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Passenger Gets Slap On Wrist For Drunken, Anti-Gay Assault Caught On Video At Dallas Airport

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The passenger who went on a drunken, violent, anti-gay rampage that was caught on video at DFW International Airport in October will pay $474 in fines for the incident, according to a court spokeswoman. 

BenhamMcCleish Christmas Benham (right), now 28, of Shelbyville, Tennessee, assaulted two people while yelling anti-gay epithets, before other passengers tackled him to the ground and he was arrested on Oct. 23. 

A bystander captured the incident on video and posted it on YouTube, where it's been viewed more than 5 million times.

Benham was charged with public intoxication and simple assault, both class-C misdemeanors each punishable by a maximum $500 fine, but no jail time. The case was referred to the Municipal Court in the city of Grapevine, Texas. 

Cindy Eteaki, court manager for the city of Grapevine, told Towleroad on Wednesday that Benham posted a cash bond to get out of jail and entered a conditional plea of no contest at the time. Because Benham failed to appear in court, his bond will be forfeited and he will be convicted on both counts, Eteaki said. Benham's bond was $262 dollars on the assault charge and $212 on the public intoxication, for a total of $474.

The FBI has declined to comment on whether it is investigating the incident as an anti-gay hate crime under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act of 2009. 

Expert Pete Schulte, an openly gay criminal defense attorney and former police officer from Dallas, has said he believes authorities mishandled the case — and Benham should have been charged with class-A misdemeanor assault, punishable by up to one year in jail: 

“I’m sure the individual who was punched felt a little pain based on the video,” Schulte said. “Class-C assault is offensive contact without any pain.

“He could be charged with resisting arrest if they decide the person who broke his ankle was attempting to arrest him,” Schulte added. “It appears that DFW airport police may have not done a great job in this case.”

Benham had previously been in trouble for theft and animal abuse.  

Watch video of the attack, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Continue reading "Passenger Gets Slap On Wrist For Drunken, Anti-Gay Assault Caught On Video At Dallas Airport" »


Police Search For Clues After Gay Man Is Mysteriously Beaten To Death In Northwest Georgia: VIDEO

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After a 2-mile walk, Paul Guerrant was just a few hundred yards from home on the evening of Dec. 22 — a cold, rainy night in Dalton, Georgia. 

Guerrant, 43, had been talking to a friend from out of state on his cell phone as he walked alone across the Northwest Georgia town, 90 miles north of Atlanta near Chattanooga, Tenn. 

At 9:28 p.m., the call ended, cell phone records indicate. Nine minutes later, a passerby called 911 to report Guerrant lying in the street unresponsive. Guerrant was rushed to a hospital, where he died from blunt force trauma to the head, having been struck multiple times with a hammer-like object.  

DaltonNow, police are offering a $10,000 reward as they search for clues about what happened during those nine minutes, in a case that has some telltale signs of an anti-gay hate crime. 

Project Q Atlanta reports: 

The severity of the attack indicates that Guerrant knew his killer, Dalton police spokesperson Bruce Frazier told Project Q Atlanta on Tuesday.

"When you see this kind of violence, typically the attacker and the victim know each other," Frazier says. "That level of violence can occur in a random encounter but it is much more likely that it is somebody that knew the victim and that there was a personal motivation behind it. We don't know that for sure, but that is the assumption you would make from this level of attack."

Frazier says detectives have ruled out any of Guerrant's known associates such as friends or ex-boyfriends as suspects in the homicide. But whether Guerrant's sexual orientation was a factor in his murder isn't clear, he says.

"Whether the victim being gay is motivation for the attack, we really don't know the answer to that. At this point, we have not identified a suspect or motive for the attack. It's possible but it's not something that we're ready to identify as the reason for the attack," Frazier says.

According to The Times Free Press of Chattanooga, Guerrant had struggled with alcoholism and homelessness, but had recently celebrated 17 years of sobriety and been baptized in a local church.

Guerrant's Facebook page shows signs of a recent relapse, as well as intense anger about an ex-boyfriend's plans to marry another man. But on the night of his murder, Gerrant was walking home from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. 

From The Times Free Press

Guerrant, 43, had grown up in Dalton but left some time after graduating high school in 1991, longtime family friend Sally Higgins said. She said he recently returned to Dalton but wasn't in contact with local family members.

"He was trying to get on the right path," Higgins said. "He'd made big strides over the past year." ... 

At Rock Bridge Community Church, Guerrant had grown involved in several small group ministries, the pastor said. And he served on a technology team to help with the church's productions. Turley remembers him always being full of joy and enthusiasm.

