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Editorial: Stronger actions needed to combat hate crimes

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 9, 2000
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Presidential debates have recently brought civil rights to the foregrounds of the national psyche. This, of course, includes the perpetual battles over abortion and ethics in the White House.

Candidates have also bickered over the subject of gays in the military, but have neglected to address a more ominous threat to the homosexual community - hate crimes.

Politicians and military officials cry "don't ask, don't tell," but the discrimination gays are fighting is not just in the military or in the workplace.

Walking down the street has proven to be much more fierce a fight than any battles on the political caucuses.

In 1998 Americans were shocked out of their easy chairs when Matthew Shepard was lured out of a bar in Laramie, Wyo., robbed, tied to a fence, beat on the head with a pistol until he was comatose and left to die

Two years later, this violence has hit home for Tucson's gay community.

Sunday night a UA student was stabbed while sitting outside a Fourth Avenue coffee shop in what appears to be a random act of malice.

Holmes said the man was shouting about "killing a fucking faggot," and that he was "out of his mind."

And there is no other explanation.

The assailant, Gary Grayson, 37, was out of his mind.

Hate crimes have historically been premeditated and plotted in back woods and on bar stools.

But Grayson was unprovoked. His state of moral depravity overturned any sense of humanity - and within seconds of approaching his victim, Grayson's depravity turned homicidal.

In the footsteps of the Shepard tragedy, however, this hate crime has also given the community a jolt.

Gay rights organizations took almost immediate actions to prepare a speak-out event and protest march.

The community has banded together, just as it did when the word of Shepard's death hit news wires across the country. The stabbing will spurn discussions among classes and cliques, families and coworkers.

Hopefully this will also instigate a proactive response from council members and legislators.

After the Shepard murder, Tucson strengthened laws protecting homosexuals from housing and job discrimination.

Former Tucson Mayor George Miller also helped promote tolerance and equality, and later that year the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Commission was formed.

But obviously this is not enough.

Talks about job discrimination based on sexual orientation - in the military, or any other workplace - are secondary to the general welfare and physical safety of everyone.

This is regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or anything else a person might deem worthy as grounds for homicide.

Protests and open discussions will initiate a campaign against hate crimes, but the future will not truly be safeguarded until laws with active stances are enacted to combat the hate infiltrating some of the American spirit.

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