Kill The Amendment

Dear Massachusetts Legislators,

Last Friday a transgender woman was brutally attacked in Lowell. Her attackers yelled anti-gay epithets and told her she was not welcome in their town. Her lip was ripped into a bloody mess.

Gender identity and expression are not included in our hate crime laws, and in most areas of this great country of ours it is still legal not to hire, fire, or deny housing to someone because of their gender identity or expression. It is also still legal in most states to deny housing or not hire someone based on their sexual orientation.

As our community focuses so heavily on the issue of marriage, and as our legislators’ time is absorbed with wheeling and dealing, lobbyists knocking at their doors, and thousands of calls and e-mails flooding their inboxes the most marginalized members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) community are being denied jobs, housing, and being beaten on the streets.

Our youth are 4 to 5 times more likely to attempt suicide (According to the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey) than their straight peers, and yet the organizations serving them are severely under-funded.  And the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has said that our country is facing an epidemic of homelessness among LGBT youth.

I personally moved to Boston in an effort to escape anti-gay violence. I was severely physically and verbally harassed on a daily basis in my rural Pennsylvanian community. After switching high schools in an effort to escape the violence, I ended up coming to Boston with no high school diploma.  Emerson College listened to my story and allowed me to complete my senior year of high school with  my freshmen year of college. Without that opportunity I would not be alive today.

Since moving to Boston seven years ago, I have found a supportive community that has helped me heal from the discrimination I faced, but there are still many times when I do not feel safe.  There are times when men pull over in their cars to yell things at me. There are times when  people on the subway mumble faggot. There are times when I am on my way home from work and people mock the way I am walking, and yell things like sissy, queer and homo at me. And there are always times when my partner and I are stared down for holding hands in public.

The last thing I want to see when I sit down on my couch and turn on the television is an advertisement funded by James Dobson that says I am an immoral, disgusting human being. The last thing I want to hear when I turn on Kiss FM is a radio advertisement saying my friends do not deserve full equality. The last thing I want to see out the bus window is a billboard saying “homosex is sin.”  These are the kinds of messages our community will face if the amendment on marriage is allowed to move forward.  These are the kinds of advertisements that are blanketing other states at this very moment.

I ask: How will those kinds of messages impact the already shocking suicide rates of LGBT teens?  How will those kinds of messages affect the alarming rates of street harassment and violence directed towards LGBT people in Boston?  I will not stick around to find out.

This Thursday our state has the opportunity to quell a surge in verbal and physical violence towards a community that already faces a disturbing reality of hardship.

People’s rights to things like healthcare, retirement benefits, and the other 1400 rights and privileges that accompany our governmental system of marriage should never be put to a vote. 

Deval Patrick said it is time to move on from this issue, and he is right. We have a myriad of things to work on to ensure that our state is the most welcoming, affirming, healthy place to live.

I am not above begging. Please, please, please kill this amendment by any means necessary.

Sincerely,

Mark D. Snyder

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30 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. running the gauntlet

    Mark, this is an excellent letter.  I wonder if our legislators had to run a gauntlet of anti-gay threats every morning if they might take things a little more to heart.  I wonder how many of them have ever felt that kind of hate on a daily basis?  I bet a few have, but most haven't.  I hope those lucky enough to have lived in the security we lack can read your letter, close your eyes, and imagine the hellish reality they will be creating for LGBT Bay Staters if they let this amendment proceed.  That old maxim about walking in another person's shoes - now's a good time to put it into practice.

    • Interesting idea for street theatre!

      Have a bunch of people surrounding the areas of the statehouse where they typically enter the building..."heckling" them for being hetero..."You hetero, you aren't welcome in my city!" "I'm going to f--- you up, you straightie!" and stuff like that. Have signs which say something like "this is what it's like for a GLBT citizen...DON'T PUT HATE IN THE CONSTITUTION.

      • I hope you're joking

        We are much bigger than that and we really don't need to lower ourselves to their level.

        • I think you missed her point

          It would be to show people who don't understand just what it would be like to live as a glbtq person.

          It would be an effective protest and people would understand right away that it's not meant to offend, just bring a renewed awareness.

  2. Not for Nothin', But...

    It is my understanding that the transgender woman was physically a young male dressed as a woman walking down a street in Lowell at 3:00 A.M. That's three a.m.

    Hey, I hate discrimination as much as the next biggot. But this is the worse example to use. A person alone walking down certain streets in Lowell at 3:00 a.m has the risk of getting set upon by a group of young intoxicated men. Make it a fat guy dressed up as a woman and the chances increase. Was the victim drinking that evening? Was he/she working? (if you know what I mean?) Sometin' smell here.

    But this did not happen in Copley Square on a Tuesday afternoon.

    This poor man's Devine makes the case against.

