The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
Shaken by a year-long spike in LGBT-bashing crimes in their predominantly gay neighborhood, community leaders from Seattle’s Capitol Hill area organized a public forum this week that drew several hundred participants, as well as the city’s mayor.
Ranging from an attempt to kill hundreds of people packed into a bar on New Year’s Eve to a steady stream of assaults and robberies motivated by anti-LGBT animus, the spike in hate crimes on Capitol Hill appears to be a violent backlash against recent gains in LGBT rights in Washington state, including the approval given to same-sex marriage by the state’s voters in 2012.
“I used to live on Capitol Hill, but I don’t anymore,” said Debbie Carlsen of LGBTQ Allyship, a local rights organization, to the crowd on Tuesday, echoing a number of other speakers. “And when I go to the Hill, I don’t feel culturally safe. It’s not a place that I feel safe anymore.”
A number of residents described to the crowd the kinds of assaults that they have endured in the past year, including verbal harassment escalating to physical assaults as they walked through the neighborhood, as well as one alleged assault by a police officer. One man stood up and removed his hat, revealing a large healing wound on his forehead, saying he had been attacked only a week before and had been unable to identify his assailants, “but they were all calling me names.”
Most of those who testified agreed that the worst, most violent attacks seemed to be directed at transsexual people of color.
The meeting, organized by Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, featured a number of speakers offering a range of solutions. Some proposed more citizen patrols, while others opposed that step as potentially dangerous. Some argued for greater police involvement, while others blamed the police as part of the problem. Sawant spoke at length about how economic disparities often fuel the conditions that make the crimes possible.
Seattle’s openly gay Mayor Ed Murray, who attended the gathering with his husband, said he will help take the lead on this issue. “I think if people don’t feel safe, if they perceive they’re not safe, then we have a problem,” he said. “And we as a city and we as a community have to respond.”
Murray told KING 5 News that he believes the problem is real and substantial. “I think there is an increase,” he said. “I mean, we’ve been here before, we’ve seen this right on this very street before, back in the late ’80s and early ‘90s, when I was a young person. And we’re seeing it again.”
Shaun Knittel, the founder of Social Outreach Seattle, and one of the people who helped douse the attempted arson at Neighbours Bar on New Year’s Eve 2014, an act that eventually brought a heavy 10-year sentence for the perpetrator, told the crowd that it needed to resolve some of its internal differences if the community is going to form an effective response to the challenge.
“We have a perfect storm here on the Hill,” said Knittel, noting the split between people who support the police and those who blame the police. “What kind of message does that send to people who want to do harm to us?”
“We also have a nightlife culture here where everyone that’s opening a business here seems to think they need to be either a bar or a nightclub. How many do you need in one neighborhood?”
Knittel urged victims of bias crimes to resist the temptation to not report the matter to police at all, noting that doing so just encourages repeat offenses and escalation.
“We need to understand better about reporting, and we need to talk about what that looks like,” he said. “If you fear going to the police to report, we understand that. But please, reach out and find and advocate and let people help you report what’s happened. Because I can guarantee you that you’re not their first victim.”
Most of all, he noted, the community needs to make it clear that “bashing queers” is not a free sport for haters anymore.
“We need to lean into this notion that you can come up here and mess with us and we won’t do anything back,” he said. “Those days are over.”
Sanctity of Marriage-Alabama held another rally against marriage equality this past Saturday on the steps of the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery. The rally featured several speakers who not only decried the January federal court ruling that struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, but also homosexuality in general. This is the second rally the group has held this month (the first was Feb. 7) and the second time that theocrat John Eidsmoe was a speaker. He was the keynote at the first.
Eidsmoe is listed as “senior counsel and resident scholar” at the Foundation for Moral Law (FML) a Montgomery-based organization founded in 2002. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was president of the FML until he stepped down in 2013 to run for the position he now holds. His wife, Kayla Moore, is currently the president.
Eidsmoe also has notable ties. In 2005, he addressed the national conference of the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens. He is a favorite of the neo-Confederate League of the South, which calls for a society run by an “Anglo-Celtic” (white) elite that would establish a Christian theocratic state and politically dominate African Americans and other minorities.
