In New York City, the Times reports that as he lay sprawled on a Greenwich Village street, held down by several police officers who believed that he had just fatally shot a man blocks away, Elliot Morales boasted of the killing, according to the police. “Guy thought he was tough in front of his bitch, so I shot him,” Morales said, according to accounts by the police filed in court on Tuesday. “Diagnosis is dead, doctor.” According to prosecutors, Morales had followed his victim, Mark Carson, for several blocks, taunting him with antigay slurs, before killing him with a single bullet to the head just after midnight on May 18. Mr. Carson, a gay man who lived in Brooklyn and worked as an assistant manager of a gelato kiosk in Grand Central Terminal, was 32. An indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday charged Morales with murder as a hate crime, weapon possession and pointing a gun at a police officer. He faces up to life in prison. “Mr. Carson was murdered as he walked through a neighborhood that has long been a center of the gay rights movement.” said Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, in a statement. “This young man’s tragic death serves as a reminder of the discrimination that many of our family members, co-workers, and friends still face.” Morales, 33, appeared in court wearing a white tee shirt. He had a tattoo on his neck: “Meladie,” next to musical notes. He pleaded not guilty and was returned to jail, where he had been held without bail since his arrest. Morales served 11 years in state prison on a robbery conviction before he was released in 2010. The police said that Morales, walking the neighborhood with two acquaintances, had urinated in front of a restaurant and then gone inside and confronted the bartender with antigay slurs. He yanked up his sweatshirt to reveal a revolver in a shoulder holster and threatened to kill the bartender if he called 911. The three men left and encountered Mr. Carson at West Eighth Street. Again Morales unleashed antigay slurs and pursued Carson and a male friend as they tried to walk away, according to the police. Soon after, a police officer spotted Morales on West Third Street and ordered him to stop. Morales pointed the revolver at the officer, who was able to tackle Morales as he fumbled with the weapon, according to Vance’s office. The court records say most of Morales’s statements to the police were videotaped. He expressed only one concern — that he may have shot a police officer — and explained his propensity to break his mother’s heart, according to the records. “This is gonna kill my mom,” he said at a police station house. “I always hurt her and make bad decisions in life and make her cry.” By the next morning, his boasts had turned to claims that he did not remember what had happened before he “woke up with cops on me.” He said he was homeless and that sadness in his family life led him to drink. “I don’t have a problem with gay people,” he said. “I have lots of gays in my life.”
Also in New York City, the Associated Press reports that Mel Wymore is a typical city council candidate in many ways, campaigning as a community board appointee, ex-PTA chair and founder of a roster of local organizations. But Wymore’s community-leader resume has an unusual feature: He built much of it while he was a woman. If he wins, Wymore would be the first openly transgender person elected to public office in the nation’s biggest city and one of only a handful ever in the U.S., though his campaign is neither emphasizing his personal story nor sidestepping it. “I want to create the inclusive community, and it goes beyond my personal identity,” said Wymore, 51. “But it actually lends a lot to my story and my credibility as a candidate. I’m honest, I’m brave, I’m forthright, and I’m willing to stand up for change.” Wymore, a Democrat, faces several opponents who also have long records of community involvement on Manhattan’s upscale, liberal Upper West Side. Nationwide, at least five transgender people have won city, school board and judicial elections, including Mayor Stu Rasmussen in Silverton, Ore. Perhaps dozens of others have run across the country; it’s unclear whether any such candidate has run for city office in New York, though a transgender New Yorker, Melissa Sklarz, holds a Democratic Party post that’s on the ballot. Wymore is a systems engineer, a specialist in structuring and managing complex projects. He fielded questions at a recent candidate forum with a courteous purposefulness, a handful of index cards for note-taking and a message of valuing “inclusion and care for the Earth and care for each other.” During 17 years on a city-appointed community board, two as chairman, Wymore raised money to renovate a run-down city recreation center that reopened Monday after facing a shaky future for years, among other projects. Colleagues say he’s eagerly consultative but focused on finding resolution. Wymore’s personal life also has been shaped by a search for resolution. It took major turns in identity — twice — as Wymore raised two children and took on community roles, starting with co-founding a meal program 20 years ago. He had a gleeful childhood as Melanie Wymore in Tucson, Ariz., and went on to college and a master’s degree at the University of Arizona. Wymore worked for an aerospace company before moving to New York in the 1980s to further a relationship that became a marriage, and to work in engineering and technology consulting jobs. Yet the “exuberance” from childhood slipped away around puberty. At 35, Wymore reached a conclusion about why — and came out as a lesbian. As a decade went by, Wymore still felt joy was missing and didn’t know the reason until seeing a recorded interview with a transgender boy during an anti-bullying event about five years ago. Wymore looked at the boy and saw himself. “It suddenly hit me that it was gender that was at the core” of Wymore’s unease, he said in an interview in his campaign office in a brownstone. “And, of course, it terrified me at the same moment because I’d already been through this family-disrupting, life-changing transition.” He ultimately decided