Last edited: March 28, 2004

Reports of Anti-Gay Violence Increase / Network, March 18, 2004

By Patrick Letellier

SUMMARY: Incidents of U.S. anti-gay violence rose 24 percent in the last six months of 2003, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down sodomy laws.

Incidents of anti-gay hate violence rose 24 percent in the last six months of 2003, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down sodomy laws, according to data released this week by a national anti-violence project.

The data is "clear evidence of the backlash" against GLBT people as a result of heightened media attention following the Supreme Court decision and the controversy over same-sex marriage, according to a press release by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP), which tracks anti-gay hate violence.

In some areas, the number of attacks rose even more dramatically, when compared with data from a year earlier. Incidents increased by 133 percent in Colorado, 120 percent in Chicago and 43 percent in New York. In San Francisco, which became ground zero in the struggle over same-sex marriage rights in February, incidents in the last half of 2003 rose 14 percent.

"This is a stunning increase," Denise de Percin, director of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, told the Rocky Mountain News. "The polarized daily coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues has raised the profile of our community and galvanized into action the people who hate us."

Given the current climate of scapegoating gays and lesbians, some people turn words of hate into action, said Jennifer Rakowski, associate director of San Francisco's Community United Against Violence. That action includes anti-gay protests and signs, lawsuits to rescind marriage rights, political lobbying to pass anti-gay legislation, and physical violence, she said.

The backlash shows no signs of abating. Rakowski told the Network that when she and her partner got married at City Hall in San Francisco on March 9, a protester held up a sign that said, "Gross."

In Multnomah County, Ore., which grants marriage rights to same-sex couples, county commissioners have reported receiving death threats. "I hope your whole family is killed. I hope with all my heart that you're gunned down and killed," said one caller in a phone message to commissioners.

On Saturday the only gay bar in Newport, R.I., called Castaways, was vandalized by a man who smashed in the bar's windows with a baseball bat while yelling anti-gay epithets.

"You can't pass this off as a random act of vandalism," Castaways' owner Lionel Pires told the Newport News. "We were singled out, terrorized."

"Historically, at points in which we move forward toward civil rights and there is this broad, divisive public debate about gay and lesbian issues, it can lead to incidents like these," Rakowski said. "Some people take the words they hear about us and see them as a license to act out with violence."

NACVP plans to release a full report about 2003 incidents of anti-gay violence in April.

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