Thursday, April 5, 2012

Daniel Zamudio

It looks like Chile is about to do something that the USA has yet to do, pass a national anti-discrimination law that includes protections for LGBTs against discrimination in employment, housing, and accommodation. It also includes hate crimes provisions increasing penalties for violent crimes motivated by bigotry.
Chile's legislature first proposed and debated anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTs seven years ago. But, those bills were defeated after loud and well financed campaigns by evangelical groups and the Catholic Church.

But now, public opinion has turned after the death of Daniel Zamudio, a 24 year old gay man this past month. A group of men attacked Zamudio in a park in Santiago and beat him with rocks and bottles. They cut off part of his ear and carved swastikas in his skin. Zamudio died after lying in a coma for 3 weeks. Police speculate that he may have been beaten and tortured for as long as an hour.

The crime horrified and shocked the Chilean public in a way similar to Matthew Shepard's death here in the USA 14 years ago. Zamudio's death sparked outraged protests in Santiago and in other cities in Chile and led to an effective push back against previously aggressive tactics by right wing evangelicals. Anti-gay groups are now on the defensive. The legislation passed both houses of Chile's parliament, by a narrow margin in the lower house, but it passed.

Even though public opinion continues to turn rapidly and dramatically in favor of the legal emancipation of gays and lesbians in the USA, there is no law on the national level protecting LGBTs from discrimination in housing, employment, and accommodation. Such protections, where they exist, are a hodge-podge of local and state laws that vary widely. In many states, it remains perfectly legal to evict, fire, or refuse service to anyone on the basis of sexual orientation. The 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas decision by the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexual acts, a major step forward that removed the excuse of criminality from legal penalties against LGBTs, but it did not end discrimination.

Once again, another country comes out from behind to be way out in front of the USA on gay rights.

It is shameful that it takes the unjust and violent deaths of innocent young men and women to compel people to examine their own prejudices and to wake them from their complacency when it comes to relations between majorities and minorities. People wake from their slumber only when sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends die violently at the hands of criminals, given permission and goaded on by the rhetoric and sophistry that serves to defend arbitrary and unjust laws that penalize those who differ.

Daniel Zamudio, and legions of others like him around the world who perished at the hands of those who hated them out of plain bigotry, stand as powerful testimony against the thugs, the bullies, and their enablers in pulpits, the media, and legislatures who claim to be oppressed every time their views and their tactics are challenged.

Who's the real martyr here? Phil Donohue, Maggie Gallagher, Bryan Fischer, Linda Harvey, etc., etc., etc. cry that they are being oppressed every time anyone calls them out on their hatred. They complain that they feel marginalized while the rest of the world takes a good look at them and at the gays next door, and prefers the company of their gay neighbors. I almost howled with laughter when one antigay Anglican bishop quoted the last words of Cranmer to Ridley and Fisher as they burned at the stake. The worst that bishop was going to face was well deserved scorn and ridicule.

Daniel Zamudio, Matthew Shepard, David Kato, Fanny Ann Eddy, Harvey Milk, Roxanne Ellis, Michelle Abdill, Lawrence King, Sakia Gunn, Barrie Winchell, Simmie Williams, and thousands upon thousands of others like them known and unknown walked a real Via Dolorosa all the way to the end in death. All of us who've faced violence and threats for no other reason than for just being ourselves know first hand what it is like to be "despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
Who really is walking in Jesus' bloody footsteps?

Something to ponder this Holy Week.

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