The story of the life and love shared by Thomas Lee Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone resonates with me to this day. I learned of their life together and the tragedy that befell them in viewing It could happen to you, the YouTube video produced by Shane Bitney Crone in memory of Thomas Lee Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accident on May 7, 2011. Though I do not know either of these men, I was so moved in a way that I normally am not upon hearing of a personal tragedy that strikes people who are strangers to me. Watching It could happen to you had a profound effect on me; I felt grief and outrage well up inside me upon learning of the injustice and iniquity that was heaped on Shane Bitney Crone following the death of his partner, Thomas Lee Bridegroom. As same sex couples could not marry in California at the time of Tom’s death, Shane had no legal standing as Tom’s partner and could do nothing as the Bridegroom family claimed Tom’s body, his assets and barred Shane from attending his funeral. This is so wrong and it happens to other couples. From the grief and outrage I experienced I was inspired to join in the effort to advocate for full civil rights for gay people, marriage rights in particular. Continue reading
In a previously published essay I discussed the life and career of Barry Goldwater, the Republican Senator from Arizona and his support of gays serving in the US military. Beyond this, he was in support for gay rights in all of US society. This support was based on his conviction that there be a strict separation between religion and state. Goldwater’s position on gay rights and the separation of of religion and state put him at odds with many conservatives, particularly the religious constituency known as the Christian right that supports the GOP and various socially conservative causes in the United States. The Christian right is composed primarily of the Moral Majority, renamed Moral Majority Coalition in 2004, the Christian Coalition of America, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. The most prominent figures in the Christian Right are Jerry Falwell (deceased), Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tony Perkins. Continue reading
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down rulings this week concerning marriage equality in law for same sex couples at the federal and state levels. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was declared unconstitutional and the court refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure that changed the California Constitution to add a new section 7.5 to Article I, which reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Proposition 8 was declared unconstitutional by a lower court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012 and the government of California chose not to defend the law on its appeal to SCOTUS. Consequently, a majority of the Justices refused to hear the appeal on the grounds the appellants did not have the constitutional authority, or legal standing, to defend the law in higher courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial. These rulings are the latest in an interesting history of legal battles over the definition of marriage in the United States.
Is gay bashing a hate crime? Does it merit prosecution and punishment as a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, in 1998 ignited the debate over these questions when it was alleged his assailants Aaron McKinney, and Russell Henderson targeted him because he was gay. In the course of the court proceedings against Aaron McKinney in November 1999, Prosecutor Calvin Rerucha stated:
The two had led Shepard to believe they were gay. Matthew, believing they wanted to discuss the politics and struggle of the gay movement, followed McKinney and Henderson into their truck. After getting in the truck, Henderson said “McKinney pulled out a gun and told Matthew Shepard to give him his wallet.” McKinney said “Guess what. We’re not gay. And you’re gonna get jacked.” When Matthew refused, McKinney hit him with the gun. With Henderson behind the wheel, they drove more than a mile outside Laramie, as Matthew begged for his life, McKinney struck him while Henderson laughed. “He (McKinney) told me to get a rope out of the truck,” Henderson said. According to Henderson, McKinney allegedly tied Shepard’s beaten body to a wooden split-rail post fence, robbed him of his wallet and patent leather shoes, continued to beat him and then left him to die for over 18 hours bleed profusely in near freezing temperatures “with only the constant Wyoming wind as his companion.” (as cited in Matthew Shepard)
His assailants pistol-whipped him so severely he had suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He experienced severe brainstem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face, and neck. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. He never regained consciousness, succumbing to his injuries at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Continue reading