November 28, 2012

Teacher Writes ‘You Can’t Be A Democrat & Go To Heaven’ On Chalkboard

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. (CBS) – A complaint has been filed against a teacher accused of writing anti-Democrat rhetoric on her classroom chalkboard.

“You can't be a Democrat & go to heaven,” the board of South Laurel High School teacher Kendra Baker read earlier this month, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The message reportedly went up one week after the Nov. 6 presidential elections.

Mother Mary Gilbert, whose daughter Chelsea is in Baker’s psychology class, told the paper that she filed a formal complaint with the state’s Education Professional Standards Board.

"I feel like she was bullied by a teacher," she explained.

Doug Bennett, the superintendent for Laurel County schools, said the school addressed the issue with the teacher directly, though he declined to confirm Baker’s name or extrapolate on the consequences of her actions.

"She realizes it's inappropriate," he told the paper of their conversation with the teacher.

According to the Kansas City Star, Baker also apologized to Chelsea, but added that she thought Chelsea could take a joke.

Gilbert is reportedly dissatisfied with the outcome, as Baker is reportedly still in the classroom.

Chelsea Gilbert – who told the Herald-Leader that she supported President Obama – additionally claimed that Baker made comments in class about same-sex marriage. She said she told Baker that she was offending students in the class, some of whom are gay. According to the Star, the exchange brought Chelsea to tears.

Following the incidents, Gilbert removed her daughter from the school, and will teach her from home for the remainder of her senior year, the Star additionally learned.

"She's going to miss a lot," Gilbert noted.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights and equality group in the state, released a statement blasting Baker's actions.

"The School Superintendent reprimanded the Laurel County teacher, citing that she broke with policy regarding the environment of the classroom and we thank Superintendent Doug Bennett for his swift action," KEF president Jordan Palmer was quoted as saying in a press release on the organization's website.

"Kentucky Equality Federation contends the objective of such a message was to scare children into thinking a certain ideology by damaging the thought process, scaring the Commonwealth’s youth, introducing partisan politics in the classroom, imposing one-sided views on the classroom and generally directing the students into confined thinking."

Palmer added, "Regardless of the origin of the statement, the teacher had the greater responsibility to remain objective."

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November 21, 2012

Kentucky Equality Federation Stops School District Distributing Bibles

The Kentucky Equality Federation has stopped Bibles being given to middle school students in Grant County after the group was contacted by several parents who objected to it. Melissa Altman, one of the parents who contacted the group, stated that “My son was called out of his classroom and asked by men in business suits if they knew of the New Testament and were given Bibles. There is a time and place for this to occur, a public school is not [one of them]. I am a science major; I don’t believe every parent would appreciate me passing out copies of the ‘God Delusion’ written by Richard Dawkins to their children.”

KEF’s Jordan Palmer issued a warning to Grant County Schools’ Superintendent Ron Livingood stating that “This directly violates Kentucky laws and Kentucky Supreme Court decisions regarding the separation of Church and State. These people came into a school owned and funded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This action will cease immediately.”

Brandon Combs, the chairman of the Board of KEF stated that “In this situation, it is hard to gauge which occurrence is less acceptable; the allowance of Bibles to be passed out at a public school in violation of Kentucky law and past judicial precedent, or Superintendent Ron Livingood’s disregard for these same laws. Mr. Livingood has allowed for these individuals on school property to speak with students without proper authorization by parents and in violation of Kentucky law. At this point, the Kentucky Department of Education needs to step forward and take action to ensure all Grant County students are receiving equitable, safe, and high quality education within the confines of our legal system or we will take legal action.”

KEF went on to explain that:

Kentucky Equality Federation’s Religious Outreach Director, Minister Edith Baker, Ph.D. stated: “Here is the foundation of this matter; if Christians are ‘allowed to pass out Bibles,’ then all other religion and non religious groups, including the ‘Church of Satan’ will have this right. As a Christian believer since childhood, and an ordained minister, I believe we have enough homes, churches and other public venues to provide this service.”

