Government Sanctioned Discrimination encourages violence toward LGBTQ People
(Text from a speech given on the 2009 National Day of Silence )
We are Carrie and Elisia Ross-Stone. In 1999, we created Rainbow Law, an online legal resource where the LGBT community can log on for information about the legal rights in their own state, can order free advance directives or affordable Wills, Trusts and documents protecting rights to children, etc.
In addition to Rainbow Law, we publish an online LGBT Newsletter at rainbowzine.com,
In our spare time we are building a house out of recycled materials – newspapers, tires, bottles, and then some. And our website www.builtfromtrash.com has photos and other information about that project.
We have 3 grown children, two grandchildren, 4 dogs, 5 cats, 13 chickens and are about to acquire 2 to 3 goats!
In 2003 and 2004 we decided to take our show to the road. We were upset in 1996 when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act... grandmother, mother, bike ride, movie, etc....
We want to talk about the real suffering experienced by LGBT people when laws are passed – including anti-marriage legislation – that treat us as less than equal citizens of this country.
One would think, with all the debate raging about equal marriage rights and gays in the military, we would be getting closer to the time when a day like this wold be unnecessary. However, I am sad to report that is not yet the case.
In fact, on April 6th 2009, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hung himself after school bullies repeatedly called him "gay."
Carl was 11-- barely old enough to know his sexuality and yet distraught enough to prefer death to the relentless taunting of his classmates.
Carl's suicide comes about a year after California eighth-grader Lawrence King was shot and killed by a fellow student in his classroom for supposedly being gay.
These two cases of gay bashing are representative of thousands of others – some reported, many not --
Law enforcement officials in California report that as the Proposition 8 campaign heated up, reports of violence against LGBT people shot up. Anti-gay incidents accounted for more than half of hate-crime cases last year — 56 percent — a big jump from only 15 percent in 2007. There were 14 anti-gay cases out of 25 hate-crime cases in 2008, compared with only 3 out of 20 in 2007.
Generally, when an individual is targeted for belonging to an oppressed minority group,that person has family and friends who share their minority status. Thus, after being physically or emotionally bashed, such a victim will certainly have the support, understanding and love of their family who can relate to their experience by virtue of the fact that they, too share the same status.
Yet, an LGBT person may not be so fortunate.
We recently met a 22 year old gay man who just moved to rural WV with his mother, little sister and step-father. When I asked him if he was out to his family he told me that his mother has said repeatedly -- “If any of my children ever tell me they are gay, I will disown them.” The young man works for two friends of ours who know who and what we are... yet, he is afraid to tell them about himself. His reason? -- He’s worried that they will harass him, fire him or that he will simply feel too uncomfortable being around them if they know the truth about him.
You tell me-- this is a bright, attractive young man who currently has no one in his life – except two 55 year old women that he’s known for less than one month – who know who is. Does he feel alone and isolated at home and at work? Is he suffering?
And for many young gays and lesbians, home can be more dangerous than the streets:
I recently learned of a young woman whose mother chased her with a butcher knife when she discovered her daughter is a lesbian. As it turns out, this young woman’s teenage sister outed her to their mother.
How frightening for both sisters! Their mother's violent, homophobic response to her older daughter’s sexual orientation was psychologically abusive to both girls.
And stories like these are replicated thousands of times all over the country. A 2006 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study found that of homeless teens, 42 percent identify as gay.
If you consider that the most generous estimates of the percentage of gay people in the general population is 10 percent, a figure of 42 percent of the total population of homeless teens illustrates an alarming over representation of gay kids among the homeless.
So I am here to tell you that the equal rights movement today is not just about same-sex marriage – it is about the harm caused to LGBT people, our children, our friends and our extended family members.
The movement is about the language used by opponents of LGBT civil rights. That language incites fear and hatred towards LGBT people, and it occasionally results in violence.
Imagine being accused of threatening the very fabric and foundation of society because of who you are?
Imagine being blamed for disasters like 9/11 and Katrina because you and your family’s life have incurred God's wrath?
Believe it or not, there are people who hear these messages and believe these baseless accusations. Some use it as justification for discriminating against LGBT people or for committing acts of violence against gays and lesbians.
Imagine being accused of committing:
When these negative pronouncements are made by religious and political leaders, they seem more legitimate and that legitimacy may be relied upon by those who love to hate LGBT people.
Homophobic statements combined with anti-equality legislation and policies -- whether they deny equal marriage rights, adoption rights, the right to serve in the military, the right to housing, employment, or even donating blood -- contributes to the overall hostile environment gay men and lesbians are forced to live with everyday.
When a country’s government not only sanctions discrimination but actually practices it – then it is no wonder that its citizens feel justified to do the same.
If our government says we are not worthy of having a family or serving our country or being protected from discrimination in employment and housing, what does that say about us as human beings and as citizens?
On Wednesday April 15th, millions of LGBT Americans fulfilled their civic duty and paid their taxes – knowing that the federal government continue to deny legal rights to our families.
Soon it seems that the states of Iowa and Vermont may be joining Massachusetts and Connecticut in offering equal marriage rights to their LGBT residents. And New York and New Jersey may not be far behind. And while other States, counties and municipalities now provide Civil Unions or Domestic Partner benefits, under federal law, LGBT partners continue to be treated as legal strangers – second class citizens who do not deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
A 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office found “1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.”
And a 2009 report by GLAD, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, found that a same-sex couple with average characteristics—including average age, average income, and average gap in income between spouses—will be denied more than $8,000 a year in Social Security survivor benefits alone -- upon the death of the higher-earning spouse after retirement.
The murder of Matthew Shepherd represents an extreme example of what can happen when people feel justified -- by society, religion and the government -- to "dispose" of or "punish" gay men, lesbians and other LGBTQ people because we are deemed "immoral."
Anyone who has ever experienced discrimination by a dominant group knows how oppressive it can be. Think about the recent killing of Dr. Tiller, the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in DC, etc., and you get the drift.
Gay men and lesbians also suffer physical and emotional harm from depraved people who have societal support to behave violently toward a vulnerable minority.
As the LGBT community struggles for equal civil marriage rights to protect their families, keep in mind that the benefits they seek are the same benefits as those currently available to every other American citizen and that those benefits are paid for, in part, by gay and lesbian tax dollars.
Families With Children Experience Greater Risks
Because gay and lesbian parents may not be eligible to adopt their partner’s child as a second parent, children are vulnerable to the loss of both parents when their biological parent dies.
Children of gay and lesbian partners are not eligible for coverage under a second parent's health insurance. Thus, if an uninsured child becomes ill, the financial consequences on the family may be devastating.
When a second parent dies or becomes disabled, his or her children may not be eligible to receive disability or death benefits.
Gay and lesbian parents, whether they are a biological or second parent, may lose custody and/or visitation of their children for no reason other than their sexual orientation.
When the parents split up, children are at risk of losing financial and emotional support from their non-biological parent.
Children of gay or lesbian parents are ridiculed in school and on the playground producing shame and self-hatred.
Gay men and lesbians lose and are denied jobs, housing, children and the love and support of their extended family.