The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hatred in Alabama, from a Trailer in Bay Minette to Goat Hill

I know I live in Alabama. I know I live right on the buckle (of the bible belt). But really, how disgusting was it, to re-hear the details on the radio, and re-read them in the paper, of another horrific murder of a man because he was gay, and on the very same day, have our state house of representatives fail to pass a hate crimes bill that includes sexual orientation.

Christopher Gaines had already pled guilty to the murder of 18 year old Scotty Joe Weaver of Bay Minette in 2004, after his girl friend and accomplice gave him up. Those two recruited another man who they knew hated gays, to help them. But Chris is the one that tightened the rope around Scotty's neck, as Scotty, in vain, cried, "Chris, please stop." Then they beat him. That is before Chris and his two friends carried the body away and set fire to it. Oh yeah, as reported on the radio, after urinating on it. Because Scotty was gay. But in Alabama that is not a hate crime.

Billy Jack Gaither was 39 years old when he was bludgeoned to death in 1999 in Coosa County, because he was homosexual. His body was set on fire too. Why do they burn them? To burn away their own sin? I went to Billy Jacks memorial service at Covenant Metropolitan Community Church that year, and it was standing room only. Across the street was Fred Phelps, the Baptist preacher known for his "God Hates Fags" web site and his followers, including small children, with degrading signs about Billy Jack and all homosexuals. In Alabama killing and burning Billy Jack because he was gay is not a hate crime, however, hatred, as displayed by the Baptist preacher Fred Phelps, is protected.

There have been other people murdered in our state because they are gay. But our legislature continues to ignore this, saying it is OK to act on your hatred. Oh I know murder is murder and its already against the law to kill, why single out this group to protect, etc. Well if that is true, shouldn't we just do away with the current laws that includes people based on race, color, religion and national origin, which is what Alabama's 1994 hate crime law says? I say "No."

Here are the Birmingham area legislators who voted no: G. Canfield of Vestavia Hills, P. DeMarco of Homewood, O. Drake of Leeds, B. Galliher of Gadsden, J. McClendon of Springville, M. S. McClurkin of Indian Springs, P. Moore of Pleasant Grove, A. Payne of Birmingham, E. Thomas of Oneonta, A. Treadaway of Morris, C. Ward of Alabaster, J. Williams of Homewood, and R. Wood of Anniston. If one of these people represents you, you need to call them and let them know that they missed an opportunity to make something positive come from the murders of Scotty Joe Weaver and Billy Jack Gaither. If you live outside of the Birmingham area, find out how your representative voted and let them know how you feel about it.

Those who are reading this may not be gay. But you might have a son or daughter, or brother or sister, or cousin or other relative who is. Whether you know it or not, chances are that you have a gay relative. And there still are a number of people who hate gays; such talk is heard everyday from pro basketball players to rappers to certain Baptist preachers and to those we elect to serve us. A very few carry their hatred to extreme, sometimes influenced by alcohol, resulting in violence. Others exhibit their hatred in more subtle ways such as by pushing a button while voting on a piece of legislation.

All of those listed above who voted no are republicans (no surprise). All the "yes" votes in our area came from democrats. They are: M. Coleman of Midfield, P. Dunn of Bessemer, E. Hilliard of Birmingham, M. Moore of Birmingham, D. Newton of Birmingham, O. Robinson of Birmingham, J. Rogers of Birmingham, R. Scott of Birmingham, and P. Todd of Birmingham. Let these representatives know you appreciate their efforts.

Lum Weaver, Scotty Joe's older brother, who is also gay, said "They think this is going to drive us away, but it only makes us stronger" when talking about the murder and a previous attempt to strengthen the Alabama hate crimes law. That is true, and this year more representatives voted for the change than ever before. The fight will go on, in the chambers of the Birmingham City Council (and possibly in Bessemer, stay tuned), on Goat Hill and on Capitol Hill in Washington.

6 comments:

Kathy said...

I also attended the memorial service for Billy Jack Gaither, and it was my first personal encounter with the Phelps clan. I was nauseated at the sight of young children carrying disgusting, hateful signs.

Why is it okay with the Republican legislators who voted NO on the BIR to provide protection based on religion, race, etc., but not sexual orientation? For some reason I don't think it's because they object to the concept of hate crime laws.

It's still quite acceptable to promote hatred of LGBT people, and I fear for everyone in Alabama who speaks out in support of love and acceptance for all people, especially my own brother. I can't prove that adding sexual orientation to the current hate crime law would have an immediate positive effect on the lives of my LGBT brothers and sisters, but I do know that refusing to add it has a negative effect. Shame on those who voted no.

trey said...

I've tried to explain the logic behind hate crimes laws this way: The attacks on the world trade center constituted 2 crimes: 1) the murder of 2000 people, and 2) the terrorizing of everyone who is an American.

That line of reasoning makes me wonder if we need to include gay people in hate crimes law when we already have anti-terrorism laws. I guess either way would work. But the point is, TWO crimes are committed when you kill someone because of their race, orientation, etc. A rather simple concept.

I'm tempted to enumerate the right-wing arguments against hate-crime legislation, but I don't have the energy... just too stupid.

Susan of Local Tint said...

George Will wrote a very cynical column about hate crime legislation yesterday, essentially comparing it to lawsuit abuse. He's an ass.

Joe said...

Susan, I tend to agree with you. Of course, this is not the first time he has spoken in an asinine manner (and I would have misspelled that, with 2 "s's" if I had not looked it up.

Anonymous said...

It is nice to see that progress is happening in Alabama. My home town is Gadsden and for the first time in 20 years I fell pseudo safe to attend my family reunion. Threats have been made, but I have to attend to simply say, I am. Reunion is at Noccalulla Falls on July 17 from 10am to 2pm. Will I be alive after that?jhw

Joe said...

Jhw, thanks for your comment. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised at your reunion. Please let me know how it goes.