Moore, who received myriad accolades at the second rally as well as the first, is at the center of a controversy that erupted after U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional in January. Moore has stated publicly that Alabama judges need not honor the ruling and warned of a “confrontation” with the federal courts. The Southern Poverty Law Center has since filed an ethics complaint against Moore, arguing that he has committed ethical violations and encouraged lawlessness by attempting to assemble state officials and judges to oppose the federal judiciary.
In keeping with Moore’s theme, Eidsmoe claimed that state courts “are not bound by federal district and circuit court opinions.” But he also read, aloud, the beginning of the 1987 biting satirical essay “The Homosexual Manifesto,” which is used by anti-LGBT groups to “prove” the existence of a “gay agenda” and to link gay men to pedophilia. The manifesto was written under the name “Michael Swift,” possibly a pen name and an homage to Jonathan Swift, who also wrote satire. The first line, which anti-LGBT groups ignore, is, “This essay is an outré, madness, a tragic, cruel fantasy, an eruption of inner rage, on how the oppressed desperately dream of being the oppressor.”
After reading the short passage, Eidsmoe exhorted the crowd to Google the essay to read it for themselves.
Other speakers included Alabama Republican state representative Will Ainsworth, who linked same-sex marriage to polygamy when he said, “Allowing the whims of our pop culture to redefine marriage is a slippery slope that could lead to polygamy. Where does the definition stop? Think about that.” He then quoted Isaiah 5:20, which states, in part, “woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.”
Pastor Aaron Motley of Montgomery’s Miracle Deliverance Temple of Christ had stronger words, linking homosexuality to perversion when he claimed that it’s an “insult” to compare LGBT rights to the civil rights movement because “one seeks to protect our rights as human beings under the U.S. Constitution and moral laws and the other seeks the acceptance of a perverted lifestyle.” He further claimed that the “gay agenda is designed to undermine all that the civil rights movement set out to do.”
The crowd, which appeared to be around 200 people (some estimates are higher), included members or supporters of the League of the South, some of whom carried flags that featured a red cross with white stars on a blue background, which looks a lot like the 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry Regiment flag, used also as a battle flag for Confederate general John Breckinridge’s division, though the cross also carries religious symbolism.
This isn’t the first time the League has expanded its traditional, secessionist mission to protest same-sex marriage. Last year, members gathered outside the SPLC offices and also in Richmond, Virginia.
Scott Lively, the longtime anti-LGBT activist currently being sued for human rights violations because of his involvement in Uganda’s so-called “kill the gays” bill, has announced that he is considering a run for Congress.
With an eye on the seat occupied by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.,), Lively switched his political affiliation from Independent to Republican the day after the November 2014 election, Lively said in a post on the anti-LGBT site barbwire.com. But this isn’t the first time he’s thrown his hand into the political ring.
Last year, Lively ran for governor in Massachusetts and garnered less then 1% of the vote, an outcome he was quick to label a victory. His argument for why he might be a good candidate this time around is to correct the record on Russia, where he has been tirelessly working to lobby for a laws that are punitive to the gay and lesbian community.
American and Russian conservatives, Lively says, could be cooperating together to “roll back liberalism around the world.” But instead, the “cultural Marxists of both major US political parties are trying to drive a wedge between us with the absurd lie that Russia is trying to revive the Soviet Union.”
After all, Lively continues, Russia is standing up against the “homosexual agenda.”
Based in Springfield, Mass., where he runs the anti-LGBT hate group Abiding Truth Ministries, the project Redemption Gate Mission Society and the Holy Grounds Coffee House, Lively has traveled extensively for years in Africa and Europe in support of criminalizing homosexuality, often linking it to pedophilia and in one instance, even the Rwandan genocide.
In an interview with NBC news in 2013, he claimed that gay people are “dangerous predators, even killers” (The NBC interview is no longer available online, but quoted here). He is also the author The Pink Swastika, in which he posits that gay men in the Nazi Party were architects of the Holocaust. The book has been roundly debunked by historians.
None of that has stopped his influence abroad, however. With Lively’s self-proclaimed influence, Russia has passed a number of draconian laws since 2012, including adoption bans of Russian orphans by same-sex couples in other countries; the banning of foreign non-governmental organizations that support civil rights and the criminalization of free speech with a ban of so-called “homosexual propaganda.”
In May 2014, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed another law into effect, this one banning profanity in films, television broadcasts, theaters, and the media. In the wake of the passage of that law, violence against LGBT people in Russia increased dramatically and more LGBT Russians have been seeking asylum abroad. Lively has proudly claimed responsibility for the anti-propaganda law in Russia.
