Tennessee man beaten in alleged anti-gay hate crime

imagesA Paris, Tenn., business owner told police that during an alleged robbery, assailants beat him while calling him anti-gay slurs and then wrote one on his forehead with a permanent marker before he was knocked unconscious.

WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tenn., reported on Thursday that 32-year-old Joe Williams, the owner of Healthy Thyme, was robbed of $1,500, and the store was set on fire. Williams told The Paris Post-Intelligencer that a man had entered the store earlier that day and asked him about his “sexual preference.” The man told Williams he couldn’t shop at the store if the owner was gay.

Williams told police a man later entered the store through the employee’s entrance, asking for something to help his sick daughter, according to the Post-Intelligencer. Williams recommended a product, and when he reached down to get it, the man allegedly began beating him.

Paris Police Sgt. Michael Ramos reported Williams had a “homosexual word written in black across his forehead.”

The police report also indicates two other men, both wearing ski masks and black jackets, joined the first man in hitting Williams. Williams told officers he was hit until he was unconscious, and when he woke up, he saw the men pouring gasoline near the front of the building.

Williams barricaded himself in the store’s office and then went next door to call police after he saw the robbers leave the business.

“I just fear for my life,” Williams said. “I’m to the point now where I’m worried to even go outside. I live my life as a gay man and wasn’t ashamed of it, and I just feel that I was targeted for that for that reason.”

—  Steve Ramos

Lesbian shocked at anti-gay message scrawled on anniversary cake

FULLLesbianAnnivCakex400When a lesbian in Washington, D.C., picked up an anniversary cake, she found the bakery had ignored her instructions regarding the wording on the cake and had, instead, scrawled a homophobic message on it.

The Advocate reported that Sarah [she asked that her last name not be used] recently ordered a carrot cake at an Arlington, Va., bakery near her job with the intention of surprising her partner, Lindsay, on their anniversary. The design she picked out from the bakery’s catalog featured balloons on the cake’s top, but Sarah asked that the balloons not be used, and instead include the words “Happy Anniversary Lindsey! Love, Sarah.”

When she picked up the cake, not only did it have balloons, but “Lesbian Anniv. No balloons” was scribbled on it in sloppy handwriting. The cake also was chocolate, not carrot as Sarah requested.

The Advocate reported that Sarah requested to speak to the manager who apologized for the sloppy text but not for its inaccurate, homophobic content. The manager refunded Sarah’s money and offered her a “less sloppy” cake but refused to address the cake’s messaging.

“How could anyone mistake that for something a person would want on a cake?” Sarah asked The Advocate. “And what baker would sell something so messy and unprofessional? When it occurred to me that this was probably an intentional insult to my relationship, I was appalled at the audacity of the cake decorator or baker or whoever was responsible. It’s disappointing to know that when I want to honor the most important person in my life, I have to worry about some intolerant person ruining the surprise I had planned.”

—  Steve Ramos

Alec Baldwin uses another gay slur

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Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin stayed on his course of using gay slurs Thursday morning by calling one of the paparazzi who swarmed his family a “cock-sucking fag,” according to New York magazine.

In 1992, Baldwin called a horse-drawn carriage driver a “faggot” for supporting the expansion of carriage rides outside of Central Park. In September 2011, Baldwin referred to a Starbucks barista as an “uptight queen.” In June 2012, Baldwin called Daily News editor-in-chief Colin Myler an “English Queen.” In June 2013, Baldwin called Daily Mail journalist George Stark a “toxic little queen” who would “dig it if Baldwin stuck his foot up his ass.

—  Steve Ramos

Bertolli shows Barilla how it’s done

bertolli

I said this morning there would be plenty of gay-friendly pasta brands to take Barilla’s place. It didn’t take long for one to emerge — and it has a history of being gay-friendly.

Bartolli in Germany started a social media campaign today with the above image, but as AdWeek reports, it has been courting the gays for years — check out the video after the jump from 2009.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Barilla dares gays to buy another pasta

BarillaPenne for your thoughts? Not if you’re gay, says Guido Barilla.

Barilla’s name graces the cardboard boxes of the popular line of dry pasta, and Guido seems pretty definitive that he cringes at the idea homos would derive any pleasure sucking on his ziti.

