The Human Rights Campaign recently urged the Alaska Governor’s
Commission on Tolerance to support amending the state’s hate crimes law to
include sexual orientation, in response to the murder of David Blare, an
openly gay Alaska Native. His body was found in Ketchikan, a town in the
southeastern part of the state.
David Blare, 35, also known as Steve Perry, was found dead by the Ketchikan
Police Department on July 26. Terry L. Simpson Jr., 19, and Joshua A.
Anderson, 20, have been arrested and charged with second-degree murder,
manslaughter, first-degree robbery and second-degree theft. They are being
held on $50,000 bail.
“My only consolation is that I know David is with the Lord, no longer in
pain, and safe from harm and hate,” said Paul Zellmer, Blare’s friend and
former partner. “In the 11 years I have lived in Ketchikan, I have seen and
been the recipient of many threats and actions against myself and others.
It is time to stop denying that anti-gay hate exists here in Alaska.” Blair
was an Alaskan Native from the Organized Village of Saxman.
Police arrested Simpson and Anderson in response to a tip called in to
Ketchikan Crime Stoppers, according to news reports. The caller said he
overheard the two men bragging that they were planning to “beat up and rob
[Blare] because he is a fag,” said Ketchikan District Attorney Stephen West.
If Blare’s murder is a anti-gay hate crime, the district attorney’s office
can do no more than it is doing now because the state’s hate crimes law does
not include sexual orientation, West noted.
The Governor’s Commission on Tolerance was formed May 1 after Anchorage
police released a videotape of white youths shooting Alaska Natives with
paint balls. Its report to Gov. Tony Knowles is due November 30. The U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights is also holding hearings later this month to take
testimony on discrimination against Alaska Natives. The Alaska Federation of
Natives requested the inquiry after the paint-ball attack. Last year,
Knowles introduced a hate crimes measure including sexual orientation, but
the legislature has yet to act on it.
“Violence and discrimination against Alaskan Natives, gays and lesbians and
other minority groups are a reality here,” said Dan Carter, HRC’s state
coordinator, who also testified before the Commission. “It is my hope that
the Commission’s work will change hearts and minds in the legislature.”
Reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation nationwide are at an
all-time high, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. In 1999, there was a
4.5 percent increase in reported hate crimes against gays and lesbians,
according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program – making them the
third highest category reported. The increase is particularly disturbing
because serious crime overall continues to decrease nationally. Hate crimes
based on sexual orientation have more than tripled since the FBI began
collecting statistics in 1991.
Unfortunately, FBI statistics offer a glimpse of the number of anti-gay
attacks that occur each year. It is widely recognized that hate crimes based
on sexual orientation often go unreported due to fear and stigmatization.
Additionally, federal reporting of hate crimes to the FBI by state and local
jurisdictions is voluntary and many jurisdictions do not participate in the
reporting each year.
Since 1991, Alaska stands out as having one of the nation’s poorest records
on reporting hate crimes. The state has failed to participate in the
reporting process in three of the last nine years – 1991, 1992 and 1998. In
the other years, only one law enforcement agency, out of a possible 43, has
participated. Anchorage reported the following number of hate crimes
incidents: 24 in 1993, 9 in 1994, 8 in 1995, 9 in 1996, 10 in 1997 and 5 in
1999, the latest year for which statistics are available. It was one of only
seven states that reported 10 or fewer incidents for 1999, according to the
Anti-Defamation League’s analysis of reporting for that year.
“Our hearts go out to David Blare’s family and friends,” said Seth Kilbourn,
HRC’s National Field Director. “David’s murder and other incidents reported
to the Governor’s Commission clearly show that hate-based violence is a huge
problem in Alaska. It is time for the state to take action to protect all
Alaskans, including its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.”
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