Lively may have a difficult time persuading fellow conservatives to work with Russia, however. The U.S. leveled sanctions against specific Russian individuals and entities for violating Ukrainian sovereignty in the wake of Russia’s actions toward Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Russia’s actions prompted the conservative Concerned Women for America to pull out of the massive gathering of the anti-LGBT hate group World Congress of Families 2014. Penny Nance, president of CWA, said that she didn’t want to appear to be “giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin.”
WCF later announced that it had suspended its conference in the wake of Russia’s actions, but members in September showed up in Moscow anyway for a conference that seemed remarkably similar to the original gathering.
In spite of all this, Lively is still giving a run for Congress. And he’s already fundraising through his old “Lively for Governor” site until he can “raise funds” to create a new site.
The Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT hate group, has entered the already intense debate over same-sex marriages in Alabama by saying it will represent probate judges who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The news, which came late last week, is only the latest development in a series of tense events regarding same-sex marriage in the state that began on Jan. 23, when U.S. District Judge Callie Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to extend the stay, and same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses today.
“At this time, no Alabama probate judge is bound by Judge Granade’s order. This sole federal judge does not have jurisdiction to order all state probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” the Liberty Counsel wrote in a news release on Feb. 6.
Granade’s ruling has cleared the way for all judges who issue marriage licenses to start performing same-sex marriages, and because they are agents of the state, they have been ordered to comply with the Constitution, according to Harvard law professor Noah Feldman in a piece he wrote for Bloomberg News.
“They’re state functionaries,” Feldman wrote on the role of probate judges. “Refusal to comply with the federal court judgment would be illegitimate resistance — akin to the resistance of governor Orval Faubus in Little Rock,” who famously refused to comply with school desegregation.
Founded in 1989 and based in Orlando, Fla., the Liberty Counsel is well known for its strident anti-LGBT rhetoric. Mat Staver, the group’s president, co-founder and former dean at the Liberty University School of Law, has claimed that with full marriage equality, everyone will decide to be gay and society will “cease to exist.” (He also has linked homosexuality to rampant increases in disease, falsely linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claimed that homosexuality is the result of childhood sexual abuse.)
Such claims, naturally, have made him a darling of the anti-LGBT movement, which sides with Staver.
Matt Barber, the editor of the virulently anti-LGBT Barbwire.com, is a frequent host of the Liberty Counsel’s Faith and Freedom Radio. Barber has Tweeted that “Fake ‘gay marriage’ is fake ‘consummated’ through squalid and feculent abuse of the reproductive and digestive systems.” He has called same-sex parenting a form of child abuse, and aid that HIV is a punishment from God for homosexuality, stating that “it is never good, healthy, normal or natural.” He also expressed support for Russia’s draconian anti-LGBT laws, saying that he would like to see laws that “stop homosexual activist propaganda from corrupting children in our nation and we need to see that right here in the United States.”
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, meanwhile, is in the middle of the fray. He sent out a letter last Wednesday to Alabama governor Robert Bentley, demanding that state probate judges refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore has falsely claimed that state law trumps federal law, a belief he has held for years and that has gotten him in trouble in the past. He was removed from the bench by Alabama’s judicial ethics panel in 2003 for defying a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he’d erected in the state court building. On Sunday, Moore ordered probate judges to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
A day earlier, though, a group calling itself Sanctity of Marriage Alabama rallied on the capitol steps in Montgomery. Among the featured speakers were theocrat John Eidsmoe, a former law school professor and chief counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law, an Alabama group founded by Roy Moore and currently run by his wife, Kayla Moore. Eidsmoe addressed a conference of the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens meeting in 2005, where he referred to Lester Maddox, the arch-segregationist former governor of Georgia as “Patriot of the Century.”
Already, Liberty Counsel is representing several probate judges, including Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams, who has released a “declaration in support of marriage.”
In his declaration, Williams said he would “only issue marriage licenses and solemnize ceremonies consistent with Alabama law and the U.S. Constitution; namely, between one man and one woman only, so help me God.”
Editors’ Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the rally was organized by a new group calling itself “Sanctity of Marriage Alabama.” John Eidsmoe of the Foundation for Moral Law was the rally’s featured speaker.
