Category Archives: LGBTQ

Matthew Shepard Murder

Matthew Shepard Murder

October 6, 1998

Before Laramie

The story of Matthew Shepard. He was born in Casper, Wyoming on December 1, 1976 to Judy and Dennis Shepard. He and his family moved to Saudia Arabia when he was a high school junior, but Matthew finished school at the American School in Switzerland because there were no American high schools in Saudi Arabia.

Matthew was well-liked by his fellow students in both high schools.

After graduating from high school and attending a couple different colleges, Matt moved back to Wyoming where he studied political science, foreign relations and languages at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Matthew Shepard Murder

McKinney & Russell

On October 6, 1998  Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, strangers to Matthew, met him at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie. Because of his small stature, McKinney and Henderson figured Shepard would be easy to rob.

They said they’d give a ride home but drove to a rural area where they tied him to a split-rail fence, beat him severely with the butt of a .357 Smith & Wesson pistol, and left him to die in the near-freezing temperatures of the early morning hours of October 7.

18 hour later Aaron Kreifels, a biker, discovered Shepard. So badly beaten that Kreifels at thought Shepard was a scarecrow.  Shepard was still alive but comatose.

Medics rushed him 65 miles to Fort Collins, Colorado where he remained in a coma for four days. Doctors pronounced him dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998. He was 21 years old.

Matthew Shepard Murder

Westboro Baptist Church

On October 17, the Shepard family buried Matthew. Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, took his church’s “God Hates Fags” message to the funeral. Two of his picket signs read: “No Tears for Queers” and “Fag Matt in Hell.”

Matthew Shepard Murder

Life sentences

On April 5, 1999 Russell Henderson pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; Henderson would receive two consecutive life sentences.

The jury in McKinney’s trial found him guilty of felony murder. As they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard’s parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

Matthew Shepard Murder

Hate Crimes Prevention Act

On April 3, 2001 Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The bill died when it failed to advance in the Subcommittee on Crime.

On April 2, 2004 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act reintroduced. It failed to advance in committee. On May 26, 2005 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act reintroduced. It failed to advance in committee.

On March 30, 2007 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  reintroduced a fourth time. The 2007 version of the bill added gender identity to the list of suspect classes for prosecution of hate crimes. The bill was again referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

On May 3, 2007. The House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but the bill got stuck in Senate committee.

On September 27, 2007, the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  as an amendment to another bill. President George W Bush indicated he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk. Democratic leadership dropped the amendment because of opposition from conservative groups and President George Bush.

Matthew Shepard Murder

President Barak Obama

Matthew Shepard Murder

On April 2, 2009 Rep John Conyers for a fifth time introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It has the support of President Obama.

On October 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Act as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010. The measure expanded the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Matthew Shepard Murder

Matthew Shepard Foundation

During the years that followed Shepard’s brutal murder, the Shepard family received donations from all over the world. They decided to begin the Matthew Shepard Foundation. It’s mission is to empower individuals to embrace human dignity and diversity through outreach, advocacy and resource programs. It strives to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. [link to MSF]

Matthew Shepard Murder

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

San Francisco, September 22, 1975

Sara Jane Moore

mugshot of Sara Jane Moore
Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Two Michigan guys and a mom

Two Michigan guys, strangers to each other, got out of two different beds on September 22, 1975. Neither imagined that someone was about to intertwine their lives forever. That someone was Sara Jane Moore. She got up that morning intending to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Moore put on baggy tan pants and a neatly pressed blue raincoat. A 45-year-old mother of four packing a chrome revolver.

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Oliver W Sipple

President Fort had addressed a conference at the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Outside was Oliver W Sipple, a 33-year-old ex-marine, twice-wounded in Vietnam. He  happened to be downtown that day and thought, “Why not stick around and see the President.” As the President left the hotel, Sipple was standing near Moore when he noticed her outstretched arm holding a revolver. Sipple yelled “The bitch has got a gun” and lunged at her. The bullet missed Ford and hit a cab driver who, fortunately, was only wounded.

With so much media around, a picture caught the moment: Sipple on the far left, Moore circled in red.

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Hero

President Ford sent a letter to Sipple. It said in part,

“I want you to know how much I appreciated your selfless actions last Monday…. The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety.

“By doing so you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation.”

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Outed

Navy veteran Harvey Milk was openly gay and active in San Francisco politics, He saw Sipple’s bravery as an opportunity to demonstrate that a gay person could also be a hero. Milk contacted San Francisco journalist Herb Caen. A few day’s later, Caen wrote about Milk, Sipple, and Sipple being gay. The new component to Sipple’s life went national.

