David Badash

The Gay Hate Crimes Crisis Isn't Over Yet

Filed By David Badash | October 25, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: hate crimes against LGBT people, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Thursday's historic passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is cause for celebration. The first federal legislation to provide inclusive protections for the GLBTQ community, this hate crimes bill will extend significant protections to many Americans.

Yes, we absolutely must celebrate this victory. It tells all our citizens, and the world, who we are, what we stand for - and what we won't stand for.

But we cannot think we're done. This is, in fact, just the beginning.

Gays in this country are increasingly becoming victims of violent, and deadly hate crimes. New York City, certainly more "gay-friendly" than many towns and cities across America, has been host to several brutal beatings this year. Among other incidents, New Yorkers have suffered beatings on a tony Upper East Side street, outside a Hell's Kitchen neighborhood restaurant, and the latest, the vicious beating of forty-nine year-old Jack Price - caught on tape - in blue-collar Queens.

Kicked and beaten by two young men less than half his age, Price had to be put into a medically-induced coma. One of the men arrested in the attack claimed not to be homophobic, yet proudly displayed for the media's cameras his (misquoted) Leviticus 18:22 tattoo: "You shall not lie with a male as one does with a woman. It is an abomination."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee this summer that there has been "nearly one hate crime for every hour of every day over the span of a decade," since 1998 - the year Matthew Shepard was murdered. It's been over four thousand days since Shepard's death. Over ninety-six thousand hours. Do the math. Yes, it's taken that long - and that many hate crime incidents - for the U.S. Congress to pass legislation offering protection to the GLBTQ community against crimes of hate.

But America is not alone in its treatment of GLBTQs. Scotland Yard reports an eighteen percent rise in homophobic hate crimes in London - almost 1200 incidents, more than three a day - over the past twelve months. Italy has seen an eleven percent increase in gay-related hate crimes as well. But the worst news comes out of Iraq, where organized militias are roaming the streets and gunning down suspected homosexuals, and Iran, where the government has hanged adults and juveniles - just for being gay.

Homophobic hate crimes are on the rise, and for every hate crime that makes the statistics, how many go unreported? Obviously, there are few numbers available, but one study out of Ireland this year found that sixty-four percent of homophobic hate crimes are not reported to police. A 2007 study by Human Rights First determined that "[London] police themselves estimate that some 90 percent of homophobic hate crimes go unreported."

Every hate crime - reported or not, affects the larger community. Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker says that a hate crime,

"...is really two crimes - one against the individual and another against the group to which he belongs. By that definition, [Matthew] Shepard's murder may be viewed as a terrorist act against all gays, who would have felt more fearful as a result."

And to those, like Rep. Steve King (D-IA) who tried to have the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill name changed to the "Local Law Enforcement Thought Crimes Prevention Act of 2009," we can now, proudly, say, America thinks you're wrong, and the full weight of U.S. law says so.

Yes, Thursday's passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is cause for celebration. But it will also be a rallying cry - to those like Rep. King, and to those like the American Family Association, whose latest call to action offered this attack:

"In its never-ending quest to shred America's Judeo-Christian value system, the left is planning to hurriedly push through a "thought crimes" bill.

"So-called "hate crimes" laws are really laws that criminalize thought, because they punish an individual not for what he did but for what he thought. Politically incorrect thoughts about homosexual behavior will result in enhanced criminal sanctions under this law.

"Everywhere hate crimes laws have gone into effect, they have been quickly used to intimidate, silence and punish people of faith who express deeply held religious objections to the normalization of homosexuality."

We can't assume the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will put an end to hate crimes. They're already on the rise. What we need to do is work to ensure more victims of hate crimes report them, work to support those who become victims, and work to find and extinguish the source of what motivates those to commit these crimes in the first place.

Let's use this hard-fought success to rally our troops and ensure the momentum we've built this year doesn't end with the hate crimes bill. Let's redouble our efforts to see repeal of DADT and DOMA, and enactment of ENDA.

There are only two months left in the year. There is a crisis confronting the GLBTQ community. Let's address it, before it's too late.


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All too true, however that fact that the LGBT community is going through this states a lot about the change about to come to us all as a people. I liken it to The Black Civil rights movement. The closer a people that have had their rights taken from them get to achieving those rights...the harder the final battle is. In the 60's it was hell just b4 the Civil Rights law was passed. When change is truly on the horizen those who are against the change..fight all the more harder. That is why we, the LGBT community have to fight just as hard..and harder. Even if its just on a person to person level, getting the information out there and being proactive. With the passage of eguality laws those who commit hate crimes will know that they cannot and will not get away with their cowardly acts. The change we seek is within our grasp. We just have to keep fighting for it.

www.Twitter.com/TweetwithStone

Not only is this bill about and for Harvey Milk and Michael Goucher and the lesbian raped in Richmond and Romel Sucuzhanya and Tony Randolph Hunter and Nima Daivari (who the Denver police on scene refused to file a report after he was attacked by a man that yelled 'f@ggot' at him (gay and lesbian victims of hate violence,)--

But it's also about Gwen Araujo and Lawrence King and Lateisha Green and Angie Zapata and Duanna Johnson and Brandon Teena -- people who were killed because they transgressed gender.

Why is the inclusion of transgender/transsexual people in the Hate Crimes act so readily forgotten by a majority of reporters?

