“Structured Flexibility” were the buzz words of last week as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) concluded that it couldn’t collectively decide on whether to allow the ordination of gay clergy in same-sex relationships and so would let “individual congregations and synods decide” instead.
The ELCA’s Decision On Gay Ordination The ELCA, which is the largest Lutheran denomination, made its findings public last Thursday (Feb. 22) when an appointed panel decided that, rather than coming up with a blanket decision, it would be more prudent to allow jurisdiction to fall to a local level. This will serve to preclude an official stance on the matter that the ELCA will make public once they have considered and “clarified” certain questions around the ordination of gay clergy subsequent to the August meeting.
Rev. Peter Strommen from the Prior Lake area, Minnesota, who was chairman of the task force for the ELCA, said of the decision, “At this point, there is no consensus in the church … the question ends up being, 'How are we going to live together in that absence of consensus?'”
It was stressed that, far from pushing for a liturgical stance on gay clergy members, the ELCA panel wished to promote a way for synods to feel they had discretion as to whether such a thing would be both right for their churches given present clergy views, and was appropriate given the particular stance on homosexuality within their congregation.
It should be noted that at present, some churches allow gay clergy members to serve on the provision that they remain celibate. This is up to the discression of synods and individual pastors.
The ELCA panel came up with a four-step plan, and it starts with same-sex partnership recognition.
"The task force agreed that this church cannot responsibly consider any changes to its policies unless this church is able and willing in some way to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships … most of the task force members believe that ways can be found within local congregations to surround the commitments of such couples with prayer," the ELCA task force report said. Areas That Will Be Clarified During the August ELCA Meeting The measure will go to a vote in a four-fold test. The first test will ask the church if it accepts same-gender unions. The wording was chosen with great care to avoid asking the question of whether they approve of, or condone same-sex unions, but rather if they believe that they can accept same-gender unions within the church sphere.
If the vote gives a “No” verdict, then all four steps to the measure will be thrown out and the ELCA will go back to the drawing board as to how to integrate the church around the issue of gay clergy without falling susceptible to the degradation suffered by the Anglican church over similar ordinations in England.
If the first vote gives a majority “Yes,” the next step is to ask if the members support allowing those clergy in monogamous same-sex unions to work in churches that allow them to serve. Again, the measure stops short of enforcing that right, and instead allows general discretion of the synod and even the individual church to prevail.
The third area, which has been criticized perhaps most vehemently as undermining the rest of the plan, is an acceptance of the right for churches to refuse gay ordination. Many believe this will lead to the very thing that the ELCA is looking to avoid, that being a schism between factions of the church over the gay clergy issue by giving too much autonomy to individual parishes, as occurred in England and has led some to predict that a break-away from the Church of England is close at hand.
The fourth step builds on the previous three, asking for a formal change in policy within the church to allow homosexual clergy members to serve.
All of these measures are subject to review by bishops and then by church councils before even reaching the official meeting in August. If they are unanimously against it, the proposed policy change will never see the light of day.
Reactions to the ELCA’s Decision on Gay Ordinations Especially vocal in their opposition to the measure were members of the Leaders of Lutheran Core, a group that professes to make every attempt at preserving “the authority of the Bible in the ECLA,” and who vowed to defeat the measure in the coming ECLA Minneapolis summer convention. They believe this is deviating from the law of the Bible and its stance on homosexuality, and as such should not be allowed.
The Lutheran Core have also raised what others have called “valid” concerns of the larger ripple affect that the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s decision to allow LGBT people in civil partnerships might create. There are concerns that it might be seen as legitimizing civil partnerships in a secular context.
In turn, this could give credence to any legal cases against churches on the grounds of discrimination based on sexual orientation, given that the ELCA would be seen as, if not endorsing gay committed relationships, then, at the very least, allowing them to be part of church life.
It has also left some conservative religious groups asking if this is not just one step away from allowing gay marriage, something which the ELCA has been clear to deny.
Others have, however, praised this report, saying that it offers definitions and standards as to what kind of relationship that those looking at gay ordinations will have to measure by, as well as allaying fears that gay ordinations would be forced through liturgical compulsion.
Background to the Gay Ordination Debate 2007 was the stand-out year for gay ordinations making the headlines when Bradley Schmeling, a pastor in Atlanta, was removed from his position as part of the clergy when he revealed that he was involved in a committed relationship with another man.
