Imagine if this happened to you - because it happened to a lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska this Sunday:
The woman called police around 4 a.m. Sunday, saying men wearing black ski masks had broken into her home, according to Lincoln police. She told police the men assaulted her - binding her hands and carving words into her skin with a knife - and then set fire to the house.
Capt. Jim Davidsaver said the victim's description of the men was limited because of the masks. When police arrived, the house was still on fire, the captain said. He said it caused about $200 in damage. Davidsaver would not say what the men carved into the woman's skin. "We need to maintain the integrity of the case," he said.
But Erin Thompson of Lincoln, who described herself as the victim's best friend, said she got a call from her friend about 6:30 Sunday morning. The friend asked Thompson to pick her up from the hospital. "They carved on me," Thompson said her friend tearfully told her. Thompson said three epithets, including the word "dyke," were carved on her arms and stomach. The woman, who is in her 30s, walked, naked and bound, to a neighbor's house to get help, Thompson said.
The local LGBT rights organization, Outlinc, released a statement Sunday saying they have confidence in the police. "Many in our community are understandably experiencing a great deal of sadness, anger and confusion," Outlinc President Tyler Richard said in the statement. "We look to our entire community to pull together in this difficult time."
At a hastily arranged vigil, Thompson read a statement from her friend thanking everyone for their quick response. Thompson also said she and her friend "always get harassed here and there" and they have suspicions about who the attackers might be. Later Beth Rigatusso of Omaha's Heartland Pride described the assault as "terrorism at its finest. I'm disgusted."
Karen Bratton-Cranford, president of Star City Pride noted the irony of the assault coming just weeks after LGBT Pride in Lincoln. But, she told the Ohama World Herald "I'm not going back in the closet. You're not going to scare me back."
The Human Rights Campaign also expressed horror over the brutal attack:
The accounts of the violence inflicted upon this woman are truly horrific. We have confidence that the Lincoln Police Department will thoroughly investigate this crime and take swift and appropriate action to bring the perpetrators to justice. No one should ever have to live in fear simply because of who they are. Our thoughts are with the victim and we wish her a full recovery. This act of violence is a jarring reminder that we have much work to do in creating environments where all members of our community feel safe living honestly and openly, and where crimes motivated by one's sexual orientation or gender identity are never tolerated.
HRC also noted that Nebraska has a hate crimes statute that covers crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation and that federal authorities could step in under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
But it is also instructive to know that so far Nebraska Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who represents Lincoln in Congress - has not acknowledged the brutal attack on his congressional website. Now that may not be too unexpected because Fortenberry voted NO on Rep. John Conyer's Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Bill HR.1913 in 2009. But it doesn't square with Fortenberry's professed religious compassion, which he shared with Rod Dreher of The American Conservative:
RD: You have a master's degree in public policy, but you also have a master's of theology degree. You're strongly pro-life and against gay marriage, but how does your faith guide your political thinking beyond those standard conservative issues?
JF: My faith informs my conscience, and I hope it also sensitizes me to the needs of those who are broken, and wounded, and poor. That's the balance here. How do we rebuild a society that's founded in truth, built on justice, and animated by compassion? I owe everything to my faith. My faith helps me personally through the gift of grace, to try to heal my own wounds, and I hope I'm making a contribution to healing others.
We often hear about the profundity of some politician's faith during an election. So let's ask Rep. Fortenberry a religiously framed question. James 2:26 says: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." Where is your compassion for your lesbian constituent and what are you doing about this attack?
Or is it OK for three masked men to sneak into a lesbian's home, attack her, carve her up and set her house on fire because - as a lesbian - she somehow deserves what she gets? Is THAT what your faith teaches? Would you respond with silence if she was straight, if she was your mother, wife or daughter?
What kind of conscience allows a man of faith to sit by and do nothing as someone he has sworn an oath to represent and protect is so viciously attacked? Or is your conscience only a matter of convenience?
It is time for all people of true conscience to speak up about this kind of hypocrisy that exists in politics.
Luckily, the lesbians friends (religious or not, who knows) have set up a website for donations to help with her healthcare costs.
(Rep. Jeff Fortenberry img src)