A Homophobe On the Bench

Gregory Dickens was sentenced to death for murder. Was it actually because he was gay?

In this week's newsletter: A new LOOKOUT; How a decades-old case in rural Arizona raises questions on the state's conservative judges; Arizona sports leagues grow; How reading LGBTQ+ books battled one person's homophobia; We're swapping "Out of the Closet" with a new weekly news quiz, "In-Queer-sitive," to win free swag!

Note from the editor

Hi LOOKOUT newsletter readers! In case you didn't read our executive director's email on Monday, we're testing out some new things in our newsletters over the next six months.

There are a few reasons for this: First, we're only a year old, and when we started LOOKOUT, we were operating off of what we thought was best practices. We've continued that path, but now that we have more than 2,000 subscribers, we have a big enough audience where we can test things out and see what works for you all.

Second, we always want to give our readers exactly what they want. And that means sometimes figuring out things that do—or don't—work.

What does that mean for you? Well, nothing really. You're still going to get the same LGBTQ+-forward newsletter you've been getting since we launched in Dec. 2022. You just might notice there is a difference in the way you get this news. Essentially, we're trying to answer some questions: Are two newsletters better than one? What kind of language works best? Can we do advertising (or even should we do advertising?) Do people like fewer or more words?

These are just some of the things we're testing out. So please keep opening and reading our work, playing our weekly games, and do not feel shy to reply back to this email and give us pointers, your thoughts, or if you think we're missing anything—or including too much!

With all that said, welcome to your midweek "The LOOKOUT Newsletter". On Fridays, stay tuned for our second newsletter, "The Weekly Kiki," which will highlight all the events happening around Arizona to make sure you know where your community is at.

-Joseph Darius Jaafari

Bias on the Bench: More than three decades ago, Gregory Dickens and his teenaged lover Travis Amaral were tried for the shooting and murder of a couple outside of Yuma, Arizona. Amaral, who executed the couple traveling to California for school, received a life sentence for the crime.

But Gregory Dickens, who didn't kill anyone and wasn't even around when the shooting happened, received the death penalty.

It's a consequence of Arizona's "felony murder" rule, which says that anyone associated with a murder in any form can be guilty of the first degree felony that carries the death penalty. (Dickens and Amaral pulled over at the rest stop where the couple was killed, the two argued, and Amaral left Dickens's vehicle before shooting the couple. Dickens saw Amaral on the side of the road and picked him up, later on, and was designated the "getaway driver.")

But according to Dickens's lawyers in appeal, along with hundreds of pages of court documents reviewed by LOOKOUT, the judge overseeing Dickens's case had a long and violent history of homophobia, which may have played into the sentencing decision.

LOOKOUT'S TAKE: Queer people are ensnared in the criminal justice system more often than their straight counterparts on a variety of issues, from criminal trespassing to illegal sex work.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonpartisan think tank and research organization on prisons and jails, a few examples include how LGBTQ+ people are overrepresented in juvenile justice—20% of imprisoned youth identify as part of the community—or how lesbians and bisexuals are more often imprisoned for their crimes in comparison to straight people.

There's a lot to understand about why LGBTQ+ people are overrepresented; we can point to social issues, financial hardships, and the link between homelessness and queer people being forced into the streets.

But in Gregory Dickens's case, the situation appears to be straightforward: a judge who had a history of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments (which is putting it lightly when a grown man calls his son a slur and tells him to die) oversaw a case and had the final decision in how long another gay man should be imprisoned for his crime.


  • BAD FAITH BILL: (opinion) Senate Bill 1511 passed through both chambers and it's headed toward the Governor's desk. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Janae Shamp (R-Surprise), says its meant to simply address medical care for those who want to detransition, but she has long been at the center of anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Arizona Capitol Times
  • SPORTSBALL: Arizona's gay sporting leagues are growing and helping LGBTQ+ folk find community alongside some healthy competition. Copper Courier
  • PRIDE ANNOUNCEMENT: Phoenix Pride announced the headliners and grand marshals of the 2024 parade, which is happening in October (Arizona's designated Pride month). AZCentral
  • ITS A DRY HATE: Arizona is home to an alarming number of hate groups, including five that are specifically anti-LGBTQ+. AZ Mirror
  • BUSINESS ADVOCACY: Arizona ranks 25th in the nation for businesses providing affirmative and safe spaces to members of the community, according to Out Leadership's Business Climate Index. INTO


  • READING IS POWER: Amelie Maurice-Jones spent a year reading LGBTQ+ books. It helped affirm her sexuality and battled her own internalized homophobia. LGBTQ Nation
  • QUEERS FOR GAZA: Protesters in New York organized by ACTUP and the Audrey Lorde Project gathered outside the Outright International Gala. Washington Blade
  • "BRITISH CIGARETTE": North Carolina's Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has a long history of using anti-LGBTQ+ slurs online. The Advocate
  • 200 FLAGS: After 200 LGBTQ+ flags were removed from a town hall in Massachusetts, the town's residents came together to replace them with new ones. them


Test your knowledge of this week in queer news! Answer the question below related to a story in this week's newsletter and get entered into a raffle to win LOOKOUT swag at the end of each month. The more times you play, the more chances you get to win!

*Hint: it's inside our story at the very top of this newsletter

Submit your answer here


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