Debate raged over Schmeling’s removal from the clergy roster, but, in the end, the ELCA meeting of that year urged its bishops not to discipline any clergy found to be in monogamous same-gender relationships. Pressure has been building ever since for a decision either way as to gay clergy, but it seems that, yet again, the ELCA is reluctant to commit to any change without first testing the waters.
The Oscars took place this weekend, and, amongst a year of incredibly strong films, Milk, a film biopic on Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected into office as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, won Best Actor for Sean Penn in the role of Harvey Milk, and Best Screenplay for young writer Dustin Lance Black.
In his acceptance speech Black, an openly gay scriptwriter and activist best known for his work on TV show Big Love, made an emotional and powerful speech where he touched on his upbringing in a strict Mormon household, his mother’s constant devotion and love for him, as well as the life changing power Harvey Milk’s story had during his formative years of the early 1990s.
Black then reached out to the gay and lesbian youth everywhere, encouraging them to have self worth, telling them that they are valued by God and then thanking God for the man that was Harvey Milk, who, in previous interviews, Black has referred to as a “father figure”.
For your reading pleasure, here is Black's speech in full:
Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make and first off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast; my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story.
When I was thirteen years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope to… one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe, even, I could even fall in love and one day get married.
I wanna, I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us thirty years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that, no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you God, for giving us Harvey Milk.
The Harvey Milk biopic seems to have resonated beyond the LGBT community to garner mass appeal as an important chapter in history, and appears particularly important in the wake of Proposition 8, an amendment to the constitution that banned California gay marriage that was also heavily financed by the Mormon Church. In his award acceptance speech, actor Sean Penn also made reference to gay rights, asking for a repeal of Proposition 8.
Dustin Lance Black’s conviction and eloquence, as well as his honest gratitude, were qualities that made this win at the Oscars, at least in this blogger’s humble opinion, a highlight of the 81st Academy Awards and it was a win that excites the possibility of what is yet to come from gay cinema, as it is slowly but surely is accepted into mainstream culture.
In Georgia, a child custody hearing has caused controversy when judges stipulated that a gay dad could only see his children with the condition that he refrain from “exposing his children to his homosexual partners and friends". The father in question, Eric Mongerson, has decided to contest the ruling and has taken his case to the Georgia Supreme Court. Background on Eric Mongerson That Led to the Controversial Terms
In October 2008 a case was brought before County Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards which, on the face of it, seemed like a routine divorce proceeding and custody case. The couple in question were Eric Mongerson and his then wife Sandy Ehlers. The reason for the divorce was Mongerson’s infidelity and apparent homosexuality.
Through the course of the hearing, the court listened to testimony from Eric Mongerson’s eldest daughter that she had found a homoerotic magazine of her father’s which had men “doing things to each other”. His then wife Sandy Ehlers also testified that her husband’s infidelity had meant that she had been forced to seek counseling for the children in order that they might recover from the emotional distress that was caused.
The Judge’s Conclusion on the Eric Mongerson Child Custody Case
Judge Edwards came back with a ruling containing a paramour clause, which said that “overnight company with a member of the opposite sex, or with any person deemed to be a paramour, unrelated by blood or marriage, in the presence of a child" was not to occur. This seems rather standard stuff, but Judge Edwards then chose to throw another mix into the cooking pot when he added:
“Additionally, [the] defendant is prohibited from exposing the children to his homosexual partners and friends.”
This ruling has drawn widespread criticism, with calls from gay rights groups that Judge Edwards has overstepped his bounds.
Reaction to the Eric Mongerson Custody Ruling
Pink News, an online UK based gay news publication, reported that Lambda Legal, a well known gay rights organization, had filed a petition on behalf of Mr. Mongerson, who had, in January, taken his case to the Supreme Court, and in that petition argues that, whilst, admittedly, the eldest child finding a questionable magazine was not an example of excellent parenting, contended that there was no reason to believe that exposure of the children to their father’s gay friends or lifestyle would, in fact, damage them at all, and that this addition to the paramour clause went too far and might even be interpreted as being homophobic.
Furthermore, the document went on to reiterate and expand this point when it said “that restrictions on custody arrangements should not be determined based on sexual orientation and that no evidence exists that contact with gay acquaintances of their father is harmful.”
