In March of 2007, Ryan Skipper was stabbed 19 times and left to die on a dirt road in rural Polk County, Florida. He was only 25. His killers drove around in his blood-soaked car, bragging how they had killed a gay man.
He felt he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot.
Most of you know by now that talking about hate crimes are hard for me. They always hit a very personal place- from Lawrence King to Simmie Williams to Sanesha Stewart to all the other lives lost to hate.
But Ryan's murder hits close to home because I have gotten to know his family here in Florida. I worked with them on LGBT various projects, hugged them as I've wept when they've told their story to crowds of people, and held Ryan's picture at memorials for them. Through them and their love, I've gotten a glimpse of Ryan, who he was and what a huge loss his murder is for all of us.
Ryan's family members have been amazing pillars of strength and outspoken activists. They have been advocates for stronger federal hate crimes legislation, as well as traveling the country to speak on the need for acceptance of LGBT people. They have been active in lobbying for the Matthew Shepard Act.
I know this decision won't bring them justice. I also know it won't stop the work they do to bring attention to hate against LGBT people.
Whenever I write about Ryan or talk about his murder, my mother always calls me crying. She tells me she sees me in the picture- in the smiling face, the hope in his eyes. It's a story echoed by families I meet across this state and country when they see not only Ryan, but the love his family has for him. Like in any crime motivated by anti-LGBT bigotry, it could be any one of us in that picture.
I'd like to thank Ryan's family for sharing him with us, and for sharing their grief, anger, and indomitable spirits with the world. I know that for as long as I have breath, I'll be right beside them whenever I can, fighting for change and for Ryan's memory.