Friday, May 31, 2013

New York City Police Search For Suspects In Two More Reported Anti-Gay Attacks, Parents Of Atlanta Fifth-Grader Say Classmates Kicked Him While Chanting “Gay Boy,” Evangelical Lutheran Church In America Elects First Openly Gay Bishop, Indiana Bureau Of Motor Vehicles Rules State Gay Youth Group Can Start Selling Its Speciality License Plates Again

In New York City, police are searching for suspects in two more reported alleged anti-gay attacks that they say took place in Brooklyn and Queens. One of the incidents occurred at approximately 11:45 pm Sunday on a J train between the Marcy Avenue and Gates Avenue subway stations in Brooklyn, according to police. Police say the victim, a 27-year-old man, was talking to another man on the train when the suspect approached him. They allege that the suspect made anti-gay remarks towards the victim before he punched the victim twice in the face; He then fled towards the back of the train, according to police. A second alleged incident took place at approximately 4:15 am on March 17 at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 88th Street in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. Police say that suspect also punched their victim in the face while making anti-gay statements. The suspect in Sunday's attack is said to be between the ages of 25 and 30. Police say he is approximately 6 feet in height and has dark hair, which is tied in a bun. Police say he was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket. The suspect in the March 17 attack is said to be between the ages of 20 and 25. Police say he is approximately 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs approximately 140 pounds. They say he has brown eyes and black hair and had a mustache at the time of the incident, and they say he is known to frequent areas within the New York City Police Department's 115th Precinct. Anyone with information on either case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit

In Georgia, the parents of a former northwest Atlanta elementary school fifth-grader filed a police report after, they said, classroom bullying went too far. The family filed the report with the Atlanta Police Department on May 20, the same day the incident happened. It involved Morris Brandon Elementary School students. “I fell because they were kicking me really hard, and I got back up and they continued to kick me,” the victim said. The family wants to remain anonymous. The victim said it happened in a fifth-grade classroom while the teacher was out. An Atlanta police report said, “Classmates stuck a ‘kick me’ sticker on his back and kicked him several times in the leg and back.” The victim’s mother said, “He was attacked by three boys, and this is clearly assault; as they were kicking him, they were laughing and calling him ‘gay boy, gay boy, gay boy.’” She said after school that day, she could tell there was something wrong with her son, heard what happened and jumped into action. Part of the school’s disciplinary action against the three other students involved was a demand for apology letters. The victim has only received two letters and said they seemed “faked.” The three boys were also banned from an end-of-the-year pizza party. The victim’s mother thinks the punishment is too lenient, especially because, she said, she already went on-record with the teacher about an assault in March. “The teacher knew that there was a bully in the class that had assaulted my child before and he left him there alone to go teach another class. What kind of safety is that for our children?” the mother said. Atlanta Public School Executive Director of Communications, Stephen Alford said, “We rely on the leadership at our schools to manage discipline, and we’re very pleased with leadership at Morris Brandon Elementary School.” When asked if he thought the three students who kicked him learned their lesson, the victim responded, “No, because it’s like you commit assault and all that’s going to happen is you’re going to miss a pizza party? That’s just, like, wrong.” APS said that with only two days left in the school year, school leaders did the best they could. “That is no excuse, absolutely no excuse. To me that is sweeping it under the rug,” The victim’s mother said. Now, she’s demanding attention to the problem of bullying in school. “I’m sure I’ve got every parent in Atlanta behind me. This bullying has got to stop. You don’t really know what’s going on in a child’s mind at that age or how deep it hurts. You don’t know, and that’s why it has to stop now,” she said. The students will move to middle school after summer. The victim directed the following statement to those who kicked him: “If you get older and you continue to do that, you’re going to get arrested.” (There is a video report at the source.)

