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Jennifer Evans Gardner Headshot

What If He Were Your Child?

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I just read the story about Brandon Patrick, the 23 year-old Tulsa man who was viciously attacked because of his sexual orientation. Apparently, just walking down the street invoked such hostility among his attackers that they screamed homophobic slurs at him before viciously attacking him, ultimately sending him to the hospital. Another hate crime in another city. Only Patrick wasn't just walking down any street in any neighborhood. It's my old neighborhood. The one where I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

To say that I am sickened by this crime is a given. For me to even try to understand this kind of hatred -- a hatred based solely on who a person is -- impossible. To imagine that this crime happened near my old house, in a place where my family lives ... horrifying. You see, I've always thought of Tulsa as a gay-friendly city. I have always bragged that it is sophisticated; the majority of the people educated. 15th Street, Utica Square and Brookside, trendy upscale areas, are close by. There are shops that carry Armani, swell old department stores, and restaurants worthy of a Michelin star ... how could a hate crime happen here? I would be angry if I weren't so sad.

Here's the part that really gets me: Oklahoma's hate-crimes law makes it a crime to "intimidate or harass another person because of the person's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability." But not sexual orientation? Are there still American citizens out there who believe that civil rights don't belong to every human being?

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this month, also known as "The Matthew Shepard Act," that would expand the 1969 U.S. federal hate crime law, making it a federal offense to assault someone because of their sexual orientation. I pray that it is approved and that President Obama signs it into law quickly. I pray that I don't have to read about any more citizens on any more streets in any more cities in this country being attacked for being who they are.

I am not gay, but I am a mother. I don't know about you, but I can't help but ask, what if he were my child?

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