Beth Litrell, a spokesperson for the southern office of Lambda Legal, said, "Placing a blanket ban on ‘exposure’ to gay people hardly helps a gay dad maintain his relationship with his children." Eric Mongerson has been given one-day-a-week visitation rights.
Litrell then said, “This order hinders Mr Mongerson’s ability to maintain his relationship with his children as he is under a court order to treat other gay people as pariahs based solely on their sexual orientation.”
It should be noted that the paramour clause can be circumvented should the parent and new lover get married. Obviously, this would be more difficult in Mr. Mongerson’s case as Georgia bans gay marriage and civil unions.
Anger has been voiced after a West Virginian group aiming to define marriage as being solely between a man and woman posted a video on their YouTube channel that likens LGBT people to snipers, taking aim at heterosexual families.
The group called The Family Policy Council released the ad last week in order to push for legislation similar to the Californian Proposition 8. The video warns that the homosexual agenda has pushed for same-sex marriage around America and is now closing in on West Virginia, then urges sympathizers to take action by contacting their State officials.
The video runs to a lengthy six minutes and uses phrases like “God’s design” in reference to heterosexual couples, and “unaccountable judges” in reference to the brief period when same-sex marriage was legal in California after a high court ruling and other courts where the possibility of amending the Virginia constitution resides.
The group aims to appeal for a state-wide vote on a marriage bill with the hopes of defining marriage in purely heterosexual terms, in a similar way as those in thirty other states that have moved to &ldquorotect” traditional marriage.
However, there is suspicion amongst both moderate political groups and LGBT organizations as to the true origins of the ad campaign video, with people like Seth DiStefano of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) saying “There are a lot of fingerprints on this campaign that are not from West Virginia.”
Jeremy Dys, the President of The Family Policy Group, has admitted that there were other similarly oriented groups adding to the campaign, including the rather infamous Focus on the Family. According to their website, ACLU were able to trace the campaign further to a group in Georgia called CampaignSecrets.org who’s mission statement is "focused exclusively on electing Republicans to local office."
You may remember that we touched on Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s favorable stance on gay civil rights last week and the heated debate his stance has caused, and now more controversy has surfaced in Utah as a conservative group called America Forever launched an ad campaign at the weekend that likens gays and lesbians to “druggies and hookers”. The America Forever Ad In Detail The ad was taken out in two newspapers, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Desert News. It contains a headline calling for people to “Stand Up and Stop The Homosexual Movement” and then goes on to state that the Governor Hunstman wants to turn gay people into an “untouchable” class with his civil partnership and protections bill, collectively called the Common Ground Initiative, and also accurately pointing out that “homosexuality is not a race” with that caption placed under a picture of a black man and white man kissing. Well, at least they’re getting along.
The ad alleges that under the Common Ground Initiative, LGBT people would have more rights than the rest of Utah’s citizens. Governor Huntsman had already refuted this in a previous statement where he suggested that the bill was about extending protections to LGBT people that were basic civil rights.
The ad also launches an attack at the “homosexual agenda” and how those of the LGBT community have attempted to “silence” those who don’t agree with their lifestyle. It contains claims that America Forever have also found a “Homosexual Declaration of War” which is, as Box Turtle Bulletin points out, a piece of satire written by Jonathon Swift. Somehow, they forgot to include the source of the declaration.
Many have called the advertisement offensive and some gay rights opponents such as Republican Carl Wimmer have even come out against, who, whilst agreeing with America Forever on the subject of maintaining a traditional stance on marriage, says, “Everything they're doing crosses the line… they make those of us who are on the side of traditional marriage -- they make a lot of us -- look bad.”
Why Did The Paper Publish The Ads? Closely linked with the First Amendment rights and religious freedom of speech post earlier this week, the Salt Lake Tribune’s editor Nancy Conway, who didn’t see the ad until it was published, was adamant in drawing a line between the paper’s own opinions and that of the general community who are allowed, under the First Amendment, to put out ads and opinion pieces. She said, “We would be hypocrites, really, if we didn't allow expression.” It is estimated that America Forever may have paid anything up to $15,000 for the two page ad.
The Context of the Ads The Utah Legislature heard three bills this week, HB288, which would have allowed cohabiting couples, including LGBT people, to be able to adopt; HB267, which would have given LGBT Utah citizens protection from being discriminated against at work, as well as HB160 which would allow two cohabiting adults both inheritance rights and rights of attorney by default in situations such as medical decision making.
