

Detectives urge anyone who may have information to call 850-891-4200, or make an anonymous tip to Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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National

Bill prohibiting ‘gay panic defense’ clears New Hampshire House

New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of ‘gay panic’ as a defense

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New Hampshire State House (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Legislation prohibiting defendants accused of manslaughter from using the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense, which had died in committee during the 2021 regular session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, was reintroduced this session and passed with a 223-118 vote last week.

House Bill 238, stirred up controversary from opponents who claimed that state statues already covered murder and manslaughter. During a Criminal Justice committee hearing last Spring, Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, voiced opposition, saying that the laws already cover murder and manslaughter and that “there’s no way in heck that you’re going to be able to say ‘Well because he or she was some deviant sexuality that I’m not–‘”

Marston was cut off by committee chairman Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, who gaveled him down and rebuked him for the derogatory language the Concord-Monitor reported

Later, the committee Republicans blocked an effort to move the bill out of committee alleging it needed more work and was not necessary because a jury could already strike down a similar attempted defense. The bill was then stalled in the committee, effectively killing it from being pushed further in last year’s session.

As the measure now heads to the state Senate, New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of the ‘gay panic’ as a defense.

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