By Johnny Trlica
We’ve been following three big stories this week on the Houston Rainbow Herald Facebook Page. Let’s get right to them.
Gay man attacked in Montrose
Hate crimes have been on the rise since the election of Donald Trump as president and what appears to be a hate crime has occurred on the streets of Montrose. A gay man was assaulted in the early morning hours of August 1 as he was walking home from Barcode, a nearby gay bar, reports Free Press Houston.
Christopher Bradford said one of the suspects punched him in the face and another pushed him down. They then began assaulting him with fists, kicking him, beating him with their belt buckles and bashing him with a rock.
On Facebook, Bradford wrote, “So last night i was leaving a gay establishment, i was followed down Taft Street. I was assaulted by three white guys in polos right next to the El Tiempo on Taft and Westheimer. I was assaulted for being a gay man alone. I was hit with fists, boots, belt buckles and a rock. My head was busted open in two places and my whole back bruised all the way down. If my friend had not ran up and yelled he is calling the police i might not be alive today…. We need to stop this! We need to advocate for nonviolence, i don’t care if you agree with my life style are not. It’s no ones place to pass judgment on if someone belongs on this earth or not. These guys almost took my life from me, they almost took my life from my daughter. And for what? Because of hatred in their heart?”
White polos are popular with members of the alt-right and white supremacist movement.
Houston man convicted of sex trafficking teenage boys
Exploitation of the vulnerable is an ongoing issue.
“A former Houston massage therapist is facing a possible life sentence this fall for sex trafficking a series of teenage boys, including one who traveled with him to London where the victim told jurors he expected he’d be hired out for sexually explicit massages during the 2012 Summer Olympics,” reports the Houston Chronicle.
A federal jury convicted Jason Daniel Gandy of sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and transportation of minors, making sexually explicit images and transporting child pornography.
Gandy’s operation was revealed when he was stopped at London’s Heathrow airport by officials suspicious of why he was traveling with a non-relative 15 year-old boy. Authorities sent the pair back to the United States on separate flights where they were questioned by Homeland Security.
A forensic examiner discovered 50 lewd photographs on a laptop Gandy had given to the boy to transport back to the U.S., including an image showing a young man’s genitals, according to testimony. “The young man who traveled to London with him as a minor told jurors he was hired to provide so-called ‘happy ending’ massages and customers were invited to touch his genitals,” wrote Chron.com.
Further investigations revealed three other young men, ages 15-17, participated in Gandy’s massage business. Gandy befriended the boys who were coming to terms with their sexuality then sexually exploited them for profit.
“The men told the jury that Gandy groomed them, let them stay at his home, had sex with them and then asked them to stand shirtless or in their underwear during the massages, let the clients touch them or in some instances performed sex acts for customers,” reads the Chronicle report.
Gandy’s lawyer argued that he ran a legitimate business and that the four young men who worked for him did so willingly.
Sentencing is set for October 25.
Religious Liberty Task Force set in motion by Trump Administration
Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s anti-gay bakery ruling, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice is taking another step to satisfy its right-wing base. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force,” reports LGBTQNation.com.
In making the announcement, Sessions said that Donald Trump’s election has given the right a “rare opportunity” to stop a “dangerous movement, undetected by many” that is eroding religious freedom. “We have gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law; where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit; and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a ‘hate group’ on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs,” Sessions said.
Sessions mentioned Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery that won the SCOTUS case, three times in his announcement. The bakery mentioned refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, citing religious reasons.
“This taxpayer funded task force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said HRC legal director, Sarah Warbelow.