Rashawn & Beyond: Anti-Violence News for Queer People of Color

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund aims to establish a sustainable tribute to Rashawn that promotes critical thought about the impact of violence and intolerance, particularly upon queer communities of African descent.

Through this blog, we provide action alerts, event postings and breaking news as a means of informing these communities in ways that enable them to combat racism and homophobia.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Popular Writer Don Belton Found Dead

Notable writer and Indiana University professor Don Belton was found stabbed to death in his Indiana home. His 25 year old student, Michael J. Griffin, has confessed to the killing, however has pleaded not guilty to the murder, alleging that it was gay panic. Griffin says that on two separate occasions Belton sexually assaulted him, and when confronted, Belton showed no remorse. That enraged Griffin, prompting him to stab Belton.

“The former military man told police that Belton, who was openly gay, sexually assaulted him in front of his girlfriend, while they were both intoxicated on Christmas Day. And because the assistant professor of English refused to "show remorse," Griffin stabbed him to death, according to court documents. Despite his alleged confession, Griffin has pleaded not guilty to the killing. And though his defense strategy is not yet clear, others with similar cases have pursued a "gay panic" defense, hoping to persuade juries that they were rendered temporarily insane by the perceived romantic or sexual advances of the victim.”

Michael J. Griffin is a former marine and was turned in by his girlfriend. He is currently being held without bond.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Black Gay Man Taken Off Life Support

Marland Woods, a 32 year old Black gay man from Maryland, was kicked and stomped into a coma after coming out of a gay bar. Terrance Osley, 20, was arrested and is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, after Woods was taking off life support by his family. Twenty two year old Norman Coggins, his accomplice, is also facing felony charges.

"He was such a homebody. This was only the second time this year he went to a bar and this happened to him. He never started any trouble. He died trying to keep someone else from being hurt." says Shonda Floyd, Woods‘ sister to WTVG: "I want to see some type of justice. They stomped my brother. It’s absolutely not right... They took away my kids’ uncle. They took away my brother."

Woods, who was in a 10 year relationship, was beaten trying to protect a friend in a fight following an altercation at a bar earlier that night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

DC Says ‘Yes’ to Marriage Equality

Councilman David A. Catania has a lot to celebrate. The four term openly gay city councilman and political independent authored a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage – and it passed by an 11-2 vote. After weeks of testimony from opponents and supporters of the bill, eleven council members voted for equality on the first of December.

“Today’s vote is an important victory not only for the gay and lesbian community but for everyone who supports equal rights. Gays and lesbians bear every burden of citizenship and are entitled to every benefit and protection that the law allows,” said David A. Catania. “Whenever 11 out of 13 Councilmembers vote to support any issue, it indicates that there is strong support for the issue among our constituents.”

The bill was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty and will make it to congress for a final vote.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gov. David Paterson Signs Executive Order

Gov. David Paterson continues his string of support for the LGBTQ community. Last month he signed a bill that made New York the seventh state to bar discrimination against Transgender state employees. According to Transgender Legal, a Transgender advocacy organization, 47% of Transgender folks reported being fired or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.

Below is the video of Gov. David Paterson signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the workplace.


Amid a year where we saw countless amount of LGBTQ people dead or beaten because of the extremism of homophobia; a year where two states saw marriage equality defeated; and a president who twice struck down the opportunity to have honest dialogue around Dont Ask, Don't Tell. Joe Solmonese, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, reflects on what 2009 meant for LGBT equality.

TO: Human Rights Campaign Board Members
FROM: Joe Solmonese
RE: Progress on LGBT Equality in 2009
DATE: December 16, 2009


Progress for full lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in 2009 made significant strides even while the national stage was dominated by the economy, health care and war. Even marriage equality, while losing on Maine's November ballot and receiving a recent setback in New York, was adopted in Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia. The Connecticut legislature even chose to put its imprimatur on the state Supreme Court decision to grant full marriage equality. And on January 10, 2010, loving same-sex couples can legally marry in New Hampshire.

While this report will by no means capture everything in the LGBT universe in 2009, it does attempt to set out benchmarks for the year and, therefore, assist in identifying the opportunities and challenges ahead in 2010.

Without question, possibilities loomed large with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, someone who championed LGBT causes throughout his campaign. Additionally, more fair-minded members of Congress came into office -- including Colorado's openly gay Congressman Jared Polis -bringing the LGBT count to three in the House. Collectively, there was, for the first time in a decade or more, the potential for real change at the federal level.

Concurrently, at the state level, there was a wellspring of LGBT and elected leadership which produced not only movement early in 2009 toward full marriage equality, but also significant progress toward fully inclusive non-discrimination measures, expanded relationship recognition laws and anti-bullying measures.

