October 7, 2009
Race, ethnicity, religious views, gender or disability can all be bases for a hate crime. But this past Saturday, three students attacked two young men not for any of these attributes, but rather their perceived sexual orientation.
The events that transpired on the morning of Oct. 3 fit tragically into the larger context of gay issues in Illinois. The beating occurred two days after State Senator Heather Steans introduced an equal marriage act into the Illinois Senate, matching a bill already in the House. If approved it would legalize gay marriage in Illinois.
This act of violence took place just one day after UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen announced to the campus that this administration cares about the LGBTQ community. He proclaimed that the UIS culture strives to be inclusive and to educate students and staff about the value of openness. He asked all members of the UIS community to demonstrate a welcoming spirit to members of the LGBTQ community all year round.
Furthermore, these two men were attacked two days before the start of Coming Out Week on campus and a week before National Coming Out Day.
The tragic irony of the incident puts the whole situation in context. These acts of violence show that the gay rights movement in the U.S. still has a long way to go. Unfortunately, these acts are not few and far between as 21 percent of hate crimes in Illinois are motivated by sexual orientation.
Members of our generation have images of Matthew Shepard burned into our collective memory. Recently, bullies who hurled anti-gay epithets in a Massachusetts grade school caused 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover to commit suicide. Thankfully the incident in the Larkspur parking lot did not reach these tragic conclusions, but it still adds to a collective dialogue about gay issues in America.
Saturday night’s event sent waves rippling throughout the UIS community. Despite assurances by administrators, students said they no longer felt safe walking across campus.
We shouldn’t feel this way. These events have happened in the past. They will most likely continue to occur across our country and the world for years. However we can make a stand against hate at UIS. Our community is small, connected and passionate. One idiotic, pathetic and violent act will not destroy our sense of unity.
Violence spurred by hate may continue in other places around our planet. But we at The Journal hope that the message is clear to those who wish to perpetrate these kinds of acts: Hate has no place on our campus.