In the aftermath of her son Matthew’s infamous murder in 1998, Judy Shepard and her surviving family take on the campaign to pass hate crimes legislation, and establish a foundation to support queer youth (interviewed by Eric Jansen of “Out in the Bay Radio”).
And in NewsWrap: Bulgaria’s Supreme Court clears punk music star Milena Slavova of discrimination charges for her viral homophobic social media post, failed anti-queer French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour is fined for denigrating lesbian mothers, Spokane, Washington’s Odyssey Youth Movement is vandalized four times in less than a month, the Public Library in Madison, Alabama pulls a picture book from its children’s section because the author’s last name is Gay, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court’s block of Florida’s unconstitutional ban on family-friendly drag shows, the Parliament of the Australian state of New South Wales hosts its own Drag Storytime, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Tanya Kane-Parry (produced by Brian DeShazor).
Complete Program Summary
for the week of October 16, 2023
AfterMatt: An Interview with Judy Shepard
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Bulgaria’s Supreme Court sides with a punk rock singer who called LGBTQ people “perverts” in a social media post … a failed rabidly anti-queer Frenchpresidential candidate who obnoxiously attacked lesbian couples seeking IVF is found guilty of hate speech and fined thousands of euros … Spokane, Washington’s Odyssey Youth Movement, an organization serving the area’s queer young people, is vandalized by vicious thugs for a fourth time in less than a month [with comments by Executive Director IAN SULLIVAN] … the Public Library in Madison, Alabama pulls a picture book from its children’s section simply because the author’s last name is Gay … a three-judge panel of the usually right-leaning 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling declaring Florida’s ban on family-friendly drag shows an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights … the Parliament of the Australian state of New South Wales hosts its own Drag Storytime (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOE BOEHNLEIN and TANYA KANE-PARRY, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: The horrific murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard in October 1998 became an iconic turning point in the drive for hate crimes legislation in the U.S. Shepard’s mother Judy Shepard became a powerful force behind that movement. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law in October 2009, but a mother’s work is never done. A month later, she visited ERIC JANSEN at Out in the Bay to discuss her book The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed. (with a midway TWO ID by DENNIS SHEPARD and music by MELISSA ETHERIDGE).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending October 14th, 2023 on
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Tanya Kane-Parry,
produced by Brian DeShazor
Bulgarian punk music star Milena Slavova is not guilty of discrimination for a social media post that became a far-right, anti-queer viral sensation. The Supreme Court ruled this week that Slavova’s criticism of a Sofia LGBTQ Pride March was not intended to harm the dignity of any specific person because of their sexual orientation. Her 2021 Facebook post said, “Poor us -- normal people -- are already suffocating from the brazenness and flaunting of various perverts. And I don’t apologize for my words.”
A discrimination complaint against the singer was filed by two activists and the group Deistvie, or Action. The European Commission for Protection Against Discrimination had already ruled that Slavova was entitled to express what it deemed her personal opinion. Three Bulgaria Supreme Court magistrates agreed, according to the news site EURACTIV.bg. As their ruling explained, “Slavova does not have official public authority, nor does she seek to acquire one, which would allow her to impose her opinion on the regulation of public relations, including holding LGBTQ parades
It’s been a rollercoaster for queer rights in the Balkan nation in recent years. Courts have rejected trans people’s efforts to change gender on their legal documents after reassignment surgery. On the other hand, in July Parliament added sexual orientation to the protected classes for hate crimes cases under the Criminal Code. Still, in Septemberthe European Court of Human Rights found Bulgaria’s government in violation of European laws that require legal recognition for same-gender couples.
A failed presidential candidate in France has been fined for condemning lesbian parenthood. Éric Zemmour ran afoul of the country’s hate crime laws during a nationally televised 2019 interview. Lesbian couples and single women had just been granted access to artificial insemination and other fertility treatments. Zemmourranted, “This is about the whims of a tiny minority that controls the government and enslaves it for its own benefit and is going to disintegrate society…. Because we will have children without a father … it’s a catastrophe and, secondly, who is going to force all the other French people to pay for these whims?” The offensive diatribe was quoted by LGBTQ Nation.
The court decided, “The comments present a contemptuous image of the people they target, whose desire to have a child is reduced to a selfish ‘whim.’ … In this way, gay people find themselves denigrated in the eyes of the public because of who they are.”
Zemmour was fined 4,000 euros – about 4200 U.S. dollars. Along with the director of the interview program, he was also ordered to pay 3,000 euros to several LGBTQ organizations, plus 2,000 euros in legal costs. He’s appealing the ruling.