HB288 and HB267 failed to pass on Tuesday of this week, with Republican Representative Stephen Sandstrom saying of HB288 “Adoption is not a right, it's a privilege. Those who choose alternative lifestyles suffer the consequences because they can't naturally produce between them.”
HB160, who’s fate was decided Wednesday, also failed to pass Legislature, however, Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah, was hopeful that when they return next year with a slightly amended Common Ground Initiative, adding “The majority of Utahns support these basic protections.”
In contrast to this, and following the defeat of the bills, the Utah Senator Chris Buttars called the gay rights cause &ldquorobably the greatest threat to America” when interviewed for a segment of Salt Lake City’s KTVX. He later went on to say that gay people have no morals, and commented on a particular type of homosexual activity that the station didn’t feel it could broadcast due to taste and decency.
The Los Angeles Community College District is being sued by a pupil who claims unfair discrimination and a violation of his right to freedom of expression by a college professor who, after the pupil made a speech in class expressing his religious views against gay marriage, called him a "fascist bastard" and refused to grade him.
The Details of the Freedom of Speech Case The LA Times reports that Jonathon Lopez was heard to quote several biblical passages as well as citing a dictionary definition of marriage being between a man and a woman before then elaborating on his personal views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. He was giving a speech as part of a college class working toward an associate art degree. The professor in charge of the class, John Matteson, interrupted his speech, calling him a “fascist bastard”, and refused to let Lopez continue.
When Lopez asked Matteson for his mark on the speech, the federal suit filed last week goes on to state that Matteson told Lopez to “ask God”. The suit also alleges that Matteson threatened to have Lopez expelled if he reported the incident to senior college staff. Lopez’s case against Los Angeles Community College is being backed by The Alliance Fund, a Christian group that petitioned for the names of those who donated to the Yes On Proposition 8 campaign to have their identities kept secret, a measure that was unsuccessful.
As well as monetary compensation, Lopez and his lawyers are seeking to have a code that allows the College to forbid students from making statements deemed as being “offensive” retired, as, they say, it prevents true freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
Two students also reported the incident as being “deeply offensive”, especially given the timeframe in which the speech was made, being just days after the passing of Proposition 8. One student had even been heard to say Lopez was &ldquoreaching hate”. The Dean of the college, Allison Jones, said that she had taken the report very seriously but had to consider all sides of the argument and so could not comment at the present time but added that Mr. Matteson, Lopez's professor, would be internally disciplined after a review was carried out.
David J Hacker, one of Lopez’s lawyers, refutes that there is an issue of Mr. Lopez having aired his views inappropriately, saying, "Basically, colleges and universities should give Christian students the same rights to free expression as other students".
The Lopez Case and Bigger Issue of Gay Rights Verses Freedom Of Speech Lopez’s exact speech has yet to be released to the public, however, this case raises an old dilemma on the subject of freedom of speech and how far that extends when discussing issues of morality and ethics, especially when considering gay rights and religions that are diametrically opposed to anything other than a heteronormative way of being. So, when does free speech become hate speech?
For that matter, what is classed as hate speech? Webster’s New World LawDictionary defines hate speech as “Speech not protected by the First Amendment, because it is intended to foster hatred against individuals or groups based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference, place of national origin, or other improper classification.” (Webster's New World Law Dictionary; 2009 Your Dictionary; 17 February 2009)
However, this definition does nothing on its own to clear up the conflict between gay rights versus a literal interpretation of the bible offered as an opinion. But, from this definition we can derive that the line between the two, whilst still being subjective, must come down to the context in which the speech is offered and the type of language used in expressing the opinion being made.
An Example of Hate Speech In Action For instance, the way Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay organization you may remember from earlier posts in this blog, who staunchly oppose homosexuality to the point of picketing roadsides, funerals and plays, and using slogans such as “God Hates Fags”, are clearly trying to be incendiary. Their message that homosexuality is wrong, whilst originating from a viewpoint that, under the First Amendment, they have all validity in expressing, is marred by a clear undercurrent of spite and provocation and is demonstrated in a manner clearly designed to promote and provoke volatile action. The label of hate speech is easily applied in this instance.
