SAN DIEGO – I have a confession. I filed this column late – about 20 years late. My brother, a Los Angeles-based marketing specialist who came out as gay two decades ago, often urges me to write more about the LGBTQ community. I’m missing a big story, he says.
But, I tell him, I need a news peg. Now, suddenly, I have my pick. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the uprising in New York’s Greenwich Village in June 1969 credited with sparking the gay and lesbian civil rights movement. It also seems we’re living through an LGBTQ moment.
• Last week, Jussie Smollett, a gay African-American actor who stars in the Fox drama “Empire,” addressed doubts about his claim that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago on Jan 29. Smollett says that two men yelled slurs, hit him, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck while shouting, “This is MAGA country!” In an emotional interview Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the actor called “ridiculous” the idea that he would lie about such a thing, as some have alleged.
Since the interview aired, police have interviewed two brothers from Nigeria who say Smollett hired them to stage the attack. Smollett and his attorneys vehemently deny that. Stay tuned.
• A few days after the alleged assault on Smollett, during an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” actress Ellen Page launched her own attack. Page, who is married to a woman, took aim at Vice President Mike Pence. Page said Pence tried to ban same-sex marriage when he was Indiana governor, and said the vice president believes in conversion therapy. She accused Pence of “hating” LGBTQ people and wanting “to cause suffering.” She blamed the vice president for the alleged attack on Smollett and other assaults against LGBTQ folks. “This needs to (expletive) stop!” Page said to rousing applause.
• Then Page slammed actor Chris Pratt after the star of “Guardians of the Galaxy” – during an appearance of his own on Colbert’s show – discussed his church. In a tweet, Page called Pratt’s house of faith – Hillsong Church – “infamously anti-LGBTQ.” According to Variety, in 2015, church executives drew criticism for calling homosexuality a sin. Pratt rejected Page’s accusation and fired back on Instagram, saying that “nothing could be further from the truth.” His church, he claims, “opens their doors to absolutely everyone … regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender.”
• In Texas, a gay couple was brutally beaten Jan. 19 in an apparent hate crime committed by four men who have since been arrested. According to the police report, Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry were holding hands as they left a gay club in downtown Austin when they heard a man shout a homophobic slur. More obscenities followed, as the man motioned for the others to join him. One of the men punched Perry to the ground, and Deehring was also attacked when he tried to defend Perry, according to the report. … Deehring suffered cuts and a minor concussion while Perry had a major concussion, internal bleeding and a broken nose.
• Finally, just this past week, in San Diego, in what authorities are calling a hate crime, a gunman opened fire in the Hillcrest neighborhood, which is considered the epicenter of the city’s LGBTQ community. Armed with a high-powered AR-15 rifle, Stefano Parker allegedly shot 19 rounds through the window of restaurant after posting an anti-LGBTQ comment on Facebook. There were nine people in the establishment, but no one was hurt. Parker was charged with nine counts of attempted murder.
Just curious. What decade is this? I’m asking for friends and family. The conventional thinking is – with millions of dollars in AIDS funding, the Supreme Court striking down laws banning gay marriage, and scores of LGBTQ characters and storylines on film and television – all battles have been fought and won.
Not even close. Members of that community say they fear a rollback of hard-earned rights, privileges and protections, and that they’ll force the issue in the 2020 presidential election. This is the conversation America needs to have. …