The Daily Agenda for Monday, May 21
May 21st, 2012
Dharun Ravi to be Sentenced: Trenton, NJ. Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers University roommate who cyber-spied on his roommate Tyler Clementi just before Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, was convicted in March of invasion of privacy, witness tampering, tampering with evidence, and hindering prosecution, but was found innocent of eleven of the fifteen bias intimidation charges. He could face as much as ten years in prison, and he could also be deported to India after serving his sentence. The media case against his is straightforward: Ravi bullied Clementi, and Clementi killed himself as a result. The actual real-world facts of the case, as is often true in the real world, are much more complicated, which is why those who ask for leniency in Ravi’s sentencing include many prominent gay rights advocates. Some point out that Ravi may be punished for Clementi’s suicide despite his neither being charged nor convicted of it.
“You’re making an example of Ravi in order to send a message to other people who might be bullying, to schools and parents and to prosecutors who have not considered this a crime before,” said Marc Poirier, a law professor at Seton Hall University who is gay and has written about hate-crimes legislation. “That’s a function of criminal law, to condemn as general deterrence. But I think this is a fairly shaky set of facts on which to do it.”
In an op-ed article in The Star-Ledger of Newark this month, Jim McGreevey, who resigned as New Jersey’s governor after declaring himself “a gay American,” argued that Mr. Ravi’s conviction “showed how far we have traveled from the hateful, homophobic past.”
“The criminal justice system worked, this time for a gay victim,” Mr. McGreevey wrote. “But there was something disquieting about the prospect of retributive punishment being meted out on behalf of a gay young man.”
Mr. McGreevey, who now counsels prisoners, argued that jail time would neither rehabilitate nor send a message. “Perhaps the long trail of gay history inevitably leads to this call for punishment,” he wrote, “but it need not.”
Others who raise questions about whether justice is truly being served in this case include Dan Savage, Out editor Aaron Hicklin, E.J. Graff, Andrew Sullivan and Tyler Clementi’s parents, who said that they wanted Ravi to be held accountable but not subject to a “harsh” punishment. Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality however is calling for jail time: “The moderate position is not to throw the book at this young man, nor should he get off Scott free.”
NAACP Press Conference on Marriage Equality: Baltimore, MD. On Saturday, the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) approved a resolution supporting marriage equality for LGBT citizens. According to a press release, the NAACP chose to act “as a continuation of its historic commitment to equal protection under the law.” The NAACP will follow that today with a press conference featuring Board Char Roslyn M. Brock, President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, and representatives of the NAACP national board. The press conference will take place at the NAACP national headquarters in Baltimore beginning at 10:30 a.m.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
White Night: 1979. On this date, Dan White was found guilty in the shooting death of San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a paltry seven years in prison. (He would only serve five.) The jury bought the defense arguments that White was suffering from diminished capacity due to depression and an overload of junk food, a defense that has since been derided as the “twinkie defense.”
The gay community was already angry with the police and fire department, which had raised money for White’s defense. That anger boiled over when the verdict was announced, leading to rioting at City Hall. Police officers — their badges were covered with black tape to prevent identification — broke up the riot. Later that night, San Francisco police staged a retaliatory raid on a gay bar in the Castro, shouting “”dirty cocksuckers” and “sick faggots” while attacking patrons and shattering a large plate glass window. For the next two hours, police officers indiscriminately attacked passers by on the street. Later that night, a freelance reporter overheard a group of police officers celebrating at a downtown bar. “We were at City Hall the day [the killings] happened and we were smiling then,” one officer said. “We were there tonight and we’re still smiling.” Gay leaders refused to apologize for the riot at city hall, and an investigation into police misconduct in the Castro and City Hall ended without any charges being filed.
Wesleyan University Offers Specialized Transgender Housing: 2003. Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut announced that it would become the first American college to offer special housing option to accomodate transgender students. Incoming freshmen will have the option of living in a new “gender-blind” floor of a dormitory without specifying their gender. According to the new university policy, those who choose to live in the gender-blind area “will be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender.” Mike Whaley, dean of student services, estimated that there were twelve to fifteen transgender students on the 3,000 student campus. But after opposition and obstruction from other members of the administration, the transgender housing policy was very nearly scrapped a year later when the dean in charge of student housing refused to pair students who were not of the same “biological gender.” Finally, with input from mental health professionals and transgender advocates, a new policy was implemented in 2010.
CT Adds Gender Identity To Hate Crime Law: 2004. Connecticut governor John Rowland signs legislation which adds gender identity to the state’s hate crime law. The act makes Connecticut the eight state in the nation to provide hate crime protections for gender identity.
Raymond Burr: 1917. He started out as a stage actor, landing on Broadway in 1941 for Crazy with the Heat. It didn’t take long for him to switch to the silver screen for the film noir classic Raw Deal. He was adept at playing the heavies, as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place In the Son, and as the murder suspect in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. But he is best know for his two long-running television roles, in Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967 -1975). Like most gay actors, Burr rarely spoke about his private life. His official biography listed three marriages, but later investigations could only verify the second one. What has been verified is that Burr enjoyed a long 35-year relationship with his partner, Robert Benevides, who he met on the set of Perry Mason. Benevides was not only his life-long partner until Burr’s death in 1993, but together they owned an orchid business(orchids were one of Burr’s passions) and then a vineyard. Benevides still operates the the Raymond Burr vineyards.
Frank Kameny: 1925. Easily one of the giants of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny fell into it when he was fired from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality. Kameny took on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and argued his appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case. They missed out on quite case. Kameny wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court, in which he denounced the government’s ban on hiring gay people as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”
Throughout his lifetime, Kameny placed himself in the middle of many first in the gay rights movement. He founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961, a group which distinguished itself for its aggressiveness. In 1965. Kameny helped to organize the first gay rights protest in front the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. Civil Service Commission, and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. In 1968, he created the slogan“Gay is Good,” and in 1971, he was the first openly gay candidate for Congress. During the same period, he was on the front lines of the battle to get the APA to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The federal ban on hiring gay people was finally lifted in 1975.
Kameny has been recognized as a national treasure; his papers are now a part of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian holds several of Kameny’s picket signs and other artifacts in its collection. His home is now recognized as a D.C. Historic Landmark, and in 2009, he received an official apology for his firing from the Office of Personnel Management. He passed away last October at the age of 86.
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?