Five members of an anti-LGBT church in Spindale, N.C., were indicted on several felony charges this week, following a complaint lodged by a young gay man who says church members kidnapped him and assaulted him because of his sexual orientation.
Spindale church has a history of cult-like, abuse allegations.
A grand jury indicted Justin Brock Covington, Brooke McFadden Covington, Robert Louis Walker Jr. and Adam Christopher Bartley on second degree kidnapping and simple assault charges. A fifth member, Sarah Covington Anderson, was indicted on second degree kidnapping as well as simple assault and assault by strangulation. The grand jury met on Monday, with indictment announcements released on Tuesday.
All are members of The Word of Faith Fellowship, a church which has continually come under fire for its alleged cult-like behaviors and severe treatment of members, particularly young people. In 1995, the church was the subject of an “Inside Edition” report on its “blasting” techniques, in which a person is encircled by church members and subjected to high-pitched shrilling sounds, screams and prayers. Blasting sessions can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
In this most recent case, 21-year-old student Matthew Fenner, a member of the church since age 16, alleges that several members targeted him because of his sexual orientation. On Jan. 29, 2013, Fenner says he was threatened with confinement for two days, slapped, strangled and verbally assaulted in an attempt, he says, to free him of “homosexual demons.”
Faith in America, a Taylorsville, N.C.-based LGBT advocacy group, has taken up Fenner’s cause.
They report in a press release: “Fenner said that at the time of the assault, he had a number of places on his back and neck that had been biopsied two weeks earlier for possible malignancy due to Fenner having cancer when he was a young boy. Fenner said members of the church who were involved with the assault ‘continued to grab at these spots resulting in much pain.’ He states in the affidavit that he believed he would have been severely beaten if he had admitted to any same-sex relations.”
Fenner has said it took several attempts — including several stalling tactics from local law enforcement and prosecutors — to get local officials to take his allegations seriously or allow him to file a formal complaint.
The FBI's latest annual report on hate crime statistics, released Monday, included crimes committed based on the victim's gender identity for the first time ever.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming people were the targets of 0.5 percent of all reported hate crimes motivated by a single bias in 2013, according to the report. Transgender people make up 0.3 percent of the greater U.S. population, according to estimates by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Law enforcement agencies reported 5,928 hate crime incidents involving 6,933 offenses to the FBI in 2013. Of those reported incidents, 48.5 percent of reported single-bias hate crimes were motivated by race, followed by 20.8 percent motivated by a victim's sexual orientation, and 17.4 percent targeting people based on religious bias. Of the 1,402 hate-crime offenses based on sexual orientation, 60.6 percent were classified as gay male-targeted bias.
David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign's director of government affairs, says hate crimes are unique among violent crimes because they "generate fear and insecurity for the entire community they target."
The organization added that the number of incidents regarding transgender and gender-nonconforming people was low, suggesting "that law enforcement are mischaracterizing hate based crimes as ones based on either sexual orientation or gender." And while more law enforcement agencies have contributed data to the FBI than ever, thousands still did not submit data.
According to the HRC, at least one agency that serves a population exceeding 250,000 people did not submit data, nor did at least seven agencies serving populations of 100,000 to 250,000.
A recently married LGBT couple says that they hope their marriage will help change attitudes in Russia.
Alyona Fursova and Irina Shumilova married in front of family and friends at a registry office in St. Petersburg last month.
Despite Russia's ban on gay marriage, the women were allowed to marry because Irina describes herself as transsexual rather than transgender.
“Yes, in my passport it says 'male,'” she told Russia Today. “I am transsexual, meaning that despite having a XY-genome, psychologically I am a woman.”
“To be honest, it's scary and uncomfortable, because we don't know what to expect in the future,” Fursova told CNN this week. “We can get married now because I have female documents and Irina has male ones. But already we've heard that government officials are preparing a law to forbid this.”
St. Petersburg MP Vitaly Milonov, a vocal opponent of gay rights, called the union an “ugly insult to millions of Russian families” and vowed to pursue an investigation into its legality. Milonov's 2011 ordinance banning the promotion of “gay propaganda” to minors inspired a nationwide law that led to calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics held earlier this year in Sochi.