But taking the case of Jonathon Lopez versus the Los Angeles Community College, there are certain doubts that creep in. Firstly, until the full facts of the case, including Lopez’s actual speech, become public, no judgment can really be passed on the nature of the speech itself. All we can be clear about is that, by Lopez’s admission, the speech expressed an opinion against gay marriage and stated homosexuality was a sin.
We may question Lopez’s motives in making a speech against gay marriage just days after the passing of Proposition 8. We may even say that it was crass and showed a lack of maturity and, indeed, respect for his fellow classmates, some of whom were clearly upset by his remarks, as was the college professor who, it seems, reacted in an overtly emotive and perhaps inappropriate manner about a subject that was clearly important to him.
But does it constitute hate speech when, in affect, you create a public forum that has the purpose of hearing persuasive and compelling arguments on topics that were neither stipulated nor restricted, for someone to then return with a view contrary to your own?
In my opinion, that on its own can not be held up to the light as an example of hate speech. If Lopez drew on negative stereotypes and reinforced his points with clearly skewed statistics, building a case solely on prejudice, then that would have certainly fallen closer to that bracket, but until reports identify the contrary, we must assume that he did not.
I would say that it may have been an inappropriate choice of topic for the time and setting of the discussion, but that is a discretionary matter that the professor in charge could and should have dealt with in a manner appropriate for his title. I would also ask what kind of Christian chooses that point in time to make such an address, given that such an action could hardly be considered loving when, one supposes, he knew that feelings had been deeply hurt by Proposition 8’s passage.
As for the actual nature of Lopez’s remarks, well, that remains to be seen. But, did Lopez have the right to express his view that gay marriage was wrong? Yes, if it was done in the same way, say, that a person might express the opinion that marriage itself is wrong from a scientific standpoint. It is when opinion becomes attack that the cauldron of hate is stirred.
At any length, we can be sure that Lopez versus the Los Angeles Community College will be a decisive case in reinterpreting the First Amendment for our present societal circumstances and what it means, in this day and age, to have freedom of speech in an in tandem with diversity, but it is as a final note that I add, it is imperative that the integrity of the First Amendment be kept alive, not for those of a particular religion, nor just for those seeking gay rights, but for civil rights as a whole.
A crowd gathered outside of New York Mayor Micheal R. Bloomberg's East 79th Street residence on Saturday to draw attention to a worrying trend of prostitution arrests made against gay and bisexual men frequenting Manhattan’s adult Video stores dating back all the way to 2004, arrests that victims like 52-year-old Robert Pinter say are completely unlawful and are evidence that the NYPD are still targeting homosexuals.
What Happened in the Robert Pinter Case? Robert Pinter, a massage therapist and one of many older gay men arrested in similar circumstances, was in an adult video store when he was approached by a younger, handsome Asian man who propositioned him. Pinter accepted the consensual encounter and the two started to make their way outside to have sex in a car when the young man attempted to give money to Pinter.
Understandably, Pinter became uncomfortable and after repeated attempts of the young man to hand over $50, Pinter decided to call off the liaison, only to be thrown against a metal link fence and arrested.
The NYPD’s account of the night puts a different spin on things, denying any rough or wrongful treatment and says that they had been reacting to complaints made by local citizens.
Pinter pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct, paid a small fine and attended classes that were prescribed as part of his penalty. Whilst there, however, he met many other gay mean, all with similar stories to his own and quickly became suspicious.
NYPD Targeting Adult Shops The details of this case should be put into context of city-wide developments. The video store in question, Blue Door Video on First Avenue in the East Village has been under heavy scrutiny for some time, and sits in the firing line with six other stores that have already been sued by the city, subsequently closed and the property then sold.
30 men were arrested in six adult shops during 2008 with 50 arrests since 2004. In contrast, the NYPD point out that only 3 out of the 100 cases investigated for prostitution charges were gay themed video stores.
These statistics seem to point to a problem blown out of proportion, but the Gay City News, a New York LGBT publication, has uncovered other cases of such arrests and during its search found that the amount of older gay men targeted in the operation was disproportionate compared to other areas of the city such as Manhattan South. Profiling the men, the case also throws up irregularities. Some of the men who were arrested were tourists, and all fell outside what would be considered a typical prostitute’s characteristics.
