In 1998, Matthew Shepard was murdered at the age of 21 for being gay. His murderers assaulted him severely, and tied him to a fence with a rope while Shepard pleaded for his life. It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears.
In 1998, James Byrd, Jr., a 49-year-old African-American man, was murdered by known white supremacists. His three murderers beat him severely, urinated on him, then wrapped a heavy logging chain around his ankles so that they could drag him behind their pick-up truck. They drug him for three miles along an asphalt road. He was conscious throughout most of the ordeal until his body hit the edge of a culvert, severing his right arm and decapitating him.
The three men dumped their victim’s mutilated remains in front of an African-American church; then went to a barbecue. The following morning, Byrd’s limbs were found scattered across a seldom-used road. The police found 81 places that were littered with Byrd’s remains.
In response to these two brutal murders, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, This law expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
According to FBI statistics, of the over 113,000 hate crimes since 1991, 55% were motivated by racial bias, 17% by religious bias, 14% sexual orientation bias, 14% ethnicity bias, and 1% disability bias. Sexual orientation bias was found with the same frequency as ethnicity bias.
Gay men are 400 times more likely to become a victim of crime and hate crimes are shown to be more violent and severe. They more often involve prolonged attacks and multiple attackers, resulting in extensive injuries.
The debate on whether to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the City of Salina’s anti-discrimination policy is in full force. There was controversy and political posturing over adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the 2009 hate crimes law, but it is now federal law. In the history of this great country we’ve had to pass laws to protect women, people of different races and even people of different religions. Now is the time to include the LGBT community in our city’s anti-discrimination policy.
ORIGINAL POST: 2/29/12 UPDATE: 5/14/12 The Salina City Commission on Monday approved a proposal that would make sexual orientation and gender identity classes protected from discrimination in Salina. Commissioners Aaron Householter, Barb Shirley and Kaye Crawford voted in favor of the proposal while Mayor Norm Jennings and Commissioner Samantha Angell voted against it after almost four hours of discussion and public comment at Salina Community Theatre.