New York man hit with hate crime charges in the serial theft of LGBT rainbow flags from church
A 21-year-old New York man was arrested on hate crime charges tied to the repeated theft of LGBT rainbow flags from in front of a church, a series of crimes that the openly gay pastor called “unnerving” for him and his congregation.
The suspected thief, Ronald Tyler Witt, was arrested around 8:05 p.m. Tuesday at his home in Sayville, New York, less than four blocks from the Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Witt was arrested on suspicion of six counts of petit larceny as a hate crime and is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at the First District Court in Central Islip, on New York’s Long Island, police said.
It was not immediately clear if Witt had hired an attorney.
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, the openly gay pastor of the Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ, said the first theft occurred in July and that he contacted police when subsequent flags were stolen.
“Amazon has me on speed order for rainbow flags. I just kept ordering them and putting them up,” Bagnuolo told ABC News on Wednesday. “It wasn’t for any reason other than you can’t let people stop.”
Suffolk police said the rainbow flags, measuring 12 by 18 inches, were stolen on July 29, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, Oct. 15, Oct. 20 and on the Tuesday just before Witt was arrested.
“I’m happy they found out who he is and that it can stop because it was unnerving,” Bagnuolo said. “These types of things are meant often to send a message. Sometimes there just a dumb thing that people do, but repeated over and over it begins to feel like there’s a targeting going on here and there’s a message.”
He said the stolen flags were displayed on the church lawn next to an American flag and a prisoner of war flag, which were not touched.
The pastor said that after the second flag was stolen, he put up a sign in front of the church reading, “You destroyed our welcoming Rainbow Flag twice. It WAS an act of fear. It IS an act of hate. Do you realize that? IT WAS NOT KIND. IT IS HURTFUL. Instead of doing it again, talk with us. We will talk with you. You, too, are welcome here.”
Last week Tokyo’s municipal government passed a bill that prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In doing so, the city not only demonstrated its commitment to equal rights for all, but also to making the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games a springboard for human rights in Japan and beyond.
The new law states that the city government, citizens, and enterprises “may not unduly discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” It requires the government to “conduct measures needed to make sure human-rights values are rooted in all corners of the city and diversity is respected in the city.”
Japan has twice voted for United Nations resolutions to end violence and discrimination against LGBT people. However, this law took its inspiration not from international human-rights treaties, but rather from the Olympic Charter. As the law reads: “This act upholds the goal of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to make Tokyo a city that upholds the human-rights values of banning any sort of discrimination as stated in the Olympic Charter.”
Elsewhere around the world, the Olympics have driven some changes in how governments hosting the Games act on LGBT rights issues. This has in part been a rebuke to Russia for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The Russian government’s passage of the discriminatory “gay propaganda” law marred the Games, along with other human-rights violations such as forced evictions, abuses against migrant workers, and media censorship.
In December 2014, as part of its “Olympic Agenda 2020,” the International Olympic Committee confirmed that all future host-city contracts would include a requirement specifically banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government went even further, though, by including gender-identity protections.
The Tokyo law can be added to a growing list of local and national measures that recognize and protect LGBT people in Japan.
At least seven local governments across the country now offer certificates to recognize same-sex couples – even though there is no marriage equality at a national level.
Nationally, the Education Ministry issued a “Guidebook for Teachers” in 2016 that outlines how to treat LGBT students in schools. In March 2017, the ministry announced it had revised the national bullying-prevention policy to include LGBT students. An increasing number of schools are allowing LGBT students to select their own uniforms so that they’re not compelled to wear a girl’s or boy’s uniform.
Internationally, Japan, along with the United States and the Netherlands, led a UNESCO conference in 2016 on bullying of LGBT students. Japan has voted for two UN resolutions to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Gay dating app launches anti-racism campaign
If you’re a black or Asian user of gay dating app Grindr, then it’s possible you’ve encountered racism while using it.
Some users of the app have said they’ve come across what they believe are discriminatory statements on other profiles – things like “no blacks and no Asians”.
Others say they’ve faced racist comments in conversation with users when they’ve rejected their advances.
Now Grindr has taken a stand against discrimination on its platform and says no user is entitled to tear another down for “being who they are”.
