Microsoft last week became the first of 49 LGBT supportive corporations identified by a new LGBT group as collectively contributing millions of dollars through their Political Action Committees to members of Congress with the “worst of the worst” anti-LGBT records, to consider halting those contributions.
The new group, Zero for Zeros, identifies itself as a campaign aimed at persuading the nation’s most prominent and well-known pro-LGBT corporations to stop a seemingly contradictory practice of giving PAC money to the re-election campaigns of members of Congress who oppose and undermine the LGBT supportive policies that corporations like Microsoft say they support.
Microsoft’s action was first disclosed in a July 23 internal memo leaked to outside advocacy groups. The memo was written by Fred Humphries Jr., Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for U.S. Government Affairs.
It announces that the tech giant has temporarily suspended contributions to politicians from its employee Political Action Committee called MSPAC while it conducts a “realigning” of the PACs “giving criteria and how decisions are made in terms of the candidates we support.”
The memo surfaced less than two weeks after Zero for Zeros announced a first-of-its-kind campaign to persuade pro-LGBT U.S. corporations to stop giving money to 19 U.S. senators and 10 U.S. House members who have received a zero rating on LGBT related issues in the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for the past two sessions of Congress.
In an announcement launching its campaign, Zero for Zeros said it would be targeting 49 corporations, including Microsoft, that have received a perfect 100 percent rating in HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which assesses corporations’ internal personnel policies for protecting the rights of LGBT employees and other LGBT-related corporate actions.
“These companies have contributed a total of $5,837,331 from their corporate PACs to the worst of the worst members of Congress,” the campaign said in a recent statement. “Zero for Zeros is asking that these companies’ corporate PACs cease giving to these members of Congress,” the statement says.
Similar to most corporate PACs, the Microsoft PAC is funded mostly by Microsoft employees through a voluntary, opt-in fund contribution from an employee’s salary. Up until now, however, the employees had no control over who the PAC money is given to other than knowing the recipient supported legislation that helped advance the company’s business interests.
Corporations rely on employee contributions for their PACs because federal campaign finance laws prohibit corporations themselves from contributing more than $5,000 to a PAC in an election cycle.
In his internal memo, Humphries didn’t specifically mention the Microsoft PAC’s contributions to anti-LGBT lawmakers. But he said the company was creating new internal advisory councils based on Employee Resource Groups “to increase dialogue and transparency.”
LGBT activist Lane Hudson, who serves as the Zero for Zeros campaign manager, hailed Microsoft’s action as “a vital first step” in reconciling its LGBT supportive corporate policies with the lawmakers to which it gives PAC money.
“Microsoft was the first company that engaged with Zero for Zeros in good faith,” Hudson said in a statement. “We discussed their concerns, they heard ours and their employees weighed in,” he said. “We are thrilled that they have responded to our campaign.”
Hudson added, “Their plan looks strong and may ultimately be a model for how other companies can ensure that politicians that undermine the values of a company and its employees do not receive the support of their corporate PACs.”
In addition to Microsoft, among the other pro-LGBT corporations Zero for Zeros has identified as giving PAC money to anti-LGBT members of Congress are Facebook, AT&T, Amazon, American Airlines, Google, and Intel.
Among the 29 lawmakers Zero for Zero identifies as the “worst of the worst” on LGBT issues and who have received a zero rating from the HRC Congressional Scorecard are Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and U.S. Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), and Steve King (R-Iowa).
A full list of the 49 pro-LGBT corporations and the 19 anti-LGBT members of Congress can be found at zeroforzeros.org.
Another two lawsuits were filed last week in California against the U.S. pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. by several dozen patients who claim the company withheld from the market for more than a decade a drug for treating HIV that it knew was safer and more effective than the drug it promoted during that period.
The two personal injury lawsuits accuse Gilead of intentionally continuing to promote the HIV medication tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which was known to cause serious kidney and bone damage, so it could profit from the drug before its patent on the medication was to expire in 2015.
At the same time, the lawsuits charge, Gilead withheld from the market a far safer version of the drug called tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), which it knew would more effectively treat HIV without causing any of the serious side effects caused by TDF.
The lawsuits charge that many patients taking one of five Gilead HIV drugs for which TDF was a key component needlessly suffered debilitating and sometimes fatal kidney and bone damage as well as damage to their teeth. Also adversely impacted by TDF, the lawsuits claim, were HIV-negative people taking the Gilead drug Truvada, which contained TDF, as part of the HIV prevention regimen known as PrEP.
In response to these and as many as a dozen or more similar lawsuits filed by HIV patients and PrEP users in state and federal courts in California over the past two years, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Monday called on Gilead to create a $10 billion fund “for victims harmed by its TDF-based drugs.”