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • And hey

      a girl who was raped deserved it because she was wearing a short skirt.  Or too much makeup.  Or was coming on to him.  Or obviously wanted it.

      • YOU ARE CORRECT

        A girl with a short skirt at 3:00am walking a ghetto street has a good chance of being raped. That is just a fact.

        That doesn't make it right, or her fault.

        It just is what it is.

        No parent in their right mind would let their daughter or son or transman walk around at 3:00am.

        And no smart person would either, unless they were high on drugs or looking to get high on drugs or looking for sex.

    • Let's play...

      Blame the victim!

      The crime could happen in Lowell at 3:00 a.m. or in Copley Square at 2:00 p.m. Doesn't matter.

      "Make it a fat guy dressed up as a woman and the chances increase. Was the victim drinking that evening? Was he/she working? (if you know what I mean?) Sometin' smell here."

      The victim could have been working or intoxicated (no basis for this assumption). Again, doesn't matter. The attitudes and acts of the perpetrators are what "smell."

      Your line of questioning makes you sound like a lawyer defending a rapist.

    • Nothing for nothing...

      Not for Nothin', But... (0.00 / 2)
      It is my understanding that the transgender woman was physically a young male dressed as a woman walking down a street in Lowell at 3:00 A.M. That's three a.m.

      Complete, utter and incomprehensible nonsense.

      A person alone walking down certain streets in Lowell at 3:00 a.m has the risk of getting set upon by a group of young intoxicated men. Make it a fat guy dressed up as a woman and the chances increase. Was the victim drinking that evening? Was he/she working? (if you know what I mean?) Sometin' smell here.

      The law was not written to take responsibility away from intoxicated men.  There is no 'its-ok-they-was-drunk' sub paragraph. There is no section of the law that splits hairs on innocence.  There is no mitigating circumstance EVER against innocence.

      Now, if someone travels to the other side of the moon without sufficient oxygen, we may pity them or laugh at them. Either way, we say 'the effect meets with the cause'. It is not the same here and to passive aggressively hint that the victim has degrees of innocence and then to hint that those same degrees of innocence mitigates the perps guilt is to manufacture cause in order to praise the effect.

       

    • I haven't figured out whether or not you are completely stupid, but...

      ...it is a crime to assault and batter someone, regardless of the appearance of the victim, and regardless of the time and place of the assault and battery.  Apparently, in this case, the only question is whether or not it should be considered a hate crime under the state's hate crime statute, which includes "sexual orientation" as a protected category.

      I don't have the exact language of the state's hate crime statute now, but it is common for hate crime statutes to refer, not to "sexual orientation," but to "actual or perceived sexual orientation."  Depending on what was said by the perpetrators at the scene, and depending on the perps' backgrounds, all of which can be obtained by the prosecutor, it is highly likely that the prosecutor can make out a case that the crime was a hate crime.  Otherwise stated, from what I have read, it is often the case that perps consider a transgendered person a faggot.

      • Gender identify or expression

        The state's hate crimes law (as well as many others) doesn't presently include gender identity or expression, although there is a bill pending in the legislature that would fix this. HB 1722 was introduced to include gender identity and gender discrimination in our hate crimes and non-discrimination laws. This victim doesn't presently have protection in the hate crimes bill for this attack. For more info you can read "Hate Crime Victim Comes Out as Trans Woman" at http://www.takemassa...

  3. On a related note,

    Scot Lehigh today makes an utterly convincing case -- as he has been doing all along -- against the absurd "let the people vote" argument, and he appropriately calls out legislators who hide behind it:

    When it comes to proposed amendments, the state constitution gives lawmakers a clear gate-keeping function. That means they should make up their own minds on the merits and vote accordingly.

    If, after all this debate, legislators conclude that the anti-gay-marriage amendment is a bad idea and thus keep it from winning 50 votes, they will have dealt it a completely legitimate defeat.

    That's also why a representative or senator who says he personally opposes the amendment, but will vote for it so the people can resolve the matter at the ballot, is assuming a low profile in courage, one that shirks his constitutional duty to exercise his own judgment.

    Hear hear.

    • LET THE PEOPLE VOTE!

      • 4 not because I disagree

        but because you offer no substantive argument.  Why show the legislators vote to pass the proposed amendment, furthering it's journey toward law?

      • Why am I not...

        ....surprised that people opposed to marriage equality insist on "Constitutional Correctness" when they don't want the Legislature to kill the amendment procedurally, but when there is a chance that it will be killed by an up or down vote, that very thing that you have all been screaming for, that is not good enough and the world owes you a vote even if killing it with a vote is absolutely "Constitutionally Correct." 

        At least you're right up front with your hypocrisy, makes it that much easier to disregard you entirely, not that it was difficult in the first place.

      • OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!