to undertake surgical and other changes to live as a man. After telling his family, the newly chosen chairman made an announcement of a sort rarely, if ever, heard at community boards. The response was accepting, he and a colleague recall. “People knew him before and knew what kind of person he was,” member Madge Rosenberg explains. But there were some alienating moments during Wymore’s roughly two-year transition. At times he sensed other people’s awkwardness as they stumbled over whether to use “he” or “she,” or felt hurt when a women’s book group stopped inviting him for fear of seeming to dismiss his identity shift. The experience made him more determined to advocate for the disabled, the elderly and others who feel overlooked — in other words, everybody, Wymore says. After all, “everyone feels excluded some time or another, for some thing or another,” he said. Wymore’s opponents include Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse and several Democrats: restaurant executive Ken Biberaj; Democratic Committeewoman Debra Cooper; Noah Gotbaum, founder of the volunteer group New York Cares and a son of a prominent labor leader and stepson of a former city public advocate; Democratic district leader Marc Landis; and former community board chairwoman Helen Rosenthal. The Democratic primary is in September, and the general election is in November. No one, contender or constituent, mentioned Wymore’s personal story at the recent candidate forum. And that’s just as he’d like. “For me, it’s really about the work at hand,” he says.
In Florida, he attorney for a young Florida woman who was charged with a felony for having sexual contact with her 14-year-old girlfriend has filed a motion asking the judge to remove himself from the case. Circuit Judge Robert Pegg chose September as a trial date for 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt, who was charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16 in February. In a motion filed Monday, Hunt's attorney, Julia Graves, said she was never notified of the trial date and alleged that Pegg moved the case ahead of 200 other pending criminal cases because he is biased against Hunt, who is gay. A similar case Pegg handled involving a male defendant and female victim took 19 months to conclude, Graves said in her motion. The judge did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday seeking comment. Hunt's story received international media attention and prompted gay rights advocates to say she is being unfairly targeted for what would be considered a common romance if she was not gay. They have argued that older high school students dating their younger counterparts is an innocuous, everyday occurrence that is not prosecuted — regardless of sexual orientation — and not a crime on par with predatory sex offenses. Hunt's family has alleged that the day before she was arrested, police and the younger girl's parents secretly recorded a phone conversation in which the two girls discussed kissing in the school bathroom. State Attorney Bruce Colton, however, said he would have brought charges regardless of the defendant's sexual preference because Hunt violated a law that prohibits adults from having sexual contact with underage children. Prosecutors have offered Hunt a plea deal that would allow her to avoid registering as a sex offender if she pleads guilty to lesser charges of child abuse. He said he would recommend two years of house arrest followed by one year of probation if she takes the deal. But the Hunt family has said they would accept a plea deal only if the charges are dropped to a misdemeanor. The alleged victim is identified only by her initials in court documents, and her parents have not been publicly identified. The AP does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes. Colton said the victim's family is not pushing for prison but wants Hunt to be held responsible in some way.
In the United States, same sex couples are discriminated against when searching for housing in online rental markets across the country, according to a new federal Department of Housing and Urban Development study released Tuesday. In states like Maryland where such discrimination is illegal, the discrimination is even more pronounced, the study noted. The HUD study, described by the federal agency as "the first-ever national study examining housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market," involved the authors sending 7,000 emails to housing providers, allegedly from prospective heterosexual and same sex couples, and then comparing the responses received. The results showed that same sex couples experience unequal treatment from providers in metropolitan markets across the country -- primarily through receiving fewer responses to the e-mailed inquiries -- and that gay couples experience more discrimination than lesbian couples. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not explicitly prohibited by the Fair Housing Act, but HUD officials under the Obama Administration have been pushing to restrict such discrimination anyway. On February 3, the agency issued a new rule prohibiting all HUD-funded and HUD-insured housing providers from discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. In addition, 20 states -- including Maryland -- as well as Washington, D.C. and more than 150 localities have laws banning such discrimination. But in a surprise finding, the study results showed that "slightly more adverse treatment" of same sex couples was found in states with such protections. The study, conducted between June and October of 2011 by HUD and the University at Albany in New York, shows the discrimination was present in every market tested. (Polls have shown increased acceptance of same-sex marriage, in Maryland and nationally, since then.) In a statement, Bryan Greene, HUD's acting secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said the federal agency "is committed to making sure that [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] individuals have access to housing opportunities." More studies will follow, the agency said. A link to the study is available at the source.