HR 1592, or the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” is the 2007 legislation sponsored by John Conyers that constitutes hate crime a federal offense. The legislation defines hate crimes as “a violent act causing death or bodily injury because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability of the victim.” The bill does not rank the motiviations for commiting such crimes. However, according to recent coverage of Prop 8 in San Diego, the SD news media ranks crimes based on actual or perceived religious belief as WORSE than crimes based on actual or perceived sexuality.
For example, notice that in this story, violence against a Yes on 8 person is foregrounded in the headline and the opening. The story notes that:
Proposition 8 supporters, who are fighting to overturn gay marriage in California by changing language in the state Constitution, describe …”a wave of intimidation and violence up and down the state.”
According to Chip White, Californians from around the state have reported being harassed by people who are against Prop. 8. Among the incidents he related were: verbal harassment of Prop.8 supporters on the freeway, including obscene gestures; the theft of yard signs; and a woman in Riverside, California who had her garage sprayed with graffiti. [Catholic News Agency]
Notice there is no mention of a “wave of intimidation and violence” against No on 8 supporters. Notice also there is no quote from any agency that places violence against No on 8 as just as, if not more, ubiquitous. Notice also that the DAILY violence, harassment, and intimidation targeted at the LGBTQA community are given no mention. Rather, violence against the No on 8 community is framed as a “teen prank” via the fact that the ONLY story we are given about violence against No on 8 is as follows: “it was reported that a neighborhood teenager burned No on 8 yard signs. The teenager was taken into custody for a 72-hour psychological evaluation.”
In this story, about the march in West Hollywood, the choice of words such as “snarling” and “noisy” is telling, as is the fact the story finds it necessary to point out that “The event did not have a permit or approved march route.” The story also covers arrests and incidents of violence while failing to focus on the more positive messages of togetherness and equality that the march conveyed. Moreover, the story capitalizes on spreading hate, making a point to include a comment where a gay man blames African-American and Latino voters for 8’s win. (For a great post on this ‘blame the blacks’ trend, see Womanist Musings here.) And, yet again, the violence against the Yes on 8 crowd is framed as far worse than against the No on 8 crowd. Or, as this story tells it, Yes on 8 people throw eggs, while No on 8 people surround cars, rip up signs, and beat people.
Another story, from San Diego’s North County Times, reported the burning of a Baptist church in Vista. The fire is being treated as a suspected hate crime. Michael Hoffman, the spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is reported to refer to “heated confrontations between supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 down the street from the church in the weeks before the fire.” And, while “Authorities have no suspects or motives in the case,” the story clearly points the finger at someone opposing Prop 8. Television coverage of the same event at San Diego’s NBC news (channel 7) suggested the church burning was a vendetta carried out by a No on 8 supporter although there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest this is the case. Local San Diego activist Jennifer Schumaker responded to the story as follows: “We’ve been ignored, and now they are going to try to highlight anything that even LOOKS like it might be vengeful and point to us, evidence or not!”
Here is yet another story of No on 8 supporters committing violence. Yet, when I searched for stories detailing violence against No on 8 supporters with the phrase “violence against No on 8 supporters” what came up was stories about the No on 8 side supposedly calling for violence against Yes on 8 supporters! Stories such as “‘Gays” Call for Violence Against Christian Supporters of Prop 8″ (here) insinuate that all the violence and hatred is coming from the No on 8 side and, in particular, frame No on 8 supporters as perpetuating hate crime.
In these and so many other examples, the No on 8ers are framed as committing hate crimes. Yet, hate crimes against the LGBTQA community are rendered invisible and/or framed as relatively harmless (i.e. as ‘egg throwing’ and taking signs).
Another way these stories are being framed in the media paints No on 8 supporters as anti-religion and, in many cases, as perpetuating and even calling for hate crimes based on religious bias. Interestingly, the number of religious bias hate crimes and sexuality biased hate crimes were almost equal in 2007 accoring do the FBI’s hate crime statistics. Or, more specifically, there were 1,477 religious bias hate crimes reported, and 1460 sexuality bias crimes reported. Yet, if one gets their news from the MSM, it would seem as if those in the LGBTQA community are only perpetuators of crime rather than victims of it.
In fact, some who opposed HR 1592, the hate crimes prevention act, did so via claiming that ‘elevating’ homosexuality to the level of ‘normal’ would pose a danger to race equity and freedom of religion! For example, a senator from North Carolina urged the congress to oppose the act claiming that HR 1592 would:
*Elevate homosexuality and cross-dressing behaviors such as drag queens, transsexualism, she-males, etc. to the status of federally-protected minorities. These behaviors will be considered equal to race under the federal law.
• Fund anti-Christian curriculum for children K-12, through the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to promote homosexuality and cross-dressing as normal behaviors
Oh, the horror! Making homophobia on par with racism???? Teaching that homosexuality is NORMAL? What is this world coming to?!? Wow, with senators like these, maybe we should renaim the USofA, the HSofA – or the Homophobic States of America.
To find stories of the violence and attacks against No on 8ers, one must go outside the MSI (mainstream internet) and look to more progressive cites and blogs. To find stories of all the positive work being done AFTER Prop 8 passed, including marches, rallies, candlelight vigils, etc, one must also go beyond the right wing, biased news sources such as NBC, The North County Times, and The San Diego Union Tribune.
For coverage of the march that took place in San Diego today, which drew thousands of No on 8 supporters, see here (note that while this story puts the number of marchers at 2,000, other sources report the number was closer to 10,000).
If you would like to take action to support No on 8 or to make your voice heard regarding media bias, here are a few options:
- Go to www.InvalidateProp8.org and donate to the legal fight to overturn the proposition.
- Write to President Elect Barak Obama and encourage him to support, in word and deed, full equality (including marriage equality!) for LGBTQ folks.
- Read and sign the petition to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calling him not to allow Prop 8 to pass into law. (This petition debunks a bunch of the myths/lies spread by the Yes on 8 camp.)
- Thank the Los Angeles Mayor for his support of No on 8.
- Review the petition to remove the tax-exempt status of the Mormon church here. Whether or not you agree that their tax-exempt status should be removed, the petition is worth taking a look at for the arguments it makes regarding the fact that organizations with such status cannot focus their activities on influencing legislation.
- Call NBC San Diego at (619) 231-3939 to complain about their biased news coverage of Prop 8.
- Visit Queers United here for a listing of upcoming protests and rallies. Get out your rainbow and go support No on 8!
- Go to one of the nationwide protests against Prop 8 on Saturday, November 15. To find an event in your area, see this post for more info.
If you wish to read more about homophobia and hate crimes, a good source is Beyond Homophobia, a website maintained by Gregory Heck editor of Hate Crimes Confronting Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men. Also, in case there are any HDP’s (heterosexual privilege deniers) reading this post, I encourage you to read the “Heterosexual Privilege Checklist” here.
Proposition 8 in and of itself comes all to close to being a hate crime. While it may not directly cause “death or bodily injury” to LGBTQ folks, it most certainly will indirectly do so. The LGBTQ community already has a high suicide rate, depression rate, and poverty rate. Might not legislating further disenfranchisement exacerbate all of these? Might Prop 8 not also suggest that it is ok to be homophobic? Or to take it further, that it is ok to commit hateful acts (sometimes violent) against this “dangerous” group that “threatens” religious traditions? Prop 8 is not only unfair and wrong, but its passage, if you ask me, would be a hate crime carried out by the government of California and endorsed by 52% of voters. Scary.