Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Around The Nation

Florida Appeals Court Upholds Ruling That Sending Threats Via Facebook Constitutes Crime
1st District Court Of Appeals, Tallahassee, Florida
TALLAHASSEE, FL -- A Florida Appellate Court has upheld a lower court's ruling that sending threats via Facebook can be criminally prosecuted under state law. The 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a Duval County circuit judge's refusal to dismiss a case against defendant Timothy Ryan O'Leary, who posted a Facebook status threatening a relative and her same sex partner in 2011.
In court documents describing the case, O'Leary had posted a Facebook status on his personal page that identified the relative and her partner by name and stated:
“FUCK my [relative] for choosin (sic) to be a lesbian and fuck [the partner] cuz you’re an ugly ass bitch . . . if you ever talk to me like you got a set of nuts between your legs again . . . I’m gonna fuck you up and bury your bitch ass. U wanna act like a man. I’ll tear the concrete up with your face and drag you back to your doorstep. U better watch how the fuck you talk to people. You were born a woman and you better stay one.”
In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel found that the threatening statements posted by O’Leary could be considered “sending” for the purposes of the law. [A Florida Statue specifies that sending such communication(s) to any person “containing a threat to kill or to do bodily injury to the person to whom such letter or communication is sent,” or a family member of the person, constitute a second degree felony.]
The relative addressed in the statement did not see the post on O’Leary’s site but found out about it from O’Leary’s cousin Michael O’Leary. O’Leary had argued that he had not violated the statute because the threats in question were only posted on his personal page, not “sent” directly to his relative.
In its ruling the Appellate Court disagreed ruling that “by posting his threats directed to his family member and her partner on his Facebook page, it is reasonable to presume that appellant wished to communicate that information to all of his Facebook friends."
The court added, "Had the appellant desired to put his thoughts into writing for his own personal contemplation, he could simply have recorded them in a private journal, diary or any other medium that is not accessible by other people. Thus, by the affirmative act of posting the threats on Facebook, even though it was on his own personal page, appellant ‘sent’ the threatening statements to all of his Facebook friends, including Michael.” [O'Leary v. State of Florida, 1D12-0975.]
Legal analysts see this as a landmark ruling that will set precedent for future cases in the state.

Anti-Gay Westboro Baptist Church Gets A Lesson In Pride
Courtesy of Equality House
TOPEKA, KS, -- A progressive nonprofit organization's co-founders told LGBTQ Nation Tuesday that a Google Earth search led him to buying a house last December directly across the street from vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
Today, the house got a new paint job- the brightly coloured stripes of the rainbow flag, symbol of the LGBT equality movement.
Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, an organisation founded in 2004 to facilitate charitable programs for the environment with special emphasis on rain forests along with a multi-nation deworming program, said that curiosity about the church one day led him to seek out more information.
Jackson found the church on Google Earth's streetview and "as I walked down the street, I saw a for sale sign on a house across the street." Jackson said that the house he saw on Google had been sold when he called the number on the sign but when he reached out to another Topeka realty company, it turned out that there was another house down the same block that was directly across from the church so he bought it. 
Jackson told LGBTQ Nation that his non-profit had settled on naming the home "Equality House," and that he and his organisation are launching a new campaign to counter his new neighbor's protests and anti-gay vitriol.
"Planting Peace's mission is to spread peace. We have orphanages, medical programs and a rain forest conservation program all over the world," Jackson said adding, "Our goal with this is to raise awareness, stand up to bigotry, and promote equality." 
All the funds we raise form this project will be used to create and sustain anti-bullying programs. 
An estimated 4,000 kids commit suicide each year because they hear a message that they are "less than".  It is our goal to help change that message. We thought no better place to start that message than countering the message of the Westboro Baptist Church."
When asked about the decision to paint the flag on the side of the house, Jackson said he had that intention from the beginning but it wasn't until recently the weather cooperated. 
"Look, I always was very interested in equality and activism for gay people, and the kids killing themselves with some of it influenced by their [Westboro's Protests] actions, it made sense. I've wanted to do something, and I knew when I saw that house for sale that it all came together."
Jackson said that he's already "met the neighbors" who have been very friendly thus far and as the painted flag took shape Tuesday, came over from their compound directly across the street to take pictures. He noted that a few minutes before the phone interview with LGBTQ Nation Tuesday afternoon, Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, had been out front with her camera taking pictures of the Equality House's new paint job.
Jackson says he and his colleagues at Planting Peace are creating a a drop-in center at the house designed to support LGBTQ anti-bullying efforts. He said that the organisation has created a CrowdRise page, which as already raised over $10K with the ultimate goal of raising more than a million dollars to support equality efforts.
"We want this house to be a message that where there's hate, there's also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist," he said. 
"Beyond the symbolic message of the home, it will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating."