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Billy Jack's Murder: The USA Reacts

Compiled By GayToday

President Bill Clinton:

clintonclip.jpg - 8.38 K I share with many Americans a sense of grief and outrage at the tragic and violent death of Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama. This heinous and cowardly crime touches the conscience of our country, just as the terrible murders of James Byrd in Texas and Matthew Shepard in Wyoming did last year.

In times like this, the American people pull together and speak with one voice, because the acts of hatred that led to the deaths of such innocent men are also acts of defiance against the values our society holds most dear.

That is why I will continue to work for passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which can empower the federal government, working with local authorities, to do even more to deter, investigate and help prosecute crimes of hatred. The legislation would remove needless jurisdictional requirements and give the Department of Justice the power to prosecute hate crimes committed because of the victim?s sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Laws represent values that we as a society cherish, and among those values is a belief that intolerance is un-American. And intolerance, left unchallenged, can inspire evil deeds that threaten the very fabric of this great country. All Americans deserve protection from hate. Nothing is more important to our country?s future than our standing together against intolerance, prejudice and violent bigotry. Congress can give power to such shared values by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. In so doing, all Americans can be made more safe and secure.

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Hillary and I offer our prayers for the family and friends of Mr. Gaither, and our hope that their love for him, together with God's grace, will carry them through these trying times.
Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard

The Shepard family wishes to extend their most heartfelt sympathy to the family of Billy Jack Gaither. The Shepard family requests that the Gaither family's request for the right to privacy be respected.
Dorothy Hadjys-Holman, mother of Allen Schindler

The grief that the Gaithers are surely experiencing is one that I hope most people will never know. I wish I could say that I didn't. The Gaither family is in my prayers and I hope that people will respect their need for privacy in this tragic time.
Sending Condolences

In a conversation earlier today, Mrs. Lois Gaither, mother of the victim, told Lee Thompson of the International Hate And Violence Education Foundation (IHAVE) Foundation that the family has been overwhelmed by phone calls from the media and from sympathetic community members.

Condolences may be sent to the Gaithers in the care of the IHAVE Foundation's website, located at .
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force

The brutality of this crime is evidence of the pervasive violence and prejudice against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our culture. It is meaningless to say 'no' to hate but 'yes' to discriminate. The contradiction is killing us. Anti-gay leaders must not only disavow hate violence, but also stop promoting the prejudice and discrimination that feed it.

Tracey Conaty--Communications Director, NGLTF
Log Cabin Republicans

logcabin.gif - 11.96 K The savagery of this murder is horrifying, but sadly becoming too common, Such brutal murders motivated by intolerance are happening with an alarming frequency, and they are the product of bigotry and hatred left unchecked.

There is something wrong in society when gay people are continually murdered in this manner, and our leaders have a moral duty to address it, The leaders of both parties must speak out with equal force against the anti-gay hatred and intolerance that is feeding such crimes. It is bigger than legislation.

It is a moral issue and a values issue, and goes to the heart of who we will be as a nation. Every political leader, especially those who seek the presidency, must reflect on why this is happening, and what they can do to help stop it from continuing.

Kevin Ivers--Director of Public Affairs for Log Cabin Republicans.
Human Rights Campaign

The brutal murder of a gay man in Alabama highlights the growing problem of anti-gay violence in America. Hate in this country is increasingly becoming lethal and that includes hatred against gay and lesbian Americans…

In 1997, (the latest FBI statistics available) Alabama reported no hate crimes to the FBI for any category. Reporting of statistics is voluntary under to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990. Alabama's hate crimes law does not cover sexual orientation.

This case in Alabama shows the great inconsistency between states in tracking and prosecuting hate crimes. We call on Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to set a uniform federal response for hate crimes and signal that anti-gay violence is unacceptable in our society.

Winnie Stachelberg—Human Rights Campaign, Political Director
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

perry.jpg - 6.09 K The Rev. Troy Perry Once again our hearts are saddened that hate-inspired crime has claimed the life of still another member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.

We are saddened by the senseless murder of Billy Jack Gaither.

And we are saddened that his life was taken solely because of his sexual orientation.

But today we feel more than sadness.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, "The American people are slow to anger; but when their wrath is kindled, it burns like a consuming fire." Today, I join millions of Americans whose anger is kindled at hate, injustice and

intolerance. How many more men and women must die before the U.S. national government affords hate crime protection to gays and lesbians? How much longer must we wait for the promise of equal rights to be realized under the law?

Today I call upon America's elected officials – state legislators and governors, members of Congress and the U.S. Justice Department – to transcend the forces of hate, to rise above the shifting winds of politics and enact hate crimes statutes which will honor our nation's promise of "liberty and justice for all." To do any less is to desecrate the U.S. Constitution.

• It is time for America to stop the murder of her gays and lesbians citizens.

• It is time for the U.S. Congress to stop resisting the creation of federal hate-crime laws covering gays.

• It is time for the twenty-nine states which afford no hate crime protection to gays and lesbians to enact them.

The time for debate has come and gone. We will not sit patiently by while our brothers and sisters lose their lives to hatred and bigotry.

The time has long passed when gay citizens should have to fear for their lives.... or the loss of their jobs... or the denial of fair housing... or the loss of our children through inequitable adoption laws.

That is why I encourage all citizens to support the marches on state capital through the Equality Begins At Home movement in March of this year and to stand with me in our nation's capital for the Millennium March on Washington for Equality in April of 2000. Our voices will be heard!

May this be our rallying call:

We're marching to state capitals in March of 1999! We're marching to our nation's capital in April of 2000! We're marching to the ballot box in November of 2000!

On behalf of the members of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, I extend my love and prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Billy Jack Gaither.

And I pledge that we will not rest in our work or in our calling until the words of the ancient Hebrew prophet Amos are realized: "Let justice roll down like many waters, and righteousness like a might stream."

The Rev. Elder Troy Perry, Moderator

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