Last edited: December 20, 2004

Gays Lobby For Changes in Hate Crime Law

Associated Press, March 23, 1999

By Scott Mooneyham, Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH - A gay and lesbian rights group urged lawmakers Tuesday to give protections to homosexuals under the state hate crimes law and drop the crimes against nature statute from the books.

Lawmakers filed bills Tuesday that would change both laws, but members of Equality North Carolina recognized that the measures face an uphill battle.

"All people want basic rights such as privacy and freedom from the fear of being a victim of a hate crime," said M.K. Cullen, executive director of the group.

Cullen spoke to about 120 gathered outside the Legislature. Following the rally, members of the group took to the halls of the building to lobby lawmakers to support the bills.

One bill, filed by Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, would amend the state’s hate crime law by adding protections for sexual orientation, gender and disability. Currently, it is a separate crime to assault or intimidate a person because of their race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.

Under the revised law, intimidation or advocating intimidation would become a felony. It is now a misdemeanor.

"These are categories that have been overlooked, that absolutely must be addressed in the law," Luebke told those attending the rally.

The other legislation, filed by Sen. Ellie Kinnard, D-Orange, would remove the crimes against nature law from state statutes. The law makes it a felony to "commit the crime against nature, with mankind or beast." Courts have held the law to mean "sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature," including oral and anal sex.

Kinnard said she expected to be vilified during her next election campaign for trying to abolish the law.

"It is not easy for me to be here," she said. "But I need to speak for those who cannot speak otherwise."

Conservatives quickly criticized both bills.

Bill Brooks Jr., president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, said attempts to abolish the crimes against nature law ignore the values of the majority of residents in the state.

"You can argue anything as a privacy issue, but that doesn’t make it right," Brooks said. "Much of the assault and battery, the domestic violence, takes place in your own home, but that doesn’t make it right."

Brooks also questioned the need of a hate crime law protecting groups of people when all North Carolinians are protected by laws against assault.

Tuesday’s rally included one heckler, who shouted that homosexuals would "burn in hell" and "What does God say?"

After the man was escorted away by legislative security guards, Superior Court Judge Ray Warren responded to his question, "You must love the Lord with all your heart and soul, and must love your neighbor as yourself."

Warren, who announced earlier this year that he was gay, told the crowd, "Our job is to make sure we are not invisible to anyone."

Also speaking was former state Rep. Sharon Thompson of Durham. She announced that she is gay, saying it was no surprise to friends and colleagues.

"Our personal lives should be our personal business alone," she said. "Government has no place in our bedrooms or our family rooms."

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