It’s launched the #KindrGrindr campaign to raise awareness of racism and discrimination and promote inclusivity among users.
It says it will ban users who “bully or defame” others and will remove offensive language from profiles.
This is the first in a series of videos, and includes well-known BAME individuals such as RuPaul’s Drag Race star The Vixen and comedian Joel Kim Booster.
Zac Stafford, chief content officer at Grindr, says he has experienced racism on the app himself.
“I was a user of Grindr before I started working here, so I was already familiar with the racism and issues faced by people of colour or non-masculine identifying people on the app,” he says in a statement.
“Online discrimination has reached epidemic proportions affecting not only Grindr but other social networks.”
“I’ve had people call me a monkey,” says 26-year-old Alex Leon, an LGBT activist from London who uses Grindr.
“Some people will very bluntly say something along the lines of “no blacks, no Asians, no Hispanics”.
He welcomes Grindr’s Kindr initiative but says he’d “like to see more” from the company in the future to protect young BAME people using the app.
“For many young people, this is their first foray into the world of what it means to be LGBT,” he adds.
“These spaces are supposed to be meant for you as a gay or bisexual person and then you come into contact with even more discrimination.”
Ageism hurts and it is discrimination
Today Independent Age are launching Ageism Plus, showcasing the lived experiences of older people to explore what is the reality of multiple discrimination for many older people and look for solutions and change.
“Being old is an adventure, but not an adventure holiday where you get your campsite set up for you. It’s an adventure as in being abandoned on Dartmoor with a water bottle. It’s challenging, it’s scary, it’s messy, it’s frightening, and it’s got its own rewards”. Joan
In conversation with older people, we find the topic of ageism often comes up. Sometimes it isn’t referred to as ageism, but feelings of being invisible, not being taken seriously, ignored in shops or assumptions about being incompetent or incapable are commonly raised. This is ageism, it hurts and it is discrimination.
Increasingly, we have also heard stories about older people facing multiple forms of prejudice. Some people have faced lifelong prejudice – sexism, racism, homophobia – and found they face a “double whammy” of discrimination as they grow older. One woman told us about feeling “forced back into the closet” when she reached her late 60s due to the prejudice she experienced. Others recalled the “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” signs of the 1950s and the feeling that the racism fuelling such views has never really gone away.
Many forms of prejudice and stigma have received a lot of attention recently. Sexism and mental health are good examples. But the focus is invariably on younger people and people of working age. Rarely are older people the priority demographic. The scandalous treatment of the Windrush generation is a notable exception.
We are starting a conversation about older people’s experiences of discrimination.
Today we launching Ageism Plus, showcasing the lived experiences of older people, alongside the views of other experts such as the Fawcett Society, Race Foundation, Terrence Higgins Trust, Women’s Aid and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We explore what is the reality of multiple discrimination for many older people today and look for solutions and change.
Starting with Ageism and Sexism, each week we will be examining a theme of prejudice or stigma experienced by older people. We cover racism, mental health, dementia, abuse, disability and health, LGBT+ and work and money. The series comprises blogs, videos, quotes, and even poems and artwork expressing what it’s like to face lifelong prejudice with the “double whammy” of ageist attitudes and behaviours.
In our launch week we hear from men and women about their experiences of ageism and sexism. Baroness Ros Altmann (former Pensions Minister) shares her thoughts on the barriers women face at work as they age. We have four stories from older people about their experience of gender inequality and older men talking about feeling isolated and the challenges of ageing without children. To remind us that positive experiences of ageing are possible, an inspirational art project of older women enjoying life to the full. And Sam Smethers of the Fawcett Society sums up the challenge of sexism in later life nicely when she tells us that “invisibility is just the beginning for older women and ageing is not for the faint hearted”.
Independent Age believes that everyone should be treated fairly and equally in later life. Join the conversation at Ageism Plus and help us make it a reality.
Stonewall says that the LGBT community has a problem with racism
It’s not hard to find profiles with bios boasting racist language to make it clear that users don’t want to meet any ethnic minorities. And now Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT charity, says that the community here in Britain has a problem with racism – both online and in real life. It’s released a report based on YouGov’s polling of over 5,000 LGBT people and its results are pretty damning. ‘(The report) highlights…alarming levels of racism experienced by black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people, and a significant proportion of trans people, bi people, LGBT disabled people and LGBT people of faith feeling excluded within the LGBT community,’ it reads. 51% of LGBTQ and trans people of colour say they’ve faced racial discrimination in the wider gay community, with three in five black people reporting to have experienced poor treatment and comments while being made to feel unwelcome in LGBT-specific spaces.