Michael Weinstein, executive director of AHF, the nation’s largest AIDS advocacy and HIV/AIDS patient care organization, said a large compensation fund would benefit both Gilead and the more than 1,000 patients that are plaintiffs in the multiple lawsuits against Gilead over the TDF issue.
“We had two goals in putting this out,” said Weinstein. “One was to underline the significance of the liability that they are facing based on their conduct,” which could amount to billions of dollars, he said referring to Gilead.
“And second of all is simply to plant the idea in Gilead’s mind that ultimately the best resolution of this is to compensate the people who were harmed,” Weinstein said.
“For years, Gilead represented its TDF-based medications as safe and effective, misleading Plaintiffs, their doctors, and the medical community into believing that no safer alternative design existed that would have saved Plaintiffs from TDF’s dangerous effects,” says one of the two lawsuits filed July 12 in Alameda County, Calif., Superior Court.
“Indeed, it was Gilead that discovered and helped develop the safer design around the same time it developed TDF in the mid to late 1990s,” the lawsuit says. “Gilead, however, shelved TAF, the safer design, in 2004. Gilead marketed and sold only the dangerous and less effective design – TDF and TDF-based combination pills – for approximately 15 years,” the lawsuit continues.
“Then, when its monopoly on those TDF drugs was about to expire, Gilead sought and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell, and market TAF-based drugs, allowing it to extend its exclusivity on tenofovir and keep its HIV drugs branded and priced high to increase its profits,” the lawsuit says.
A spokesperson for Gilead Sciences didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone message from the Blade asking the company to comment on this and other similar lawsuits filed against it during the past two years over the TDF and TAF drug allegations.
Gilead’s attorneys disputed the allegations that the company failed to adequately alert patients and doctors of the adverse side effects of TDF in a July 10 motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in a motion calling for the court to dismiss yet another lawsuit filed against it over the TDF-TAF issue.
That case, Adrian Holley, et al vs. Gilead Sciences, Inc., was filed in March 2018 and is one of several TDF-related cases filed against Gilead in federal court in California.
In its motion to dismiss, Gilead argues that plaintiffs have failed to provide sufficient evidence that “newly acquired information” surfaced to that would have allowed Gilead to “strengthen warnings contained in TDF medication labeling after 2008.”
Gilead has stated in the past it has included warnings about possible harmful side effects of TDF for people who have a history of kidney or bone related ailments. The lawsuits, however, have charged the company with failing to issue an alert that TDF could cause serious kidney and bone damage for people who did not have a history of kidney or bone related problems.
‘Plaintiffs still have not alleged, inter alia, facts supporting when they or their doctors were exposed to any alleged misrepresentations, what misrepresentations they or their doctors were exposed to, or if or how their or their doctors’ conduct changed based on any such misrepresentations, as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures 8(a) and 99(b),” Gilead attorneys state in their motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit.
The motion to dismiss makes no mention of the other key allegation in this and the other lawsuits – that Gilead withheld the release of the safer HIV drug TAF to enable it to reap its profits from TDF until its patent on that drug expired in 2015.
The lawsuit filed on July 12 in Alameda County, entitled Gary Smith, et al vs. Gilead Sciences, Inc. includes 41 plaintiffs who are seeking financial compensation for damages of an as yet undeclared amount on grounds that Gilead violated “Strict Products Liability – Failure to Warn” requirements; engaged in “Negligence and Gross-Negligence—Design Defect and Failure-to-Warn” related to the harmful effects of TDF; Fraud; and “Breach of Express and Implied Warranty.”
The Smith v. Gilead lawsuit was filed five days after a separate lawsuit accusing Gilead of the same allegations of failing to adequately alert patients to the harmful side effects of TDF and withholding the release of the safer drug TAF was filed in San Diego County Superior Court under the case name Timothy Williams, et al vs. Gilead Sciences, Inc., et al.
“This case is a shocking example of corporate greed,” said Elizabeth Graham, one of the lead attorneys with Grant & Eisenhofer, an Oakland, Calif.-based law firm that filed the San Diego case on behalf of the plaintiffs it is representing.
“Gilead owed its consumer patients the safest possible drug, but opted to withhold that drug from the market in the name of profit,” Graham said in a statement.
Liza Brereton, an attorney with HIV Litigation Attorneys, a law firm created to focus on personal injury and class action lawsuits filed against Gilead related to TDF, said judges with the multiple California state courts in which the pending lawsuits against Gilead have been filed have scheduled a hearing in Los Angles for July 30 in which the cases were expected to be consolidated into one large case.
“So it’s taken a while but pretty soon we’ll be all in front of one judge in one court and things will be moving pretty quickly,” Brereton said.
She said the cases in federal courts will continue as separate cases.
The Queer Liberation March, the second of two marches in New York City on Sunday that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, drew more than 45,000 marchers according to one of its lead organizers.
