Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On Stonewall Anniversary, Police Raid Texas Gay Club

While we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion here in NYC, police in Fort Worth, Texas, were turning the clock back those 40 years. Just after midnight Sunday, Fort Worth Police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents raided the Rainbow Lounge. While the Fort Worth cops maintain this was a "routine alcohol-enforcement inspection", patrons and other witnesses say the police arrived prepared for a "raid", complete with plastic handcuffs usually used for making mass arrests. According to the cops, seven people were arrested for "public intoxication".

At the heart of this incident are questions about how 23-year-old patron Chad Gibson eneded up in a Fort Worth hospital with severe head injuries. The police insist Gibson was intoxicated and "grabbed at [a TABC agent's] groin", then "fell and hit his head". The official story sharply contradicts witnesses' accounts of the chain of events at the Rainbow Lounge. Are Ft. worth police going to use the "gay panic defense" if video of this raid gets out? We'll see.

Meanwhile, members of the Fort Worth City Council have called for an investigation into police activities during this incident. It certainly appears that the Rainbow Lounge has become the new Stonewall, a sad commentary on the fact that 40 years of progress in LGBT rights can be so easily overshadowed by 1960s police tactics and mores. Texas, where homosexuality was illegal until recently, seems to be stuck in the past where gays and lesbians are concerned. Look for Texas Governor Rick Perry to rush into print and "reassure" gay Texans and visitors to the state that this was an "isolated incident" and that Texas remains "committed" to LGBT equality and rights.

Tell that to Chad Gibson as he struggles to recover from injuries he should never have sustained.

UPDATE: A second Dallas-Fort Worth area gay bar has been raided by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Numerous reports indicate that the The Dallas Eagle Bar was raided during its grand re-opening last Friday night, ostensibly "to verify its address" according to Dallas police.

This comes one day after two gay men in El Paso, Texas were asked to leave a taco restaurant after they kissed each other. El Paso police admonished the men that "homosexual conduct--such as two men kissing--was illegal. Between these two incidents, and the Rainbow Lounge raid and assault reported above, I wonder what's going on in Texas. Are anti-gay laws still being enforced there, even though the Supreme Court ruled them "unconstitutional" six years ago? The upward trend of homophobia in the United States continues...

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