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DOMA § 3 and Prop. 8 Are Dead; My 15 Minutes of Internet Fame

June 27, 2013

The Supreme Court has overturned section 3 of DOMA, the “Defense” of Marriage Act! (PDF) And effectively left Prop. 8 overruled! (PDF) It’s been a hugely exciting week for me as a law student and as a gay American. And even more so because I’ve somewhat accidentally gone on a miniature media blitz.

First, Mike and I seem to be the headline feature of the latest video from All Out (just look at their home page). Specifically, we’re the main image for their latest video, “This is what happens when a nation says yes to love,” which has made the rounds on Joe My God and The Huffington Post. (If you see it anywhere else, please leave a link in the comments.)

I also spoke to a reporter with the Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper in the article SCOTUS gay marriage ruling sparks new battles.

I’m immensely proud of the work LGBT rights attorneys and activists have done in these cases, and I look forward to future litigation and other forms of activism that help establish that all of us are entitled to equal rights. We have miles to go, but this nonetheless is an extremely exciting step for the community!

ETA: We’re also up Upworthy.

Why Hate Crimes Matter: On the Recent Spike in Anti-Gay Violence in Manhattan

May 24, 2013
The makeshift memorial to hate crime victim Mark Carson, at 8th Street and 6th Avenue.

The makeshift memorial to hate crime victim Mark Carson, at 8th Street and 6th Avenue.

This is part two of a two-part series on the murder of Mark Carson. Click here for part one.

Mark Carson’s murder hit particularly close to home for me both because of the seriousness of it and because it took place directly on the path of my daily commute, with the alleged shooter running the length of it and then being arrested between NYU Law buildings. A friend of mine witnessed the shooting and identified the alleged shooter, Elliot Morales, for the police, and a number of friends saw some part of the incident, especially the arrest (which took place against the main class building and across the street from a dormitory.)

Original photo: NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/nyregion/killing-in-greenwich-village-looks-like-hate-crime-police-say.html

Original map: New York Times

Serious attacks like the one on Friday are particularly troubling because more minor hate incidents are so frequent (as I have attested to in many posts). While I suppose anyone could always be carrying a gun or prone to extreme violence, that seems much more real when it has happened multiple times in your neighborhood in the past few weeks.

Hate crimes are insidious because they instill fear in an entire community. (Such is the rationale behind contentious hate crimes legislation like the Matthew Shepard Act.) That may sound trite, but it’s true; I now think twice before going out at night, and a number of LGBT people have told me they’re doing likewise. It has long been a fear of mine that me or my partner will fall prey to such attacks — that was part of my motivation for studying martial arts — and that fear, which I had largely conquered, is now more real than ever. As scholars have noted, such as Dr. Ilan Meyer in the Prop. 8 (Perry) trial, events like hate crimes send a very real message that individuals within the target community are not welcome, respected or valued. Recent research indicates that statewide same-sex marriage bans have very real, very negative effects on the mental health of LGBT residents; it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to think a spate of hateful violence must also take its toll on the community.

A minority of writers seem to be opening their eyes to the danger of anti-gay violence for the first time; on Out.com, Sam Lansky describes finding himself fearful of violent homophobia for the first time. His writing is reminiscent of gay people I’ve met, generally white men, who have insisted that we’ve made “enough” progress and that, with New York recognizing same-sex marriage, the battle is over. But it’s important to remember that for the vast majority of Americans, and even New Yorkers, inequality, harassment and physical violence are daily realities. Indeed, the LGBT Center is opening a new location in the Bronx. As a Center official said at the rally, “Hate crimes happen in the Bronx all the time and we don’t get a press conference.”

Mark Carson’s Murder Is Not a Singularity

May 23, 2013

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Update: This is part one in a two-part series. For part 2, click here

It would take most of our collective digits for my partner and me to tick off all of the times a random stranger has accosted us or yelled homophobic slurs at us from a distance. I started this blog because so many friends expressed surprise whenever I would recount such stories; they had all assumed that “things like that don’t happen any more” — at least not in the liberal Northeast.

Yet the recent spate of anti-gay hate crimes in New York City serves as a vivid reminder that for many, LGBT people are still the target of choice for random expressions of anger and hatred. There have now been seven reported anti-gay hate crimes in Manhattan in May alone, a reported 70 percent increase over this time last year. Anti-gay attacks are not as unusual as most straight people think, particularly in other boroughs of the city, but their sudden frequency and resurgence in Manhattan is something new.

By now, the most well-known is the May 17 murder of Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay man fatally shot in the head merely for his sexuality. The alleged shooter, Elliot Morales, reportedly was out looking for trouble with two friends, and accosted Carson and a friend and told Carson he looked like a “gay wrestler.” After Morales berated them a bit more, Carson and his friend walked away, but Morales followed them and reengaged them until he asked Carson, “Do you want to die here?”, shot him in the cheek and fled the scene, according to published reports. (Reports on how to spell those names have been mixed, with some papers calling the victim “Marc” and the shooter “Elliott.”)

I attended (and live-tweeted) the May 20 rally and march in honor of Carson. It felt good to come out of my apartment and see that I wasn’t the only one outraged by his murder, but I also worry that marchers will think they’ve done their duty. As one speaker put it, “Don’t leave here tonight and let this be the last thing that you do.” (Photos of the rally are in the slideshow above; for more, see the New York Times, Village Voice, and Huffington Post.)