"If the City has some legal basis for closing down these stores if they think they're a blight or a nuisance or there's some illegal activity going on, surely they could find a legal means for pursuing these nuisance abatement suits rather than trampling on the civil rights of gay men in New York City," Pinter remarked.
When asked why he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct, Pinter said that whilst being held in custody, he felt pressured to plead guilty in order to hopefully save his career as a massage therapist from ruin.
Reactions To The Arrests Many gay politicians and gay groups have reacted angrily to the case, with Councilwoman Rosie Mendez calling for a full investigation and many LGBT groups throwing around words like “harassment” and “a return to a pre-Stonewall era”.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, pictured, has yet to formally address the issue, but he has, in the past, been an advocate of LGBT rights and has taken part in past NYC Pride Parades. The Mayor’s statement to the accusations leveled at the NYPD will be heavily scrutinized by LGBT groups as this no-doubt decisive story unfolds.
Lawrence King, a 15-year-old from Oxnard, California, who identified himself as gay and wore feminine clothing to school, was shot by another student and killed a year ago today. His killer was fellow pupil, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, and the reason for the murder was because of Lawrence King’s sexuality and gender expression. But a year on from King’s death, a legal battle is raging over whether Brandon McInerney, now 15, deserves to be tried as an adult for his “execution” of Lawrence King.
Brandon McInerney has been charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime for Lawrence King’s death which occurred at E.O. Green Junior High School, which they both attended.
What Happened In The Lawrence King Case? The Ventura County Star was able to obtain court documents that included descriptions of the murder, a paragraph of which read, "Brandon McInerney sat behind King in a computer lab class … didn’t do anything for 20 minutes, and then without saying a word fired one shot into the back of King’s head [then] as the teen collapsed to the floor, McInerney stood up, looked around at his astonished classmates and delivered a 'second, coup de grâce' shot into King’s head.”
McInerney then walked from the classroom, showing no remorse for his actions, and still, today, in spite of eye witness accounts of 20 classmates who were in the room at the time, maintains that he is not guilty. The document also states that McInerney had been heard threatening to kill Lawrence King on more than one occasion and was a well-known bully with a “racist skinhead philosophy.”
Why Can McInerney be Tried as an Adult? Although being barely 14 at the time of the murder, McInerney can be tried under rare California legislation that requires for minors as young as McInerney to be convicted through an adult court if they committed capital murder or serious sex offences. This legislation, called The Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act was brought into force by ballot vote in 1998. It allowed the District Attorney of this case, Maeve Fox, to conclude that, in a case that “speaks volumes” as she put it, McInerney had to be tried in an adult court. McInerney's Defense Reacts Against the Adult Court Sentence However Scott Whippet, one of the lawyers of the defendant, has launched an appeal of this decision, saying that the District Attorney should have referred the case to a Juvenile Prosecutor to evaluate whether McInerney could be rehabilitated. As it stands, District Attorney Maeve Fox is adamant that the case be tried in an adult court. Scott Whippet also cites that Brandon McInerney’s home life could have played a factor and that he may have suffered abuse as a child.
Deputy Public Defender William Quest, also acting on McInernney’s behalf had previously attempted to have McInerney pardoned on the grounds of being developmentally incapable of standing trial, a measure that would have meant McInerney would have been held in a psychological facility and would not have had to face a trial until he was deemed psychologically capable. Quest attempted to establish that there was scientific basis to suggest reasoning and emotional faculties were not developed until a person was into their 20s, and therefore McInerney would have diminished responsibility, and could not be tried as an adult. This plea was rejected.
It also seemed that Quest had thought of establishing a &ldquoanic defense” famously used in the Matthew Shepard case by the defendants’ lawyers who tried to suggest that their clients had beaten Matthew Shepard and tied him to a fencepost because he had acted provocatively toward them.
In an interview he gave the Ventura Star in April 2008 Quest alluded to the fact that King had teased McInerney and even told him that he “liked” him. “McInerney perceived King's treatment as harassment.” Quest said. He stopped short of labeling this as a cause of the killing, instead grouping it in with one of many factors.
He also raised issue with the schools inaction over King expressing himself by dressing as to the female dress code of the school, saying that such behavior did nothing to stem tensions between the pair that had started after the Winter break of that year, around the time when Lawrence King had first begun to experiment with the way in which he expressed his gender identity.
The Results and Reactions to this Court Ruling If tried as an adult, McInerney could face up to 51 years in prison for the murder and hate crime against Lawrence King.
