It’s ridiculous that a bill protecting gay and transgender people, people of all gender presentations and people with disabilities from hate crimes would need to be added on to a defense bill of all things in 2009. Nevertheless, the U.S. Congress finally did something right late this month by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, which gives federal dollars towards and federal prosecutors the right to try hate crimes cases based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability when state and municipal authorities decline to do so. You know, like they do in Utah, where hate crimes apparently never happen. We’re not entirely sure why some of our state lawmakers — like Sen. Chris “Gays are a Threat to America” Buttars — haven’t started frothing at the mouth yet, but suspect it’s not because they’ve emigrated to Greenland in protest. It’s a great day for our community and the disabled community (whose stake in the law is, frustratingly, being ignored in most coverage), and a great day for Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s parents. We hope the passage of this law alleviates their grief, at least a little.
SLAP: Dallin H. Oaks
This latest foray in the LDS Church’s campaign to look as bigoted and ridiculous as possible happened right as we were going to press last issue, so you had to wait for our fabulous backhand until now. As you’ve probably read, Oaks mentioned backlash against church members in the wake of Prop. 8’s passage “including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors.” He compared this all to the “intimidation of blacks in the South” during the civil rights movement. While we (and all of Utah’s gay and transgender groups) condemn harassment and violence towards members of any group, that’s beside the point here. Oaks compared a rash of firings and violent incidents (none of which we’ve heard about in Utah, by the way) to institutionalized violence towards black Americans during the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Oaks, this violence was the product of nearly 200 years of racism. You should know. The LDS Church was complicit in that racism until 1978, when it finally stopped teaching that blacks were spiritually inferior to members of other races. Mistreatment of pro-Prop. 8 Mormons, while wrong, is not the same thing as racism that still harms Americans of color. You might want to shut up until you learn that. Also, if you insist on comparing boycotting a business to vandalizing a church, you have a lot to learn about the free market, too.