To summarize, below is a timeline of the anti-gay attacks that have been reported in Manhattan this May:

  • On May 5, a group of men beat up a gay couple, Nick Porto and Kevin Atkins, who were passing by Madison Square Garden. After yelling homophobic slurs, they knocked Porto and Atkins down, punching and kicking them. No arrests have yet been made.
  • On May 7 (PDF), a man assaulted another man at Union Square while hurling anti-gay slurs. NYPD have a suspect in custody, according to the Anti-Violence Project (AVP).
  • On May 8, men yelled homophobic slurs at a man leaving the gay bar Pieces (which is located just a block from where Mark Carson was shot).
  • On May 10, five men approached two gay men standing outside of a club, yelled homophobic slurs at them and beat them savagely, chasing them several blocks. Port Authority Police at the 33rd Street Path Station arrested two of the alleged attackers, while one victim was hurt to so badly he required eye surgery.
  • On May 17, Mark Carson was murdered.
  • On May 20, three gay men were physically assaulted in two separate incidents.
    • Nightlife promoter Dan Contarino was beaten so badly he required chest surgery. Police have arrested a suspect, Gornell Roman.
    • In a separate incident, two men yelled anti-gay remarks at a gay couple and beat them up, causing another eye injury. Two men have been arrested and charged with assault as a hate crime, AVP reports (PDF): 32-year-old Fabian Ortiz and 23-year-old Pedro Jimenez.
  • AVP has also said it is investigating a possible hate crime in the assault of a transgender woman in Queens.

In response to the attacks, AVP has announced a series of Community Safety Nights this June. Each Friday, volunteers will go into neighborhood affected by the violence to spread awareness, while AVP will also bring community members together to discuss prevention. The training will be Friday, May 24 at 6 p.m. at AVP, 240 West 35th Street, Suite 200; e-mail Tasha Amezcua to register.

Read part two for more on how Carson’s murder has impacted me directly and what it is that makes anti-LGBT hate crimes so insidious.

Marriage Equality at the Ballot Box

November 19, 2012

My first blog post since starting law school is live over at the N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change Blog.

New York City Pride + Marriage Equality = One Huge March

June 26, 2011
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, marches in the 2011 New York Pride March. Photo by Jon Cruz.

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Mike and I ventured into the city today for New York City Pride 2011, which was conveniently less than 48 hours since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the just-passed marriage equality bill into law. We knew it would be a huge event, but I hadn’t quite realized it would draw the hundreds of thousands of people NPR has reported attending.

I generally have mixed feelings about pride events. On the one hand, there’s something very empowering about being among so many LGBTerrific folks and allies, but I also cringe at some of the overtly adult and stereotype-reinforcing behavior at what are often advertised as family friendly events.

One of the march’s grand marshals, activist and sex columnist extraordinaire Dan Savage, has expressed similar sentiments on his blog, so I felt a little less guilty about my presence. (And it was a very festive mood, so it was hard to feel too bad, but don’t let them hear you calling the festivities a parade!) Dan rode with his husband and co-founder of the It Gets Better Project, Terry Miller.

We also saw the likes of marriage equality supporters Gov. Cuomo and openly gay City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Since they were marching, they probably managed to avoid hearing “Born This Way,” which nearly every musical group, band and float was playing.

Our friend Jon Cruz, who took this lovely picture of the aforementioned politicians, wore a get-up that included rainbow-colored wings, and he was quite the attraction for photographers. If you see a man in glasses, a pink cowboy hat and rainbow wings in any photos, leave a comment below!

A video Mike took of the Flaggots, a talented group with a crass-yet-empowering name. Note the music.

Marriage Equality Passes in New York

June 24, 2011

Update: Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law within just hours of its passage in the Senate!

The New York State Senate just voted 33-29 to pass marriage equality. There had been hope we could win by a single vote, so it was amazing to hear moving speeches from former anti-marriage Republican Senators Saland (who represents my old haunt, Poughkeepsie), Grisanti and Kruger.

This vote was by no means a done deal. When the GOP swept the election after a Democrat-controlled Senate defeated marriage two years ago, it was widely thought we had no shot at it this year. Gov. Cuomo did an impressive job of getting equality the attention it deserves, and I thank him personally for giving us equal rights in his state. This vote means even more to the people it affects than I expect the senators realize.

Read more about the bill’s passage from the New York Times, and read what I said in real time on my Twitter feed, @gayinpublic.

Correction: Oh gosh, was it really already two years ago, not just one? Spooky.

Origins of a Blog

May 25, 2011

Two things today told me it was time to update. One was my rediscovery of an old passage I wrote while I was living in France almost exactly five years ago. Back then I was toying with the idea of being a writer and I kept a book of musings, and in retrospect one particular item was the start of this blog.

The other indicator I needed to update was meeting up with my friend K for lunch. She told me I was slacking, or more specifically, “You need to update already!”

And so I present to you, below, the first piece I ever wrote in what would become the tradition of Gay in Public.

7/08/06

It’s so strange to me that it’s almost funny; holding hands in public can be an act of defiance without your even realizing it. While I hold grandiose notions of reestablishing social norms, all I really want to do when I’m walking down the street is to touch the man I love. I understand how public displays of affection might make people uncomfortable, but I honestly and truly do not see what makes ours so threatening or even interesting. Reactions to us fall so neatly into very distinct categories— admirers, detractors, gaze-avoiders, and deer caught in headlights. People are lucky I have a sense of humor and that I’m not one of those people who backs into the guy tailgating him.

I have no great philosophical point to put forward. I just wanted to reflect on how bizarre it is to be thought weird for doing something that feels more natural than I imagined anything ever could. While I’m an expert at finding flaws in myself, I’ve never been one to abuse other people, but it seems to me that some people turn the irrational judgment I use on myself on their peers, even complete strangers. Why is that? I suppose one’s hatred of oneself might drive a need to find something else to hate more. I can’t believe that people could learn hatred from their upbringing and simply never question it, but then, they say that people will always surprise you. I guess that’s what I hate—complacent ignorance, unexamined beliefs.

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