Today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, guest columnists Dyana Mason (executive director of Equality Virginia) and Rick Sincere (president of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, and also an EV member) present pro and con arguments, respectively, regarding the Matthew Shepard Act currently before the Senate.
Here is the Rick Sincere column. He makes some philosophical arguments that will be familiar to regular readers of our comments. The Dyana Mason column is excerpted below. Because I happen to think she’s right, that’s why.
July 7, 2007
By Dyana Mason
In 2000 a man walked into a gay bar in Roanoke and opened fire, wounding six people and killing one. He was angry for the lifelong teasing he had received because of his last name, Gay.
In 2002, two men attacked students entering a meeting of a gay student organization at Virginia Commonwealth University because, as reported by the Richmond Police chief, they had a dislike for “individuals who engage in alternative lifestyles . . . .”
In 2005, an 18-year old man was attacked and savagely beaten at a party in Suffolk because he was gay.
In 2006, a young man leaving a bar in Richmond was beaten, nearly to death, by assailants using anti-gay slurs.
These are just four examples of hate violence based on the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation in Virginia. But there have been many, many more instances of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Virginians. Most of them never make it into the daily papers, and many are never reported to the police or counted by the FBI in their hate crimes statistics.
A hate crime is not like any other crime. While a random act of violence against any individual is always a tragic event, violent crimes based on prejudice have a much stronger impact because they have the power to terrorize an entire community. When victims are targeted because of who they are, the intention is to “send a message” to others in that same group, intimidating and disenfranchising entire communities.