However, at press time, only minutes after emailing Grant Count Superintendent Ron Livingood, legal representation for Grant County Schools, Don Ruberg, with the Law Offices of O’Hara, Ruberg, Taylor, Sloan & Sergent in Covington called Kentucky Equality Federation’s toll-free number indicating that the school had stopped, on the advice of counsel, the practice of allowing Bibles to be distributed on school property.

“On this one issue, we are all pleased that we could work together without the need for legal action,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “Kentucky Equality Federation serves as public advocate for all citizens of the Commonwealth who suffer from discrimination, hate crimes, school bullying, or any other danger to our freedoms. I am a practicing Christian; I also practice the principles of Taoism. We all have our own religious beliefs and a public school is not the venue for religion.”

In a response to Kentucky Equality Federation, the parent responded: “Thank you so much for everything you do and standing up for everyone’s rights, Altman stated. “You work fast I contacted the right person thank you so very much. Wow! I could never have gotten anything done myself, thank you.”

Kentucky Equality Federation’s Vice President of Legal, Attorney Jillian Hall had no comment after the situation was diffused, nor did Kentucky Equality Federation’s other attorneys.

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October 16, 2012

The Kentucky Equality Federation drafted the lawsuit on behalf of Milam; a gay ex-inmate at Warren County Jail

Brandon Milam, an openly gay former inmate of the Warren County Regional Jail, is expected to file a lawsuit today in Warren Circuit Court against the jail, Warren County, Jailer Jackie Strode and inmate Timothy Michael Schwartz.

Milam told the Daily News last month that he believes homophobia motivated a jailhouse assault that caused Milam to lose a portion of his nose in July.

Minutes after teaching a group of other inmates how to play the card game hearts, Milam, 26, was sitting on the bottom bunk of the bed in his jail cell when another inmate who lost the game shouted gay slurs before assaulting him July 2, Milam said in September.

That inmate, Schwartz, 41, of Scottsville, is accused of biting off a portion of Milam’s nose, according to court records. A grand jury indicted Schwartz in July on a first-degree assault charge. Schwartz pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pretrial conference at 1 p.m. Dec. 3.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, a public advocacy organization for victims of discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying, publicly condemned the incident last month and drafted the lawsuit on Milam’s behalf. On Monday, the federation provided the newspaper with a copy of the lawsuit the organization plans to file. The suit couldn’t be filed Monday due to a furlough day for state judicial workers.

“We haven’t been served yet. Until the county is properly served, I don’t feel comfortable making a comment,” Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken said, speaking on behalf of both the county and the county jail.

In September, Milam told the Daily News he would need four surgical procedures to repair his nose, with the first estimated to cost $26,000.

Milam is no longer answering questions from the media, said Jordan Palmer, the federation’s president. “He is embarrassed to be seen in public,” Palmer said. “At this point, he is just hoping that this will be resolved quickly so that he can have this reconstructive surgery.”

The lawsuit alleges that the jail failed to protect Milam from harm by allowing him to remain in a protective custody cell with other inmates who are prejudiced against homosexuals. It further alleges negligence and “intentional infliction of emotional distress and outrageous conduct,” jailer’s breach of duty and common law bad faith and breach of fiduciary duty.

“He has lost his sense of smell,” Palmer said. “He is still awaiting reconstructive surgery” and is undergoing therapy to cope with the nightmares about the attack. Milam is asking in his lawsuit for a jury trial, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees and interest.

At the time of the incident. Milam was serving time for a probation violation before being released to home incarceration July 10, he said.

Schwartz, who remains in jail, faces charges in a separate case of theft by unlawful taking of property valued at $10,000 or greater, devising or engaging in a scheme to defraud the Kentucky Medical Assistance Program of $300 or more and five counts of third-degree forgery.