As Buzzfeed reported (with accompanying GIF commentaries), Guido — when asked if his company would include same-sex couples in any advertising — rejected the idea. But he went a lot further: “If gays don’t like it, they can always eat another brand of pasta.”

He’s got us there, I must confess. Flour, egg and water is all that’s in pasta, so it’s not like quality ingredients are rare. And I’m sure there are many pasta brands where, even if they don’t put gays in the TV commercials, certainly hope we buy their brand.

So let’s do that: Let’s boycott Barilla. There are plenty of fusilli in the sea. Or better yet, skip it entirely. Gays don’t need starchy carbs anyway.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A letter showing why we still have a long way to go in fighting bigotry

BSAI received a strange email this week, and I’m not sure why.

It was written by one Sebastian Wolfgang, apparently in response to a piece in the Dallas Morning News (paywall) by Tom Melsheimer saying that the Boy Scouts of America had “failed their leadership challenge” in opposing gay leaders in the Scouts.

Sebastian Wolfgang took issue with this approach, and sent an email to Melsheimer in which he laid out in clear arguments how destructive gay people are. Just why the author chose to cc me on this email, I’m not sure, but the thing is, he seems more happy with making up facts than reporting them. The amount of misinformation (“sodomy has been against the law for over 200 years in our country” — he never heard of Lawrence v. Texas, apparently) and outright dangerous libels (“Almost 100% of AIDS come from homosexuals”). It just goes to show how far we still have to go in order to overcome the homophobia that continues.

After the break, then, is the email:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Equality TX rakes in $4k in donations on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

Equality Texas utilized Wednesday’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day as a donation day for those who do not support the chicken chain.

Donors were encouraged to give $6.50, the cost of a chicken sandwich meal, to the organization, but other amounts could also be donated.

Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith said 281 donors gave money Wednesday totaling $4,350. In addition, five new donors signed up to give monthly.

He said the funds would most likely go to fund the Equality Project, which is a public education program that travels across Texas.

Smith said he was surprised with the media coverage about the appreciation day that focused primarily on the company’s right to freedom of speech. He said members and allies of the LGBT community are not criticizing the freedom of speech, but the message that was behind the president’s recent comments and the actions of the company by donating to anti-gay organizations.

“No one is questioning Chick-fil-A or Dan Cathy’s right to free speech,” he said. “This is about disagreeing with them giving millions of dollars to fund discrimination and homophobia.”

Tomorrow is a national same-sex kiss-in day at Chick-fil-A. Smith said the organization wasn’t planning another donation day, but people can donate anytime online.

—  Dallasvoice

Ex-Dallasite’s Rainbow Chronicle website rates people, places according to gay-friendliness

Travis Lowry

Former Dallas resident Travis Lowry recently launched a national website for the LGBT community to rank professional businesses, events, venues and even public officials based on their LGBT-friendliness.

Rainbow Chronicle allows people to search for businesses and people by zip codes and major cities, but visitors must register to post a review or to comment, Lowry said.

The site has roughly 4,500 frequent users with about 800 sustained users, who Lowry said visit the site about every three days.

The site can be used to find a place to take a same-sex date without awkwardness or to preview an upcoming event. But Lowry said he also wanted to give a voice to people who interact with pubic officials, especially since many conservative areas never see LGBT issues discussed at election time.

“Local leaders play a huge part in people’s lives,” Lowry said. “It’s really, really hard to find voting records, so having computer-generated reviews based on the people who interact with them is helpful.”

—  Dallasvoice

Person in media I hate most today: Piers Morgan

By now you’ve certainly heard the comments made by irrelevant-former-sitcom-star-cum-bad-all-around-Jesus-freak-actor Kirk Cameron about gays. That he was even given a forum on a national show kinda surprises me — what could Cameron have to say about anything at this late date that could be of even passing intellectual/entertainment/political relevance? They might as well book Squiggy.

But what I really find distasteful is Piers Morgan defending Cameron for being “brave” in saying what he thinks.