        There, I've offered a statement that without some substantiation really makes no sense at all. Do you see the absurdity of it now?

    • Shorter Scott Lehigh:

      "Let the people vote!" = Passing the buck.

      Full stop.

    • federalists all

      That's also why a representative or senator who says he personally opposes the amendment, but will vote for it so the people can resolve the matter at the ballot, is assuming a low profile in courage, one that shirks his constitutional duty to exercise his own judgment.

      (quoting David quoting LeHigh). 

      Very well put. One can see the outcome of this in California in the 90's where similarly craven representatives, unwilling to stand to the job for which they were electected, tried passing the buck in just this way. Disastrous.

      We are not a democracy.  We are a republic. Right or wrong, ugly or not, it is the process and the form we have chosen.  Should we wish to move to a direct democrocy we should openly, and with clarity, do so.  But to spinelessly melt towards some poorly-articulated sense of 'let the people decide' is to have neither democracy nor republic. Good luck with that.  

  4. Great post

    Hi Mark This was a great post. Lyn

  5. Homophobia must be called out/ identified when it happens and dealt with in an ongoing way

    Homophobia is a larger issue but certainly is linked to the motivations for the proposed Anti-Marriage Equality amendment before our state legislature's ConCon on 6/14/07.

    Equal Marriage being a legally recognized right, as it it now in Massachusetts, is a crucial piece of gay rights. It is also a human right that must be recognized and protected within our legal structure as was done with the past SJC ruling.

    Which leads me to say I feel a responsibility to point out an erroneous comment in this orginal post:

    People's right to things like healthcare, retirement benefits, and the other 1400 rights and privileges that accompany our governmental system of marriage should never be put to a vote.

    Just saying or believing, even passionately, that something is "A Right" does not make it one.  Without legal recognition, something that even a vast majority of citizens thinks should be a right (as is the case with healthcare), cannot be upheld and protected as such.

    Healthcare - quality, affordable coverage that guarantees access to comprehensive care and NOT the faux reform called the Mass. Mandate law - urgently needs to be established a recognized right within our legal framework, such as was attempted in the recent 4 year Healthcare Amendment Campaign. Huge numbers of people are bankrupted, maimed and even die prematurely becasue healthcare is treated as a commodity rather than as a right in our social structure.

    Equal Marriage in Masachusetts is now a right that must not be taken away by this proposed constitutional amendment coming before the ConCon on 6/14. So let's all keep using the MassEquality site for info to dial those key tel #s etc to stop this harmful amendment dead in its tracks.

  6. Time to let the powers that be know who wields the powers.

    In other news I see that the breeders of the world want to bring their hate speech "rights" all the way to the Supreme Court.  Well, times are fast changing.

    It is time that the legislatures realize that the gay community has the funding to support the quest for rights and the time as well as the will.  Who donates generously to candidates?  Who spends the time helping candidates?  Who actually votes?

    Wake up Mr & Ms. Politician.

  7. Yeah, I guess we was asking for it too.

    My husband and I were walking down the street in Boston.  Mind you, I'm about 6' 200lbs, my husband is smaller, 5'9" slim.  We happened to walk by someone who I assumed was homeless (because he was sitting on the corner of a building with a couple of trash bags and very dirty clothes).  As we walked by (we weren't even holding hands)he said "oh yeah, it's the faggerity month, all the fags are out".  As I turned around and said "F@CK YOU" if started yelling Bible verses at us and mentioned something about Jesus hating gays.

    Oh, this happened at 6:30 in the evening on Tremont Street in the South End.  I guess we were asking for it.

    • Great point

      I have said it before, the is no excusable reason for violence. If people on both sides of the gay equality argument can't agree on that fundamental, we have a serious problem. From the conversations I've had over the last two years, I am NOT encouraged, but my mind is still open to hope.

      Purhaps after we get this whole amendment nonsense behind us, we can concentrate on what good we can do together, like curbing violence.

    • but but but but

      you must have been drinking, or wearing rainbow colored flags or something...

      and then it would be completely okay!

      /sarcasm off

      I'll never get that Ernie Boch logic.

  8. *hugs Mark*

    I've never been gay-bashed or attacked once. I don't know how I'd deal with it if I were. I guess part of it is I'm a physically intimidating person and, in most ways, don't act stereotypically gay (until, of course, you hear me speak =p). I suppose I'd handle the situation okay if I were verbally abused, but heaven forbid the idiot who would physically attack me out of homophobia. They'd wish they didn't.

    It's so important to get all this marriage stuff behind us - and avoid those months of negative TV ads and increased focus on this issue, which would undoubtedly impact the state-wide psyche and result in violence of some kind. Then, we could work on the last remaining issues in this state when it comes to glbt discrimination and try to foster long-term goals to end homophobia, racism and all other 'isms' for good.

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