Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tennessee Hate Crime

Three teens - two of them 15 and one 16 - have been charged with hate crimes, vandalism and delinquency following a series of incidents involving an Irving College gay man. Police say that in one incident the historic home belonging to Neal Anthony hadr "Fags deserve to die", and "gays go to hell" painted on it. A rock was thrown through the window of the house, which has been in Anthony's family for three generations.

Security locks were smashed and his mailbox was destroyed.

Several weeks ago a group of people all terrain vehicles drove by the house, yelling gay slurs and shooting about 80 paintballs at the house.

Police say that under questioning the teens confessed, and they said they targeted Anthony's home because he is gay.

The juveniles, who cannot be named because of their ages, will appear in court on Thursday for arraignment.

The home was built by Anthony's family in the mid 1800s.

He says that the fact he is gay has never been a secret around town. He lives with his partner, Michael Duncan, and the two are well known in the community.

But he says some people in town are trying to drive him out of the community - something he vows is not going to be achieved.

Tennessee law covers hate crimes based on sexual orientation but not gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

But federal hate laws do not cover gays.

On Tuesday the Matthew Shepard hate crime bill received its first committee hearing in Congress. (story)

The bill, also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was named for the gay college student who was killed in a homophobic attack in Wyoming in 1998. It was introduced in the Senate last week. (story) A similar bill was reintroduced in the House last month. (story)

The bill would allow the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting cases in which violence occurs and add gays and lesbians to the categories protected under the legislation.

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