Hmmm. Now, Piers: I know you’re not an American. I know you think a gossip peddler like Rupert Murdoch defines good journalism (which, in England, it probably does). I know with a name like Piers Morgan, you probably have some Frenchman in ya, and thus are unaffiliated with what bravery really is. But please, spouting off ignorant bigotry doesn’t make you brave; instead, it makes you — what’s the term? — oh, yeah: An ignorant bigot. I wonder if you would describe James Earl Ray for being brave for assassinating a man he really didn’t agree with. Or Orville Faubus for being brave for bullying black teenagers and defying the U.S. Supreme Court for wanting to end segregation. Or how about those kids in Wyoming who beat Matthew Shepard to death because they sincerely felt it was inappropriate for him to hit on them. We, sir, have different definitions of bravery.

For instance, I don’t consider you brave in defending Cameron. I consider you a moron. I guess it’s brave for a moron to go on TV every night and hope people don’t see through his ignorance. But I prefer to save to term brave for my grandfather, who ran up the beaches of Normandy on June 3, 1944 to stave off the exact kind of hatred and misinformation that, 70 years later, Cameron and his ilk seem to still believe. You disgust me, Piers Morgan, if you think spouting off homophobia is anything other than pathetic and misinformed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Balch Springs PD: Investigation into gay man’s death is ongoing

Police chief says anti-gay behavior by officers not tolerated, says such behavior by investigator is unlikely

Police_Chief_Morris

Police Chief Ed Morris

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

BALCH SPRINGS — Balch Springs Police Chief Ed Morris said an investigation into the death of a gay man in his city is ongoing. Answering charges of homophobia in his department lodged by the dead man’s family, Morris said that he doesn’t tolerate that sort of behavior in his officers.

The body of Rodney Johnson was found in his trailer in Balch Springs on Nov. 12.

Morris said that there was no sign of foul play in Johnson’s death but that his department is awaiting test results from the Dallas County medical examiner before proceeding with an investigation. Those results take about three months to return.

Johnson’s sister Duby Redburn said that the officer she spoke to snickered and said, “I don’t know what sort of lifestyle he led,” when describing what he found.

“He was very insensitive,” Redburn said of the detective’s behavior.

Morris made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior from his officers.

“I don’t think any of my officers would make an anti-gay comment,” he said.

He said that if he thought that any officer was guilty of that sort of behavior, that officer would be in his office immediately and he would take care of it. But Morris said he would especially surprised if he heard it about the specific officer Redburn accused.

Johnson did not show up for work at his job as a security guard at a Bank of America branch on Thursday, Nov. 10. His supervisor became worried when she couldn’t reach him by phone, so she drove to his home. When he didn’t answer the door, she called police.

The supervisor and Johnson’s family have said police never responded to the call.

But Morris said department records indicate that Johnson’s supervisor’s call to police was logged at 2:41 p.m. on Nov. 11, and that a patrol car was dispatched to Johnson’s address at 2:49 p.m. He said that was reasonable response time for that sort of non-emergency “welfare check” call.

Police arrived at 3:03 p.m. at the location, Morris said.

The officer responding to the call reported that there was no odor coming from the trailer.

He asked neighbors about Johnson’s car that was parked in an odd position. Neighbors said it had been there for several days.

Morris said they searched records to see if there were additional calls from the supervisor’s phone number but could not find any, although the supervisor said she had called both 911 and the department’s direct line phone number.

A police department spokesman initially told Dallas Voice there was no record of either call.

Johnson’s body was found the next day when his brother, Roger Johnson, got a call from Rodney’s boyfriend in Canada, worried that he hadn’t heard from him. Roger Johnson used his key to the trailer to enter, and found his brother lying on the floor, face down.

Roger Johnson had said his brother’s body was lying in a pool of blood.

The call record indicates police were dispatched in 30 seconds and arrived in minutes.

Morris said he didn’t recall seeing any blood on the floor in the police pictures taken before Johnson was transported by helicopter to the hospital. But he said the body showed signs of lividity, meaning the blood had settled to the lower part of the body, which indicated he had been lying on the floor for some time before he was found.

Other issues remain unresolved, such as an unauthorized attempt to access Johnson’s bank account the week after his death. But since the original article appeared in

Dallas Voice on Dec. 23, Redburn has been in touch with city officials and has been assured the case is still open.
Last year, Balch Springs had no homicides.

“The crime rate’s been down for the last few years,” Morris said. “We want to keep it that way.”
But he said that if there is an indication from the medical examiner that Johnson’s death was caused by anything other than natural causes, “We will actively investigate.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas