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The Hate Epidemic: Violence on the Rise

By Jeffrey Montgomery
Executive Director, The Triangle Foundation

trianglefound.jpg - 5.19 K The Triangle-NCAVP report on anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender violence in Michigan and the nation in 1998 provides a stark picture of an epidemic.

It is an epidemic of violence, mayhem, destruction and death. It is a picture that should shame us, as a so-called civilized society. It is a picture that details the ugliest side of our culture, a culture that permits homophobia to run amok, and cannot find in itself the courage to stand and say "enough."

Are the 2,552 victims represented here enough? Are the 33 people who were killed in 1998 enough?

When does the barbarity of this violence reach that point that it is finally enough? We are here in Pontiac, where across the courtyard a civil case is in progress.

Scott Amedure's death is the focus of a lawsuit against "The Jenny Jones Show"
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That case deals with the matter of the murder of an openly gay man who thought he lived in a time where he could proclaim his attraction to another man.

It cost him his life when the object of his affection, apparently unable to deal with the concept that another man had a crush on him, blew the suitor away with a shotgun expressly bought for the occasion, at point blank range.

Sadly, that case has turned into an indictment of bizarre trash TV, not the homophobia that drove the shooter.

In the end, the notion that the killer may not be responsible for his actions is proof of an anti-gay atmosphere that still hangs over us, as a toxic cloud, as this decade ends.

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Related Sites:
Triangle Foundation
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Yesterday afternoon, Russell Henderson pleaded guilty to his part in the infamous crucifixion murder of Matthew Shepard.

He is now an admitted killer and kidnapper.

mshepard2.jpg - 5.26 K The murder of Matthew Shepard caused an outcry for hate crimes legislation last year. But while the Shepard killing captured the hearts and minds of most of the world, for it's cruelty and savagery, there has been little to indicate that the community-at-large has had enough. We still read reports that suggest he shouldn't have been flirting, that luridly speculate about his "lifestyle."

Why isn't it enough that a young man was living as freely and openly as he could, as a gay man, and his honesty and genuine-ness cost him his life.

Is Billy Jack Gaither, beaten and burned to death in Alabama enough? Is Henry Northington, beheaded in Virginia - his head taken and displayed in a gay gathering area - enough?

Matt Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither and Henry Northington are not extraordinary anomalies. Their grisly killings are not exceptional. Not unique.

In Michigan, in 1998, there were six reported anti-gay murders, each as gruesome as the celebrated cases. In the first three months of this year we are already involved in four death cases that involve potential anti-gay motivation.

Is that not enough?

Of all of the recommendations called for in this report, none is more important than the first.

We must commit ourselves to foster a public, educational, political and cultural climate that makes clear that acts of anti-gay hatred and bias can have no part in a civil society... no part in this nation.

Specifically, schools should design and adopt general tolerance education curricula for youth;

political leaders of every party should speak out forcefully against anti-gay discrimination and violence -and support genuine efforts to end it.

Businesses should establish and enforce appropriate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender tolerance and anti-discrimination standards for the workplace; religious leaders should make clear that no major religious tradition holds violence against any group to be an acceptable tenet; and the media should explain and report about anti-GLBT violence in its larger context -as a broader pattern of occurrence that reflects and causes harm to every individual.

From that statement come other, more remedial measures. Like hate crime legislation at the state and national level; like focusing more resources on programs like Triangle's that provide both direct victim assistance and unrelenting advocacy in the face of the sickness of hate violence; and like better, more comprehensive training of law enforcement, so that instances of bias violence and crime carried out by people with badges ---under color of law--- become stories from history, not the never-ending challenge they continue to be.

The numbers we report today should not be read and dissected as numbers on a chart on the page.

There is nothing impersonal about these numbers.

Each one represents a life altered, a life destroyed, families rent apart in agony, loss and despair.

But just as each incident represented destroys individuals; each of these numbers should be seen as tearing away at the very fabric of our society.

They are so many chancre sores; the first indication of a fatal social disease.
troyhoskins.jpg - 6.65 K Troy Hoskins, a gay man, was found murdered in his New York City apartment in January. The New York Anti-Violence Project is asking for help in solving this case. Visit for more details.

These numbers are the symptoms of the sickness of homophobia, and its dull acceptance in the land is by what means the virus is carried.

We say enough. Let it stop. Make it stop. Today.
Annual Hate Crime Report News Conference
Tuesday 6 April 1999
Oakland County Commissioners' Auditorium
Pontiac, Michigan

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