Longtime lesbian activist Ann Northrop, who is among the leaders of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, which organized the Queer Liberation March as an alternative to the official New York City Pride March, said organizers believe the Queer march was highly successful and are considering making it an annual Pride event.
The march followed the same route that the world’s first ever LGBT Pride march took in June 1970. It was organized by activists who were inspired by the now famous Stonewall Riots that erupted in New York’s Greenwich Village in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar on June 28, 1969.
That first march was named the Christopher Street Day Liberation March after the street where the Stonewall Inn is located and where the rioting began and continued for several days and that has been credited with launching the modern LGBT rights movement.
Northrop and others involved with the Reclaim Pride Coalition said they wanted the Queer Liberation March to retrace the route of the 1970 march, which travelled from the site of the Stonewall Inn to Central Park, where a rally was held, and using 6th Avenue to reach the park.
Organizers of Sunday’s Queer Liberation March and its own rally held in Central Park noted they chose not to allow floats, including the large corporate sponsored floats that participated in the official New York City Pride March, saying such displays were not in keeping with the atmosphere of protest and rebellion associated with Stonewall.
“This exceeds our wildest expectations,” Northrop told the Blade at the rally. “This was spectacular, and we’re thrilled that everybody took the leap of faith with us to come out, because this was a whole new thing,” she said.
“And we just organized it from the ground up. And we had no idea how many would put themselves on the line and show up. And they did,” Northrop said. “They did with full hearts and they did with total creativity.”
Among the speakers at the rally held in Central Park’s Great Lawn was Larry Kramer, the playwright and nationally recognized gay and AIDS activist who co-founded the AIDS protest group ACT UP.
Kramer, who appeared on a stage set up at the rally site in a wheelchair, gave a pessimistic view of the state of the nation’s fight against AIDS and anti-LGBT oppression and bias close to 40 years after he began that fight in the early 1980s.
“There is no cure for this plague,” Kramer told the rally. “Too many among us still get infected. We have become too complacent with PrEP,” he said, referring to the HIV prevention drug. “We search for a cure and we’re still in the Stone Age. The treatments we have are woefully expensive and come with troublesome side effects. And their manufacturers are holding us up to ransom,” he said.
“I almost died three times,” said Kramer. “I started a couple of organizations to fight against the plague. In the end, we failed. I certainly feel that I failed.”
That comment drew shouts from people in the audience saying, “No you haven’t” and “We love you.”
Kramer responded calling on the LGBT community to “fight back” against what he called a current dangerous political climate.
“If you love being gay as much as I do, fight back,” he said. “Our world needs every bit of help it can get, because I do not see enough of us fighting this fight and performing our duty,” said Kramer, adding: “Please all of you do your duty of opposition in these dark and dangerous days.”
Kramer was joined on stage by more than a dozen activists, with some displaying ACT UP signs and who chanted the slogan that Kramer and his 1980s era activists coined at numerous protests: “Act Up! Fight back! Fight AIDS!”
Transgender activists Sasha Alexander and Olympia Sudan were among more than a dozen other speakers at the rally who reminded the gathering of the violence and threats faced by transgender people, especially transgender women of color.
The two joined other speakers, both trans and cisgender, in calling on the LGBT community and the public at large to remember and give credit to the late Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women of color who played an important role in the Stonewall riots and subsequent organizing for LGBT rights.
Several speakers called for he decriminalization of sex work, saying the current criminalization of prostitution adversely impacts trans women of color who are forced into sex work as a means of economic survival due to job discrimination.
The lesbian singing group Betty was among the singers and other artists performing at the rally.
Northrop said the city’s parks department required that the rally take place in the Great Lawn, which is located one mile from where the march entered Central Park at 6th Avenue, making the total length of the march four miles. She said organizers will consider shortening the march if organizers decide to hold the Queer Liberation March again next year and in subsequent years.
“Everyone’s talking about it,” she said in discussing whether another Queer march should take place. “Now that we’ve seen this become a reality and people can believe it’s possible I hope then we would just grow bigger and bigger every year and that the corporate takeover of Pride would gradually phase out.”
The D.C.-based National LGBTQ Task Force was part of a coalition of more than 15 national civil rights and progressive advocacy groups that launched a campaign last week to encourage members of marginalized communities to make sure they are counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.
In a development that LGBT activists view as a positive change, the 2020 U.S. Census questionnaire will explicitly ask couples living together to define their relationship to their partners in a new way – as “same-sex” or “opposite-sex” partners.
Although the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census counted same-sex couples through questions about gender and relationships, the newly worded questionnaire in 2020 is expected to provide a more accurate count of the number of same-sex couples in the United States.
However, to the disappointment of LGBT advocacy organizations, Census officials declined to include in the 2020 questionnaire questions asking about a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity so that non-coupled LGBT people could be counted.
