On a September night in 1958, three New Orleans college students went looking for a gay man to assault. They chose Fernando Rios, who died from the beating he received. In perhaps the earliest example of the “gay panic” defense, the three defendants argued that they had no choice but to beat Rios because he had made an “improper advance.” When the jury acquitted the three, the courtroom cheered. The author offers a detailed examination of the murder and the trial.
Clayton Delery’s Out for Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justice is on its way to the printer. Sarah Schulman, award-winning writer and gays rights activist, called it “a riveting and important work of grassroots LGBT history that reveals the connections and fissures between homophobia and anti–Latino prejudices in U.S. history.” Schulman added that “Delery unmasks the origins of one of the most sinister legal and cultural foundations of anti-gay oppression: the false accusation of desire and how it has been used to excuse injustice.”
Delery’s 2015 work, The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar, June 24, 1973, was named a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and was named book of the year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.