Justice John Roberts recently argued gays in America have so much political power they don’t need protection from anti-gay bias.
He’s absolutely right that gay rights have progressed rapidly over the past few years. But political gains don’t mean that anti-gay violence is over, as the gut-wrenching murder of 32-year-old Mark Carson in Greenwich Village on Friday reminds us. He was shot in the face after a man shouted anti-gay slurs at him.
There’s been a spate of other anti-gay attacks in New York City recently. A man said he was gay bashed in the East Village just Monday. There were three other apparent anti-gay hate crimes in New York in May, Gothamist has reported.
On Tuesday, New York’s police commissioner Ray Kelly said anti-gay hate crime in New York has spiked 70% this year. The New York City Anti-Violence Project — which collects data on hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people — saw a 13% increase in hate crime reports from 2010 to 2011.
Reports of hate crimes against gay men nationwide have also gone up slightly in recent years, according to FBI statistics. While it’s possible that more gays are reporting hate crimes, the reports do show that anti-gay violence is still prevalent in America.
This violence comes as gays have made unprecedented political gains: the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the legalization of gay marriage in nine states, and tremendous support from Republicans for same-sex marriage.
These gains have made the anti-gay movement feel threatened, however, and spurred them on to more hateful rhetoric than ever, the Southern Poverty Law centre’s Mark Potok told us.
He pointed to the American Family Association as one example of a group with a lot of anti-gay rancor. That group lobbies against gay marriage and makes some pretty nasty assertions about gay people, including claiming that gay people “invented” the AIDS virus.
“What I think is going on with respect to anti-gay hatred in this country is, it is ratcheting up in direct proportion to the losses that the religious right” has suffered, says Potok, a leading expert on extremism in America. “I think what we are seeing is kind of a desperate anger coming out of a lot of the Christian right groups.”
This anger, in turn, feeds the extremists who actually go out and beat people up, Potok says.
“What people say in the public square matters,” Potok said. “When these kinds of groups get on TV and make statements about how gay men are pedophiles … ultimately it does result in criminal violence.”
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