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Bias, Hate Crimes, and Equality

Two events hit the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community hard as this second decade of the 21st century dawns frigidly on Buffalo, New York. Lindsay Harmon was savagely stabbed, blinding her in one eye, while her attacker uttered anti-gay slurs, as Lindsay exited Roxy’s nightclub with her girlfriend. Investigations have not yet proven this to be a hate crime.

As news of this sobering attack filtered through Allentown’s close-knit community, the LGBT community was affronted by an offense less physically violent but every bit as insidious—the Rev. Darius Pridgen arrogantly moved to the front of the pack of contenders for the vacated Common Council seat of Brian Davis.

Rev. Pridgen had the support of the Brown administration. He had the support of disgraced former Councilmember Brian Davis. He had the support of Grassroots. He did not have the support of the largest population of LGBT individuals, businesses, professionals, and medical service providers in all of Erie County.

A letter was sent to Rev. Pridgen asking that he clarify offensive statements he made in relation to HIV/AIDS and the gay community. In addition, Pridgen was asked if his sworn religious convictions would interfere with his sworn civil responsibility to represent all residents of the Ellicott District and the City of Buffalo at large. Regrettably, he did not respond. His silence spoke volumes.

While over 18,000 individuals from around the world expressed outrage and concern for Lindsay on Facebook (please help support Lindsay Harmon and stop hate crime!), a few committed activists got busy on the ground challenging backroom politics, the democratic political machine, and the status quo. We were gratified to see mounting political pressure beginning to erode the small but powerful lobby for Rev. Pridgen.

There is still much work ahead. Education, advocacy, and the commitment of all LGBT individuals are required to battle the current legislative backsliding. The reason we, the LGBT community, require hate crime laws and marriage equality legislation is that we LGBT Americans continue to live a “separate but unequal” reality. We possess the inalienable rights of every American citizen, yet we daily face unrelenting religious and partisan defamation, physical threats, and myriad affronts to our families and our characters. Lurking around every corner, whether at work, in the media, or in our most private lives, we are dogged by pervasive bias, sanctimonious intolerance, and indifference to the violence we suffer in words and deeds.

We in the LGBT community have had enough. How we respond as a community is very much dependent on the response of elected officials to these two entirely unacceptable recent events. We will continue to demand our undeniable civil rights as American citizens and our innate dignity as human beings. That is what we have to say. For their part, the mayor and other officials remain provocatively silent.

Paul Morgan

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