Faggot. It's unfortunately a word that most gay men have had thrown at them at some point in their life. It's a word that Devin Norman heard yelled at him in a grocery store parking lot this weekend before he was allegedly brutally beaten for being a gay man in Mississippi.
The thought of being physically harmed for being gay has crossed the mind of nearly every gay man. For many, myself included, it's a thought that's become a reality. With the Supreme Court just months away a landmark decision that could legalize marriage equality in the United States and superstars like Laverne Cox on the cover of magazines, it's easy to feel like we no longer live in a world in which people in the LGBT* have much left to worry about. That simply is not the case.
On March 20, 2015, Devin Norman became further proof of that. Devin is currently recovering from his brutal attack and his attacker has been taken into custody. Here's the problem: His attacker is merely being charged with assault, even though the incident appears to be a hate crime motivated by sexual orientation. Mississippi has no hate crime protections in place for gay people -- not surprising of a state that is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after being mandated to do so by federal court.)
While Mississippi continues to lag behind the times, we can still get justice for Devin on federal level. You see, on October 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The bill expanded the existing United States federal hate crime law to apply to crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity.
Last year, Devin said on his Facebook page that he aims to be the change that he wishes to see in this world. Out of this terrible event, we can help to make that goal a reality.
Will you call the numbers below and tell them that you are demanding #JusticeForDevin and that this case should be tried as a hate crime?
Trent Kelly, DA: (662) 287-2486.
Corinth Police Department: (662) 286-3377.
FBI Memphis field office: (901) 747-4300.
It's up to us to not only stand up for Devin, but to also ensure that our government continues to the set the precedent that we will not stand for hate crimes in this country, including those aimed at a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Thankfully Devin survived his ordeal, not all people are so lucky. One notable instance of a person who died from injuries sustained from a hate crime is that of Matthew Shepard. Now an icon in the gay community, his murder began conversations across the country about the threats that LGBT* people face, and helped to ensure that federal hate crime legislation includes sexual orientation. That was nearly 17 years ago, and while we've made progress, these problems still persist. It's up to us to stand up and do something about it!