On Sunday morning Instant Tea broke the news that Daniel Hernandez Jr., the intern credited with saving the life of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after Saturday’s shooting, is gay.
Unfortunately, just a few hours after we posted this exclusive story, our website went down for maintenance. Talk about bad timing!
Anyhow, we thought we’d follow up on our little scoop by sharing Hernandez’s interview with CNN, in which he refuses to take credit for saving Giffords’ life.
“People have been referring to me as a hero. I don’t think that’s something that I am,” Hernandez tells CNN. “I think the people who are heroes are the people like Gabby who are public servants and who have dedicated their lives to public service. So it just makes me happy that I was able to help her in any way that I could.”
Hey FRC: You know how you could help reduce America’s finger pointing literally overnight? You could stop giving the middle finger to all humans that fall outside of your personally-palatable purview!
We are mothers, daughters, fathers, friends, lovers, interns, members of congress, heroes, and everyday Americans. We are families. When you all end your discriminatory “research” into what needs no cure, at least one of America’s vestigial woulds will begin to heal. Then, perhaps, we can finally work together to prevent actual tragedies.
Daniel Hernandez, Jr. was the right man in the right place at the right time. Just five days into his internship for Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, the 20-year old college student was checking people into Rep. Gifford’s “Congress on Your Corner” event when the shooting started.
According to Arizona Republic, Hernandez started assisting victims before the shooting even stopped.
When the shots began that morning, he saw many people lying on the ground, including a young girl. Some were bleeding. Hernandez said he moved from person to person checking pulses.
“First the neck, then the wrist,” he said. One man was already dead. Then he saw Giffords. She had fallen and was lying contorted on the sidewalk. She was bleeding.
Using his hand, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on her forehead. He pulled her into his lap, holding her upright against him so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. [snip]
Hernandez used his hand to apply pressure until someone from inside Safeway brought him clean smocks from the meat department. He used them to apply pressure on the entrance wound, unaware there was an exit wound. He never let go of her.
He stayed with Giffords until paramedics arrived. They strapped her to a board and loaded her into an ambulance. Hernandez climbed in with her. On the ride to the hospital, he held her hand. She squeezed his back.
Hernandez’s immediate actions probably saved her life, a hospital physician said.
Like Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who helped thwart the plans of the 911 hijackers on Flight 93, and like the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender soldiers still serving in silence in our military under threat of expulsion, Daniel’s actions remind us that LGBT Americans are actively serving society. A society that is over 90% heterosexual.
Like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Monica Marquez and Speaker of the California Assembly John Pérez, Daniel’s actions remind us that Latino Americans are actively serving society at large, a society that is 85% non-Latino.
Andr?s Duque from Blabbeando so beautifully encapsulates the significance of Daniel Hernandez’s actions to the Latino and LGBT communities:
Of course, from the accounts, Daniel is a hero regardless of whether he’s Latino or gay or Irish or purple.
But it’s striking that in a state that has unfortunately become a national standard-bearer for some of the worst xenophobic sentiments in the current political climate, it IS a Latino man who happens to be gay who decided to stay by Congresswoman’s Giffords’ side and might very well have saved her life.
I can’t help but be moved at how such a selfless gesture can cut straight through all those efforts to demonize Latinos – or gays – specially in light of recent events in Arizona.
Bigotry is often accomodated as a civil rights cause advances. Redundant parallel institutions like civil unions emerge and misguided policies like DADT are enacted. Sometimes the accomodations are temporary measures that can incubate further change. Sometimes they wind up perpetuating the status quo. Half-measures like these are taken because people are slow or unable to come to grips with the simple truth that equality means equality for everyone.
DADT, instituted in 1993, will go down as an accomodation that did little or nothing to advance the cause of equality. Prior to DADT, gays were formally banned from serving in the U.S. military regardless of whether they were open or closeted. DADT may have been intended to end witch hunts, provided that LGB soldiers remained closeted. But the military failed to hold up its end of the bargain, and DADT looks like a feeble attempt by a beleagured Clinton administration to save face, not a potentially useful half-measure to further civil rights.