Also overlooked, but equally important to many LGBT individuals and families, 2009 saw continued growth in the private sector, where companies recognized the value of inclusive and welcoming employee programs. In fact, even in a down economy, a record 305 corporations and businesses received a 100% on our Corporate Equality Index. However, workplace climate for LGBT employees remains challenging, with a majority still closeted in the workplace -- highlighting the need to help corporate America gauge and address their LGBT employees' engagement on the job.

Finally, 2009 will also be remembered as a time when many LGBT people and their allies stood up to demand equality, whether at the local, state or national level. Whether in response to the loss of marriage rights in California at the close of 2008, or perceived inaction on signature measures in Congress, 2009 saw an infusion of energy and personal involvement that must be accelerated to secure greater progress in 2010.

It must also be noted that 2009 solidified the emergence of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) as a major opponent to equality. NOM's budget shot up from $400,000 in 2007 to $8 million in 2009. That's explosive growth in a period when most companies and non-profits weathered losses. NOM was the largest single contributor to the anti-marriage campaigns in both California and Maine, and has promised to be a key player in Iowa, New Jersey and the District of Columbia in their marriage battles. NOM is also moving its offices from New Jersey to the nation's capital.

To read complete letter click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Psychiatrist: Slaying suspect not fit for trial

Via: Caribbean Business PR

By: CB Online Staff

The confessed killer of 19-year old transvestite Jorge Steven López is not currently fit to stand trial for the grisly slaying, a government psychiatrist has determined.

Psychiatrist Rafael Cabrera urged Caguas Superior Court Judge Camila Jusino to send the 26-year old suspect, Juan Martínez Matos, back to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Río Piedras to keep him under evaluation by the medical staff there.

However, Cabrera acknowledged during a preliminary hearing that he is not certain whether the symptoms of psychosis referred to by the defendant are real, feigned or exaggerated.

Under questioning by prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo, the psychiatrist agreed that the facts that Martínez Matos says he cannot clearly remember are essentially those of the night of the crime.

The judge ordered Martínez Matos to undergo another evaluation on January 7 and set a new hearing on his fitness to face criminal proceedings for January 13.

Gay rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano was quick to criticize the court developments.

“Although full justice can never be done, as Jorge Steven is no longer with us, the process of prosecuting the confessed murderer in one of the most heinous crimes committed in the history of our country has been delayed again,” Serrano said in a statement .

López was decapitated and his partially burned body found in the Guavate area of Cayey last month. Martínez Matos was arrested and allegedly confessed to killing López and mutilating his body. He was charged with first-degree murder and weapons violations and jailed on $4 million bond.

Gay activists expressed disappointment that the suspect wasn’t immediately charged with a hate crime, saying authorities in Puerto Rico have never invoked a law covering crimes based on sexual orientation.

A 2002 hate crime law in Puerto Rico has not been applied to any cases involving sexual orientation or gender identity despite calls to use it more aggressively. A suspect convicted of a hate crime offense as part of another crime automatically faces the maximum penalty for the underlying crime. For murder, that would be life in prison.

According to the police investigation, the victim was dressed as a woman when Martínez Matos picked him on a street known for prostitution and took him back to his parents’ home for sex. The suspect has claimed he did not know López was a man and that he killed him in self-defense after the victim pulled a knife demanding payment for the sex.

Martínez Matos has also reportedly acknowledged a hatred of homosexuals because he was allegedly raped by a male inmate while serving a jail term for domestic violence several years ago.

Pastor Warren Now Condemns Law

Pastor Rick Warren of California condemned the Uganda law that would execute or give life imprisonment to gays. Ironically, Pastor Warren condemneds the law after Uganda dropped the extreme provisions of death and life imprisonment. The recorded video below is a jarring video to pastors and members of the political community of Uganda. Pastor Warren has been scrutinized because of his refusal to not take sides and pressure his religious allies in Uganda to condemn the bill.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gay Activist Beaten at Queens Night Club

VIA: New York Post

By: Jamie Schram

A prominent gay activist was tackled and beaten by bouncers at a Queens nightclub because he was dancing with a man, cops said yesterday.

Tarlach MacNiallais, 47, was punched and kicked and had a chair smashed over his head in the attack by two security guards at the Guadalajara De Noche restaurant in Jackson Heights at 12:43 a.m. Saturday, police said.

The attack is being treated as a possible hate crime.

"[The bouncer] said, 'You can't do that here, this is not a gay bar,' " MacNiallais told cops. "I said I have just as much right as anyone else."

