Friday, May 11, 2007

Who is Luis Barrios? Why isn't he in jail?

Let me tell you a couple of things about the Reverend Luis Barrios:

• In 2006 he was honored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation when they named him the Outstanding Spanish-language Newspaper Columnist of 2006. For years Reverend Barrios has written an influential weekly opinion column in the New York daily El Diario La Prensa which he has often used as a platform to advocate for LGBT rights.

• In July of 2006 he spoke up against the New York State Court of Appeals' decision that the state is not required to provide equal access to marriage for same-sex couples. In an Empire State Pride Agenda statement, the Reverend was quoted as saying:

"It is a shame that the Court made a decision to not protect the rights of all people. This unfavorable decision affects people that love and take care of each other. Family values lost out today. However, just because the court did not require the legislature to act does not mean that it should neglect its duty when it comes to lesbian and gay couples and their children. We now call upon the legislators to pass a law that allows loving same-sex couples to marry so that they have access to the same life-and-death legal rights and responsibilities that are given to all other families."

• In a 2006 profile from the Columbia school of journalism news service he tells Alison Ogden the reason why he allows condoms to be distributed at his church services: Three of his brothers died of AIDS in the mid-1980's.

• In May of 2006 he spoke movingly of long-time gay activist and journalist Juan Mendez upon his untimely passing when I asked him to reach out to Gay City News for an obituary they were drafting in Juan's honor.

• In 2004 he accepted my invitation to participate as
a panelist at a Hostos Community College forum on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples and riled against homophobic Reverend (and state senator) Ruben Diaz, Sr. for the pro-Bush and anti-gay rally he'd organized weeks earlier at the Bronx Courthouse.

• In 2001, he accepted my invitation to say a prayer in memory of Eddie Garzon at a memorial vigil that I organized in Queens a couple of days after Eddie died from injuries he sustained when he was beaten up on the streets of Jackson Heights as he walked home from a nigh out at the gay bars.

• Hm, he also was kind enough to bring me some Dominican cigars from a trip to the Caribbean island last year.

Still, I swear that I am not being biased in my suggestion that he shouldn't go to jail.

You see, ever since he attended an anti-Bush demonstration at the United Nations in September of last year, Reverend Barrios had faced charges of assaulting an officer, of disorderly conduct and of resisting arrest; charges that could have sent him to prison for five years (or more).

Fortunately on Wednesday the court decided that some of the charges had been less than credible and dropped all charges except "violation of disorderly conduct" for which he was charged with time served and a fine of $95 dollars.

Reverend Barrios maintains that he was innocent of all charges and says that the disorderly conduct charge is the price to pay nowadays for civil disobedience.

All in all, we are happy to still have the Reverend amongst us, free to predicate his inclusive sermons.

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