Ryan was brutally stabbed at least 20 times and his car and a laptop computer were stolen. According to witnesses, two suspects drove Ryan's bloody car around and bragged to their friends about savagely killing him.
Joseph Eli Bearden, 21, and William David Brown Jr., 20, were indicted ... and face charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon.
Ryan's murder was not an isolated incident, but rather the latest in an epidemic of anti-gay hate violence in Florida and around the nation. Anti-gay hate crimes are at their highest level ever in Florida, and second only to racist attacks in overall numbers.
According to the Florida Attorney General's office, hate crimes targeting LGBT Floridians have increased 33% in the most violent categories during the two most recently reported years. The silence of Florida's leadership in the face of this brutal murder cannot go unchallenged.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Right before the Blog Against Theocracy kicked off I received an email message from Equality Florida. I subscribe to a lot of email listservs, it's one of the ways I keep up with all the things I need to for my day job. This particular message, however, broke my heart.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, it's no secret that I'm a lesbian. I've been out since the late-70's, so one might presume that someone who has been around the block as long as I have would be used to about everything by now ... but there is one thing I just can't get used to, and that is the violence that's so pervasive against lesbians and gay men, or anyone perceived to be lesbian or gay.
I will get to the Equality Florida message in just a moment, but first let me say that I've been reading gay newspapers since 1977. You can pick one up in any gay club or bar, and what I noticed early on were the number of news reports of violence -- usually directed at gay men.
Matthew Shepard's brutal death brought this reality into mainstream American homes, but the reality has been in our homes for far too long. We read about it every week in the gay press. And most lesbian and gay people know at least one person who has been assaulted either physically or verbally.
One of the latest victims is Ryan Keith Skipper, of Florida. Ryan, a 25-year-old resident of Polk County, was "viciously murdered and his body left on the side of the road in what the Sheriff's office is classifying as an anti-gay hate crime."
There are vigils planned for April 14th, so if you live in Florida check the Equality Florida web site to find the one near you.
For all the bloggers who took part in BAT this past weekend, know that the issues are all connected. When Religious Right leaders demonize lesbians and gays to fundraise, and when Republicans trot out a Federal Marriage Amendment every election season to rally their "base" we need to remind them their actions have consequences. Their actions give "permission" to unbalanced monsters like Bearden and Brown to engage in violence.
I can hear conservatives whining right now, claiming that Hate Crimes bills are attempts to criminalize thoughts. That's a bold faced lie. Americans have a right to think whatever they like, but your "rights" end at the beginning of my nose. When Joseph Bearden and William David Brown thrust a knife into the body of Ryan Keith Skipper, their propensity to hate became a crime. And their actions were not random, but deliberate. They deliberately killed Ryan simply because he was gay.
The law says people are innocent until proven guilty, so let Bearden and Brown have their day in court. But when they are found guilty, as the evidence suggests, the punishment I would like to see handed down to these two young men is that they spend the rest of their natural lives behind bars. That for the next 50 or 60 years they get to think about what they did, and the lives they changed forever when they took Ryan from his friends and family. When they took away his future.