Leonard Matlovich, the first person to challenge the ban on LGBs serving in the military, had the foresight to reject a DADT-type compromise eighteen years prior to the enactment of DADT. Matlovich was an Air Force technical sergeant who had been the recipient of a purple heart and a bronze star and taught classes on race relations. In 1973, he got in touch with gay activist Frank Kameny, who was looking for a soldier with an exemplary record to help bring a test case against the ban. Matlovich agreed to be that soldier, and in March, 1975, he came out to his commanding officer in a letter. He was promptly discharged.
Matlovich fought the discharge. In the process, he was offered an accomodation that would have allowed him to remain in the Air Force provided that he promise never to practice homosexuality again. In effect, he could remain in the service if agreed to live a lie.
Matlovich rejected the lie and became a national LGBT rights activist instead. He helped combat and the Briggs initiative in California and Anita Bryant’s attempt to overturn an anti-discrimination clause in Miami. In his day, Matlovich was as well-known as Harvey Milk, if not more so, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He later campaigned for adequate HIV and AIDS education and treatment, and was arrested at a protest at the White House. He himself died of complications from HIV / AIDS in 1987.
Matlovich possessed a foresight and clarity of purpose that served him and the movement well, as he demonstrated in this interview broadcast on Good Morning America in 1987. The famous inscription he created for his gravestone eloquently expresses the injustice of the military ban:
When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.
People are often slow to recognize injustice. Some always refuse to see it, while others need time and half-measures. It has taken a long time for the country to allow open service — much too long for Matlovich, unfortunately. But by sharing his clarity of vision, he helped bring it about.
Ever since his “It Gets Better” speech, it seems not a day (or even an hour) goes by that we don’t hear something new about openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Today’s news comes from GayPolitics.com, which reports that Burns is the Victory Fund’s first endorsed candidate for 2011.
His powerful October speech about the suicides of young gay people, delivered in the chambers of the Fort Worth City Council, has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube, prompting media outlets from across the country (and the world) to seek interviews to discuss the issue of anti-LGBT bullying.
Councilman Joel Burns has become a hero to LGBT youth who so desperately need role models — people who are successful and respected, but who are also open and honest about being gay.
Now Burns is also the first 2011 candidate to earn the Victory Fund’s endorsement. He’s running for re-election to represent District 9 on the Fort Worth City Council, and the Victory Fund is out to make sure he wins.
“Joel represents what the Victory Fund is all about — making sure LGBT voices are represented in government, and making sure we are heard,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.
The name California comes from a sixteenth century conquistador fantasy of a formidable island inhabited by free-loving black Amazons. They were led by a brave queen:
Know th[ere] . . . exists an island called California . . . populated by black women. . . [L]ike the Amazons was their style of living. The[y] were of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength; the island itself the strongest in steep rocks and great boulders that is found in the world; their arms were all of gold . . . [W]hen they had peace with their adversaries, they intermixed . . .
There ruled on that island of California, a queen great of body, very beautiful . . ., desirous in her thoughts of achieving great things, valiant in strength, . . . Queen Calafia. (from Dora Beale Polk, The Island of California, U. of Neb. Press, 1991)
California’s founding myth derives from a siege on sexual and racial diversity. Despite the state’s reputation as a stronghold for live-and-let-live tolerance, its tolerant spirit has been contested and has suffered as many shameful defeats as victories. Whereas the state attracts people who are drawn by the promise of social freedom and possibility, it also draws those who mainly seek riches and wind up trying to domesticate and dominate the spirit that others cherish.
I like to think of Calafia as the avenging defender of sexual minorities, feminists, native peoples, blacks and sexual, ethnic and racial diversity in general. I imagine her with the suffragists when California women won the right to vote in 1911. I picture her guiding the California Supreme Court when the state was among the first to repeal its anti-miscegenation law in 1948. I see her taking over Alcatraz with Native American students and marching with Cesar Chavez. She would have been by Harvey Milk’s side when he led the defeat of the Briggs initiative, and with Gavin Newsom when he recognized same-sex unions in 2004.
