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Georgia Graphics Store Refuses To Print Gay Couple’s Wedding Invitations

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A Suwanee, Ga. gay couple is the latest victim of discrimination after the owner of a local AlphaGraphics franchise refused to print wedding invitations for them, citing his religious beliefs reports 11Alive.com. Paige Beckwith contacted the local chain after a friend referred her to the business to order intricate, custom wedding invitations however, owner Alan Akins refused her.

Said Beckwith:

"The owner called me back and let me know that he's not going to print our invitations because he does not support same sex marriage.

"I kept asking him how, why, how he could do this? He just basically stood on his religious beliefs, referenced the Bible, called it a sin, and I was basically in tears saying 'How could you treat me this way?'" 

Akins confirmed he denied the couple but that he would've printed other things for the couple except for the invitations. 11Alive Legal Analyst Philip Holloway says Akins was exercising his legal rights.

Said Holloway:

"Under Georgia law businesses do have the right to say I'm not going to do business with this sort of couple."

Beckwith took her complaint to AlphaGraphics' main office and received a full apology and the company produced Beckwith’s custom wedding invitations at no charge.

Said AlphaGraphics' spokesperson:

"We do not condone discrimination of any kind, and wish to make clear that customers of any race, religion, nationality, ethnicity or sexual orientation are welcome at our franchisees' locations nationwide.

"We also wish to apologize to the customers who were impacted by the actions of this franchisee, and hope that our response conveys the level of commitment we feel toward upholding our company's standards of inclusion, and that all members of the Suwanee community continue to feel welcome at AlphaGraphics."

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 11.12.25 AMAlthough the couple won a small victory, the "religious freedom" debate continues to rage in the state. Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon managed to get the state senate to pass S.B. 129 in March - a religious freedom bill similar to Indiana's. The contentious nature of the bill even gained the ire of former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, known for defending the state’s sodomy laws in the 1980s, saying the bill would "give the opportunity to exclude in the name of religion, and I think that's a disaster." Luckily, the bill is officially dead this legislative session as of April 2, but McKoon vowed that he would attempt to fully pass it again in next year's legislative session. 

Editor's Note: A previous version of this post mislabeled Philip Holloway. He is a legal analyst for Atlanta outlet 11Alive. 


This Transman Is In Prison For Shooting The Man Who Raped Him: REPORT

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On October 28th in 2011 Ky Peterson, then a 20 year-old transman living in Americus, Georgia, was followed on his way home, knocked out, and raped by Samuel Chavez, a Honduran immigrant. It was the second time that Peterson had been sexually assaulted while living in the small town. Peterson awoke to find his attacker naked and assaulting him both sexually and verbally. In a lengthy interview with The Advocate, Peterson describes how his rapist took him back to a trailer park near his own home and that his two brothers managed to find him during the attack:

He stood up, now on one side of the trailer with his two brothers flanking him. He saw the shadowed figure of the naked stranger charging forward. He didn't have time to think as his fingers grasped the smooth metal of the gun he'd started carrying in his backpack as a nighttime precaution ever since his first rape.

Then Peterson made a decision he'd hoped he’d never have to. He pulled the trigger.

Peterson killed his attacker in self defense that night, and he’s been dealing with the fallout of the events ever since. Peterson, who had been raped previously, found himself in a morally complicated situation. He was summarily ignored by the police after reporting his first assault, and feared that calling them again would prove to be an even worse experience. What would a police force who refused to even acknowledge that he’d been raped once do in response to finding out that he’d taken the law into his own hands when confronted by another attacker?  

"I tried to explain my story to [the police] and they didn’t listen, and that was the main reason I attempted to cover up what had happened," Peterson says. "It was because I knew they wouldn’t listen — that’s just the way the system is."

Disillusioned by his experiences with local law enforcement, Peterson did the only thing he could think of and attempted to dispose of the body on a nearby country road--a decision that would ultimately land him in prison. He’s now serving a 20 year-long sentence for involuntary manslaughter. 

Though Peterson insisted that he had been raped and shot Chavez in self-defense, police were doubtful of his story even after a rape kit corroborated his claims. According to Peterson his being a black, transgender man was one of the main reasons that his case was so grossly mishandled.

"What this case highlights, is from both a legal and a public perspective, how difficult it is for trans people of color to claim the status of victim," ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio explained to the Advocate. "In so many ways, our conception of victimhood has always been taken away from people of color and taken away from gender-nonconforming people and taken away from women."

Peterson would eventually plead guilty to manslaughter charges, but as the Advocate found in the course of its investigative reporting, his sentencing contained a crucial technical error. According to court transcripts Peterson and his legal defense agreed to a deal in which he would cop to voluntary manslaughter, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The written court documents to Peterson’s case, however, list his having pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

"I have always said that all of these sentences need to be reviewed before they're submitted to the court to sign," said Assistant District Attorney Donald Lamberth. "I'm not sure, at this point in time, that we know what the ramifications could be from a sentence reconsideration, or reevaluation, but it does open a lot of interesting conversations."


Georgia Governor Vows To Abide by Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has vowed that his state will comply with the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling regarding four states’ bans on same-sex marriage. Like Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, Georgia currently bars gay couples from applying for marriage licenses and refuses to recognize same sex marriages officiated in other states. Echoing similar statements made by Georgia State Attorney General Sam Olens, Deal, is prepared to fall in lockstep with the Court.