On the eve of Alabama courts recognizing same-sex marriage, supporters of a constitutional amendment restricting marriage gathered on the steps of the Capitol to rally support in a brewing legal battle reaching into the upper levels of the state’s legal institutions.
They prayed and sang hymns, and waved signs declaring marriage as an institution between one a man and a woman or, as many others read, “81%”—a reference to the percentage of voters who approved an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that defined marriage as a “sacred covenant” between a man and a woman.
“Someone asked me if this is a political rally or a Christian rally. Well, it’s a Christian rally. There are no political aspirations here. No one is running for office. No one trying to make money. Just Christian people gathering together, because our hearts are torn and broken,” said Tom Ford, a Montgomery chiropractor and father of eight.
But the rally was much more than that.
Just hours after the release of a surveillance photo, two men were arrested for the hate-crime assault of a transgender woman who, with the help of dozens of supporters, took her case this week to the Spokane City Council.
Adam R. Flippen, 45, faces charges of second-degree assault and malicious harassment. Marc A. Fessler, 42, is charge with one count of malicious harassment, a felony hate crime charge in Washington State. The suspects, arrested at their defense attorney’s office, were released by a judge on Wednesday after spending a night in jail. Prosecutors say formal charges are forthcoming.
The victim, Jacina Scamahorn, who is homeless, told investigators she was on a public sidewalk outside Boots Bakery & Lounge and the Zola bar on Friday evening when two men began making negative, unsolicited comments about her gender identity.
The victim said the comments upset her and she spit in the face of one of the men before they followed her inside the bakery, screaming obscenities, as the assault took place before witnesses. Scamahorn said she was punched in the face and kicked, causing a blackened eye and broken facial bones.
One witness who attempted to intervene on the victim’s behalf said he, too, was threatened, but wasn’t assaulted by the two men.
As Scamahorn lay on the floor in her own blood and vomit after the attack, police wouldn’t let a bartender provide her aid and repeatedly referred to her as a man, the victim told media outlets.
A responding police officer said in a report that he thought Scamahorn appeared intoxicated because he was unable to get a statement from the victim. Scamahorn said she had not been drinking and witnesses told police she wasn’t intoxicated.
“I wasn’t able to talk,” Scamahorn said, because “fluid was at the back of my throat. I couldn’t breathe.”
The suspects made voluntary statements to detectives at the office of their attorney where they went shortly after surveillance photos were released by police on Tuesday. The suspects denied calling the victim “derogatory names” and accused her of “causing a scene,” The Spokesman-Review reported.
Flippen admitted punching the victim once, but both denied kicking her, according to court documents. “Flippen and Fessler both said they assumed Scamahorn was a poorly dressed man even though she was wearing a skirt,” the newspaper reported, citing court documents.
Police in Spokane have released a surveillance photo of two men wanted for questioning about an assault of a transgender woman following widespread calls from the LGBT community for police action.
Sporting a black eye, Jacina Carla Scamahorn described her attack Monday at a public meeting of the Spokane City Council before a near-capacity crowd of 150 supporters.
The attack has ignited fury and calls for prosecution across the LGBT community, with at least one witness telling a Spokane television station that the victim, who is homeless, “was targeted because she is a transgender woman,” KREM-TV in Spokane reported.
The Republican National Committee is heading to the Holy Land, compliments of a hate group that has denigrated Muslims, African Americans, the LGBT community and even Jews.
But the RNC isn’t answering any questions about its American Family Association-funded trip, scheduled to begin tomorrow. Email and telephone messages left Friday with Kirsten Kukowski, the RNC’s national press secretary, were not returned. Presumably the trip is still on despite a week of bad press for the AFA.
Last week, the SPLC wrote to all 168 members of the RNC urging them not to accompany the AFA on the trip because of the group’s long track record of bigotry and hate. The SPLC has named the AFA as a hate group due to its history of making false, demonizing statements about the LGBT community.
Longtime AFA Bryan Fischer, for example, has claimed that “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler … the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” He has also characterized African Americans as “people who rut like rabbits.”
The AFA responded by seeking to distance itself from Fischer and redefine its character by removing him from his duties as its chief spokesman and director of issues analysis. Fischer, however, will remain as a talk show host on the AFA’s radio network – a bullpen of bigoted pundits known for incendiary statements.