MacNiallais -- spokesman for the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, which is best known for its annual fight to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade -- said the bouncers wrestled him to the ground and dragged him away from other dancers before they attacked him.

He was treated for cuts and bruises at Elmhurst Hospital Center.

Messages left for restaurant manager Carlos Carrillo were not returned yesterday.

Fortunato Appeals Conviction

By: Duncan Osborne

Attacking the Brooklyn district attorney’s primary witness and arguing that the prosecutor never proved that their client had the legally required state of mind to convict him, attorneys for Anthony Fortunato, one of Michael Sandy’s killers, have filed an appeal seeking to overturn his 2007 guilty verdict and win a new trial.

“The linchpin of people’s case was the cooperator and credibility challenged, Gary Timmins,” wrote attorneys from Mischel & Horn, a Manhattan law firm that specializes in criminal and civil appeals.

Fortunato, 23, was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. In 2006, he, Timmins, and two other men lured Sandy, a 29-year-old gay man, to a secluded beach where they tried to rob him. Sandy fled onto a nearby highway where he was struck by a car and killed. Fortunato was sentenced to seven-to-21 years and his earliest possible release date is October 2013.

In a plea deal, Timmins, 19, testified for the prosecution in exchange for a four-year sentence. He pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted robbery as a hate crime and attempted first-degree assault. Timmins could be released from prison as soon as March 2010.

The appeal noted Timmins’ history of drug use, theft, and one serious assault saying, “Since the age of eleven or twelve, he has been an active violator of the criminal law.”

In addition to arguing that Timmins was not a credible witness, the appeal said that Jill Konviser, the judge in the trial, gave erroneous instructions to the jury on how to weigh the testimony of a co-defendant turned witness like Timmins.

A central argument in the appeal is that Fortunato never formed the requisite state of mind to be found guilty of manslaughter.

Fortunato, saying he had done so previously, suggested that the group sign on to a gay Internet chat room and lure a gay man to a meeting. Sandy came for a first encounter, but left after seeing all four men. After a second Internet contact, he went back, believing he would meet only John Fox, 22. At that second encounter, Sandy was attacked by Fox and Ilya Shurov, 23.

Continue Story Here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

We Don’t Hire Faggots

Zikkeria Bellamy was served more than a job rejection after applying to McDonalds; she was left a voicemail with an Orlando-based McDonald’s silent hiring policy: they don’t hire faggots. The McDonald’s manager, in a voicemail, called Bellamy a liar, accusing of her of lying to him about her gender and her age.

"Zikkeria Bellamy first applied online to work for the Orlando McDonald’s on July 10, and a manager later asked her to come in for an in-person interview. When Bellamy met the manager and he realized she is trans, he no longer wanted to interview her. Determined, Bellamy visited a second manager in the restaurant on July 28. This manager reportedly told her 'didn’t have time for this.' He followed up his comments with a voice mail message to Bellamy a few hours later: 'It doesn’t matter how many times you go down there, you will not get hired,' the manager said. 'We do not hire faggots. You lied to me. You told me you was a woman. And then you lied to me and told me you were 17. I can’t believe you. You were a lying brother. How could you lie to me? We will never--' "

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) and Bellamy filed a suit against the Orlando-based McDonald’s accusing them of practicing the unfavorable laws of Florida, where it’s currently legal to terminate someone for their gender identity or not hire them at all. TLDEF will cite Florida Civil Rights Act which prohibits sex discrimination.

Click here for full story.

Below is the voice mail left by the manager at McDonald's:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rev. Irene Monroe & Bishop Harry Jackson Debate Marriage Equality


Video has surfaced of a very spirited debate between Rev. Irene Monroe and Bishop Harry Jackson shot prior to the National Equality March on Washington.

Rev. Monroe is Coordinator of the African American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion and a frequent contributor to Pam's House Blend. She is also a lesbian.

Bishop Jackson needs no introduction as his anti-gay record has been covered extensively on loldarian.com and throughout the blogosphere. Bishop Jackson is at the forefront of the movement to stop marriage equality from becoming a reality in DC, an effort that is most likely to fail as the DC City Council voted 11-2 on Monday in the first of two votes that will legalize same-sex marriage in the district.

This debate is particularly noteworthy as it provides a different point of view of scripture as it relates to LGBT people and marriage equality from Rev. Monroe. Too often homophobic messages by ministers such as Bishop Jackson saturate the media and give the false impression that his views are widely held by the black community and black clergy. There are affirming churches and clergy and it's time their messages of love, tolerance, and inclusivity are heard.

Get into the debate below and tell me your thoughts: