Friday, March 14, 2008

The Hate Crime You Didn't Hear About

Gay FlagMatthew Shepard and Laurence King you have heard of, but my guess is that you haven't heard of Ryan Keith Skipper. Loved ones say young man's killing reflects difficult life gays face in Polk --
In the after-midnight darkness of March 14, 2007, the blood of 25-year-old Ryan Keith Skipper soaked into the soft dirt as his killers drove away in his new Chevy Aveo.
. . .
Skipper's car was found 12 miles from his body on a boat ramp to Lake Pansy in Winter Haven, abandoned and partially burned. The two young men later arrested in his murder were charged with committing a hate crime because they told witnesses Skipper was targeted for being a homosexual.
Targeted because of who he was.

Now since Florida is a death penalty state, I am not sure what more they can do besides seek the death penalty, but then given the SCOTUS take on the death penalty maybe the hate crime aspect is needed to put the case into the death-penalty category. (Not every murder can result in a death penalty case, it must be "special" in some way, according to my understanding of some SCOTUS ruling.)

The sheriff, Grady Judd, in this case libeled/slandered the dead man, accused him of being on drugs and cruising for anonymous sex. When it turned out he was wrong, he refused to apologize to anyone.
A Sheriff's Office spokesman later said there was no indication Skipper was involved in any illegal activity, but the sheriff has refused to meet with the family or respond to their requests for an apology.
Why should he feel bad about talking trash about a gay man after all?

The general feeling in that area is as long as gays hide they are OK, come out into the open, and you basically deserve whatever happens.
[R]esidents say gays are generally accepted in Polk County as long as they don't rub it in anyone's face.

"Just as long as you're hiding, you're OK. You learn that's what you have to do," said Kristy Alexander, a lesbian who lives in Polk County.

Skipper didn't hide well enough. His friends and roommates say Skipper was harassed for years leading up to his killing. On several occasions, he was called derogatory names, pelted with oranges and beaten up because he was gay.
The Right, the Republicans, love to claim that gays and lesbians want "special rights." That is bullshit, plain and simple. Living your life without being attacked for who you are isn't a special right. Being open about friends and loved ones, isn't a special right. How many of you have photos of your wives, husbands, girlfriends or boyfriends at work, in your wallet, wherever. If a gay did that they would be "flaunting" their sexuality, but when a straight does it, it is just a celebration of life and love. Funny how the double standard works, isn't it? It isn't about special rights. It has never been about special rights. That is the line the Right uses to mask their bigotry. After all, who wouldn't be opposed to "special rights?"

The issue is tolerance. Acceptance would be nice, and I get that from a lot of people, but it would be nice if the rest of you, the ones who can't accept us, would tolerate us - that means don't attack us. Of course if you attack me, you might get a bit of a surprise when you see my response. But it really shouldn't be the issue that it is in the gay community.

But then no one ever said all parts of the Right were very tolerant. Polk county certainly appears to rank high on the intolerant scale.

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