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Matthew Shepard Died 13 Years Ago Today. Never Stop Fighting For Equality.

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Editor’s note: The death of Matthew Shepard had a profound effect on America. Thirteen years later, so much more remains in our fight to reach full equality and to stem the hate that caused Matthew’s death. Well-known freelance writer Kevin A. Barry shares his story.

 

I’ll never forget the day Matthew Shepard died. I was living in small town Pennsylvania and only out of the closet three days when it happened. In those three days, my girlfriend and I broke up, my best friend since second grade stopped talking with me and I cried myself to sleep every night thinking that God hated me. I was a devout Catholic who knew he was going to Hell. Not because of what Leviticus said but rather what Our Lady of Fatima said, “More souls go to Hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” I was terrified.

When I saw the news that a boy close to my age was brutally attacked and left for dead like a scarecrow in Laramie, Wyoming, I was in a very dark place at one of the lowest points in my life. In the two weeks that followed, I told my parents that I was bisexual and slowly began to tell my friends the same. I was in denial about being gay. While most were supportive, I remember vividly that one of them slapped me in the face… hard. She explained that the slap wasn’t for lying to her or to myself but rather for thinking that she would treat me differently. She wondered how I could think so little of her. The next week, I went on to become Class President at my small Catholic college – a post I held all four years.

Matthew Shepard’s death hit home to me in a very intimate way because only four years prior, a 16 year-old with whom I shared many friends was beaten to death on the steps of a nearby church in Philadelphia. His name was Eddie Polec. While I didn’t know Polec, the whole neighborhood was impacted by the brutality of his death and although Polec was not gay, his death seemed just as brutal as Shepard’s. Given how many common friends I had with Polec, it really hit home when I heard about Shepard’s death. I remember thinking “that could have been me” and for the next three years of my collegiate life, every time I would pass the wooden fence on the road that led in/out of campus, I was reminded of how lucky I am that it wasn’t.

Shepard’s death not only helped me realize the need for equality but it also helped me realize that there is a big difference between equality and tolerance. In many ways, he was a martyr for my generation. His death ignited a fire in me that never went out. Because of him I had the courage to pledge sorority at my college when I found out that fraternities were banned from campus to make a point that men deserve equality too. I gave up my Catholic faith when I found out that the local seminary would not allow gay men to study there even if they were celibate. I also became heavily involved with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and worked with them for five years to help increase the level of student activism in the state of Pennsylvania.

I share this personal story with you because every year this anniversary reminds me of the importance of fighting for equal rights and asking our straight allies to do the same. There are more people out there who support us than we realize. Hudson Taylor, Lady Gaga, Ben Cohen, not to mention all those people in the “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality” and “It Gets Better” campaigns are all great examples of this. However, one straight ally that bears mention today is Judy Shepard.

Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, took her pain and used it to become a crusader for equality. Due to her courage and dedication to the cause, the 1969 federal hate-crime law was extended to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Through my involvement with HRC, I had the pleasure of meeting Judy Shepard at a training in Washington, D.C. Soft spoken and eloquent, she is the embodiment of what St. Francis de Sales meant when he said, “There is nothing so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.”

Today is the 13th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. I urge you to share your coming out stories with your friends and straight allies, teach them about the antiquated laws, bear witness on your Facebook and Twitter statuses, and above all hold faith in the fact that full equality will be realized someday. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen and when it does it will be due to the hard work of those, like Judy Shepard, who continue to fight. To her and all our straight allies in the fight for equality, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude and ask that you never give up and never stop fighting. I know I won’t.

 

Kevin A. Barry is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Out magazine and Philadelphia Gay News, among others. He currently sits on the board of directors for the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter @kevinabarry.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

GOP Congresswoman Saying She Would ‘Do Anything’ to Protect Her Grandchildren, Even ‘Shooting Them’ Sets Internet on Fire

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U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) in a speech denouncing a House bill on gun safety, appears to inadvertently have declared that to protect her five grandchildren, she would “do anything,” even shoot them.

“I rise in opposition to H.R. 2377,” Congresswoman Lesko says in the video. “I have five grandchildren. I would do anything, anything to protect my five grandchildren, including as a last resort shooting them if I had to, to protect the lives of my grandchildren.”

NCRM has verified the video is accurate. Congresswoman Lesko made the remarks on June 9, according to C-SPAN, while she was opposing a red flag law.

The Congresswoman presumably meant she would as a last resort shoot someone threatening her grandchildren.

One Twitter user, Ryan Shead, posted the previously ignored video to Twitter, where it has gone viral and is trending.

