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Note this quote, from the story attached...

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* Once again, there will be a chorus screaming "special rights" when *
* the subject of gay bashing being punished as a hate crime arises. *
* But near as anybody can tell, the opportunity to be threatened, *
* humiliated and to live in fear of being beaten to death is the *
* only "special right" our culture bestows on homosexuals. *
**********************************************************************

Gay bashing is a hate crime
By Diane Carman, Denver Post Staff Columnist

Arthur Dong is a gay man who has experienced more than one beating at the hands of homophobic psychopaths. In 1996, he decided to fight back. Video camera in hand, Dong entered the belly of the beast.

What he found was even more horrible than he imagined.

Dong won an award at the Sundance Film Festival for his 1997 documentary, "Licensed to Kill," which features a series of prison interviews with seven men convicted of murdering gay men.

The movie, which screened in Denver last year, allows the murderers to tell their own stories. Some of them had come to realize the severity of their crimes. Some remained unrepentant. Some even recalled their crimes with pride.

But in many ways the most revealing aspect of the film is that it illustrates how a culture that ridicules, dehumanizes and demonizes homosexuals bears shameful responsibility for these crimes.

The verbal taunts and persecution of people because of their sexual orientation are so commonplace they set the stage for murderers who think it's no crime to hate gays and to act on that hate.

In our culture, the victim of gay bashing is considered the sinner. That's why so often the crimes against homosexuals go unpunished until someone is found beaten, burned and tied to a fence post outside of town.

The attack this week on Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student, is unusual only in its level of savagery. Since hate crimes laws in Colorado and 28 other states do not cover crimes against homosexuals, vast numbers of these crimes go unreported. Still, FBI data indicate that 11.6 percent of all hate crimes nationally target gays. It's the third largest category of hate crimes reported to the bureau.

In June, when the story of the vicious racially inspired murder of James Byrd Jr. of Jasper, Texas, was reported, it horrified Americans. Attorney General Janet Reno called for an investigation to see if federal civil rights laws had been violated. The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to send "heartfelt condolences" to Byrd's family.

There was no argument about what constitutes a hate crime, only collective shame and grief.

That same level of compassion does not exist for the Shepard family. Once again, there will be a chorus screaming "special rights" when the subject of gay bashing being punished as a hate crime arises. But near as anybody can tell, the opportunity to be threatened, humiliated and to live in fear of being beaten to death is the only "special right" our culture bestows on homosexuals.

If you listened to the opponents of laws designating gay bashing as a hate crime, you'd think there really was some fundamental difference between being a black man, who is beaten and dragged behind a truck, and being a gay man, who is beaten, his skull crushed, and left tied to a fence to die.

The only real difference is the epithet the killers use to describe the victim.

The one used for the black man is considered an obscenity so appallingly offensive, it can't be printed in most newspapers.

The one used for the gay man is a common expression. It's familiar in comedy routines, on elementary school playgrounds and on street corners all across America.

Diane Carman's commentaries appear here Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail: dicarman@aol.com

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