In a letter this week to the Southern Poverty Law Center, AFA general counsel Patrick J. Vaughn wrote, “AFA has concluded that it must renounce some statements made by American Family Radio talk-show host Bryan Fischer. In its 37-year history, AFA has never held these views and wishes to clarify that it still rejects such sentiments.”
SPLC President Richard Cohen responded in a letter, “[T]he AFA’s 11th-hour disavowal of Mr. Fischer appears to serve only one purpose: to give the AFA a degree of plausible deniability while it continues to spew hateful rhetoric. It’s a shell game and a transparent one at that.”
While the AFA has taken a job title away from Fischer, he isn’t the only mouthpiece spewing hate on its network. AFA officials, including its president, Tim Wildmon, and founder, Don Wildmon, also have made similarly bigoted statements. “Hollywood and the theater world is heavily influenced by Jewish people,” Don Wildmon once said.
The RNC has predictably chosen to remain nearly silent on these developments, and at least presumably, some of its members are still planning to make the trip to Israel. Kukowski told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that they were “glad AFA has severed ties with him.”
But just like the AFA trying to weather the storm by “rejecting” Fischer’s statements while keeping him on the payroll, the RNC not talking about the trip won’t make the questions about its relationship with a known hate group go away.
Texas-based white supremacist and activist Preston Wiginton, best known for bringing racists to college campuses, is at it again, this time sponsoring anti-LGBT pastor James Manning to speak at Texas A&M University next month.
The topic of Manning’s speech will be “The True State of Black America”—an interesting title considering Manning is African American speaking at the invitation of a man who once claimed, “beating down a mud [person of color] when they try to poisen [sic] one of our own or when they try to seduce one of our [white] girls may not be God inspired, but rather a righteous act of collective preservation.”
Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) faxed and sent letters to every member of the Republican National Committee (RNC) regarding an upcoming trip to Jerusalem being organized by RNC Chair Reince Priebus.
The letters expressed concern about the organization paying for the trip, the American Family Association (AFA), which the SPLC has listed as an anti-LGBT hate group since 2010.
In particular, the letters asked RNC members not to lend their good offices to an organization with a long track record of making anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim and other hateful statements. An email to Priebus’ director of communications about this matter was not responded to.
As a follow up to our letters, SPLC staff also called all of the RNC state offices for comment about the trip. In particular, we wanted to ask if members were aware of AFA’s extremism. Here are some notable examples:
- An AFA leader has said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”
- The same staffer said African Americans “rut like rabbits” and women have no place in politics or the military.
- Another has argued that Hispanics are “socialists by nature” and come to the United States to “plunder” our country.
- And the group has repeatedly made the point that non-Christians are second-class citizens—“we are a Christian nation, and not a Jewish or Muslim one.” (Find a comprehensive look at AFA’s extremist statements and positions here).
In early December, Time reported that 60 members, or about a third, of the RNC had decided to travel to Israel. But you wouldn’t know that from the calls we made. We left dozens of voicemails and sent many, many emails, none of which were replied to.
In Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee, communications directors were unaware of the trip and promised to speak with RNC members and get back to us. They did not. Other state communications directors, like those in Maryland and Louisiana, said they knew nothing of the trip and could not answer questions. In Idaho, a communications staffer told us she had no idea what we were talking about, but that she would have known about a trip if there was one.
The communications director in New Mexico had not heard of the trip, but was shocked at AFA’s views. And the communications director in Utah was quite surprised about AFA’s views, but knew nothing about the trip. A communications staffer in Mississippi verified that none of his members would be traveling with AFA. No one from Massachusetts will be attending, nor will the chair of the Connecticut RNC.
The bulk of the states simply ignored our requests for comment, but in some cases, our calls were met with hostility. That happened in Wyoming, where a woman who answered the office phone refused twice to identify herself. She did say that no one from Wyoming was going on the trip and that she had “no idea who that group [AFA] is,” nor did she seem to care. Then she said “your argument [about AFA’s extremism] is kind of moot since no one is going” and hung up on me.
Meanwhile, AFA staffers continue to put out a stream of extremist propaganda. Just in the last few weeks, AFA’s Director of Issues Analysis for Government and Public Policy Bryan Fischer has said you can’t support gay rights and call yourself a Christian, railed about a Muslim congressman being appointed to the House Intelligence Committee and claimed that Duke University is “inviting the Demons of the Abyss” onto its campus by planning a Muslim prayer rally. And those comments are only from the second half of January. Imagine what is to come in the rest of 2015.