Nevertheless, the National LGBTQ Task Force has said it’s important for all LGBT people to take part in the 2020 census.
“Over-counts of privileged people and undercounts of marginalized people reinforce systems of power and oppression in this country,” the Task Force said in a statement. “That’s why the Task Force is working with our colleagues in the LGBTQ and social justice movements to ensure that all of us, and especially people from marginalized communities, are counted in the 2020 Census,” the statement says.
“Although the Census doesn’t explicitly ask about our sexual orientation and gender identity, it is still critical for us to be counted on the 2020 Census,” the Task Force statement says, adding, “We need to be counted so our communities can: Get access to federal funds for programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and public housing; have representation in our state, local, and federal government; and enforce our civil rights.”
The Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank affiliated with the UCLA Law School, has used data on same-sex couples obtained from the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census to extrapolate an estimated count of all LGBT people in the U.S. But former Williams Institute official Gary Gates has said it would have been far better if the Census counted LGBT people directly.
National LGBTQ Task Force spokesperson JR Russ said the group has created a “Queer the Census 2020” page on its website that will be updated each month to inform LGBT people on how the Census will impact them and how they can best participate in the Census. The page can be accessed via the taskforce.org.
The number of anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in D.C. in 2018 nearly doubled from the number of reported cases in 2016, according to recently released data by D.C. police.
The data show there were a total of 97 reported hate crimes in the nation’s capital in 2018 based on the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, representing an increase from 59 such cases in 2016 and 69 anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in 2017.
The number of anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in D.C. in 2018 also amounted to nearly half the total number of all hate crimes reported in the city that year, which came to 209. The anti-LGBT figures were significantly higher than other categories of hate crimes such as those based on a victim’s, ethnicity (49), race (39), or religion (12).
The police data show that most of the cases for each of the past three years in D.C. involved hate crimes based on the victim’s sexual orientation, although hate crimes targeting transgender people also rose sharply but made up fewer cases.
The reported cases based on sexual orientation in the District included 61 in 2018, 56 in 2017, and 20 in 2016. The number of gender identity and expression cases where transgender people were targeted included 36 in 2018, 13 in 2017, and 19 in 2016.
A recent report released by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism shows that hate crimes have increased in many cities across the country over the past two years. The report says anti-LGBT hate crimes similar to D.C. are most prevalent in many other cities.
Both activists and city officials in D.C., including Mayor Muriel Bowser, have cited what they call a hostile political environment from the Trump administration as a potential cause for the uptick in hate crimes.
“I do think that the president of the United States has been very actively tearing down protections for the LGBTQ community, whether it’s in the military or whether it’s in employment,” said Monica Palacio, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
“I personally, in my work, I know that over the last 25 years when you have a national role model spewing homophobia a lot is going to happen in the way people treat one another,” Palacio told the Washington Blade. “And it’s going to tear down that kind of common decency and sense of respect for people’s life choices,” she said.
D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, said he believes at least some of the increased numbers of reported hate crimes in D.C. are due to a policy put in place two years ago by D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham to educate the public about hate crimes and to encourage citizens to report such crimes.
“Our outreach and our relationship with members of the community continue to get stronger and stronger,” Parson said. “And that’s probably the reason why you’re seeing more people report their victimization,” he said. “And then you have to admit also that there are probably more bias-related crimes occurring.”
Data released by D.C. police through a large spreadsheet show that the anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in 2018 took place in all parts of the city, with many appearing to occur in neighborhoods not known to have gay bars or a visible LGBT presence such as Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan.
D.C. police point out that a hate crime is not considered an actual crime in and of itself but rather a “designation” linked to a crime such as assault, robbery, destruction of property or threats of violence. A statement on the police website notes that “most speech is not a hate crime, regardless of how offensive it may be.”
Under D.C.’s hate crimes law a person found guilty of a “bias related” or hate crime may be fined up to one and a half times the maximum fine and imprisoned for up to one and a half times the maximum prison term for the underlying crime such as assault, murder or other crimes with a hate crime attachment.
‘No one wins when we don’t dig in, grow, and demonstrate a desire to honor everyone’s humanity,’ said NBJC Executive Director David Johns. (Photo courtesy NBJC)
The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based civil rights organization that advocates for black LGBT people, issued a statement last week calling for “courageous and life-saving conversations during the holiday season” to help curtail bias and stigma faced by LGBT people of color.
In its Dec. 12 statement NBJC pointed to two recent developments that highlight what it called the stigma and bigotry LGBT people, especially black LGBT people, continue to face that sometimes surface in the popular media.
“This past weekend, Twitter and traditional media blew up after comedian D.L. Hughley called Trans actress Indya Moore a ‘pussy’ and Kevin Hart resigned from hosting the Oscars after refusing to apologize for extremely homophobic language,” NBJC said in its statement.
