Fort Worth Gay Bar Raid No Accident

Stonewall was an expression of power and identity in the face of forced anonymity and oppression. The raid at Fort Worth is a different story altogether.
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Fort Worth, Texas is not some hick town in the middle of nowhere. It's a city with almost a million people -- the seventeenth largest city in the entire country. It's population is only a little over 60% white and it is ranked an extremely safe city for its size.

It is also a city with an openly gay elected official and a population of gay men and women who frequent bars that do not have mysterious doorways with no name on the front in order to avoid detection from a largely intolerant community.

For many who learn about homophobia through movies like Boys Don't Cry or reports on high profile cases like Matthew Shepard, gay bashing is a small town phenomenon these days. Large metropolitan cities are just safer, more tolerant and more progressive with their social values.

Well, integration will do that. It will encourage a population to compare their beliefs with the reality around them and many will come to the conclusion that intolerance bears little relationship to the pleasant neighbors and friends they interact with on a daily basis.

But a city is not just its population.

Police officers, politicians, city officials and other arms of law enforcement and law creation are not only influenced by their everyday activities. They are influenced by the legal system in which they operate. That system repeats day after day that gay Americans are second class citizens, that their government doesn't care about their rights, that their relationships with each other are not as important or worthy of protection as their straight counterparts.

The message of official discrimination certainly bolstered Police Chief Jeff Halstead's opinion that gay and lesbian patrons of the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth are not equally protected by law. The message of official discrimination gave Halstead's employees the impression that slamming the head of one patron against a wall, resulting in a life threatening head injury, was acceptable behavior. It was this official discrimination that encouraged one member of the raiding team to assert that the restraint used -- including the violence inflicted on patrons -- was acceptable because someone touched his crotch in a sexual manner.

When Stonewall happened 40 years ago, the LGBT community was just realizing how big it was. It was an expression of power and identity in the face of forced anonymity and oppression.

The raid at Fort Worth is a different story altogether: A community that fought hard for measured acceptance in a big city was undone by the political understanding, distributed across the country, that despite your tolerance, when push comes to shove, LGBT Americans just don't matter so much.

It is time to correct that misinformation. Fort Worth can achieve this by adequately punishing the officers and commission officials involved and following through on LGBT training for law enforcement officials.

But the real change will come when the federal government repeals legal discrimination against LGBT people and endorses, finally, a policy of equality and inclusion.

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