Oct 15, 2012
Equality NC Responds to Recent Asheville Hate Incident
Two gay men from Charlotte say they were verbally assaulted then attacked during a recent visit to Asheville. Mark Little told Asheville Police that two women and a man pulled up alongside he and his partner as they walked back to their hotel during the early morning hours of September 23, 2012, and began shouting gay slurs. After that, the man got out of his car and assaulted Little, causing him face and head injuries. Police are continuing their investigation, but no arrests have yet been made in the apparent hate incident.
Calling the attack “flat-out terrible," Monroe Gilmour, coordinator of Western North Carolina Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry, told the Asheville Citizen Times the incident "reflects the inability of some people to accept society’s new norm of treating our LGBT neighbors with respect. Our experience over 20 years of working with victims of hate activity is that we need to make sure the targets of this hate do not feel alone. That is why it is so important that we publicly speak out and take constructive action to show that Asheville is about something very different from the hate of that incident.”
Little, 34, told the Times that while he’s normally a very outgoing person, since the attack he feels uneasy walking down the street.
“Now, every time someone passes me, I feel scared to death.”
The attack represents one in a series of high-profile LGBT hate crimes in 2011-2012, surrounding the passage of Amendment One:
- Stephen Starr was murdered on February 15, 2011, in Hickory, NC. The confessor, a 19-year-old who was living with the victim, told a 911 dispatcher he murdered Mr. Starr because he was gay.
- Michael Nelmark, a gay, 21-year-old UNC-Wilmington student was attacked in downtown Wilmington, NC, where a group of men accosted the student on the street during the early morning hours of June 25, 2011.
- On July 14, 2011 a 27-year-old man was walking on Patton Ave. in Asheville, NC, just after midnight when he was attacked by a group of four people, thought to be between the ages of 16 and 20. The victim and police report that the assailants believed he was gay because of how he was dressed; however he is heterosexual.
- On February 11, 2012, two women in their early twenties perceived to be lesbians were assaulted in Boone, NC, near Appalachian State University. The assault included anti-gay epithets. Each woman experienced facial injuries that required medical treatment.
"Over the last several months, North Carolina has experienced several instances of anti-LGBT violence. This rise in violence can be linked to an environment where discrimination is not only sanctioned and condoned; it is actively encouraged by civic and political leaders. North Carolina’s Amendment One, which bans official recognition of the loving and committed relationships of thousands of North Carolinians, compromised the safety of LGBT citizens across the state," Stuart Campbell, Executive Director of Equality NC, said in response to the incident. "Coupled with the fact that state law fails to recognize the possibility of hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, 2012 has been a dangerous year for the LGBT community in our state. It is these crimes and similar incidents statewide during this pivotal election year, which underscore now more than ever the importance of our community and our supporters to stand up and reject this senseless violence. We urge all supporters of equality in North Carolina to speak out against anti-LGBT violence in the streets, in the ballot box, and in the pulpit."
The most recent attack in Asheville has prompted an online petition calling for the addition of sexuality to North Carolina hate crimes laws.
To date, North Carolina law provides no hate crimes protection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In the wake of these and similar attacks, Equality NC has pushed for the passage of the Safer Communities Act by the NC State Legislature, which specifies LGBT people as a protected class from physical harm.
Since anti-gay slurs were shouted by the assailants at the victims during the recent Asheville harassment and attack, by definition this would have been a hate crime–-one law enforcement authorities in North Carolina are currently unable to acknowledge, combat or prosecute.
Have you been a victim of homophobia, transphobia, or worse, a hate crime? The Campaign for Southern Equality hosts an online reporting service for violence, discrimination, and harassment against LGBT people. The service also provides the option of connecting with CSE's Advocacy and Crisis Response Project, which facilitates LGBT-sensitive referrals for services and direct support to those who experience bias against LGBT people.