Perhaps contrary to expectations, LGBT groups have rallied behind an initiative to have Lawrence King’s killer tried as a minor, as do many of his school peers.
Greg King, Lawrence’s father, has said he supports trying McInerney as an adult.
This blogger will offer his opinion, as far as it is worth. The arguments are diverse, and certainly seem to point to a disturbed and angry young man in Brandon McInerney. His killing of Lawrence King can in no way be justified, especially under the supposed defense that Lawrence King provoked McInerney by expressing his “like” for the his peer. But should McInerney be tried as an adult under California Law, a law that has decided that some 14-year-olds are mentally developed enough to face the adult reprocussions of their actions?
Had McInerney have beaten Lawrence King using, not a weapon, but rather his fists and done so in an attack that came suddenly and as though McInerney was acting from uncontrollable anger, and King had subsequently then died form his injuries, there would be no doubt in my mind that Brandon McInerney should be tried as a minor. That would have indicated an emotional instability that flared out of control from an abused minor who was struggling with ideas, concepts and emotions beyond his control.
However, this was not the case. From what we understand, McInerney killed King with calculation, having taken a gun to the school and waited until the class in which he would be in proximity of Lawrence King to kill the young man. McInerney not only shot King once, but twice.
Reviewing the facts, the nature of the shooting and the possible reasons that led to the events of that day, I’m forced to conclude that, yes, McInerney should be tried as an adult. He didn’t kill by accident and he chose to end another person’s life with deadly and exacting force. In my mind, that is one of the most adult things an individual can do. And in trying him as an adult, Brandon McInerney’s life will be considerably shorter when he rejoins society, but he will have a life to return to. Lawrence King, a boy murdered for expressing himself, does not.
Amy Brian, an Iraq war veteran and a woman who has served with the Kansas National Guard for nine years, was discharged after one of her civilian colleagues reported seeing her kissing another woman in a Wal-Mart checkout line.
The complaint was sent via several e-mails to superiors at the Kansas National Guard, whereby an investigation was started last August that ultimately led to Brian’s dismissal on Jan. 13, making her the first person to ever be dismissed from the Kansas National Guard under the Federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DODT) policy.
According to the Associated Press, Brian, who was commended for her service, was “separated” from the Guard which resulted in her losing her job and leaving her unable to finish her master’s degree due to the loss of her education benefits provided by military service.
"Everyone … knew I was gay, and no one had a problem with it, [and] it didn't make a difference when I went to Iraq. It didn't make a difference when I drove that truck. It didn't make a difference in my ability to serve my country,” Amy Brian said following her dismissal due to being a lesbian. She went on to comment of her time in the Kansas National Guard, "I was not separated because of any type of misconduct but plain and simply because someone else had a problem with my sexuality."
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the only law in the United States of America which makes it legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexuality. A part of it that was later clarified and built on the original policy, reads:
"Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender." --quoted in "The Pentagon's New Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military", The New York Times (July 20, 1993), p.A14.
Amy Brian had returned from Iraq in October 2005 and took a job as a member of the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, where she quickly received promotion. Her dismissal follows President Obama’s pledge to “build a case against” the DODT law that was created in 1993 by President Clinton as a compromise that would allow gay people to serve in the military after military officials rejected his out and out repeal of the ban on gay and lesbian individuals in the army, calling gays “incompatible” with troop unity.
President Obama has, in the past, been vocal on repealing the law, but has since slowed down efforts, possibly in order to avoid the mistakes that occurred during the Clinton administration which led to DODT in the first place.
Today, the political landscape concerning DODT, and against gay and lesbian people as a whole, is very different. A somewhat recent CNN poll suggested 79 percent of the US public favor gay people serving openly in the military, with a dramatic shift in Congressional support finding bilateral approval for a repeal, and even from within the military itself with 104 retired admirals signing their names to a call for the retirement of DODT.
This case serves to highlight the pervasiveness of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which leads gay and lesbian service people to not only stay closeted within the military itself, but to also live their civilian lives in fear of being found out, forcing them to either reside miles from their base, or to avoid being seen with their partner at all times, a measure Amy Brian failed to take and the result of which cost the Iraq war veteran and exemplary servicewoman her livelihood, her education and the life she had built for herself in service of her country.
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