HRC Urges Alaska To Amend Hate Crimes Law To Include Sexual Orientation

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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