Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dispatches from the Holy War: 8/31


I’ve been re-reading this week some of the news reports regarding the death of Marcellus Andrews, 19, who died Aug. 21 after being beaten and kicked in the head in Waterloo. Charges have not been filed as Waterloo police continue their investigation, apparently knowing the identity of all involved in the fight during which Andrews was fatally injured.

Police have said circumstances of the death do not “rise to the threshold” required for it to be considered a hate crime under Iowa law even though Andrews was taunted with anti-gay slurs before he was killed.

Iowa hate crime law includes 10 protected characteristics: Race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age and physical/mental disability. Iowa law does not cover gender identity. Hate crimes also may be prosecuted at the federal level. The 2009 Matthew Shepard Act added gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability to the federal definition.

Hate crimes are notoriously difficult in many instances to prosecute and tend to give black eyes to the communities where they occurred. So it was interesting that the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, rather than police, first reported the use of slurs. The logical question might be, would the slurs ever have been mentioned had a reporter not done his or her job? Gang-related violence is nothing new in Waterloo, so it could otherwise have been possible to sweep Andrews’ death under that dirty rug.

Police hemmed and hawed, then finally admitted that they were aware of the slurs.

The Waterloo-based media have been notably silent about the case since, although The Courier did manage last Thursday to produce a stupefyingly inane editorial drawing an analogy between Andrews’ death and the death in a boating accident of a 9-year-old, then extended condolences to the families of both.

The Des Moines Register’s Kyle Munson has provided the most perceptive coverage of the death, first on Aug. 26, then again on Sunday with a report from the prayer vigil held in the black neighborhood where Andrews died. That latter report is here.

Curiously, other media didn’t attend the vigil held in Waterloo’s black community. Other newspaper reporters and most television cameras were at a rally held by sorrowing white folks who didn’t know the deceased on the University of Northern Iowa campus.

Both Waterloo police and media, most likely through oversight, had managed to leave the impression that Andrews was somehow implicated in his own death, reporting without clarity earller “incidents” --- including vandalism of a car --- policed belived to be motivating factors in the fatal altercation.

Munson was alone in clarifying the situation --- that Andrews was an uninvolved bystander swept into a conflict he neither initiated nor had a stake in.

Munson also was alone in exploring the nuances of Andrews’ place in a community uncomfortable with homosexuality (the young man seems to have been widely perceived of as gay, but perhaps not to have acknowledged that sexual orientation) and a church whose pastor declared homosexuality a sin.

This is not a story that’s likely to go away, as perhaps many wish it would. So it will be interesting to see what happens as time advances.


Also last week, Iowa’s Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat, reaffirmed in an interview with The Associated Press his intention to block Republican efforts to embed a gay marriage ban in the Iowa Constitution when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

“I’m not going to put discrimination into the state’s constitution,” Gronstal said.

Democrats hold a narrow 26-24 majority in the Senate and, as leader, Gronstal is the arbiter of what legislation is considered there. He blocked GOP attempts to move a constitutional amendment forward during the recent session as well.

This means that vast amounts of GOP money will be spent in Grostal’s western Iowa district next year in an attempt to unseat him, and that’s shaping up as the Iowa holy wars continue, Christians vs. gay barbarians already inside the gates, to be the conflict to watch.


Minnesotans, who will find a gay marriage ban on the constitutional ballot next fall thanks to legislative action in the most recent session, are bracing themselves for an ugly fight there and preachers already are being trained to rally their churches, according to various reports.

Census statistics reported upon last week showed that Minneapolis ranks fourth in the nation when the numbers of same-sex couples in major cities are tallied.

Iowa City ranked first in Iowa statistically, with 364 same-sex couples or 13.1 per 1,000 households, although Des Moines, with 901 couples, had the largest number of couples.

Iowa ranked 47th overall among states when same-sex-couple numbers were added up, not that strong a performance when you consider LGBT folks can marry here. But the number of self-identified couples still increased by 77 percent between 2000 and 2010, to 6,540 couples. Obviously, we’ve still got work promoting the institution.


Finally, here’s a story from the St. Louis Suburban Journals site about a bus full of same-sex couples, friends and family who made the trip recently to Iowa City to get married.

According to Wikipedia, that ultimate source of all that’s worth knowing, 2,020 same-sex couples were married here between April 2009 and March 2010, accounting for 10 percent of all marriages. Of the same-sex total, 815 were Iowans, the rest from elsewhere --- mostly Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska.

This obviously is an area where we have growth potential. I wonder if Lucas County Tourism has considered our potential as a gay marriage mecca. I may have to suggest it. Can you imagine the wailing and gnashing of sanctified dentures that would follow?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lucas County, a gay marriage mecca? You can suggest it but that won't go far. Think I'm wrong....go ahead.