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This Way Out Episode 1854: Revisiting “The Book of Matthew”

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard, we rebroadcast our coverage of the 1998 hate crime that sparked an international outcry. The report features University of Wyoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association President Jim Osborne, Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer and state Representative Michael Massey, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center Executive Director Lorri Jean, Human Rights Campaign legal counselor Tony Varona, gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, Shepard’s friend Walter Bouden and parents Dennis and Judy Shepard, plus music by Melissa Etheridge and Blackberri.

And in NewsWrap: a Mauritian activist wins his Supreme Court challenge to the colonial-era law against sex between men, the organization Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities says the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade still refuses to grant it legal recognition, fanatical Christian bikers try to blockade a peaceful pro-LGBTQ march in Beirut, 14 supposedly queer-positive U.S. schools receive bomb threats within a week of being targeted by the far-right Libs of TikTok account, Tennessee gets its first out transgender elected official as Olivia Hill is sworn in as a member of the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County, black lesbian Laphonza Butler takes the seat of the late California Senator Diane Feinstein, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Ava Davis and David Hunt (produced by Brian DeShazor).

Complete Program Summary
for the week of October 9, 2023

Revisiting "The Book of Matthew"

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): The Mauritius Supreme Court decriminalizes gay sex … Eswatini’s government defies its Supreme Court order to legally register a queer advocacy group … Lebanese Christian fanatics assault and injure at least three peaceful participants at a Beirut march for LGBTQ equality … more than a dozen supposedly queer-positive U.S. schools, from elementary to college, get bomb threats after being “exposed” by online “groomer” conspiracy peddler Libs of TikTok, which has some 2.5 million followers … Olivia Hill is sworn in as a Nashville lawmaker, making her the first transgender candidate elected to public office in Tennessee … while Vice President Kamala Harris swears in Laphonza Butler to fill the rest of the late Californian Dianne Feinstein’s term, becoming the first Black out lesbian to serve in the U.S. Senate [with sound of the ceremony] (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by AVA DAVIS and DAVID HUNT, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR)

Feature: Twenty-five years ago this week, a young gay man’s murder moved hearts around the world. This Way Out called his story “The Book of Matthew”: It was not the first time a gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person had fallen victim to brutally-fatal homophobia, and it certainly was not the last. But when Matthew Shepard died on October 12, 1998, his murder became an international emblem of senseless homophobic hatred. As the world observes the 25th anniversary of the tragedy and its aftermath, we re-open our extended report from October 19, 1998, when This Way Out collected the immediate sounds of outrage and response that followed the tragedy. At dozens of marches, memorial services and candlelight vigils, gays and lesbians across the U.S. have been responding to the brutal gay-bashing death of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard with shock, grief and anger. VERNA AVERY BROWN [Pacifica Network News] details the crime and explores some of the issues it raises with Jim Osborne, President of the University of Wyoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association -- who disputes claims by one of the suspect's father that his son's actions were provoked by Shepard's coming on to him; Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer and state legislator Michael Massey discuss the merits of legislation to enhance the penalties for hate crime convictions; Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center Executive Director Lorri Jean charges right-wing Christian groups behind the recent spate of "change" ads with fomenting violence, and laments the reluctance of public officials to support anti-bias education in the high schools, while Tony Varona, legal counsel for the queer advocacy group Human Rights Campaign describes the pervasiveness and impact of anti-queer violence; openly-gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, trailblazing comedian Ellen DeGeneres and Shepard`s best friend Walter Bouden are among the speakers at a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. October 14th; participants at an October 12th vigil in West Hollywood, California describe anti-gay actions they've experienced, how the threat of violence has affected their public conduct, and blame homophobia-spouting lawmakers for indirectly endorsing anti-gay violence; JOHN QUINLAN reports from an October 13th march, rally and candlelight vigil in rainy Madison, Wisconsin, where the importance of community and visibility are reaffirmed in speech and song; religious extremists travel from Kansas and Texas on October 16th to Matthew`s hometown of Casper, Wyoming to damn him as a sodomite in a placard-waving demonstration across the street from his funeral as onlookers condemn them, and Matthew's father Dennis Shepard expresses the family's appreciation for the overwhelming support they've received from around the world; one of Matthew's cousins bids him a poignantly poetic farewell during the funeral; and we conclude with some thoughts — given the continued prevalence of anti-queer violence these days, with transgender women of color being the biggest targets — about the sudden mainstream media attention in 198 to this one albeit especially horrifying example (with music by MELISSA ETHERIDGE and BLACKBERRI) – and a brief tease and promo for next week’s Judy Shepard interview by Out In The Bay’s Eric Jansen.


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending October 7th, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Ava Davis and David Hunt,
and produced by Brian DeShazor

Activist Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek proclaimed, “From today, as a citizen and a human being, I am now free to love whoever I want to without fear. Above all, it also means that the next generations can fully and freely embrace their sexuality without fear of being arrested.” He was talking about the Mauritius Supreme Court’s October 4th decision to overturn Section 250 (1) of Criminal Code 1838. Yes, 1838 was the year British colonizers criminalized anal sex between men and made it punishable with up to five years in prison.

The high court’s ruling questioned why the state had any interest in what gay men do. They concluded, “Accordingly, there must exist particularly serious reasons for the State to justifiably interfere with the manner in which homosexual men choose to have consensual sexual intercourse in private.”

Plaintiff Ah Seek challenged the statute in 2019 with the support of the London-based Human Dignity Trust. For him, the ruling came as an “enormous relief.”

