The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 28

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2012

Events This Weekend: International Bear Pride, Cologne, Germany; Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hong Kong, China; Holly Folly, Provincetown, MA.

Dallas Judge Gives Light Sentence In Gay Man’s Murder: 1988. It was a common sport among Dallas-area high school students throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s: drive into the Oak Lawn gayborhood on a weekend night and spend the evening “gay bashing” — their term for it. (Full disclosure: one of my friends was stabbed in the chest and spent days in intensive care in one such attack while walking along Throckmorton St. His assailants were never found.) In one case, nine friends from North Mesquite High School drove to Oak Lawn one night in May to “pester the homosexuals.” According to the New York Times’s description of the event:

Witnesses who were in that group said the boys were standing on a street corner and shouting at passers-by, and then Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, drove up and invited the boys into their car. Mr. Bednarski was said to have persuaded one more friend in his group to get in the car.After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Mr. Bednarski is said to have ordered Mr. Trimble and Mr. Griffin to remove their clothes. On their refusal, a witness said, Mr. Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing. Mr. Trimble died immediately. Mr. Griffin died five days later.

Bednarksy was found guilty of murder, but Texas law allows the defendant to decide whether the judge or jury would determine the sentence. Bednarksy’s defense lawyer sensed that the judge was sympathetic and chose him. On November 19, Judge Jack Hampton announced that he considered, among other things, that Bednarski has no prior criminal record, was attending college, and was raised n a “good home” by a father who was a police officer, before deciding on the sentence: 30 years in prison instead of a life sentence. As he explained to the Dallas Times Herald two days later: “They two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the street picking up teenage boys. I don’t care for queers cruising the streets picking up teenage boys. I’ve got a teenage boy.”

Those remarks touched off a furor in the gay community. Paul Varnell of the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up the reaction and said, “It appears that we do have one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals.” John Wiley Price, the outspoken African-American activist and Dallas County Commissioner, said, “The only difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Judge Hampton is that one wears a white robe and the other a black robe.” Hampton, who had been first elected judge in 1981 and would be up for re-election in 1990, remained unconcerned. “Just spell my name right. Nobody will remember by 1990 anyway.” He was right. He was re-elected in 1990, but lost his seat finally in 1992.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.


November 28th, 2012

The judge’s attitude is indefensible, but as “light” sentences go, 30 years is a lot. Probably more than average even for murder.

Timothy (TRiG)

November 28th, 2012

Ireland’s first ever Pride march was after a similar sentencing debacle.


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