‘This research gives a worrying insight into just how serious a problem prejudice is within our community, and we need to talk about it. Users of dating apps will be familiar with phrases like “No blacks, no Asians” and “No chocolate, no curry, no rice, no spice” becoming the modern-day versions of “No blacks, no dogs, no Gypsies”,’ says Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall UK. ‘Both online and in their daily lives, LGBT people of colour are excluded and face stereotyping from their white peers. This leaves BAME LGBT people feeling unwelcome within the wider community.’ Religion was also reported as being a major source of discrimination and exclusion, with one 21-year-old ‘ex-Muslim’ Arabic woman saying that ‘no LGBT+ supports me or accommodates, I am invisible’.
Interview: Licensing LGBT Discrimination in the US
Across the United States, state laws are being passed or debated that would allow businesses, adoption and foster care agencies, and even healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBT people. The laws claim – disingenuously – to be nothing more than an effort to protect business owners’ or providers’ religious freedom. Philippa Stewart speaks to researcher Ryan Thoreson about the real impact of these laws.
Aren’t these laws just designed to protect religious freedom in the US?
Religious freedom is an important value, but these laws don’t respond to any real-world threat to religious freedom and are more about legitimizing discrimination. The debates around these laws are a direct response to same-sex marriage being recognized across the US, and a concern that people who want to discriminate against LGBT people won’t be able to do that if LGBT people are protected.
After 2015, when the right for same-sex couples to marry in the US was established, we saw this big wave of bills at the state level that sought to carve out exemptions for people who didn’t want to work with same-sex couples. These bills allowed, for example, wedding service providers, adoption and foster care agencies, and in some cases even counselors and mental and physical healthcare providers to refuse to serve LGBT people.
Resistance to LGBT equality is the primary motivation for these laws, not a concern for religious freedom. Just look at some of the laws. In Mississippi, the law protects the belief that marriage is between a man and woman, that sex outside that marriage in any form is unacceptable, and that gender identity is immutable and fixed at birth. That’s not a protection of religious freedom, that’s a protection of one particular type of religious viewpoint.
What do the laws say?
Tennessee has a law that allows mental health counsellors to decline to see LGBT clients based on the counselors’ religious beliefs. Seven states – Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, and Texas – have laws that specifically allow child welfare agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples in adoption and foster care placements.
Federal agency calls on Congress to pass LGBTQ anti-discrimination law
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent agency tasked with developing and enhancing federal civil rights laws, released a report on Wednesday outlining the “long, serious and pervasive history” of employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and called for federal legislation to address the issue.
Following the release, the Commission’s chair, Catherine E. Lhamon, noted this new report, titled “Working for Inclusion,” is the first investigation in the Commission’s 60-year history to focus solely on LGBT civil rights.
The 154-page report, addressed to President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, compiled the most recent research on LGBT employment discrimination.
The report concluded LGBT workers have faced a “history of official and unofficial employment discrimination by both federal, state, and local governments and private employers.” The report also found federal data sources do not effectively capture rates of LGBT employment discrimination.
In addressing the pervasiveness of LGBT employment discrimination, the report cited the 2008 General Social Survey, which found 42 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees “experienced at least one form of employment discrimination at some point in their lives.” The report also cited findings from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which found 90 percent of transgender employees reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination at work or taking actions (such as hiding their gender identity) to avoid being subjected to such behavior.
The report also concluded the “inconsistent and irreconcilable patchwork” of state laws and federal court decisions dealing with anti-LGBT workplace discrimination “render LGBT employees insufficiently protected from workplace discrimination.”Currently, for example, 28 states do not have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 32 states do not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or presentation.
It’s Always Been About Discrimination for LGBT People
As a gay person, I grew up knowing I was different. Hearing other kids call anyone who deviated from traditional gender expectations a “fag.” Getting called a “lesbo” at age 11. I hadn’t come out to anyone and didn’t even really understand what it meant, but I knew it was an insult.