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Gay man sues Kentucky jail, says part of his nose was bitten off by inmate harassing him

An incarcerated gay man sued a southern Kentucky jail and a fellow inmate Tuesday, claiming the prisoner bit off part of his nose after days of harassment.

Brandon Milam said he was disfigured, lost his sense of smell and was still in pain from the July attack in the Warren County Regional Jail, according to his lawsuit.

Milam claims Timothy Schwartz and other inmates used gay slurs and threatened him for about a week before Schwartz bit off part of his nose and then spit the piece of flesh onto the floor.

The severed piece was found by another inmate. Doctors at a hospital in Nashville, Tenn., tried to reattach it but were unsuccessful, the lawsuit said.

"It's a real tragedy that this would happen in a protective custody setting, this outrageously violent act," M. Austin Mehr, one of Milam's attorneys, said this week. "It was just like an animal."

Milam, 26, faces a series of reconstructive surgeries that will cost tens of thousands of dollars, Mehr said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for pain, suffering and medical expenses.

Schwartz was indicted on an assault charge and has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Walter Hawkins, did not immediately return a call.

Schwartz was in jail for an alleged scheme to forge signatures of family members of disabled people, file false Medicaid claims and charge Medicaid for services not provided, according to The Daily News in Bowling Green. He is still being held in the same jail.

Milam was jailed for violating his probation for a guilty plea to felony theft, the suit said. The jail and its top official, Jailer Jackie Strode, were aware Milam was gay but placed him in a single cell with about 14 other men, the suit said.

Strode did not immediately return a call Tuesday.

Defendants in the suit include the jail, its top official, the county and Schwartz.

The suit accused the jail and jailer of breach of duty and negligence.

Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken declined immediate comment, saying she had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Milam was attacked while sitting on his bed, the suit said. Schwartz pinned Milam against the wall and punched him in the face, then bit off part of Milam's nose, according to the lawsuit.

Bartley Hagerman, another attorney for Milam, said jail guards were slow to respond.

"You would think with all of the commotion they would have gotten there quicker," Hagerman said.

Milam has since been placed on house arrest, Mehr said.

Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights and civil rights group that has offered assistance to Milam, has urged federal authorities to pursue a case against Schwartz as a hate crime.

September 13, 2012

Kentucky Gay Ex-inmate: Homophobia fueled assault

The Daily News

Bowling Green - Brandon Milam, an openly gay former inmate of the Warren County Regional Jail, says hatred was the motivation for an assault he suffered at the jail in July.

Minutes after teaching a group of other inmates how to play the card game hearts, Milam, 26, was sitting on the bottom bunk of his jail cell when another inmate who lost the game shouted gay slurs before assaulting him July 2, Milam said.

That inmate, Timothy Michael Schwartz, 41, of Scottsville, is accused of biting off a portion of Milam’s nose, according to court records. A grand jury indicted Schwartz in July on a first-degree assault charge. Schwartz has pleaded not guilty.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, a public advocacy organization for victims of discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying, publicly condemned the incident in a news release Wednesday. The organization is calling on prosecutors to pursue the case against Schwartz as a hate crime and has agreed to provide legal assistance to Milam to help him obtain through the legal system the money he will need for multiple reconstructive surgeries to repair his nose, according to Jordan Palmer, the organization’s president.

“I just want my medical bills paid for,” Milam said. “I want to get all of this behind me.”

Milam anticipates needing four surgical procedures to repair his nose, with the first estimated to cost $26,000.

Jailer Jackie Strode turned over the jail’s investigative information on the incident to FBI Agent Mike Brown. Citing the ongoing investigation, Strode declined to comment.

Mary Trotman, chief division counsel for the FBI’s Louisville division, said her agency “cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.” Brown told Milam that the FBI is not pursuing federal prosecution of the case, Milam said.

“The assault investigation is ongoing,” Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron said. “I cannot comment further.”