In Los Angeles, a North Hollywood theology professor ordained just two years ago after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America dropped its ban on same sex ministers was elected Friday as the church's first openly gay bishop. The Rev. R. Guy Erwin won a six-year term to the Southwest California Synod, which encompasses the greater Los Angeles area, according to church officials. The historic vote came Friday during a three-day assembly of the synod held in Woodland Hills. Erwin's election marks a welcome turning point for the congregation's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members, said Emily Eastwood, executive director of Reconciling Works, an arm of the church that worked for decades to lift the ban on gay and lesbian clergy. "One of our own has been chosen not in spite of being gay, but because he is truly gifted and skilled for the office," she said in a prepared statement. "Once again, today we are proud to be Lutherans." Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest denomination in the United States, the product of a merger of three denominations in 1987. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, is a separate body. Lutheran teachings date to Martin Luther, a 16th-century Roman Catholic priest whose objections to elements of Roman Catholic practice began the movement known as the Protestant Reformation. Since 2000, Erwin has taught theology and Christian history at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. He is considered a scholar on the life and teachings of Martin Luther. Erwin was raised in Oklahoma and has Native American roots, according to his biography on the Cal Lutheran website. He was unable to serve in the Lutheran ministry under the church's earlier ban against gay and lesbian pastors. But the church reversed that policy in 2009, and two years later Erwin was ordained. He and his partner, Rob Flynn, are members of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in North Hollywood.

The Indiana Youth Group can start selling its specialty license plate again under a ruling in its favor from an administrative judge in the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The judge found that the group did not illegally sell or auction specialty license plates with low-digit numbers, as the BMV alleged, and that the BMV was wrong to terminate the group’s right to sell the plates last year just three months after it started selling them. The ruling is the latest turn of events in a months-long dispute marked by political pressure, legislative action and abandoned negotiations. And the final say on the matter may yet be uncertain. Indiana Youth Group Executive Director Mary Byrne said she and others at the Indianapolis-based organization, which supports gay, bisexual, transgender and sexually questioning youth, are “ecstatic” over the judge’s ruling. “I really feel as though the judge looked at the facts of the case and has been able to put aside the politics, which really had been driving this,” Byrne said. Indiana Youth Group, like many other groups and colleges, uses specialty plate sales as a fundraiser. Specialty plates cost more than the state-issued plate, and the group whose name is on the plate pockets a portion of the extra fee. Byrne said the BMV stripped the group of its right to sell plates with its logo after conservative legislators pressured the BMV to do so. The group had sold 800 plates from January to March 2012, when sales were cut off by the BMV, Byrne said. Conservative lawmakers had first tried to pass a law to eliminate the Indiana Youth Group’s plate and later urged the BMV to cancel the group’s contract. The lawmakers had said the group had violated terms by offering low-digit plates to donors and volunteers as an acknowledgement of thanks. The BMV obliged. The BMV for months had been negotiating with the Indiana Youth Group and two other affected organizations to lift the suspensions. But talks ended earlier this year when the BMV cited a new state law that creates a legislative panel to recommend specialty plates. Rep. Ed Soliday, the Valparaiso Republican who authored the bill that created the panel, said the aim was to rein in the proliferation of specialty license plates and ensure that those who have them were fiscally responsible. The nine-page order from Melissa D. Reynolds, issued Tuesday, found that although the Indiana Youth Group did not violate state law by selling specialty license plates with low-digit numbers, the group did violate state law by assigning low-digit plates to donors who gave larger amounts of money. But the penalty called for the BMV to notify the group and give it 30 days to correct the violation. Instead of giving the group time to stop the illegal practice, the BMV wrongly forbid it from selling plates, Reynolds found. “BMV did not properly terminate IYG’s participation in the ... license plate program,” her ruling said. “BMV was required to give IYG 30 days notice and the opportunity to correct or cure its breach prior to terminating the contract.” BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie said bureau Commissioner R. Scott Waddell would act on the ruling “within the allotted amount of time.” Asked if Waddell, who has been commissioner throughout the entire controversy, will appeal the ruling by the appeals deadline of June 15, Gillespie said, “Not sure.” The order said the BMV must allow the Indiana Youth Group to sell plates again 30 days from the order, which would be June 27. Byrne said her group has budgeted $25,000 in revenue from the sale of specialty plates this year. She said the controversy over the plates has helped the group. “It’s weird,” she said. “Every time these legislators or BMV tried to hurt us, it’s redounded, and we gained more and more support.” The order did not affect the two other groups whose specialty plates also were taken away by the BMV for the same reason. Those groups, the Indiana 4-H Foundation and Indiana Greenways Foundation, have requested hearings on their cases, and the BMV is still working on setting hearing dates, Gillespie said.

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