Calafia has suffered a number of defeats over the years, too, of which Prop 8 is the most recent. The laws robbing Chinese of their constitutional rights and the internment of Japanese-Americans are just two examples.
This election suggests that Calafia has regrouped and might once again be on the ascendancy. November was a good month for California LGBTs, anyway. Gavin Newsom won his race for Lieutenant Governor. Barbara Boxer, one of only fourteen senators who voted against DOMA in 1996, won her senate race. Jerry Brown, the attorney general who refused to defend prop 8, won the governorship, and our new attorney general, Kamala Harris, has vowed not to defend it. Victoria Kolakowski became the first openly transgender judge in the country. Perhaps most satisfying of all, the author of prop 8, Andrew Pugno, lost his race for state assembly. These victories demonstrate that it is possible for politicians to fight for principle and win. With the Prop 8 hearings scheduled on December 6, 2010, I’m hoping that Calafia is at peak strength.
Note from Lurleen: There are so many unsung heros like Cary in our LGBT community, and unfortunately they do go largely unrecognized until they've passed. Tell us about the unsung heroes present in your community.
On Monday, the LGBT and Progressive communities lost a dear friend, Cary Toland. His dedication to the our community was an inspiration to me, and to those who knew and loved him. He was the kind of guy that made you smile just to be around him. I loved talking politics with Cary because he was so engaged. But what I admired most about him was his willingness to walk the walk. Whether it was raining, or cold, or dreary, Cary was out there talking to people. He won hearts and minds not just for the gay community, but for progressives throughout our country.
His close friend Andrew Caldwell told me, “Cary was an inspiring example of a citizen activist who didn't just click and complain, but always showed up to demonstrate, register voters, canvass and phone-bank for initiatives and candidates–all with a pragmatism paired with his progressive idealism–with tangible results. People like Cary are why we kept our pro-LGBT Senator Patty Murray in office this year.”
Senator Patty Murray certainly does have Cary to thank for her recent narrow victory because Toland was out there every weekend this year talking to people.
The volunteer work I had the pleasure of seeing first hand often goes unthanked, but it is the kind of work that brings us closer to equality every single day. State Senator Ed Murray said it best, “We have lost one of those unsung Heroes, whose hard work, while seldom seen, made equality a reality for so many,” he said, “I will miss talking with Carey at events, he was always so warm, relaxed and interested in those around him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.”
I don't think I ever saw Cary without Josh Castle near by. Josh is the only person I know who could actually get me to knock on a stranger's door. He and Cary were a dynamic force. I know that like so many of Cary's close friends, this loss is deeply felt. I asked Josh if he could share some thoughts with me.
Cary Toland was many things. A good friend, always reliable and ready to lend a hand, give advice, and make you feel warm and welcome. A political sparring partner, ready for a spirited discussion or debate, leaving everyone in the dust with his knowledge of history, his witty humor, his compassion for the human condition, and his expansive take on life. And as a hero, organizer, and activist for LGBT equality and the election of progressive candidates for office. His passion for life, way with words, never ending wit, and generosity of spirit defines his soul.
Cary left us too soon but his spirit lives on with the thousands of lives he touched personally and the millions of lives made better through his organizing and activism. Once we're past the tears, knowing Cary, he would tell all of us to quit moping around and to get back to work fighting for equality, justice, and fairness. We love you Cary and will miss you sorely.
There are hundreds of people who could add to the story that was Cary's life. Some of those can be seen on his Facebook page which quickly became a memorial as word of his sudden heart attack spread.
We will continue to be inspired by Cary throughout our lives. One way we can honor his life will be to learn from his courage. He taught us not to be afraid to knock on a stranger's door to say, “Hi. I'm here to talk to you today about something important. Do you have a few minutes?”
But perhaps most importantly Cary reminds us to have hope. He wrote the day after the last election, “The crystal clear image of Mt. Rainier this morning, against the backdrop of a golden sunrise was truly inspiring and fills me with hope, in spite of yesterday's disappointments. There's so much in life that is worth living and fighting for.”