Just 22 of 54 countries on the African continent have decriminalized private consensual same-gender sex, according to a tally by Pink News. Virtually all of those laws are colonial leftovers.

That’s why Human Dignity Trust chief executive Téa Braun sees the victory in East African Mauritius a “landmark” decision. In her words, it “finally topples 185 years of state-sanctioned stigma against LGBT people in Mauritius and sends yet another important message to the remaining criminalizing countries in Africa and beyond: these laws must go.”

Elsewhere on the continent, the organization Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities says that the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade still refuses to grant it legal recognition -- this despite a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in June that failure to register ESGM is unconstitutional. According to ESGM’s tweet, the Ministry claimed, "The principles and rules of the Roman Dutch Law are still enforceable."

That could be considered quite a stretch. Roman Dutch Law is a hybrid of classical Roman civil code and early Germanic-Dutch legal humanism. It held sway in the Netherlands from the 15th to the 18th Centuries, and left its mark on the Dutch colonies.

ESGM is not giving up its campaign to be recognized.

A peaceful pro-LGBTQ march in central Beirut was attacked by Christian fanatics calling themselves Soldiers of God. The biker club wing of the protesters attempted to blockade the September 30th procession. Others took their unsuccessful demand to cancel the queer event to Lebanon’s Ministry of Interior.

The Soldiers of God denounced the marchers with offensively anti-queer slogans, demonizing what they called “any kind and form of homosexuality in the streets of Beirut.” At least three marchers were injured. One social media post shows a young man with a bloodied head as his companions try to fight off their attackers.

Organizers said in a statement that the extremists forced the march to become a sit-in. They demanded the enforcement of constitutional guarantees, and condemned “methods of repression and attacks on public and private freedoms.”

The environment for LGBTQ people has become increasingly hostile in Lebanon. The same group of Christian extremists recently stormed a queer-friendly nightspot hosting a drag queen show. There were several injuries during that melee.

The Christian extremists are not alone. Shiite Muslim Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah helped encourage the increase in anti-LGBTQ violence by calling for those engaging in same-gender sex to be “killed.”

At least 14 schools in the United States have received bomb threats within a week of being targeted for their supposedly queer-positive activities by the far-right Libs of TikTok account. The educational institutions range from individual elementary schools to school districts to colleges. Former real estate huckster Chaya Raichik has some two-and-a-half-million social media followers to whom she pushes absurd conspiracy theories, including the belief that LGBTQ people want to “groom” children into their “lifestyle.”

Three bomb threats over the course of four days were reported at an elementary school in Chicago after Libs of TikTok showed an LGBTQ Pride flag in a classroom. After a Raichik “expose” denouncing a California State University, Fresno professor’s pronouns policy, a bomb threat forced the evacuation of the entire campus. A school district in North Kansas City, Missouri was targeted when a transgender high school senior was crowned Homecoming Queen.

Raichik "would not say if she felt any responsibility for the threats, and instead insinuated the threats had nothing to do with her or her followers,” when she was contacted by the online news outlet VICE.

Transgender Harvard Law instructor Alejandra Caraballo

condemned the mushrooming threats. She wrote in a social media post, “Not content with inciting bomb threats at several schools, Libs of TikTok has recently started to name individual school staff to send her digital lynch mob after for the crime of having a pride flag pin. This is terrorism, full stop.”

Media Matters LGBTQ+ program director Ari Drennen told USA Today, “It’s just truly a dangerous new era. We can’t really afford to pretend that there’s no separation between what goes on social media and what happens in the real world.”

Tennessee has its first out transgender elected official. Olivia Hill was sworn in on October 2nd as a member of the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County. She represents the entire city of Nashville following her election on September 14th as an “At Large” member of the first women-majority Council.

Hill said during the ceremony, “Representation is everything. … I’ve been approached by so many moms and dads and teachers and leaders that have thanked me for running because now a lot of the trans community has someone to see.”

She’s a Nashville native and served in combat in the U.S. Navy during Operation Desert Storm. Hill also received multiple honors from Vanderbilt University despite her contentious relationship with the institution.

Hill’s legislative focus on the Council will include infrastructure improvement and expanding the city’s public transportation system. She told The Tennessean, “The fact that I’m trans is just a part of who I am. I’m here to help fix the broken parts of Nashville.” Being realistic she admits, “I know there’s going to be people watching me, waiting on me to fail.”

Finally …

[SOUND: Oath of Office]

Harris: Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which you are about to enter, so help you God?

Butler: I will.

Harris: Congratulations … congratulations … congratulations.


U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris swore in Laphonza Butler this week -- the first Black lesbian to serve in the United States Senate. Butler was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the seat of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who passed away on September 29th at the age of 90. Her term expires in 2024.

The 44-year-old mother of one does not plan to run for Feinstein’s seat -- three more-than-qualified Democrats are campaigning for the Party’s nomination.

Butler is a former labor leader who was the first woman of color to head Emily’s List, the largest organization in the U.S. that focuses on electing pro-choice women. She has also served as a campaign advisor to Vice President Harris. Her appointment was not without controversy. There was pressure on Newsom to select Black Congresswoman Barbara Lee, but she is vying for the seat already. Butler has also been living in Maryland since taking the job with Emily’s List, although she maintains a California residence.

Following her swearing-in, Butler said in a press statement, “No one will ever measure up to the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein, but I will do my best to honor her legacy and leadership by committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California.”

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