On August 3rd, The Human Rights Campaign called on Congress and the Bush
administration to use their bully pulpits to condemn recent outbreaks of
alleged anti-gay hate violence across the nation.
“To remain disengaged in the face of these violent tragedies sends
the wrong message and allows dangerous hate mongers to grossly misinterpret
this silence,” says HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. “We urge
Congress and the administration to publicly address this unconscionable rash
of anti-gay violence. They should use their bully pulpits to let people know
this behavior is unacceptable and un-American.”
Late July, in what appears to be a crime caused in large-part by anti-gay
bias, Willie Houston, 38, was fatally shot in the chest in Nashville, Tenn.,
after the alleged gunman, Lewis Maynard Davidson III, 25, taunted him with
anti-gay epithets. Houston had just finished a midnight riverboat cruise
with his fiancée, Nedra Jones, and friends when the trouble started. Houston
escorted a blind male friend by the arm into a restroom while holding Jones’
purse. Inside the restroom, the gunman allegedly hurled anti-gay insults at
the friends. He followed them out of the restroom, while continuing his
verbal harassment. Davidson then allegedly returned to his car where he
retrieved a gun and said, “Now what you got to say?” before firing the
weapon at Houston. Police are searching for Davidson and have yet to
officially call it a hate crime, saying the investigation is “still very
much open.” While the victim is reportedly not gay, Tennessee hate crime
laws cover violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation. HRC is
working with local law enforcement and actively following this case with the
help of its local leadership.
In Las Vegas, Jerry Lee Stamper-Ousley, 24, was found beaten to death on
June 30 inside his apartment complex. Police have made no arrests, but the
victim had frequented a gay bar earlier that evening. Investigators believe
robbery may be the motive, but have not ruled out a possible hate crime.
HRC’s field staff has contacted law enforcement and local activists to
assess the situation and will continue to follow the case.
On June 21, high school student Fred Martinez, Jr., 16, – who described
himself as openly gay, transgender and “two-spirit” – was found beaten to
death in Cortez, Colo. Shaun Murphy, 18, has been charged with second-degree
murder. Police had been told that Murphy had bragged to a friend that “he
had beat up a fag.”
HRC, along with the Four Corners Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
community, is closely monitoring the case to ensure justice, says HRC. The
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation sent a representative to
Colorado to help work with local media on the intricacies of this case. For
instance, GLAAD explained to the media what “two-spirit” meant. This is a
Navajo term for someone who identifies and lives as both genders or having
the mind and spirit of a girl in a boy’s body.
Additionally, HRC is looking into reports of possible hate crimes in Alaska
“This escalation in brutal attacks comes at a time when Congress can
pass the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act and commit this nation to
stopping hate violence,” said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
The 33-year-old federal statute currently used to prosecute hate violence is
in need of updating with the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. The law
now does not cover hate violence based on sexual orientation, gender or
disability and has an overly restrictive element that requires that the
victim be chosen because he or she was engaged in a federally protected
The bill now before Congress offers a sensible approach to help combat these
violent crimes. It would extend basic hate crime protections to all
Americans in all communities by adding real or perceived sexual orientation,
gender and disability to the categories covered and by removing the
federally-protected activity requirement. The bill would also provide
federal technical and financial assistance to state and local law
enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
In addition to the recent upswing in hate violence, a new report of
alleged anti-gay police misconduct in Texas was brought to the attention of
federal authorities. Last week, FBI officials, at HRC’s request, began an
investigation of San Antonio Park Rangers for allegedly harassing and
physically abusing two Canadian tourists who they referred to as “faggots”
while they were allegedly beaten.
“When the cop saw the Ontario license, he looked to the other three officers
present and said he had ‘two Canadian faggots,'” one of the victims, Joey
Abbruzzese, told the Texas Triangle. “The officer asked, ‘What are you fags
doing in our city?'”
The article reports that the Rangers then put the friends through a
traumatic episode of extreme physical and verbal abuse, using anti-gay slurs
during repeated beatings before hauling them off to jail. HRC will continue
to work with the San Antonio Equal Rights Political Caucus to monitor the
situation for the duration of the investigation.
In 1999, the last year for which the FBI has statistics, there were more
than 4,000 reported hate crimes based on race, more than 1,400 based on
religion, 1,300 based on sexual orientation, 830 based on ethnicity and 19
based on disability. Eighteen states do not include sexual orientation in
its hate crimes law, and 46 states do not include gender identity. Five
states have no hate crimes law at all.
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