Lesko, who some social media users note is running for re-election unopposed, went on to say: “Democrat bills that we have heard this week want to take away my right, my right to protect my grandchildren. they want to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect their own children and grandchildren. and wives and brothers and sisters,” which is false.

“This bill takes away due process from law-abiding citizens. Can you imagine if you had a disgruntled ex or somebody who hates you because of your political views and they go to a judge and say, ‘oh, this person is dangerous,’ and that judge would take away your guns?”

Lesko’s hypothetical claims are false. Red flag laws are designed to protect both gun owners and those around them.

Some social media users noted that Congresswoman Lesko reportedly “attended meetings about overturning the election,” while others are having fun with the Arizona Republican’s remarks:

Watch Congresswoman Lesko’s remarks above or at this link.

 

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Separation of Church and State Is a ‘Fabrication’ Says Far Right Activist Charlie Kirk: They Should Be ‘Mixed Together’

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Far-right religious activist, conspiracy theorist, and founder of the right-wing organization Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk has falsely declared that separation of church and state, a bedrock principle on which American society is based, is a “fabrication” not in the Constitution.

Kirk is a member of the secretive theocratic Council for National Policy., a close friend of Donald Trump, Jr., and spent years promoting President Trump – even interviewing him at one point. Turning Point USA has had repeated challenges. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in 2017 write a piece about TPUSA titled, “A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity.”

Former TPUSA communications director Candace Owens has praised Hitler, saying “the problem” with him was that he wanted to “globalize.”

RELATED: Watch: Charlie Kirk Calls for Texans to Be ‘Deputized’ to Protect ‘White Demographics in America’

On Wednesday Kirk declared, “There is no separation of church and state. It’s a fabrication. It’s a fiction. It’s not in the Constitution. It’s made up by secular humanists.”

That’s false.

The claim separation of church and state is not in the Constitution is a religious right belief that has been debunked by countless legal experts.

“Of course we should have church and state mixed together,” Kirk continued. “Our Founding Fathers believed in that. We can go through the detail of that. They established – literally – a church in Congress.”

That too is false.

RELATED: ‘When Do We Get to Use the Guns?’: TP USA Audience Member Asks Charlie Kirk When Can ‘We Kill’ Democrats? (Video)

“It’s a good thing Charlie Kirk doesn’t go to Wheaton because he would fail my Constitutional Law class,” writes Dr. Miranda Yaver, PhD, a Wheaton College professor.

As most public school students know, Kirk’s claims are belied by the First Amendment to the U.S., Constitution, which states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It’s the Establishment Clause, legal experts say, that debunks Kirk’s falsehood.

In reviewing the Supreme Court’s recent rulings, Reuters last month noted: “It was President Thomas Jefferson who famously said in an 1802 letter that the establishment clause should represent a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state. The provision prevents the government from establishing a state religion and prohibits it from favoring one faith over another.”

Jefferson is also considered the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Watch Charlie Kirk below or at this link.

 

 

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News

Pat Cipollone Is ‘A Greatest Hits Package of Crazy Statements’ by Donald Trump: Legal Expert

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Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has agreed to speak to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Congress on Friday.

Former Assistant Deputy Attorney General Harry Litman told CNN that Cipollone has carefully negotiated the testimony and he will likely “steer around down the middle” of the attorney/client privilege. However, former President Donald Trump is not the client of a White House counsel, the White House is. President Joe Biden has waived executive privilege for anything involving Jan. 6 or the 2020 election.

“He is a greatest hits package of crazy statements by Donald Trump,” Litman said of Cipollone. “He is the one who says to Mark Meadows, ‘You know, if you do this, you’ll have blood on your effing hands.’ He’s the one who says to Mark Meadows about [Mike] Pence, ‘You’ve got to stop it’ and Meadows says, ‘You’ve heard him. He thinks the rioters are right.’ He’s the one who has to go to Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old, and plead with her because Meadows won’t speak to him. ‘Please try to keep him from going to the Capitol.’ He’s the one who says, ‘if I go to the Capitol, it will be every effing crime imaginable.'”

READ MORE: Longtime friend of GOP’s Eric Greitens calls him a ‘broken man’ and accuses him of lying about his beliefs

“Now, they’ve negotiated it up, and probably what he wants is to say he’s not piercing attorney/client privilege. But all these statements I’ve said to you, Trump’s nowhere around. So, attorney/client has to be with the client for the purpose of getting legal advice, so he’s got tons to say without that.”

As Litman explained, Cipollone is in “everything.”

See the discussion below.

Image: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks  via Flickr:
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump talk with Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife Virginia Thomas, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and Deputy White House Counsel Kate Comerford Todd in the Blue Room of the White House Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, after attending Barrett’s swearing-in ceremony as Supreme Court Associate Justice.

 

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