A lesbian couple, Mary Christine (aka Kristene) Chapa, 18, and Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, were discovered Saturday, June 23, shot in a park in Portland, Texas, a small Gulf Coast community. Olgin did not survive, but Chapa was rushed to the hospital where she is reported to be in stable but serious condition, according to MSNBC.
Portland Police Chief Randy Wright says it’s unknown whether crime was related to the sexuality of the two women, as friends of the victims could not pinpoint any motive. Samantha Garrett, Olgin’s roommate, told KRIS TV, ”Sometimes you always hear the story where they never did anything wrong, ‘Why was it them? They were so innocent.’ But Mollie and Christine were innocent.”
The shooting was unprecedented for a city with a historically low crime rate, where the last homicide occurred two years ago. Wright noted that the shootings did not appear to be a ”random attack.”
In response to the tragedy, activists nationwide are organizing public vigils to honor the two women. In the District, a vigil is planned for Friday, June 29, at 6 p.m. in Dupont Circle.
Catholics for Equality, the largest national political organization for pro-LGBT equality Catholics, joined June 21 and 24 protests – in Baltimore and D.C., respectively – challenging the ”Fortnight for Freedom” campaign, the organization reported. The two-week campaign, launched by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops June 21, bills itself, in part, as ”emphasiz[ing] both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.”
Joseph Palacios, a gay priest, Georgetown University professor, and director of the Catholics for Equality Foundation, offered a different perspective.
”The bishops no longer represent Catholics in the pews on so many social issues, from contraception to legal equality for LGBT people,” he said in a release issued by his organization. ”We also reject the bishops’ election year campaign that they are now somehow victims of religious liberty, especially as the U.S. Catholic Church receives 62 percent of its funding for Catholic Charities from federal and state funds – money coming from the taxes of all Americans.”
In the same June 24 release, Phil Attey, executive director of Catholics for Equality, added, ”The bishops’ 2012 ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ campaign is nothing more than election year political posturing. For the past 10 years the bishops have earned the public branding of abusers, oppressors and political bullies.”
In Wrightstown, N.J., Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali and his partner, Will Behrens, made history Saturday, June 23, becoming the first same-sex couple to unite in civil union on a military base, the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the Associated Press reported.
”We are so honored to be a part of this historic moment to be one of the first gay couples allowed to unite in a civil union on a military base,” the couple said in a release issued after the ceremony, according to AP.
The couple said that they hoped the public display of their civil union will inspire others in the LGBT community and show the world that the struggle for equality is not just a military issue, but remains a ”shared burden” with those ”who are civilians.”
Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first U.S. serviceman injured in the Iraq war, who is also gay, attended the civil union, telling AP, ”It’s a blessing for me to be here today. A historic event like this shows that progress is being made.”