Shumilova told CNN that she hopes her marriage will help change attitudes in deeply conservative Russia.
“I really hope it helps people to understand that if they fight for their rights, they can get them,” she said. “I want this sort of reaction in the gay and transsexual community. But I also want regular people to be more tolerant of relationships. That would be really cool.”
Recently, a colleague put me in touch with the host, Orie Givens IV, of Queer Minded, a weekly online radio show that addresses queer news, information and entertainment, to discuss possibly issues that may be encountered by LGBTQ people during the holidays. Here are potential scenarios that could apply to you as an LGBTQ person during the holidays:
Let's take an 18-year old LGBTQ person who lives in the middle of country with his/her family. He/she has been contemplating whether coming out of the closet is a good idea, because it has been become apparent their sexuality is not an acceptable part of the heterosexual culture that pervades their home and community. Fears have been constantly part of the thinking process in terms of how the family will respond to this "coming out" -- will their consequences lead to being evicted from their home, or the continuation of hiding their identity, like a "don't ask, don't tell" situation?
My clinical intuition is to trust one's instincts on the outcome of the response. If you believe your family and community are going eject you, I recommend being quiet until you can remove yourself from this environment and find a safe haven. I think many people of this age category tend to wait until college to come out, since they are not living with their family and colleges are more welcoming of LGBTQ people. If not college, then wait until you find a place that is your home, or if needed, relocate. Many gay men are likely to move away from their home towns to places like New York City or San Francisco, or another gay-friendly city, not just for school or work, but for safety. Sadly, moving to another part of the country may be the solution as a way to identify a new family, like friends, who will accept you and be there for you during the holidays.
Another recommendation is if you know of a role model, mentor or peer who is also LGBTQ, you should talk with that person about their process of coming out, or utilize their social support to manage the ongoing heterosexism you might experience in your home and community. Many young people are using the Internet as well, like forums, listservs and Facebook to find others like them and their stories of coming out. I highly recommend this as a resource to turn to for guidance and navigation in this process -- but to be aware of others who have access to the information. Can someone log into your account? Are people connected to you that can out you? Can someone in your household review the websites that you frequented? I know this is an extremely uncomfortable way to live, but I say keep safe and be cautious as your MO. There are hotlines as well, like the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386). Maybe you can go to a local library and use their technology and locate people who can provide support; it's as simple as typing in the words "LGBTQ support" in Google.
Of course, another avenue to try is your school, where social workers and other school support staff reside, or to identify resources within your local community that clearly spell out their ability to engage with LGBTQ people. I say test the waters and see if the counselors can be of assistance with talking through this process. Now, I come from the angle of the more serious of consequences, but if your family seems open to differences, multiculturalism and diversity, you should trust that the "coming out" conversation is acceptable. Perhaps use subtle cues, like asking what your family thinks of people who identify proudly as LGBTQ in the popular culture. It deflects from what you're implicitly seeking from them in terms of their response. You have to gather information, before you have the difficult decision to have the talk with them.
And other important factor to consider is the intersectionality of other identity categories that could have an impact on the coming out process. As a black gay person, your family may fully realize you are gay, but expect you to keep that separate from the family, even during the holidays. You may be disabled and gay, and you think your family cannot tolerate another "coming out," but it's important to evaluate their responses and what is in your best interests. The hardest part is accepting your family may never accept all aspects of you, namely, not allowing your sexuality to be part of the holidays, yet their heterosexuality screams loudly. But you must know there are others in the LGBTQ community who will welcome you into their homes to celebrate the holidays, where do you not have to conform and pass, in order to condone the heterosexism and homophobia where you were raised.
The second scenario I deliberately chose resembles something like my own family and my experiences during the holidays. Clinically trained social workers who are steeped in the psychoanalytic tradition may not agree with this use of personal experience to frame and understand other's issues, but I have always found honing in on it helps to provide relatability to the client's experiences. I call upon my relationship, since there are LGBTQ people who are in healthy and happy relationships, and would like to enjoy this special time of year with their families and partners/spouses. I am soon-to-be 34 years old, have been with my partner for the last 10 years, and both of us are Italian-Americans from Brooklyn, New York. Both of our families are welcoming of our relationship, always inviting us over for the holidays, but we do not feel comfortable -- not only due to the dysfunctional communicative patterns present, but because we recognize the values, experiences and perceptions of our LGBTQ community are ignored. There is a preponderance of the over-heterosexualization of the holidays, where all traditions remain intact, with the inability to address our needs during the holidays.
