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Local Wyoming biker bar sold T-shirts blaming the LGBTQ community for AIDS

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Two gay activists demonstrate in the streets of North Hollywood to protest against the death of Wyoming University student Mathew Shepard. Shepard was beaten, lashed to a fence post, and left to die by two Laramie, Wyoming, men.

Just miles away from the murder site of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student who was killed in a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, a biker bar thought to profit from the town’s homophobia. For years, the owner of the Eagle’s Nest, located in Cheyenne, sold shirts that said “In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS. We shoot fuck’n faggots.” In addition to the text, the shirt depicts a man in a biker jacket aiming a gun.

The shirts garnered national attention after photos of them circulated around Facebook, leading members of equality groups in the state to approach the bar owner. According to The Washington Post, Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy group, confronted the bar owner regarding the shirts when she first became aware of them, but was unsuccessful in getting him to stop selling them.


“We are sad to say that we failed to convince a local bar to pull these shirts from circulation,” said Wyoming Equality in a Facebook post Saturday. “We hoped that they would choose to stop selling them when they realized the harm it did to the LGBTQ community and those living with AIDS.”

At the time of the post, the organization did not mention the bar’s name out of fear of “the sad reality that giving them exposure will help them sell more shirts. I’m not in the business of helping bigots make money off of the pain of my community,” Burlingame said in a press release Monday.

But despite Wyoming Equality not mentioning the name, the bar sold out of the shirts and Ray Bereziuk, the bar’s owner, told The Cheyenne Post Monday that he did not plan to sell more shirts because he’s “in the bar business, not the apparel business.” The fact that he no longer wanted to sell them because he was sold out rather than stop when Burlingame requested it reflects the ideology Bereziuk must have. Bereziuk did not mention why he was not reordering the shirts, but shared he would not bend to social media pressure.

In a comment on their original Facebook post, Wyoming Equality said that it was working with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization, to contact the bar’s alcohol distributors and “see if they are ok with working with an establishment selling these types of items.”

According to The Cheyenne Post, Bereziuk began selling them in 1998 after Shepard’s murder. Shepard was beaten, robbed, and then tied to a barbed-wire fence and left to die in 1998. His murder prompted state and federal lawmakers to pass hate crime bills nationwide. However, Wyoming has not passed any anti-hate legislation.

In an interview with the Star-Tribune, Shepard’s mother noted this, lamenting that the state has had 22 years to pass hate crime legislation, but has failed to do so.

“It is time for Wyoming to face reality and recognise that we are losing our youth, our economic potential and our soul. The time to take a stand is now, not after another family loses their child,” she said.

This isn’t the first bar to sell offensive t-shirts, the Post reported. The Parallel Wine & Whiskey Bar in Virginia received backlash for selling shirts that said “Drunk Wives Matter” in June 2020. The shirts followed the murder of George Floyd, which prompted protests worldwide against racial injustice under the Black Lives Matter movement. The bar stopped selling the shirts.

Despite the lack of hate crime bills in the state, the response has been strong and supportive of the LGBTQ community. “Every year, the city welcomes close to 3 million visitors from every walk of life. They come to Cheyenne and discover the history of equality, ingenuity and hospitality in our city and state. This type of shirt does not represent the community we live in,” Domenic Bravo, the director of Visit Cheyenne, said in a press release.

Multiple state legislators across party lines have also condemned the shirts in public statements including Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican.

“It’s incredibly disheartening to learn that any business would offer a product for sale with a message like this,” Gordon said in a statement to The Casper Star-Tribune. “This hurtful rhetoric is not reflective of our state’s values, and does nothing but promote hate and division.”

We can only hope this anger that the community is expressing encourages lawmakers to finally make a move on anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state.

Despite the hurtful rhetoric clearly present, Burlingame said this is an opportunity for people in Wyoming to become inspired and take action in protecting LGBTQ individuals in their state. “Want to make it unpopular to be a bigot? Donate to Wyoming Equality or Wyoming AIDS Assistance. Put a pride flag up in your business or home. Wear one of our cool AF shirts. Pass a Hate Crime bill. Invest in queer joy and resilience,” she wrote on Facebook. “Let the haters hate in their own misery. Keep Wyoming queer and wild.”


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News Roundup: New vaccine rules for federal workers; bipartisan infrastructure deal falls short

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In the news today: As COVID-19 cases continue to soar among unvaccinated Americans, President Joe Biden announced new vaccine requirements for federal workers, with a military vaccine mandate likely to follow. The Senate voted yesterday to begin debate on a “bipartisan” infrastructure plan. What’s the bipartisan part? That it’s less ambitious than needed and reeeeeally sketchy about its numbers. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed the Biden administration doesn’t have the legal authority to unilaterally cancel student debt, advocates point out that the Higher Education Act very specifically says it does.

Here’s some of what you may have missed:


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Trump’s aides reportedly fretting over his potential toxic touch in future endorsements

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The latest? Trump laid his bam on a candidate in Tuesday’s special House election in Texas, and that candidate—Susan Wright, the widow of Rep. Ron Wright, who previously held the seat—lost. Convincingly. And now Trump’s aides and assorted hangers-on are starting to show just a wee bit of panic.

Politico:

Now, Trump and his advisers are trying to figure out what Wright’s defeat means for them — and how to contain any damage. Her loss Tuesday night sent shockwaves through the former president’s inner circle. Many privately concede the pressure is on them to win another special election next week in Ohio, where a Trump-backed candidate is locked in a close primary.

Yes, the Eye of Sour-Don now alights on Ohio, where another nail in Trump’s big, gilded, tricked-out King Tut loser coffin is being teed up as we speak. In Ohio’s special House election, Trump has backed coal lobbyist Mike Carey—because if you’re going to back losers, you might as well back losers from waning, has-been, loser industries like coal production.

