A follow-up to my February 2012 blog on hate crimes and Salina’s LGBT debate involves the Rutgers student, Dharun Ravi. This May 21, 2012, Ravi was found guilty of a bias crime against his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi.
Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who killed himself in September 2010 after discovering that Ravi had secretly used a webcam to stream Mr. Clementi’s romantic interlude with another man over the Internet. Mr. Clementi’s suicide focused national attention on the victimization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
Ravi was convicted of a bias crime and sentenced to 30 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, and a $10,000 fine. He was also sentenced to three years probation and mandatory counseling programs about cyber bullying and “alternate lifestyles.” The sentencing judge did not recommend deportation for Ravi, who is in this country from his native India on a student visa.
As with any social issue, both camps have circled their wagons. There are those who think the sentencing was too severe, and those who think it was too permissive.
Bringing this national news back to Salina and the LGBT debate, people know me as being friendly to the LGBT community. What I have found is that when you are accepting of people, they will tell you things that they don’t necessarily want made public. Yes, Salina has had instances of gay bias and threats in both the public and the private realm. I know of LGBT’s who have been fired for their sexual orientation. I know of young gays who have been threatened at parties with getting beat up for being gay.
At the city commission meeting the point for debate was made that there were no reported instances of LGBT bias. There were no documented cases. This was cited as a rationale for not adding LGBT to our city’s protected class.
The Equality Coalition spokesperson, Janet Hanson, spoke best on the issue of no documentation. Yes, there is no documentation because no one is tracking this issue. Not tracking or keeping records, however, does not mean that it isn’t happening.
Finally, I applaud city commissioner Kaye Crawford who tied this issue back to the civil rights of blacks and women. I especially applaud her final statement on why she chose to add this class of citizen to our city discrimination code, which was, in effect, if it will save one young LGBT person from committing suicide, this ordinance is worth voting for. I applauded Kaye in my heart when she read her statement, and I’m still applauding.