Milam said he has not spoken to Cohron about the case. However, “he will be contacted like all other alleged victims are during the course of the litigation,” Cohron said. Milam said Wednesday that he was in a protective custody cell at the jail when his nose was injured. Strode declined to confirm what type of cell Milam was being held in at the time of the injury.

However, it is the jail’s procedure to offer single person or protective custody cells to anyone entering the jail who fears for his or her safety, Strode said. “When people say that their life is in danger, you are going to find out why, and you are going to act accordingly,” Strode said.

Milam was serving time for a probation violation before being released to home incarceration July 10, he said.

Schwartz, who is still in jail, faces charges in a separate case of theft by unlawful taking of property valued at $10,000 or greater, devising or engaging in a scheme to defraud the Kentucky Medical Assistance Program of $300 or more and five counts of third-degree forgery.

In an email exchange between Palmer and Strode, Palmer asked Strode who is going to pay for Milam’s medical bills. Strode responded writing to Palmer, "Brandon Milan (sic) was a State Inmate who was released by the Dept. of Corrections. You may discuss that issue with them."

“He was a state inmate, and when they are state inmate, the state pays for their medical care,” Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken said. “No demand has been made on the county that I know of. Under normal circumstances when a demand is made on a jail issue, that is then referred to the Kentucky Association of Counties because they are our insurance provider.”

The federation maintains that inmates have a presumption of safety while incarcerated.

"The deliberate indifference that the jail facility seemed to maintain when placing Mr. Milam in the cell with the attackers while being aware of his sexual orientation opens them to civil liability," Jillian Hall, vice president of legal at the federation, said in a release.

"Having an uncaring attitude towards LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex) inmates, as well as their fundamental human rights and dignity, appears to be a growing trend across the commonwealth’s county jailers." Palmer said in a prepared statement.


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July 30, 2012

Equality Leader Jordan Palmer Named to Honorable Order

Being named a member of the Honorable Kentucky Order of Colonels is akin to receiving a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. It is an honorary title bestowed upon those who do great service for the community. Jordan Palmer, head of the LGBT group Kentucky Equality Federation, has been named to this Order by Governor Steve Beshear.

Palmer was nominated by senior Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo, chair of the House Standing Committee on Economic Development, senior Representative Tom Burch, chair of the House Standing Committee on Health & Welfare, and attorney Jill Hall Rose, former Law Clerk for the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Perhaps the most famous Kentucky Colonel was Colonel Harland Sanders, best known for creating Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Rose stated that “I have known Mr. Palmer for over 10 yrs. and found him to be a tireless passionate advocate for equality and civil liberties across the commonwealth of Kentucky. Through the nonprofit organization he co-founded, Kentucky Equality Federation, he has successfully lobbied at both the State and Federal level for fair treatment of for all people regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. His specific work on hate crimes has brought these serious issues into the spotlight. Kentucky is fortunate to have such an outstanding individual working for us.”

Rep Palumbo added that “Jordan Palmer is a dear friend and outstanding Kentuckian. I was honored to nominate him to be a Kentucky Colonel, the highest award given by the commonwealth of Kentucky. Mr. Palmer works very hard for equality.”

Representative Burch described Palmer as being a compassionate advocate of equality and a role model for the community.

KEF Press Secretary David Jones said “From Mr. Palmer protesting Governor Fletcher and later Representative Fischer (twice, click here the second protest) for saying ‘ gays had not suffered enough,’ sponsoring a Soulforce Equality Ride at the University of the Cumberlands for kicking out a gay student, forcing school boards to allow Gay-Straight Alliances, rallying at Northern Kentucky University and the city of Hazard, FORCING policy changes, organizing Kentucky’s 1st Gay Marriage License Day, assisting in restoring the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program (KADAP) to successfully pushing the first federal hate crime, Mr. Palmer’s place in Kentucky history is secure.”

