Catherine Carlson’s day in court
Advocates suggest a hospital is more appropriate than prison

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
NEWS FEATURE: Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Apr. 6, 2011

Catherine Carlson, Boise Weekly, Transgender, Prison, IdahoCatherine Carlson knows that when she steps into the Payette County courtroom on Tuesday, April 12, she faces the possibility of spending the rest of her days in prison. She also knows that she is her only defense witness. But she wants her day in court.

Carlson, a 53-year-old transsexual woman, is charged with three felonies: first-degree arson, unlawful possession of a bomb or destructive device, and usage of a hoax destructive device. She is also facing a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure. All told, she faces up to 35 years behind bars and a $120,000 fine.

On the morning of July 11, 2010, firefighters responded to a report of a blaze in a Payette trailer park. Tension quickly mounted when authorities discovered alleged pipe bombs rigged to a propane tank on the front porch of one of the trailers. Attached was a note warning that the home was booby-trapped. Law enforcement evacuated the area while bomb technicians defused the device.

Within an hour, firefighters received another call, this time for a car that had been set ablaze near a storage unit north of Payette. Emergency dispatchers received a third call shortly thereafter. Drivers on U.S. Highway 95 near Payette said they had seen a naked woman running down the highway. It was Carlson. Police said she owned the vehicle and the trailer home. Continue reading

Idaho’s Uniform LGBT Hate Crime Reporting, Not So Uniform

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com July 21, 2010

Idaho is not among 22 states reporting hate violence targeted toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program issued its annual report for 2009 last week.

Accurately quantifying anti-LGBT hate crime in Idaho is difficult in part because of a disconnect between federal, state and local reporting criteria. Additionally, LGBT people are less likely to report hate crime for fear of being outed or retribution, especially in conservative and rural areas. Human rights activists say there are also concerns about police harassment or indifference.

“Brutal attacks against actual or perceived LGBT people are hate crimes,” said activist Emilie Jackson-Edney. “But in the eyes of Idaho law, they’re just another assault or battery.”

Boise Police Department’s Victim Witness Coordinator, Janet Lawler told Citydesk that, “Boise police have a real proactive malicious harassment policy which is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

However, Lawler explained that while a misdemeanor battery that includes a racial slur would be elevated to a felony, the same is not true if a sexual orientation or gender identity slur is used.

Pennie Blamires of the Idaho State Police Uniform Crime Reporting Unit told Citydesk there are 107 Idaho law enforcement agencies that report data to her unit. Her division documents crime and submits it to the FBI. But the ISP report doesn’t record gender identity.

Lawler said in Boise,“maybe three to four cases were investigated over the last year because of sexual orientation.”

In a Law and Order edition of Catch 22, the federal government is required to track crime data on sexual orientation and gender Identity from the states, but they do not require states to track it.

Ironically, the front page of the 2009 Idaho Uniform Crime report motto reads: “You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure.”

Will Prop. 8 Decision Affect Idaho LGBT Community?

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com June 30, 2010

Both civil rights advocates and religious conservatives are waiting in anticipation of Federal Chief District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision in California’s Proposition 8 landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case.

Filed over a year ago, the January trial challenged the constitutionality of the voter-initiative that banned same-sex marriage by just 52 percent of the popular vote in the November 2008 election.

Either way Walker decides, it’s likely to spark outrage. Should the decision go the way of the plaintiffs and Prop. 8 is overturned, many wonder how that will affect states like Idaho with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. The consensus is there is likely to be a long court battle before we have a final answer.

Idaho Attorney General’s office spokesperson, Bob Cooper said,”It’s anticipated that it will be appealed both to the Ninth Circuit and to the Supreme Court regardless of which way it goes, so it’s really impossible to speculate on what impact, if any, it would have on Idaho. It’s going to depend on where it becomes a question of settled law and what the decision is.

