Grisly Alabama Gay Bashing Murder
|Killers confess anti-gay hate was the motive for savage beating and burning|
On February 19, Billy Jack Gaither, 39, was lured from a bar and executed by two men in Sylacauga, Alabama, 40 miles southeast of Birmingham, according to the Birmingham News. The two killers, Charles Monroe Butler, 21, and Steven Eric Mullins, 25, were arrested this week and confessed to killing Gaither because "he was a homosexual," the Coosa County Sheriffs Deputy Al Bradley told the newspaper.
The Birmingham News reported that in statements, Mullins said he called Gaither and asked him to meet him at a bar. They met and eventually left together. Authorities told the newspaper that the men apparently took Gaither to a remote location, bludgeoned him to death, put his body on a stack of tires and set him on fire.
Apparently, Gaither was able to be lured into meeting Mullins at the bar because his family was friendly with Butlers family. According to the article, Butlers grandmother had baby-sat Gaither. The two alleged murderers are now at Coosa County jail on $500,000 bond each.
In 1997, (the latest FBI statistics available) Alabama reported no hate crimes to the FBI for any category. Reporting of statistics is voluntary under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990. Alabamas hate crimes law does not cover sexual orientation.
"This case in Alabama shows the great inconsistency between states in tracking and prosecuting hate crimes. We call on Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to set a uniform federal response for hate crimes and signal that anti-gay violence is unacceptable in or society," says Winnie Stachelberg, Human Rights Campaign Political Director.
This grisly execution follows the highly publicized murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard last fall, who was also enticed to leave a bar, was bludgeoned and left to die for up to 18 hours tied to a wooden fence outside Laramie.
While high profile cases such as Shepards gain a lot of publicity, anti-gay violence is far from uncommon. A study released in August by Dr. Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist at the Washington Institute for Mental Illness Research and Training, suggests that harassment and hate crimes against gay students by their peers is commonplace. According to the study, nearly one-quarter of community college students who took part in this survey admitted to harassing people they thought were gay. Among men, 18 percent said they had physically assaulted or threatened someone they thought was gay or lesbian, and 32 percent admitted they were guilty of verbal harassment.
An October 1998 CNN/TIME poll found that three-quarters of the 1036 adults questioned think the problem of violence against gay Americans is a serious problem across the country. According to the survey, 68 percent of those polled say a similar attack could happen in their community; and 39 percent say anti-gay violence is a very serious problem, while 36 percent say it is a serious problem.
Only 21 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation-based crimes in their hate crime statutes. While states continue to play the primary role in the prosecution of hate violence, the federal government must have jurisdiction to address those limited cases in which local authorities are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation found an 8 percent increase in reported hate crimes against gays and lesbians in 1997. This represents the third-highest category for hate crimes reported in the United States.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 2, March 12, 1999