For his part Colonel Palmer said upon receiving the honor that “I am honored to receive the commission and will continue the work I do across Kentucky. I am honored Governor Beshear commissioned a LGBTI civil rights leader and humbled by the wonderful people who nominated me. I have always been fascinated by titles of honor, from Colonel to Companion and Knight in other countries. It is an award in recognition of a person’s deeds and merits. I plan to join the Honorable Order of the Colonels because I think the work they do is important, but not recognized as much as it should be.”

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July 20, 2012

Teen attacked, police not in position to determine 'hate crime'

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Louisville teen can barely talk, eat or breathe after an attack near Churchill Downs. Her family believes it was a hate crime. However, Louisville Metro Police Department investigators do not make that determination. It's a distinction handled by the Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney's Office.

Fourth Division officers continue to investigate the apparent attack that occurred around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday that sent a 17-year-old girl to the hospital with a broken jaw, bruises and cuts covering her body. "Officers did receive a call of a possible assault. Upon further investigation, we've enhanced it to robbery," Public Information Officer Dwight Mitchell said.

The vicitm's family insists it wasn't a robbery, but an attack on the teen because she is gay. "This was a hate crime. There was hate slurs thrown. It was not a robbery," family friend Brenda Hickerson said. "She is a very proud lesbian girl and they were attacked for that very reason."

Police said two men and a woman approached the teen girl, along with two other boys, sometime during the early morning hours Tuesday. The men proceeded to attack the minors and grabbed a cell phone, according to Mitchell.

Police have not charged anyone with the crime. Mitchell said the details regarding the slurs will be included in charging documents if an individual is arrested.

"We may indicate that in the arrest once we've made the arrest - that any type of comments or slurs that were made could possibly enhance the charge if a court and a judge sees fit for that to happen," Mitchell told WAVE 3.

It's a story WAVE 3 broke Tuesday night. By Wednesday, The Kentucky Equality Federation issued a news release indicating the organization has made contact with the victims' families to "offer mental health services, legal services, or spiritual services after the attack."

In a prepared statement, Kentucky Equality Federation Regional Director Jeff Johnson said, "Obviously the people who did this have no fear of being prosecuted. We urge the Louisville Metro Police Department to throw every resource into finding those responsible, it is impossible to believe no forensic evidence was left at the scene of the crime."

Police have a vague description of the men who attacked the teens. If you or anyone you know has information regarding the incident, you're urged to call the anonymous tip line at 574-LMPD.

Story by: Scott Adkins, and Connie Leonard

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Brandon Combs Named Board Chair of Kentucky Equality Federation

By: Kathy Johnson

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 20, 2012) ― Brandon Combs, telecommunications supervisor for the University of Kentucky Police Department, has been named chairman of the board of the Kentucky Equality Federation, Kentucky’s largest all-volunteer grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) civil rights and advocacy organization for both social and political equality.

"Working in advocacy, especially in the LGBTI community, has been a consideration of mine for many years," Combs said.  "The Kentucky Equality Federation Board of Directors was a perfect fit, as it combines a strong advocacy voice and goal of equality in all aspects within the Commonwealth."

Combs is one of 10 members who serve on the board, and was elected chairman by his fellow members.

"I have personally welcomed Mr. Combs to the organization," said Jordan Palmer, immediate past president and founder of the organization. "I believe he will provide the leadership needed in my absence and beyond."

The current president, Joshua Koch, welcomed the new board members saying, "We are constantly moving forward, and this election is vital to shaping our strategy going forward. This team's recent sacrifices and capacity to seize the initiative portends great things for Kentucky Equality Federation and the Kentucky equality movement."

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May 31, 2012

Lexington police investigate disappearance of anti-gay, anti-abortion sign from billboard

Lexington police said Thursday they would investigate the disappearance of a controversial billboard message that denounced homosexuality and abortion.

The message on a billboard on New Circle Road near Leestown Road appeared last week and cited Bible passages beneath the statements "Homosexuality is an abomination" and "Abortion is murder."