At an early age, we learn that it’s at best different to be LGBT. And many of us are taught that this difference is bad — shameful, deviant, disgusting. We might try to hide it. We might wish it away. We learn that even if our family accepts us, there are some relatives who might not; we get asked to hide who we are so as not to make them uncomfortable.
This teaches shame.
We hear about LGBT people who have been physically attacked or even killed for being who they are.
This teaches fear.
While I know I grew up with privilege, and others have stories far worse than mine, I also believe that countless other LGBT people could tell stories like this — not the same, but all rooted in a legacy that made us feel ashamed of who we are. And yet I, like many of us, also learned pride and hope and found a community that loves me and makes me feel welcome.
Those experiences are part of why I care so much about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. A decision in support of the bakery would open the door to sweeping discrimination. What’s at stake isn’t just whether we have the freedom to go about our daily lives and purchase the same things that others are able to buy. That’s part of it, but it’s not the whole picture.
We never leave those initial experiences of shame and discrimination behind completely. Our sexual orientation may or may not be readily visible to others. How we dress or how we act might identify us as gay but it might not, and it won’t in all circumstances.
UN Human Rights Office Unveils Global Business Standards for LGBT Non-Discrimination
(EDGE) United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today launched an unprecedented set of global standards to support the business community in tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people.
Addressing an audience of business leaders, activists and journalists at Microsoft’s New York City headquarters, Zeid called on the private sector to play its part in promoting LGBTI inclusion in the workplace and beyond. “Social change requires the active involvement of all parts of society – including, critically, the business community,” he said. “The decisions that companies take – whether in respect of human resources, investment, supply chains, even marketing – can have a real and, in some cases, profound impact on human rights.”
Drawing on good practice from around the world, the new standards set out actions companies can take to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals. These include eliminating workplace discrimination, making sure business operations do not contribute to discrimination against customers, suppliers or members of the public, and working with business partners to address discriminatory practices up and down the supply chain. They also encourage companies to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people in the countries where they operate – including through advocacy and support for local organizations. Read More …
Drawing on good practice from around the world, the new standards set out actions companies can take to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals. These include eliminating workplace discrimination, making sure business operations do not contribute to discrimination against customers, suppliers or members of the public, and working with business partners to address discriminatory practices up and down the supply chain. They also encourage companies to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people in the countries where they operate – including through advocacy and support for local organizations.
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD AND ROLLING STONE SETTLE ‘DEFAMATION DISPUTE’ BY DONATING TO NATIONAL BLACK JUSTICE COALITION
*“The Breakfast Club” DJ Charlamagne Tha God settled his dispute with Rolling Stone by making a charitable donation towards LGBT rights.
You recall Charlamagne had comedian Lil Duval on his show and asked what he would do if he found out he’d unknowingly slept with a transgender woman. Duval said she would be “dying.”
The backlash the followed over what many considered to be “transphobic” comments hit Charlamagne the hardest. Trans activist and author Janet Mock was so troubled by the controversy that she penned a response piece for Allure.com.
Rolling Stone picked up the story and pegged Charlemagne as the perpetrator in July 31st article titled: “Janet Mock On Charlemagne the God’s Transphobic Comments.”
*“The Breakfast Club” DJ Charlamagne Tha God settled his dispute with Rolling Stone by making a charitable donation towards LGBT rights.You recall Charlamagne had comedian Lil Duval on his show and asked what he would do if he found out he’d unknowingly slept with a transgender woman. Duval said she would be “dying.”The backlash the followed over what many considered to be “transphobic” comments hit Charlamagne the hardest. Trans activist and author Janet Mock was so troubled by the controversy that she penned a response piece for Allure.com.Rolling Stone picked up the story and pegged Charlemagne as the perpetrator in July 31st article titled: “Janet Mock On Charlemagne the God’s Transphobic Comments.”The Breakfast Club” DJ Charlamagne Tha God settled his dispute with Rolling Stone by making a charitable donation towards LGBT rights.You recall Charlamagne had comedian Lil Duval on his show and asked what he would do if he found out he’d unknowingly slept with a transgender woman. Duval said she would be “dying“Janet Mock On Charlemagne the God’s Transphobic