Needless to say, the Trump team is currently on tenterhooks in advance of that election, because a Carey loss would allow Trump’s detractors to affix another big red loser stamp on Trump’s flaky, flop-sweaty forehead. More importantly, it might allow some of the nontrue believers in his party to finally spit out their ball gags. 

Politico:

Advisers worry that a second embarrassing loss would raise questions about the power of Trump’s endorsement — his most prized political commodity, which candidates from Ohio to Wyoming are scrambling to earn before next year’s midterms. More broadly, losses could undermine his standing in the Republican Party, where his popularity and influence has protected Trump’s relevance even as a former president barred from his social media megaphones.

While we should all root against Trump’s candidate next week, it’s important to note that Trump has never actually been a superstar endorser. His continued influence over his party and its elected officials is indisputable, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he cherry-picks his candidates in order to cultivate a phony winner’s veneer.

As CNN’s Chris Cillizza (I know, I know) noted in his July 28 column, Trump’s reputation as a kingmaker is, at the very least, exaggerated. Noting that Trump’s endorsement record is 141-42 in general elections, 3-2 in special elections, and 21-2 in battleground primaries, Cillizza writes:

In general elections, Trump has always padded his stats by endorsing lots and lots of incumbents who face almost zero chance of losing. Trump did a LOT of this in the 2020 cycle. For example, he endorsed Rep. James Comer in Kentucky’s 1st district; Comer won with 75% in a seat that Trump won by almost 50 points. No one thought Comer was losing. Trump’s endorsement had nothing to do with that fact. 

And, yes, as Cillizza acknowledges, Trump’s endorsement record in primaries is very good, but it won’t help the Republican Party much if he backs dozens of slavering sycophants and Q-weirdos in contested primaries only to see them flame out in their general elections. And, regardless, the scuttling of Trump’s preferred candidate on Tuesday shows he’s vulnerable, even when it comes to primary candidates (though, granted, he may not be not quite as vulnerable in exclusively Republican primaries).

Politico:

Unlike the Texas election, where voters from both parties were allowed to vote, the Ohio contest is a Republican primary. Trump allies say that means it will be a purer test of his ability to shape GOP nomination contests. At the same time, they argue that the more conservative nature of the race increases the odds that Trump’s endorsed candidate will be successful.

Some Republicans contend that Tuesday’s loss highlights a trend in Trump’s post-presidency: His endorsement doesn’t carry as much weight as when he was in office. After being kicked off social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Trump has been forced to promote his endorsement largely through email blasts.

Aww, so sad.

I used to want Trump to shut up and go away forever. For one thing, he sounds like a glitchy jet engine sucking in the cast of The Jersey Shore. And I’ve had enough lies for one lifetime. But I happen to believe it’s in our best interest if he stays in the game. He’ll keep picking nonviable candidates and pushing the GOP further into Bonkersville, and his constant harping about election fraud will likely—as happened in the Georgia Senate runoff elections—depress turnout among his own base, many of whom already neglect to show up when Trump’s not on the ballot.

So keep talkin’, Loser Man. And keep hosting your Loser-paloozas. I can almost see the stink lines wafting off your stable of candidates, and it’s beautiful to behold.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.


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Black woman’s travels with white adoptive sister end in police questioning

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Bailey told the news station that officers also questioned her mom and a social worker before following them to baggage claim. “The whole time they were talking with us, people kept staring at us, whispering and stuff,” Bailey said.

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She said it’s clear that she was racially profiled. “If the roles were changed and it was a white person walking off the plane with a Black person, like a Black child, I feel like things would be different,” Bailey said.

Frontier Airlines issued this statement to The Denver Channel:

”A concern was raised during the flight by another passenger who was sitting near the woman and child and suspected human trafficking. That passenger approached the flight crew with those concerns and subsequently completed a written report during the flight to document her observations. The captain was notified and felt an obligation to report the matter. Air travel is one of the most common means for human trafficking. Race played no part in the actions of the flight crew who were following established protocols”

Bailey said she and her family are considering suing the airline. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump tweeted on Tuesday: “After a flight, law enforcement accused Lakeyjanay Bailey of human trafficking her 4yo white sister, Olivia, & demanded to speak w/ their mother & a social worker to confirm their relationship! This traumatic experience shouldn’t have happened!”

Bailey’s experience, though frustrating, is unfortunately not unusual. Keia Jones-Baldwin, a Black North Carolina therapist, told The Today Show in 2019 she was accused of kidnapping her white son Princeton, who she was in the process of adopting. Jones-Baldwin was having car trouble and decided to knock on a local resident’s door when she said the person who answered the door called the police and accused her of stealing both the car and the child. She was again accused of kidnapping while vacationing with her family in Tennessee. Jones-Baldwin had decided to do a Western photoshoot. “The girl behind the camera would disappear and then come back. Finally she asked, ‘Is that your baby?’” Jones-Baldwin said. “I told her he was. Then she said, ‘I just took picture of this baby with his family two weeks ago.’”

The incident actually led to the authorities being called and Jones-Baldwin being made to show a custodial document proving she had permission to travel with her son. “We get a lot of stares,” Jones-Baldwin said. “I’m frequently asked if I’m Princeton’s babysitter … I get, ‘Why didn’t you let him stay with a family of his own race?’”

Her answer to the question was simple. “I don’t look at family as blood,” she said. “I look at family as love. When Princeton came into our lives, he came into our hearts.”

RELATED: A white man complained about Muslim woman on flight, launching 6-hour ordeal


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