The vinyl sign, which listed a phone number for Bluegrass Church of Christ in Scott County, was missing Thursday, leaving a blank billboard. Police contacted the church and took a theft report, spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.

"They told us that it indeed had been stolen," Roberts said. The sign was to have been up "for the course of a year, and so when it was gone after a week, it was suspicious."

Detectives will begin working on the case Friday, Roberts said. In addition to theft, potential charges could include criminal mischief.

Dan Moody, 72, a member of Bluegrass Church of Christ, said church officials were disappointed that the sign being stolen but "not necessarily surprised. But we're surprised they could get it so easily and so quickly.

"We're very disappointed with that and would like to get our sign back up and see if something can be done to prevent that from happening again."

In an interview with the Herald-Leader Thursday afternoon, Moody said that the church does not have a pastor but that male members rotate preaching and teaching. He said the 10-year-old congregation does not have its own building, meeting instead in members' homes or a motel. Moody would not say how many people are members of the church.

He said that the church spent $7,700 for the year's billboard rental and that it would cost about $700 to have the vinyl sign replaced. Moody wouldn't identify the company that rented the sign to the church because he didn't want the firm to be the target of harassment.

The church has paid for four other billboard messages along Interstate 75 in Georgia, he said; no vandalism was reported with those.

Moody said the church "fully intends" to replace the message.

Joshua Koch, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, an organization that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and that has pushed for same-sex marriage in Kentucky, said Thursday that he was glad the message was removed.

"This whole incident has revealed the importance of bridging the gap between some portion of the Lexington religious community and the LGBT community," Koch said.

"Hopefully in the future that will not be a recurring issue. Honestly, Lexington is one of the friendlier cities in the region toward equality, and I certainly hope that trend continues."

Koch said in a statement last week that, although the federation respected the right to free speech, the billboard message subjected Lexington drivers "to an offensive and divisive message."

Although the message is gone from the billboard, a sign described as a replica has surfaced at a local bar and on social media sites.

On Thursday, a picture of a defaced version of the sign was posted on the Facebook page of Dronex Inc., which identifies itself as "a collective of creative dissidents working to challenge our visual landscapes to empower the people who occupy them." The sign appeared to have red devils painted over the original message.

Also, on Twitter, a user with the handle name @DronexInc sent a picture of that artwork at 9 p.m. Wednesday with the caption: "The devil will make work of idle hands."

The street artist who uses the identity of Dronex could not be reached for comment.

Andy Shea, the owner of Trust Lounge, said Thursday morning that a "replica of the billboard" had been displayed Wednesday night at the downtown Lexington bar. He said the piece was part of an "end of the world" theme party in which artists are invited to display their work.

Shea said the replica was part of a freedom-of-speech display.

Shea, who also is the general manager of the Lexington Legends, agreed to let the Herald-Leader see the artwork Thursday morning.

However, shortly after police announced it would investigate, Shea said the artwork resembling the billboard was no longer at the bar.

He said crews cleaned up after Wednesday's party, and all the artwork, including the replica, was removed.

About 15 people had posted on Dronex Inc.'s Facebook page, congratulating the artist for "getting the big story."

The controversial billboard message has been a topic of discussion on the Facebook page for nearly a week.

On Saturday, a user named Erik Roby posted a link to a WLEX-18 story about the billboard and said, "Think maybe a drone ought to deface this billboard and stand tall?"

On Sunday, Dronex Inc. posted a reply that said, "What billboard?"

On Thursday morning, Dronex Inc. posted: "Death from above / Love from below" — a post that had 22 likes by Thursday afternoon.

Under that post, a user named RustandBone Antiques posted: "Is the billboard for sale? Well done."

Moody, the church member, said threatening phone calls increased in the week that the sign was up. "Some are just real vulgar. Some ... say something like 'I've thought about finding out where you are and blowing this church up,'" he said.