Hart, an actor-comedian, later issued an apology to the LGBT community for what he called “insensitive words from my past” that surfaced recently from his past postings on Twitter.
Hughley declined to apologize and said he didn’t believe Hart should have withdrawn from serving as host of the Oscars scheduled to take place in Hollywood in February.
NBJC noted in its statements that the anti-LGBT remarks attributed to Hughley and Hart were followed by an incident in New York City in which a 20-year-old woman suffered a fractured spine in an attack in the subway by a man who shouted an anti-gay slur.
“As we move into the holiday season, a time for family, sharing love, and good cheer, it is important to remember the many ways that Black LGBTQ and same gender loving people as well as individuals thriving with HIV face stress, ridicule, and the risk of rejection simply as a result of who they are and how they show up in the world,” the statement says.
The group said its call for “courageous and life-saving conversations during the holiday season” is part of its recently launched “Words Matter Campaign” and a recently released “Digital HIV Toolkit,” which outlines actions people can take to educate and persuade their loved ones and others to end bias and stigma against LGBT people and people with HIV.
“Words Matter is based largely on NBJC’s commitment to creating spaces where all Black people feel comfortable showing up in all of their identities and empowering individuals to have stigma free, asset based conversations with their parents, family, and friends,” the statement says.
NBJC has also released on its website a link to an online pledge it is urging supportive people to take to show they oppose anti-LGBT and HIV bigotry, especially toward black LGBT people.
“No one wins when we don’t dig in, grow, and demonstrate a desire to honor everyone’s humanity,” said NBJC Executive Director David Johns.
“We cannot hide stigma and bigotry behind jokes,” he said. “There’s power in precision and words matter,” Johns said.
Information about NBJC’s Words Matter Campaign and its Pledge against anti-LGBT and HIV bias can be accessed at nbjc.org.
A West Virginia judge who twice won election to the bench in a section of the state near the Maryland border has discontinued performing all marriages rather than face possible disciplinary action for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.
Fairness West Virginia, a statewide LGBT rights group, said it filed a complaint against Judge Lynn A. Nelson of the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit covering Grant, Mineral, and Tucker Counties after one of the judge’s clerks told the group he performed marriages for opposite-sex couples but not for same-sex couples.
In a Dec. 10 statement, Fairness West Virginia said it filed the complaint with the state Judicial Investigations Commission, which it said issued a warning to Nelson on Oct. 25 and then “dismissed the matter.” The group said it filed the complaint after first contacting the judge’s office for an explanation and received no response.
“Last week, Fairness contacted Nelson’s office again and learned from a clerk that he has stopped performing marriages altogether,” the group said in its statement.
“It is unfortunate, because it appears that the judge is willing to deny this service to everyone so as to avoid providing equal treatment to gay and lesbian couples,” said Andrew Schneider, the group’s executive director.
“Private citizens like clergy are free to choose who they marry or refuse to marry, but public officials must treat everyone the same, by law,” Schneider said. He called on Nelson to provide marriage services to everyone, even though his decision to stop performing all marriages means he’s technically treating all couples equally.
“Loving same-sex couples only want what their opposite-sex counterparts have, the ability to be married and live their lives together,” Schneider said.
The West Virginia judiciary website says Nelson served in the elected position of Mineral County prosecutor from 1989 to 2008. He won election to the bench in the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit in 2008 and was re-elected to a second eight-year term in 2016.
Fairness West Virginia said it learned of Nelson’s refusal to perform same-sex marriages through a telephone survey it conducted of all of the state’s Circuit Court and Family Court judges to determine which ones performed marriage ceremonies. It said Nelson’s was the only office that stated the judge did not perform same-sex marriages.
The group says its survey found that about half of all judges said they don’t perform marriages at all and that in four counties in the state – Ritchie, Wood, Wayne, and Gilmer – no public officials perform marriages.
As a means of assisting gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage related services Fairness West Virginia says it has compiled a statewide LGBTQ+ Wedding Resource Guide that “lists more than 70 ordained individuals who are willing to officiate ceremonies, regardless of the gender of those being married.”
‘Gun violence is a major public concern, and violence against LGBT people is all too common,’ said Adam Romeroof the Williams Institute.
An estimated 18.8 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States say they have guns in their home compared to 35.1 percent of heterosexuals, according to a recently released study by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank associated with the UCLA School of Law.
Among other things, the study found that LGB adults are more likely than their heterosexual peers to support gun control laws or regulations such as background checks. It also found that among both LGB and heterosexual adults, non-Hispanic whites were more likely to have a gun in their home than people of other races and nationalities.
And, in what may be viewed as an interesting gender role variation, among LGB respondents, 17.3 percent of males and 19.9 percent of females — a statistically insignificant difference — reported having guns in their home.