"We were excited about the journey he was taking with God," Turley said. "This has just been a terrible tragedy for us as a church. We're heartbroken. We would love to see justice. But we're also very grateful to have been a part of a process in his life to where now we know where he is. For that part we're relieved."

Anyone with information about Guerrant's murder is asked to contact Detective Brian Shirley at 706-278-9085, dial 9 and then enter extension 189.

Watch WRCB-TV's report on Guerrant's murder, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Supreme Court To Consider On Jan 9. Whether To Hear Challenges To Same-Sex Marriage Bans

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In the wake of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision earlier this year to uphold bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, the United States Supreme Court has decided to consider hearing challenges to that ruling from marriage equality advocates during its closed doors conference on January 9th. At that same conference, the Court will also be considering a decision from a federal judge in Louisiana that let that state's ban on same-sex marriage stand. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reports: 

“The Tanco [Tennessee case] petition will be considered at the Court’s January 9 conference, along with … petitions filed by the plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana,” National Center for Lesbian Rights spokesperson Erik Olvera told BuzzFeed News on Monday afternoon.

The plaintiffs and marriage equality advocates alike hope the petitions will provide the Supreme Court with the chance to take a case to resolve the issue nationally with a ruling that would apply across the country.

Although the justices denied petitions filed earlier in the year from other states, all were in cases in which the lower court had struck down the bans — and before there was a “circuit split,” a disagreement among the federal appeals court on the issue. All five petitions before the court now come from decisions upholding the various states’ bans.

In November, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the four district courts to have heard the cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee — sending the plaintiffs in the cases from all four states to the Supreme Court seeking an appeal. 

[…]

Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio officials agreed that the Supreme Court should take a case and resolve the issue nationally; only Tennessee officials opposed Supreme Court review.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Jeffrey Fisher, from Stanford Law School, joined the Kentucky lawyers, led by Daniel Canon, in Monday’s reply brief, arguing, “For petitioners here – and for lesbian and gay couples and families across both the Sixth Circuit and the country – the harm and confusion that the circuit split has caused calls out for immediate review.”

You can read the Kentucky plaintiffs' reply below:

14-575 Plaintiffs' Reply by Equality Case Files


NCLR Asks Supreme Court to Review 6th Circuit Ruling Upholding Tennessee's Gay Marriage Ban

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Following on the heels of a similar petition by the ACLU and Lambda Legal earlier today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has asked the Supreme Court to take up the Sixth's Circuit's anti-equality ruling.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal request deals with Ohio's gay marriage ban while the NCLR's centers on Tennessee's ban.

Background on the case, courtesy of NCLR

On October 21, 2013, NCLR filed a lawsuit on behalf of three legally married same-sex couples, challenging Tennessee laws that prevent the state from respecting their marriages and treating them the same as all other legally married couples in Tennessee. To prevent the plaintiff couples from continuing to be harmed by Tennessee’s laws, a federal district court in Nashville, Tennessee ruled on March 14, 2014 that Tennessee officials must recognize the couples’ marriages while their lawsuit is pending. The state appealed that ruling.

Read the petition below:


ACLU and Lambda Legal Ask Supreme Court to Review 6th Circuit Ruling Upholding Gay Marriage Bans

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As expected, the ACLU and Lambda Legal have filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling that upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. 

Said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal via press release:

We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel. As we have learned from other historic cases like Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer,--on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come.

Read the petition below via Equality Case Files:


Same-Sex Couples to Appeal Sixth Circuit Ruling Directly to U.S. Supreme Court

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The plaintiffs in the Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee marriage cases will seek immediate Supreme Court review of yesterday's Sixth Circuit ruling upholding the states' bans on same-sex marriage. 

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Abby Rubenfeld, the lead counsel for the Tennessee plaintiffs, said lawyers from all four state cases were in agreement about sending the issue to the Supreme Court.

“We just had a conference call with the attorneys from all four Sixth Circuit states on the marriage cases. We were all in agreement to apply for certiorari at the supreme court, and not to first seek en banc review in the Sixth Circuit,” she explained. “Given the significance of the issue, the reality that it will end up in the Supreme Court ultimately, and the harms that all of our clients are suffering each day that their marriages are not recognized, we want to get to the Supreme Court sooner rather than later.”

“We hope to file within two weeks, and hopefully sooner, so that we can still be on the docket for this term—which means resolution by june 30, 2015,” she added.


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