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April 6, 2009


Yesterday, CNN reported that 6 gay men were murdered over the last 10 days in Iraq.

According to that report, two men were killed last Thursday in the Sadr City area of Baghdad after they were disowned by relatives. The shootings came after a tribal meeting was held and the members decided to go after the victims.

Prior to these killings, on March 26th, four additional men were fatally shot in the same city. They had also been disowned by their relatives because they were gay. According to a report by 365gay.com, the four men were buried near Sadr City with the words “pervert” and “puppies” written on their chests. "Puppy" is a derogatory word used by residents in Sadr City to refer to homosexuals.

Witnesses told CNN that a Sadr City cafe, which was a popular gathering spot for gays, was also set on fire.

All of these most recent incidents came after a stepped-up campaign by Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat who repeatedly condemned homosexuality during recent Friday prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality. By Iraq's current law, homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison.

As horrendous as these acts are, they are not confined to Iraq or the mideast alone. They are being encouraged and inflamed throughout the world by the hate-filled, homophobic rhetoric of religious fanatics from Sadr City to the Vatican to Mormon tabernacles to the extreme, right-wing, evangelical churches in this country. All with the same disheartening and highly disturbing results that culminate in everything from verbal taunts to outright, brutal, mind-numbing murders.

In this country, all of this has been graphically demonstrated by the latest hate crimes statistics showing that over the last few years, ever since our own home-grown religious extremists stepped up their homophobic rhetoric here, violence against gays has increased dramatically. In fact, the increase in violence against gays has now surpassed all other groups.

Now, I know that in a country where free speech is guaranteed, it's very difficult to stop hate speech. There are, however, exceptions to that guarantee.

In 1859, John Stuart Mill introduced what is known as the "harm principle" which placed the following limitation on free expression: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." If ever I heard of a situation that fits that exception like a glove, it's the unbridled rantings of religious fanaticism. Clearly there is now proof that their kind of rhetoric does, indeed, lead to harming others. Perhaps this is an avenue that should be pursued by the ACLU and/or the many Lambda Legal type organizations in our own community.

Maybe a few strategically chosen lawsuits brought by victims of anti-gay violence against a few religious groups and/or institutions would serve as a wake-up call to these groups.

In the meantime, as I've said in several articles in the past, the more successful we become, the more frustrated and desperate our enemies become. And the more desperate they become, the more they turn to violence.

So, once again --- LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!