But sometimes the phone calls from people who identify themselves as gay are "decent discussions," Moody said. "We're cordial with each other. Not agreeing but having a cordial discussion back and forth. Matter of fact, we've had calls from homosexuals saying, 'I didn't know that was in the Bible. I thank you for opening my eyes.' We've had that message more than once."

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May 5, 2012

Kentucky Equality Federation leader steps down because of health reasons

A high-profile advocate for gay and lesbian people in Kentucky is stepping down because of a serious health condition.

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, will turn over the reins of the organization to another officer as of May 7, according to a news release.

Palmer plans to return to the federation when he is able, but said it's not clear when that will be.

He declined to speak publicly about his health problem, but told federation members in a statement that it is life-threatening without immediate treatment.

Palmer said he is to have surgery soon.

"Should my luck run out, please know that serving Kentucky Equality Federation and working with all of you has truly been the highlight of my life and I have absolutely no regrets," Palmer told the group's officers and members in an email.

The federation advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people. It has pushed for same-sex marriage in Kentucky.

Last year, the group protested after an employee of a public pool in Hazard asked two gay men with disabilities to leave.

In another instance, Palmer pushed for federal authorities to take over another case involving a gay man who said he was attacked in Harlan County because of his sexual orientation.

The FBI took the case. A grand jury indicted two men on charges of kidnapping the victim and beating him because of sexual orientation — the first such charges in the nation under the federal hate-crimes law.

Joshua Koch, vice-president of policy and public relations at the federation, will take over as temporary president.

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April 12, 2012

2 face federal hate crime charge in Ky. gay attack

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two Kentucky men have been charged with a federal hate crime in a beating attack on a gay man in an Appalachian park, marking the first time the law has been applied in a U.S. case alleging bias over a victim's sexual orientation, authorities said.

The U.S. attorney's office in Lexington announced the charges against cousins David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge. Both were indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this week in connection with the April 2011 attack that left victim Kevin Pennington with chest, head and other injuries.

The grand jury charged the men with violating a hate crime law that was expanded in 2009 to cover assaults motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. They also were indicted on federal kidnapping, assault and conspiracy charges.

"The indictment marks the first federal case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Federal Hate Crimes Law," said a U.S. Department of Justice statement.

"It's vindicating to see that the years of hard work that went into making sure this law was on the books is now being put into place," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which pushed for the law's passage.

"The bigger picture here is that the U.S. attorney's office is sending a message that you don't try to hurt someone and you don't injure them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Foundation, a civil-rights group that lobbied the Department of Justice to intervene in the case.

David and Anthony Jenkins pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in London on Thursday. David Jenkins' lawyer, Andrew Stephens of Lexington, said Jenkins knew Pennington and Jenkins denies that he committed a hate crime.

"The hate crime component of this is just flat wrong," Stephens said. "I think it's very difficult to get into the mind of somebody and figure out what their intent is."

Kentucky Equality Federation, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.

Pennington also suffered injuries to his back, face, neck and ear in the attack at Kingdom Come State Park, a mountaintop park covering more than 1,200 acres of pristine pine-covered wilderness in the mountainous Appalachian region. He was subsequently treated and released from a hospital.

But Pennington remains emotionally scarred from the attack, Palmer said. He spoke with Pennington's mother on Thursday and she was pleased when she heard of the hate crime charges. She had contacted the group just hours after the attack on Pennington, Palmer said.

"I thought it was pretty sick when I heard about it," he said.

An FBI affidavit said Pennington was invited to go on an evening drive with two women he knew, but once he saw David and Anthony Jenkins in the truck, asked to be taken home. Pennington told investigators that David Jenkins demanded a sexual favor from Pennington, which was refused. Then the man said David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him, according to the affidavit.

The truck stopped in the park because a tree had fallen across the road and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled Pennington out of the truck and attacked him. The women in the truck, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins and Mable Ashley Jenkins, have been charged with kidnapping and aiding a kidnapping, authorities said.

