Last edited: February 27, 2005

The History of Gay Hate Crimes

Salt Lake Metro, February 23, 2005
352 South Denver Street, Suite 350, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

By Ben Williams

In 1992 the Utah State Legislators passed a hate crime bill devoid of any language regarding sexual orientation. Every attempt since then to correct this injustice has met with failure. The maiming and killing of gay men and women is a part of the history of queer people since time immemorial. History is replete with government-sanctioned executions for sodomy. As late as the 19th century, the British navy was hanging British seamen for no other crime than consensual buggery.

The killing of homosexuals persists to the present time in many parts of the world. We know far right regimes as philosophically different as Nazi Germany and Islamic theocracies have executed gay people. Paramilitary death squads in South America have also been responsible for over 1,500 deaths of homosexuals. A recent survey indicated one out of every three Russians believes gays and lesbians should be “liquidated.”

Citing biblical scripture, some neo-conservative Christian leaders continue to advocate the death penalty for sodomites. Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated he supported the death penalty for all illicit sex including homosexuality. McConkie excused his outrageous assumption by claiming public execution of homosexuals would never take place until the church and state were one. I am not certain how Elder McConkie was going to publicly execute homosexuals; however, his well-received book, “Mormon Doctrine,” instilled in the minds of many in Utah that homosexuals were worthy of death.

For the next couple of columns, I want to report on five heinous murders of gay men in Utah. Most people will have never heard of them outside of the gay community due to a “conspiracy of silence” on the part of the judicial system and the media. In legal terms homosexuality was called for many years the “unspeakable crime.” Because of this conspicuous silence, it is extremely difficult to determine how many men and women have been killed in Utah for either being homosexual or perceived as being homosexual.

George Roy Moriarty

George Roy Moriarty’s murder was so horrific even the Salt Lake Tribune printed enough information that most people could tell his death was a sex crime. George Moriarty, a 33-year-old Korean War veteran, lived in South Salt Lake. On New Year’s Day 1965, Moriarty met Gary Horning, 25, of Ogden, at a Salt Lake City bar. After playing pool and drinking all day, Horning said he had to get back to Ogden to go to work in the morning. Moriarty then told Horning he would like to go with him to Ogden to “have a party.” The pair drove to Ogden and after visiting several bars, they met up with Leon Dyer, 26. After midnight, the three men drove to a secluded turnout up Ogden Canyon and there Moriarty removed all his clothing.

What set off the events which led to Moriarty’s death, only Dyer and Horning know. Whether Dyer, after having sex, directed his intense feelings of guilt at Moriarty, or whether he was sadistically trying to sexually assault Moriarty is unknown. Horning confessed when Dyer started to hit Moriarty, he ran away naked into the cold January night. However, evidence shows Moriarty, who was beaten severely enough in the car to leave blood all over a plastic seat, was either tossed or shoved over the edge of the parking area, down a 140-foot embankment. Moriarty survived the fall and climbed back onto the road. Staggering half a mile toward the mouth of the canyon, he encountered Dyer and Horning driving back down the canyon. Surprised to see the man alive and on the road, they struck him with the car.

On January 2, 1965, Moriarty’s body was found by a paper boy. A trail of blood and bare foot prints, in the snow, led to where Moriarty was lying nude, in a fetal position, beside the road. George Moriarty had died sometime during the night from exposure.

On June 17, 1965, a voluntary manslaughter verdict was returned against Dyer and Horning. They were sentenced to only one to ten years in prison. As in many of the other gay murder cases, Moriarty was portrayed as somehow being responsible for his own grizzly death. Judge Parley E. Norseth—displeased with the jury’s verdict—vowed the killers would never receive his recommendation for leniency. Judge Norseth said, “You have won a legal victory but not a moral one.”

Next issue: the murders of gay activist Tony Adams and drama student Gordon Church.

  • Ben Williams is the founder and president of the Utah Stonewall Historical Society.

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