Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C. to show support for several victims of recent sexual orientation hate crimes. Credit: Don Baxter/Media Images International
As of today, Tuesday, March 27—over a week since the last attack—no other hate crime against the LGBT community has been reported in the U.S. The timing of these seemingly-random eight days begs the question: What was happening in the world the previous week that made the attackers--from coast to coast—lash out against the gay community so severely? What would make six different groups of attackers—in four separate cities—angry enough to attack seven gay men and one Trans woman as they walked on the street? By examining the individual crimes and the events that preceded them, I hope to shed some light on the possible cause.
First, the Crimes:
Sunday, March 11 (Washington D.C.): A 31-year-old gay man was shot in the chest by three men on a sidewalk outside an IHOP restaurant.
Monday, March 12 (Washington D.C.): A 29-year-old gay man was attacked on the street and was left with his jaw shattered in three places.
Monday, March 12 (Washington D.C.): A transgender woman in her mid-twenties was beaten and left unconscious on the street.
Tuesday. March 13 (Dallas, Texas): Two gay men, 20 and 27 years old, were attacked by four men with baseball bats as they walked to a convenience store.
Wednesday, March 14 (Portland, Oregon): Two gay men, 22- and 21-year-old Kiah Lawson and Samuel Smith, were attacked by two men as they walked to a club.
Sunday, March 18 (Hollywood California): A gay man was attacked by three men while walking on the street.
The Ten Days Leading up to the Crimes:
Thursday, March 1: Maryland legalizes gay marriage. Maryland borders Washington D.C., where a majority of the hate crimes were committed between March 11th and 18th.
Friday, March 2: Kirk Cameron speaks out against gay marriage on the Piers Morgan Show. Cameron defended his remarks throughout the week, despite a huge backlash from the LGBT community and Hollywood: “I think that it's [gay marriage]- it's - it's unnatural. I think that it's - it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” (Kirk Cameron)
Friday, March 2: One Million Moms announces boycott of JCPenney for Ellen Degeneres' new role as spokesperson. Nationwide debate begins on whether Ellen—an open lesbian—should represent a chain store. JCPenney famously fights back. "By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JCPenney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years." (One Million Moms letter to JCPenney)
Tuesday, March 6: Republican primary's “Super Tuesday” stalls GOP Republican nominee race. Santorum wins 3 states and nearly ties Romney in Ohio, one of the most important states for the Republic election. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of the end of freedom in America. Once the government has control of your life, then they got you. That’s why we decided to step out...In order to make that happen, the Republican Party has to nominate somebody who can talk about the broad vision of what America is. As I talk about in every one of my speeches, I talk about how important it is that we remember who we are.” (Santorum Super Tuesday speech in Ohio)
Tuesday, March 6: Utah passes controversial Anti-Sex Ed Bill, which prohibits any mention of homosexuality in Utah's classroom: "We as a society should not be teaching or advocating homosexuality or sex outside marriage or different forms of contraceptives for premarital sex." (Utah Republican representative John Valentine)
Wednesday, March 7: CBS News ran the following story: “Rutgers Spycam Trial: A college prank or an act of hate?” The Rutgers spycam trial, which occurred between February 24 and March 16, was considered one of the most controversial hate crime trials in American history. Ravi was convicted on all 15 counts and faces up to 10 years in prison. “Twelve strangers, who know little about him or how he expresses himself, will have to decide whether he's an insensitive, impulsive young man who pulled off a mean college prank or a vicious homophobe.” (Erin Moriarty, CBS News)
Thursday, March 8: The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, speaks out against Prime Minister David Cameron's proposed gay marriage bill in the U.K.: “Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
Saturday, March 10: Santorum wins Kansas Republican primary by largest margin to date. “I kept saying, you just stick with us, you go out and vote for your values and trust what you know...Because you don’t live in New York City. You don’t live in Los Angeles. You live like most Americans in between those two cities, and you know the values you believe in.” (Rick Santorum speech in Missouri, on the recent news of Kansas primary win)
Did the political, social and religious climate in the days leading up to last week's attacks cause the 8-day crime spree against the LGBT community? Was it Republican primary rhetoric, religious zealotry, Maryland passing gay marriage or the Rutgers trial? All of the above? None of the above? Until the attackers are brought to justice and explain why they committed each crime, we will never know for sure.
Personally, I'll be marching every chance I get until we get an answer.