By contrast, 42.2 percent of heterosexual males reported having guns in their home compared to 30.8 percent of heterosexual females, a finding, according to the study, that shows an approximate 10 percent gender gap in guns in the home between straight men and women.
“Gun violence is a major public concern, and violence against LGBT people is all too common,” said the study’s co-author Adam P. Romero, director of Legal Scholarship and Federal Policy at the Williams Institute.
“But we know little from a research perspective about how guns are used against and by LGBT people,” Romero said in a statement. “Given high rates of suicide attempts among LGBT people, comparable rates of intimate partner violence, and elevated risk of other interpersonal violence, it is critical to gather more data about the extent to which guns are present at these moments.”
The Williams Institute says its study is based on an analysis of two U.S. national surveys of gun ownership and attitudes toward gun control policies conducted by two other organizations that asked respondents to identify their sexual orientation but not their gender identity.
“Data about gun ownership and attitudes toward gun control among transgender adults have not yet, to our knowledge, been collected,” the study says.
One of the two surveys from which it based its findings is an annual nationally representative survey of adults known as the General Social Survey (GSS), which monitors social characteristics and attitudes of Americans. The Williams Institute says its study used data collected by the relatively small GSS survey sample each year from 2008 to 2016 to obtain a statistically significant sample of LGB respondents.
The Williams Institute says the other source of data for its study is the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, an online attitudinal survey of U.S. adults weighted to reflect the larger U.S. adult population. That survey included results from a total of 55,121 respondents, 50,942 of whom self-identified as heterosexual and 4,179 self-identified as LGB.
The Williams Institute study’s findings are outlined and analyzed with multiple tables of data in a 21-page reported entitled, “Gun Violence and LGBT Adults: Findings from the General Social Survey and the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey.”
Although the findings focus solely on LGB people, the study provides an overview of current research on gun violence that impacts the entire LGBT community, including the transgender community, which is why the study’s title includes the “T,” according to Williams Institute spokesperson Rachel Dowd.
A summary released by the Williams Institute includes what it considers some of the study’s key findings:
• Controlling for age, race and regional distribution, heterosexual men were more likely to have guns in the home than gay and bisexual men.
• Among LGB adults, women and men had comparable rates of guns in the home (19.9% and 17.3% respectively).
• Among both LGB and heterosexual adults, non-Hispanic whites were more likely to have a gun in their home than other races/ethnicities.
• LGB adults were somewhat more likely to favor laws that would require people to obtain a police permit before they could buy a gun compared to heterosexuals (81.4 % and 73.9 percent respectively).
• Among LGB adults, there is strong support for background checks (93.3%) and opposition to making it easier to obtain concealed weapon permits (73.3%).
• In a “conclusion and recommendations” section the study says federal and state crime data reporting, which mostly does not include sexual orientation and gender identity data, should be changed to include such data.
“SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] measures are not included on death certificates; nor are they included in the administrative systems that track injury, or on the core demographic sections of the Uniform Crime Reports, or all relevant population based surveys,” the report says.
“The report finds that LGB people have fewer guns in the home; and from a harm reduction standpoint, when there is less access to guns, the risk of death by suicide and homicide decrease,” said Brian Malte, executive director of the Hope and Heal Fund, which funded the study.
“Yet, there is a dearth of information on how gun violence affects LGBT people,” Malte said in a statement. “We are excited to learn more about how to fill these gaps in knowledge through this important project.”
A professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health who is credited with bringing millions of dollars in federal research funds to the university for projects he initiated has accused university officials of removing him as a department chair because of his status as a non-binary male who identifies as transgender.
In a nine-page statement provided to the Washington Blade, Richard A. Crosby, an endowed professor with a doctorate degree in health behavior, accuses university officials of “fabricating” a series of charges against him as an excuse to oust him as chair of the Department of Health Behavior.
In its decision in July 2015 to remove him as department chair while allowing him to retain his position as a tenured professor, the university cited complaints by colleagues that he exhibited “volatile and explosive behavior” and that junior faculty members working under him were “terrified of his behavior.”
University officials also said Crosby “demeaned a female colleague’s promotion claiming it was not based on her merit but instead because ‘she is a woman, genitalia.’”
Crosby vehemently disputes those allegations, saying they were “all lies” attributed to people that the university has refused to identify.
His allegations of anti-transgender discrimination follow a two-and-a-half-year legal battle he waged against the university in a lawsuit alleging a denial of his constitutional due process rights in his dismissal as department chair. But the lawsuit made no mention of allegations of transgender related discrimination.
Crosby’s decision to contact the Washington Blade last month about the transgender allegations surprised university officials, who strongly deny his dismissal as chair was based on discrimination. In court filings in response to Crosby’s lawsuit university officials said the dismissal of him as department chair was based solely on his alleged improper behavior toward colleagues.