I was wondering the same thing, hazumu. All of a sudden, it's a "gay" hate crimes crisis, and worries about how "gay-friendly" NYC isn't. Seems like I heard somewhere about a couple of brutal assaults on trans women in NYC in the last few months too: http://transgenderlegal.org/headline_show.php?id=120; and http://transgenderlegal.org/headline_show.php?id=142.

David, are you with us or against us? Because if you claim to be a defender and supporter of the entire LGBT community, then you need to broaden your horizons, not to mention your vocabulary.

It also covers the characteristics of disability and gender - not just gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans peoples.

It's pretty awful that both Houses of Congress can have hearings and pass this legislation - the President can discuss it and commit to sign it into law - but the press can't bring themselves to accurately report the news.

Epic fail. They can discus erectile disorder in Senators, the sexual habits of Presidents and Congresspeople - and they can't bring themselves to talk accurately about legislation providing resources to investigate murders because they feel akward saying Transgender?

Epic, Epic Fail.

battybattybats battybattybats | October 26, 2009 10:54 AM

Absolutely!

For people to obey the law they must know the law. For this law to have its full effect people need to know about it.

So the education aspect that the media is failing in is really really crucial!

The day after the bill passed the Senate, I saw the Today Show in the morning and the person reading off the news said, "The bill covers sexual orientation, gender and disability." Nothing about "gender identity." I screamed at the television screen. We are made invisible by a lot of people, on purpose most of the time. (Note the word "most" in the last sentence.)

battybattybats battybattybats | October 26, 2009 11:42 PM

So how can we encourage or force the media to start reporting properly?

Exactly, laws will never protect anyone, but at the very least law will send a message that certain behavior is not acceptable.

It might be a small step, but it's an important one nonetheless. Will it end hate crimes? No, that's part of a much larger and longer sustained battle - one that people of color, women, etc are already fighting even though they have protections. Until society moves past the innate need for violence and superiority, we'll never get rid of the need for wariness.

As an aside, I also noticed the lack of inclusion in the article of trans folks. The addition of the category "gender identity" is controversial oftentimes and while the LGB population fought very hard to pass this legislation, it's important to realize that trans folk fought right beside us for their own inclusion - and oftentimes without recognition or support from the LGB community.

Knowing David, it's not a deliberate slight or transphobia in action. There's no need for an "Are you with us or against us" George Bush-style accusation. He's with us. But sometimes we all still need a helpful nudge to keep us on track.

It seems like our primary enemy in efforts to achieve full equality is the fundamentalist christian community. Will we be able to use this new legal protection to shut the mouths of those fundie ministers who spew their hate that being gay is a sin? That's intimidation, really, isn't it?

Steve King is actually a Republican.

I was assaulted the beginning of October by a man that I did not know when I was walking home on a saturday night in what is often termed a 'safe' neighborhood. I live in Washington DC and the assault occurred six blocks from my home and less than a mile from the White House. This attack could have easily been prevented if the police had responded in a timely fashion. I called 911 prior to the attack, and even though the dispatcher told me that a police station was less than 100 yards away, the police never came. They did not come prior to my assault, or following my assault, and in fact never came to the hospital where I was taken. Five hours following my call, they still had not showed, and a friend of mine, who also happens to be an attorney called 911 from the ER and finally an officer was dispatched to take a report. There also was a security guard at the Washington Convention Center, where the attack took place, who literally stepped around me without saying a word, as two good Samaritans were attempting to convince 911 to dispatch an ambulance. You can pass all the laws that you want, but unless these laws include some provision for penalties when officers and other parties charged with providing services to the public fail to respond properly, look the other way, or roll their eyes, they will do little to prevent such incidents, or to minimize harm and losses once an attack has occurred. They may also do little to aid those seeking justice following such attacks, as I imagine that like my case, often the assailant is unknown to the victim. Once it has happened, and the assailant has left the scene, he achieves impunity. This whole scenario smacks of a knowing wink that, hey its okay to beat up a fag, law or no.

You state: "One of the men arrested in the attack claimed not to be homophobic, yet proudly displayed for the media's cameras his (misquoted) Leviticus 18:22 tattoo."

In fact, the person who displayed the tattoo was one of a small group of protestors interviewed by the press at the time of the march conducted on behalf of Jack Price (the man who had been attacked) and in opposition to all forms of hate crimes, which took place on October 17 in College Point, NY, where the crime took place.

Both suspects involved in this attack were apprehended and arrested. After awakening from a medically induced coma, Price is quoted as saying, "I hope they rot in jail. I don't understand how someone can do this to somebody. They almost killed another human being."

http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2009/10/19/gay_city_news/news/doc4adcaeaa2158b195934487.txt

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2009/10/17/2009-10-17_i_thought_i_died_victim_of_horrific_beating_talks_from_hosp_bed_about_his_ordeal.html#ixzz0V5jVWAKM

Hate crimes against gay individuals are very much terrorist attacks against all gays. These people are hoping to send a message to all gays by attacking one individual.

I think the same could be said about hate crimes against transgender, lesbian and bisexual people, too, don't you? And, no, given the history of deliberate exclusion of trans, lesbian and bi people from the "gay" community, saying "gay" does not include the rest of us.

Thank you for doing this article David and raising peoples awareness that it is not over just because this bill has been signed.