The French advocacy group Stop Homophobie filed the successful lawsuit against the far-right pundit and politician. Zemmour ran for president last year on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform that also included blatantly anti-queer rhetoric. He claimed seven per cent of the first-round vote. Ultimately Emmanuel Macron was re-elected.
Zemmour’s words habitually land him on the wrong side of the law. He was sued last year by six queer rights groups for his book denying that LGBTQ people were among the victims of the Holocaust. He’s been convicted twice for hate speech, according to The Guardian. He’s appealing a third conviction handed down last year. All his 2022 presidential campaign got him was a copyright infringement conviction for using unauthorized film clips and newsreels.
Zemmour has compared transgender students advocating for rights to Nazis and condemned queer “propaganda.” He called a woman’s right to choose “collective suicide.”
In the U.S. northwest, Spokane, Washington’s Odyssey Youth Movement has been vandalized four times in less than a month. Odyssey tries to provide a safe space for the area’s LGBTQ young people with several outreach and support programs.
It began in late September when a rainbow-colored footpath in front of the building was spray-painted with offensive graffiti. It’s not known if the same vandals hit the facility three consecutive nights last week. This time the rainbow footpath and the building signage were covered with paint and tar, and anti-queer slurs were spray-painted on the doors and windows. A neighbor’s Rainbow Pride flag was torn down.
Executive Director Ian Sullivan told local TV station KHQ about the impact of the crime spree:
… [A]fter we had cleaned up Odyssey's building and our sign, they spray painted hateful words. Words meant to divide, to make people feel unwelcome, to make people feel afraid. … The fact that this has happened now three nights in a row, and that these three nights happened less than a month after the initial vandalism as well, this is a pattern, this is repeat, which is very intimidating to say the least and terrifying to say the most.
Spokane Police officials are calling on citizens to contact them with any information that could help track down and prosecute the perpetrators.
Read Me A Story, Stella tells the tale of Stella and her brother Sam, who learn about the joys of reading. Too bad the author’s name is “so gay” -- Marie-Louise Gay that is. That’s why the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Madison, Alabama banned it.
The picture book is written and illustrated for kids aged five and younger. It wound up on the library’s list of books pulled from the children’s section because a rudimentary keyword check for sexually explicit content flagged the word “gay.”
Kirsten Brassard speaks for Groundwood Books, Gay’s publisher. She told the online news outlet AL.com, “Although it is obviously laughable that our picture book shows up on their list of censored books simply because the author’s last name is Gay, the ridiculousness of that fact should not detract from the seriousness of the situation.”
Brassard called the absurd classification “a hateful message in a place like a public library, where all children are meant to feel safe, and where their curiosity about the world is meant to be nurtured.”
The Library’s Executive Director Cindy Hewitt confirmed that the book has been moved back to the children’s section. She told AL.com,“Obviously, we’re not going to touch that book for any reason.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saw a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refuse to allow his state’s drag show ban to be enforced this week. The fading Republican presidential hopeful’s challenge to District Judge Gregory Presnell’s injunction was flattened by a 2-to-1 majority of the generally right-leaning appeals court. Presnell had declared the ban on family-friendly drag performances a violation of First Amendment free speech rights. Federal courts in Tennessee and Texas have ruled similar drag bans unconstitutional.
The panel sided with the Orlando location of Hamburger Mary’s, the restaurant chain that hosts popular and usually sold-out drag brunches every week. The law levied substantial fines on venues hosting performances involving so-called “sexual” content with minors in the audience. Critics claimed that its vague wording could be used to ban any costumed stage show, even cheerleading.
Judge Presnell wrote, “Protecting the right to freedom of speech is the epitome of acting in the public interest.”
Finally, the Australian state of New South Wales hosted its ownDrag Storytime on October 6th in the Parliament building’s Theatrette. Sydney-based drag stars Cassandra the Queen and Woody the Cowboy read from the children’s book about a non-binary child, My Shadow Is Purple. Cassandra was delighted by the success of the event, posting on social media, “It creates an environment for kids and parents to have the usual story time but with a little extra glitter, color, and fun. … It also allows [children] to explore the concept of creativity, artistry, and self-expression.”
Best-selling Melbourne-based author Scott Stuart’s book encourages kids to be true to themselves and accept who they are. In Cobb County, Georgia, USA, reading My Shadow Is Purple to her Due West Elementary 5th grade class got teacher Katie Rinderle fired in June. Why? To start with, it begins, “My Dad has a shadow that’s blue as a berry, and my Mom’s is as pink as a blossoming cherry. There’s only those choices, a 2 or a 1. But mine is quite different, it’s both … and it’s none.”
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