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ACLU of Idaho executive director, Monica Hopkins concurred. “It is difficult to speculate on these legal issues. However if Prop 8 is struck down we may see the issue before the Supreme Court. Until the legal question is solved by the courts we have no way of knowing how this may affect the Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is the non-profit organization funding the plaintiffs and assembled the legal team lead by Theodore Olson and David Boies.

Spokesperson Robb Yusef told BW, “We are eagerly waiting to see how the court will rule and trust the court will make the right decision. Either way the court rules the other side will appeal this to the circuit court and then we expect this to be appealed to the Supreme Court. We have committed to take this case all the way because we believe that peoples fundamental rights need to be guaranteed once and for all.”

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The California Supreme Court ruled May 15, 2008, in a 4-3 decision that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Marriage license for gays and lesbians began being issued June 1, 2008. Until the passage of Prop 8, 18,000 same-sex couples have been legally married. Thus far, efforts to invalidate those marriages have been unsuccessful and the outcome of this case will not affect them.

Boise Weekly’s requests for comment from Protect Marriage, the organization leading the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign, have not been returned.

Protect Marriage received $40 million in donations from all over the county. Of that sum, $22 million was from members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. At least $419,000 came from Idahoans, with the largest donation of $100,000 coming from Belinda VanderSloot, the wife of Idaho Falls conservative millionaire and Melaleuca CEO Frank L. VanderSloot.

Boise LGBT Pride Grows Bigger Every Year

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com June 23, 2010

Gay Pride Rainbow FlagNearly 1,500 people gathered on the steps of the Statehouse on June 19 to celebrate the 17th annual Pride, the one day a year when LGBT friends and allies are free to openly express pride in themselves, their families and their community.

A short rally opened the day’s events. Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of ACLU Idaho was the keynote speaker (video below). Hopkins addressed a diverse crowd that included everyone from young families to senior citizens and who came from as far as Idaho Falls and Portland. She emphasized the need for people to “come out” and “work diligently on public policy issues.” With the recent closing of the Idaho Women’s Network and Idaho Equality, that leaves the ACLU as the only statewide organization working directly on LGBT public policy issues.

After the rally, the mile-long parade—led by the hallmark rainbow balloon arch, followed by an 80-foot tall rainbow flag—marched to the festivities at Ann Morrison Park. Boise Pride’s executive director, Tom Thompson, estimated overall attendance at 7,500. At a cost of $30,000 to put on, early estimates indicate a small profit from the festival as a result of the first ever $1 gate fee. Some festival goers complained about the fence that encircled the crowd but Thompson says it was required for liability and security issues and provides accurate attendance figures to prospective sponsors and vendors.

Over the years, protesters have always been present, carrying signs and chanting, but for the first time in Boise Pride history no anti-gay protesters showed. Many view that as a positive sign of progress. BW talked to a number of people for the video below, asking what people think are the most pressing issues facing Idaho’s LGBT community and how Boise compares to other communities in terms of being LGBT friendly.

In Their Own Words: Pride is a State of Being

Members of Boise’s GLBTQ community talk about what pride means to them.

by Rachael Daigle.
June 11, 2008 Boise Weekly

This piece was published in the Boise Weekly along with three other LGBT community leader contributions as part of the Weekly’s 2008 LGBT Pride Issue.

Pride is a State of Being

Jody May-Chang
The national theme for Pride this year is “Live, Love and Be.” As poetic as that theme sounds, Pride is more than a slogan, it’s a way of life. It means taking ownership of your life and standing up against individuals and institutions who deny us our basic liberties.

Jody May-Chang, Boise WeeklyWhen I attend annual Pride events, I’m touched by the sense of community and hope that follows the speeches and events, but I sometimes think it amounts to a brief vacation from the harsh reality surrounding of our daily lives.

Once the rainbow flags are put away and the chanting has subsided, we still face a world in which we are marginalized, stereotyped and vilified by those who would prefer that we did not exist.

Although we have a proud history that includes many people who have fought those who beat and jailed us, we still have a long uphill fight to secure employment protection, hate-crime laws and marriage equality. While we celebrate the festivities of Pride events, we still face the reality of being second-class citizens in our own country.

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