The men pulled Pennington out of their truck, hit him and kicked him while "making anti-homosexual statements," according to the FBI affidavit.

"During the attack (the victim) was covering his face and they were all screaming `how do you like this faggot?'" the affidavit said.

Pennington escaped, ran to a ranger station, broke a window to get inside and called police.

Kerry Harvey, U.S. Attorney for Kentucky's Eastern District, said Thursday that a possible conviction on the hate crime charge could send the two men to prison for life. He said the men used a truck and traveled on a federal highway with the victim, which allowed the case to fall under federal jurisdiction.

The law is known as the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Shephard was a gay college student killed in Wyoming in 1998.

"The law was really meant as a backstop so that the resources of the federal government could be brought to bear when necessary to deal with these kinds of crimes," Cole-Schwartz said.

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Kentucky men indicted under Matthew Shepard federal hate crime law

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A federal grand jury in London, Ky. on Thursday indicted two men in the first federal application of the Matthew Shepard-James C. Bryd hate crimes law since it was signed into law in October of 2009, according to an announcement by Kerry B. Harvey, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, Ky., and his cousin, David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, Ky., were charged with conspiracy, kidnapping and committing an act of violence based on the victim’s sexual orientation.
The Shepard-Byrd law criminalizes acts of physical violence which are motivated by numerous factors, including one’s race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The law also helps provide federal resources for investigating crimes and indicting alleged criminals.
According to the indictment documents, the incident began when the two men, accompanied by Anthony Jenkins’ 19-year-old wife, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins of Partridge, and his sister, Mable Ashley Jenkins, 19, took the victim Kevin Pennington, against his will into Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan County on April 4, 2011, and severely beat him while yelling slurs about his sexual orientation.
FBI Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey stated in an affidavit that the women allegedly cheered on the attack, yelling “kill that faggot.”
Pennington said he was able to escape during a lull in the attack, and hid in the woods until the four stopped looking for him.
Pennington said he suffered numerous injuries, including bruises over much of his body, a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed-head injury and a torn ear.
Pennington told investigators that he
had gone for a ride with the four, but asked to be taken home after a few minutes. The group told the man they planned to go to Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan
County, then return home.
According to court documents, David Jenkins asked and then demanded oral sex from him, which was refused, after which David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him.
Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey wrote in the affidavit that the truck stopped in the park because a tree had fallen across the road and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled the man out of the truck, then hit and kicked him while “making anti-homosexual statements.”
“During the attack (the victim) was covering his face and they were all screaming ‘how do you like this faggot?’” Sankey wrote. “Ashley yelled `yeah that what you like queer were gonna kill your … now.’”
In hand-written statements to Harlan County law enforcement at the time of the incident, each of the four acknowledged having the man in the truck that night, and three of the four implicated David Jenkins as the instigator of the attack.
Authorities said David Jenkins pointed to Anthony Jenkins as the one who began the attack, saying he only joined in after it had started.
The Jenkins were first charged in state circuit court in Harlan County after the attack, charges that were dropped once the Federal authorities filed a complaint.
Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney Henry Johnson said the charges in state court were withdrawn as it “made more sense to let the case go federal because the potential penalties are greater.”
“I’ve been aware of the fact that there was an investigation going on, and the federal authorities have been very thorough in their investigation on this,” Johnson said.
Alexis and Mable Jenkins are not named in the new indictment and a note on the U. S. District Court webpage says the earlier charges against them have been terminated.
The Kentucky Equality Federation, a civil rights group, pushed to have the four charged under the Shepard-Bryd law.
“We wanted this in federal court where the judges are appointed, not elected, so they don’t have to keep a portion of the population happy,” said Jordan Palmer, executive director of the group.
Palmer said he was pleased to see a hate-crime charge filed in the attack on Pennington.
“We do believe that a hate crime occurred,” he said.
The federation, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.