In several court briefs, the university’s attorney asserted that under a longstanding policy all department chairs serve “at will” and can be removed for any reason as part of an administrative action that’s not protected by the normal due process procedures that come into play for firing someone from the position of a tenured professor.
“Dr. Crosby’s tenure was not in question nor was it impacted,” said University of Kentucky spokesperson Jonathan Blanton. “This was solely about – and has always been solely about – his position as department chair,” Blanton said.
Blanton points to the university’s strongly worded nondiscrimination policy that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Blanton also points out that the university in recent years opened an Office of LGBTQ Resources with a full-time director.
Crosby acknowledges the university has adopted LGBT supportive policies but says those policies mostly were put in place after he filed his lawsuit.
“This is one university professor’s account of how a large Southern university (the University of Kentucky) clandestinely removed me as department chair, and simultaneously initiated extreme fabrications designed to remove tenure from me as an endowed full professor,” Crosby says in his statement to the Blade.
“To be clear, it is now evident that two reasons for this were operating: 1) my research agenda is highly focused on HIV prevention for black gay males…and 2) I am a non-binary white male, which greatly threatens the cisgender white male culture of privilege at this very conservative university,” Crosby says in his statement.
“This hatred of my research and gender expression prompted actions to remove me despite being a strong ‘breadwinner’ for the university,” he said, pointing to many federal research grants he obtained on behalf of the university for his research on black gay men and AIDS prevention efforts.
Crosby said some of his more recent research has focused on transgender women of color “in the context of condom use for any sex to avert HIV infections.”
Although he identifies as non-binary and transgender Crosby told the Blade that he prefers to be addressed by the pronouns “he” and “him.”
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Hood of the Eastern District of Kentucky dismissed Crosby’s lawsuit on Sept. 30, 2016, just over one year after court records show Crosby first filed the lawsuit on Sept. 16, 2015.
In a 22-page opinion Hood ruled that the university’s policy of treating department chairs as “at will” administrative positions was not in violation of constitutional protections as argued by Crosby. Hood held that the university and its top officials had full legal authority to dismiss Crosby as department chair without offering a hearing for him to contest the dismissal as long as the university did not attempt to remove him as a tenured professor.
Richard Crosby, Ph.D., accuses the University of Kentucky of anti-trans discrimination. (Photo courtesy UK College of Public Health)
Crosby appealed the dismissal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s ruling in a 2-1 decision in July 2017. He appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in turn declined to hear the case and by so doing upheld the appeals court ruling against Crosby.
Crosby told the Blade that although he always believed the underlying motive to remove him as department chair was a bias against his gender identity he chose not to make those allegations in his lawsuit at the advice of his attorney.
He also points out that while the lawsuit makes no mention of gender identity discrimination it points out that up until the time university officials first accused him of improper behavior toward colleagues at the department in June 2015, no complaint against him had ever been lodged since he was first hired as a professor at the University of Kentucky in March 2004 and promoted to the position of chair of the Department of Health Behavior in 2006.
The lawsuit also notes that up until the time of the June 2015 accusations against him, he had received the highest possible performance ratings during every rating period from the time he was first hired as a professor in 2004.
According to Crosby and two former colleagues at the university who are supportive of him, the accusations against him by unnamed colleagues in June of 2015 took place about six months after he began to transition into what he now says is his identity as a non-binary male and transgender person.
Among other things, his appearance took on characteristics of a female in dress and hairstyle, Crosby said. It’s for that reason, he now says, that he believes the motive behind the accusations was a bias against his gender identity.
“Senior university administrators were unaware of any change in Professor Crosby’s dress. Period,” said university spokesperson Blanton in a written statement. “Our board and President have repeatedly made it clear that the university does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity. Period,” he said.
Richard Clayton, Emeritus Professor at the University of Kentucky who’s now retired, told the Blade that he hired Crosby as a professor and later named him chair of the Department of Health Behavior. He said the entire time he has known Crosby and observed his work as professor and department chair up until the time Clayton retired in 2013 he had never observed Crosby exhibit the type of inappropriate behavior he was accused of engaging in.
Tom Collins, an adjunct professor at the Department of Health Behavior who serves a coordinator of Crosby’s research project, said he, too, has never observed alleged improper behavior university officials claim Crosby engaged in during the many years that Collins says he has worked for Crosby.
“None of the things he is accused of doing are characteristic of what I observed of him,” Collins told the Blade.
However, both Collins and Clayton said they also never observed others who had dealings with Crosby appear to treat him in a negative or disparaging way based on Crosby’s gender identity. The two said they were aware that some of Crosby’s colleagues asked question about his change in appearance when he began transitioning his gender identity in 2014.
“But I don’t feel those questions were asked out of malice,” said Collins.