“Federal constitutional issues trump state constitutional issues, " Deal said in an interview with A Closer Look. "So we will abide by whatever the Supreme Court rules as an interpretation of the United States Constitution.”

For a deeper dive into next week's court hearings check out our two part, in-depth analysis here and here.

(h/t WABE)


Vicious Mob Attack On Two Gay Teens No Longer Considered A Hate Crime: VIDEO

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Atlanta police have decided that a violent group attack on two gay students will no longer be designated a hate crime, reports Daily News.

Four students were charged after allegedly participating in the attack on two gay teens at Carver School of Technology.

16-year-old Tim Jefferson said that he was leaving the school with his friend when classmates began shouting racial and homophobic slurs. He claims that one student jammed a screwdriver right next to his eye and that the school principal stood by and did nothing to help.

AttackCell phone video shows dozens of students huddled around during a “5-round fight with punches being thrown by as many as 20 students at one point.”

Jefferson’s mother said that he has been attacked about eight times this year because he is gay. She is transferring her son to another school because a student involved in the attack promised to shoot him if he returns.

A police report filed on Tuesday described the assault as two friends being jumped by a mob of 20 teens “because they were gay.” However, a spokeswoman said that video surveillance has changed the department’s take on the attack which is no longer considered a hate crime.

The school has declined to comment.

Watch a report, which includes the disturbing cell phone footage, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Vicious Mob Attack On Two Gay Teens No Longer Considered A Hate Crime: VIDEO" »


Judge Denies Abused Transgender Inmate Ashley Diamond's Transfer Plea: VIDEO

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Abused trans Georgia inmate Ashley Diamond has been denied a request to be transferred to a lower-security prison for her own safety, reports the New York Times.

Earlier this month it was reported that Diamond has been denied access to her hormones, assaulted and raped at least seven times by other inmates. She filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) in February after years of unsuccessfully trying to convince officials to provide her proper medical treatment and protection.

In a federal court appearance yesterday, Diamond said that she has come to blame herself for being a victim.

Addressing Judge Marc T. Treadwell, she said:

“If I wasn’t so feminine, maybe if I didn’t talk the way I talked or move the way I moved, I would be less of a victim that way. I also feel a little less human because when I did report things, the very people I wanted help from, Your Honor, would tell me things like, ‘You brought this on yourself.’”

The hearing only addressed Diamond’s transfer request. Allegations that corrections authorities had failed to protect her from serious harm were not considered.

Treadwell said that the state had made a persuasive argument that Diamond had been transferred to Georgia State as a “positive” reaction to her lawsuit. She is housed in the system’s smallest unit which offers supported living for rape victims and for inmates with special mental health needs.

However, Diamond said she had been sexually harassed and forced to pay protection money since her arrival. She added that when she declined to be put in protective custody, prison officials coerced her into signing affidavits saying she was doing well, a claim which has been denied.

It was also stated that the prison’s psychologist did not appear in court because he had told Diamond he could lose his job if he testified “truthfully.” Treadwell admitted that this gave him cause for “lingering concerns.”

Earlier this month, Elton John and Michael Stipe issued a joint statement calling on the GDC to ensure Diamond's safety and provide her with hormone therapy.

Watch a Southern Poverty Law Center report on Diamond, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Judge Denies Abused Transgender Inmate Ashley Diamond's Transfer Plea: VIDEO" »


Department of Justice Weighs In on Lawsuit Against Transphobic Georgia Prison System

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In the three years since Ashley Diamond has been an inmate at Georgia State Prison she’s been denied access to her medically prescribed hormones, assaulted, and repeated raped by other inmates. Diamond, who is a transgender woman, first filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections in February after years of unsuccessfully trying to convince corrections officials to provide her proper medical treatment and protection.

When the Department of Corrections wasn’t flat out ignoring Diamond’s pleas it fell back on Georgia’s freeze-frame policy that determines how prisons recognize inmates as they enter the system. When inmates are first processed they are typically given full health panels so as to assess any pre-existing medical conditions that may arise during their incarceration.

In her lawsuit Diamond describes that she was made to disrobe in front of male inmates despite asserting her female identity and physically presenting as a woman. It was determined that Diamond was a man, and thus should be put into the general male population within the prison. Over the weekend the Department of Justice issued a statement of interest regarding Diamond’s lawsuit and highlighted how the freeze-frame policy was being used to discriminate against trans-identified people.

"Freeze-frame policies and other policies that apply blanket prohibitions to such treatment are facially unconstitutional because they fail to provide individualized assessment and treatment of a serious medical need," the letter reads.

In fighting for her own rights Diamond is drawing attention to the very real obstacles facing transpeople who are tied up in the penal system. Part of what makes Diamond’s argument compelling is the fact that she began transitioning as a young teenager and reads physically as a woman. The larger issue that she’s tackling through her lawsuit, however, are transpeople’s fundamental right to assert their identities regardless of their physical appearances.

Diamond’s case is scheduled to be heard for the first time in court on April 13. Read the Department of Justice’s letter of interest in full AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Department of Justice Weighs In on Lawsuit Against Transphobic Georgia Prison System" »


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