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What's Wrong With Gay Bashing?
Laura Montgomery-Rutt, July 1, 1997 -- [The following is my statement that was read at the Governor's hearing on Hate in June. Information and statements from this hearing will be passed on to the President's hearing in November.]
    One of the greatest violations of human dignity today is the verbal, mental and physical assault of those who are gay and lesbian in our community. Verbal intimidation and harassment, refusal to acknowledge the problem, and growing prejudice are just some of the fuels which add to the fire of hatred.
    When a publicly funded library in Lancaster County, Pa. refuses to continue a display of gay and lesbian authors and poets because of mounting opposition by one small faction of our community, we must stop and take a look within ourselves. How can we, a justice seeking people, allow unfair treatment and bigotry to continue? How can we let our society rob a group of people of their inherent worth and dignity?
    Is it any wonder that gay youth committee suicide at 3 times the rate of non-gay youth? No support, no role models, and a government that ignores the issue. So deep, so ingrained and so blatant is this hatred, that it is as if someone took a gun and shot one of these young victims. We, the citizens of Pennsylvania and the United States, are to blame for the unacceptable loss of a potential Liberace, or DaVinci, or Martina Navratilova.
    When our government refuses to acknowledge, through corrective legislative action, that gays and lesbians are being discriminated against in housing, employment and public access, when our government refuses to add gays and lesbians to the Human Relations Bill or the Civil Rights Bill because they will not address the extent of intimidation to all gays and lesbians committed during a gay bashing, we, the citizens of Pennsylvania and the United States are committing a hate crime.
    By allowing this kind of discrimination to continue, by allowing intimidating acts to be committed without retribution, without redress and without acknowledgment of the devastating affects, we are continuing to commit a hate crime.
    It is time the government took a stand and addressed this issue. No matter what our opinion of homosexuality, we can agree that a crime that is meant to intimidate a group of people cannot be tolerated in our society and our nation. It is what happened in Germany. We cannot let the forces of the judgmental keep us from seeing the Light. And the Light is getting stronger.

Laura Montgomery-Rutt is Executive Director of the Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom and a PAD Advisory Committee Member.