Although they say they don’t have definitive proof, Collins and Clayton said they believe at least one motive for the accusations made against Crosby related to his alleged improper behavior that led to his dismissal as department chair was resentment and fear of the high work related standards Crosby put in place when he became department chair.
“I hired him because he was an outstanding researcher and he won numerous teaching awards,” Clayton said. “I think part of the problem that these junior faculty members may have had – he expected them to perform and to meet the criteria for promotion, which includes getting grants and publishing articles in peer reviewed literature and being good teachers,” said Clayton.
“He had high expectations and those expectations were spelled out,” Clayton said. “And if you are not performing well on those expectations you should not expect to get a good evaluation.”
Thus Clayton and Collins speculated that disgruntled faculty members working under Crosby at the department might have concocted a plan to exaggerate their grievances against him as a means of having him ousted as department chair.
Crosby, meanwhile, says he remains convinced that the motive behind his ouster as department chair was bias against him for his gender identity and bias against his research projects that focused on gay sex and HIV prevention and trans women of color.
“Although the ‘safe road’ would be to remain silent, I have an obligation to any professional colleagues through the U.S. to break this silence in service of protecting the ‘rights and privileges of the academy and upholding LGBT rights for professors,” he said in his statement to the Blade.
University spokesperson Blanton says the university remains firm in its assertion that its action against Crosby had nothing to do with his gender identity.
“Dr. Crosby was removed as chair by his Dean for his behavior following a number of complaints from his colleagues that resulted in an extensive investigation by our Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity – nothing more; nothing less,” he told the Blade in a statement.
“Dr. Crosby brought a legal challenge to the University’s decision to remove him,” Blanton said “At no time in his legal challenge did he reference, suggest or make any argument about his gender identity,” he said. “It is unfortunate that in the face of multiple courts rejecting his specious claims that he now seeks to use important identity categories – like gender identity and expression – in this way.”
The ashes of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in one of the nation’s most infamous anti-gay hate crimes in 1998, will be interred at the Washington National Cathedral on Oct. 26, according to an announcement on Thursday by his parents.
The announcement came one day before the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s death on Oct. 12, 1998. Authorities said Shepard, 21, was tied to a fence just outside of Laramie, Wyo., on Oct. 6, 1998, by two young men he met in a Laramie bar and who lured him into getting into their vehicle.
Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Shepard’s murder, later admitted they drove Shepard to an isolated field outside of Laramie with the initial intent to rob him.
The two later admitted that McKinney repeatedly struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a .357 Magnum pistol while he was tied to the fence, crushing his skull in several places. At his trial, McKinney invoked the “gay panic” defense, arguing he flew into an uncontrollable rage when Shepard allegedly groped him inside the vehicle.
Prosecutors strongly contested that defense, and the jury found McKinney guilty on multiple counts of murder. Henderson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and avoided a trial.
A bicyclist found Shepard unconscious and still tied to the fence on the day following the attack and beating. He died five days later at a hospital in Colorado which specialized in treating brain injuries but was unable to save his life due to the severity of his injuries, authorities said at the time.
“We’ve given much thought to Matt’s final resting place, and we found the Washington National Cathedral is an ideal choice, as Matt loved the Episcopal Church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming,” said Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, in a statement.
“For the past 20 years, we have shared Matt’s story with the world,” Judy Shepard said. “It’s reassuring to know he now will rest in a sacred spot where folks can come to reflect on creating a safer, kinder world.”
Judy Shepard and her husband, Dennis Shepard, founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation a short time after Matthew’s death and have used it as a platform to become outspoken advocates for LGBT rights and laws aimed at curtailing hate crimes.
The announcement released by the Shepard family on Thursday says a private interment of Matthew’s ashes in the Washington National Cathedral’s crypt on Oct. 26 will be preceded by a 10 a.m. “thanksgiving and remembrance” service open to the public.
The service, which will celebrate Matthew’s life, will be presided over by the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington; and the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church, the announcement says.
“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral.
“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said in a statement.
The statement says Shepard will be one of approximately 200 people who have been interred in the cathedral over the past century.
“Others interred at the Cathedral include President Woodrow Wilson; Bishop Thomas Claggett, the first Episcopal Bishop ordained on American soil; Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan; and U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey,” the statement says.
Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, told the Casper, Wyo., Star Tribune that Matthew’s parents have kept his cremated remains in an urn until they decided upon a final resting place.
Marsden told the newspaper that the family also was concerned that a Shepard resting place in Casper, the family’s hometown, might become a target for vandalism from anti-gay intruders. At the time of Shepard’s funeral service in Casper in 1998 members of the anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas traveled to Casper denounced Shepard as a sinner at the site of the service.
“It’s a great promise to make sure his grave site is safe and respected, but also that if people want to pay their respects, it’s really a nice thing to give people that opportunity as well,” the Star Tribune quoted Marsden as saying about the interment at the National Cathedral.