It reminds me of a time that I attended a lecture given by an HIV scholar at NYU, a New Yorker of Greek descent, who said that he and his partner dreaded the thought of going to their family's houses since they are heterosexualized by their families. Meaning, they must re-conceptualize the notions of being gay for being straight to make their families happy. For example, what if you and your partner have an open relationship? It is likely that your family will not welcome or condone this openness to sexuality or sexual experience. What is served, discussed, attired, valued, adorned, are all vetted and patriarchically claimed by the famil -- not by you and your partner. You two are not part of the conversation for what will occur during the holidays.
From a clinical perspective, I advise clients in relationships, especially when they want to celebrate the holidays together, to not separate. Go to people who you relate to, accept and love you for being you. And if friends are unavailable, then find people in your local community who are welcoming to LGBTQ people to celebrate the holidays with. Some of this appears common sense, but it can evade us when we are wrapped up in thinking there is one option for the holidays -- only to see family. I also caution that drinking, partying and drugging is not the solution to filling the void for a holiday. Escaping the reality that you should see the family or not is not going to make you feel happy in the end, or resolve how to make it a merry one. I suggest finding others in the LGBTQ community, including a therapist, who will help you negotiate what works for you and the partner ideally. Each situation depends on a number of factors, and it takes time to sort through what works and does not work for you. It is important to reflect on the present and past, in order to evaluate what is the best solution for you and your partner. Remember, you are never alone!
In what's already being hailed as "a great step forward," the International Olympic Committee has taken a significant move against future intolerance toward the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in the Olympic Games.
The Chicago Tribune reports that IOC members unanimously voted to approve a recommendation which adds non-discrimination language regarding sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter.
"The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status," the Charter now reads, according to the publication.
The decision to update the wording, which will also be included in all future Olympic Games host city contracts, follows a flurry of controversy surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were held in Sochi, Russia. A number of high-profile LGBT rights advocates called for the U.S. to boycott the Sochi games in response to Russia's controversial "gay propaganda" legislation.
Among those to praise the news was Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of All Out, who called it "a pivotal moment for equality in sport."
“Now it is signed and sealed that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are welcome in the Olympic movement and will be protected," Banks said. "This gain was made possible because of the global outcry, including from hundreds of thousands of All Out members, about Russia’s anti-gay law at the time of the Sochi Olympics.”
Added Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally, in an email statement to The Huffington Post: "There is no greater sign of progress in combating homophobia in sports than to have the oldest organized athletic competition in the history of the world saying enough is enough."
As a press release from All Out notes, "In the week before the vote, All Out members called on the IOC to go one step further and also include protection on grounds of “gender identity”, which would have protected transgender athletes, spectators and fans too. IOC members did not vote on this proposal today so this amendment will not be made to the Charter."
Money guru Suze Orman is leaving CNBC to develop a new daytime show with Warner Bros.' Telepictures Productions.
Orman's The Suze Orman Show debuted on CNBC in 2002.
According to Variety, Suze Orman's Money Wars has Orman helping people who are feuding over money and is designed to air weekdays.
Orman's wife Kathy Travis is expected to be involved in the new show, which has yet to find a home.
The Suze Orman Show will end on March 28.
In a memo sent to staffers, CNBC President Mark Hoffman confirmed Orman's exit.
“For 14 years and 621 episodes to date, Suze has been a member of the CNBC family as a preeminent advocate for financial independence teaching viewers the importance of personal empowerment when it comes to money,” Hoffman said. “Shortly, Suze will be making a big announcement about a new show that will take her from Saturday nights on CNBC to 5 days a week across America. The last new episode of The Suze Orman Show will air March 28. I want to personally thank Suze for her friendship and for her incredible contributions to CNBC.”
Orman, 63, came out in 2007.