Being a gay ex-Marine who displayed bravery both in uniform and again as a civilian sadly changed the story’s arc. For many, it somehow tempered their view of that courage, even in San Francisco, a place more (but not completely) tolerant of gays.

On September 29, William Safire wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Sipple is guilty of committing heroism in public, and is trying to hold on to the last shreds of the privacy that was stripped from him as a consequence of his selfless act. He is probably under family pressure to go one way, and under peer‐group pressure to go the other, with publicity stakes fairly high. He will think twice before he does any good deed again.”

Until his brave act, Sipple’s parents did not know of is sexual orientation. Finding out, his parents disowned him and later when Sipple’s mother died, Mr Sipple told his son he was not welcome to attend the funeral.

Keep in mind that on September 19th, just three days before the assassination attempt, a three‐member panel of Air Force officers took 4 hours 27 minutes  to conclude that T.Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich, gay, was unfit for military service.

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Aftermath

Sipple sued the Chronicle for invasion of privacy. The Superior Court in San Francisco dismissed the suit. Sipple continued his legal battle. In May 1984 the California Supreme Court refused to reinstate his invasion-of-privacy suit. His lawyer said that Sipple would have been better off ”if he had let that woman shoot.”

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Death

Oliver W. Sipple death is listed as February 2, 1989. That is the day authorities discovered his body. He had likely been dead for a few days. He was 47.

Papers reported that he had received treatment for schizophrenia, alcoholism and several other health problems. He weighed nearly 300 pounds when he died. His apartment was in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, a mainly low rent district. Sipple’s days then consisted of getting up and going to a bar to drink.

On the wall of his apartment hung the framed letter from Ford.

President Ford, the man who pardoned the un-convicted President who’d broken laws as President, had never invited the man who saved his life to the White House. Some conjectured that that failure was due to Sipple’s sexual orientation. The President said his letter had been enough.

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Moore

Sara Jane Moore pleaded guilty. At her sentencing to life in prison she stated “Am I sorry I tried? Yes and no. Yes, because it accomplished little except to throw away the rest of my life. And, no, I’m not sorry I tried, because at the time it seemed a correct expression of my anger.”

Moore escaped from prison in 1979 for a few hours. She later said, “If I knew that I was going to be captured…I would have stopped at the local bar just to get a drink and a burger.”

On December 31, 2007, Moore, 77, was released from prison on parole after serving 32 years of her life sentence. When the media asked about her crime Moore stated, “I am very glad I did not succeed. I know now that I was wrong to try.

In May 2009, NBC’s Matt Lauer interviewed her on the “Today Show.” (NYT article)

Hero Oliver Sipple Outed

Executive Order 10450

Executive Order 10450

April 27, 1953

President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450.

Executive Order 10450When the Cold War began, irrational fear of anything associated with Communism ruled the day. Clever politicians looking to gain patriotic points simply associated fringe members of society with Communism to disgrace them and sometimes imprison them.

The LGBTQ community was included in this wide-ranging persecution. Historically this period before the Stonewall riots and their marking a new era of activism is known as the Lavender Scare.

Executive Order 10450

          The text of the executive order began with:

 Sec. 8. (a) The investigations conducted pursuant to this order shall be designed to develop information as to whether the employment or retention in employment in the Federal service of the person being investigated is clearly consistent with the interests of the national security. Such information shall relate, but shall not be limited, to the following:

(1) Depending on the relation of the Government employment to the national security:

 (i) Any behavior, activities, or associations which tend to show that the individual is not reliable or trustworthy.

(ii) Any deliberate misrepresentations, falsifications, or omissions of material facts.

(iii) Any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, sexual perversion(my emphasis)

(iv) Any illness, including any mental condition, of a nature which in the opinion of competent medical authority may cause significant defect in the judgment or reliability of the employee, with due regard to the transient or continuing effect of the illness and the medical findings in such case.

(v) Any facts which furnish reason to believe that the individual may be subjected to coercion, influence, or pressure which may cause him to act contrary to the best interests of the national security.

(2) Commission of any act of sabotage, espionage, treason, or sedition, or attempts thereat or preparation therefore, or conspiring with, or aiding or abetting, another to commit or attempt to commit any act of sabotage, espionage, treason, or sedition.

Executive Order 10450
New Yorker, June 17, 1950

 

At that time, nearly all of society, including medical professionals, considered homosexuality a sexual perversion. In fact, it wasn’t until December 15, 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed the designation of homosexuality as a mental illness.  (NIH article)

The American Psychological Association, a different professional group, removed its designation of homosexuality as unhealthy in 1975. (2003 APA article)