Post submitted by HRC Alabama Field Organizer Tori Wolfe-Sisson
Earlier this month, HRC Alabama joined community supporters from around the state on the steps of the Alabama Statehouse for the 18th annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence. The vigil was held for those who have lost their lives to bias motivated violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The annual event started in 1999 following the death of Billy Jack Gaither. Gaither, a 39 year old gay man who worked at the Russell Athletics apparel company near Sylacauga, Alabama, was brutally beaten to death.
This year the keynote speaker was Judge Vanzetta McPherson. The community members who were honored with the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award were Dr. Paul Hard, a professor at Auburn University of Montgomery who has been in a legal battle over his late husband's estate, and Caleb Gumbs, the vice president of Amplified, the first recognized LGBTQ organization on Alabama State University's campus. Caleb identifies as a Black trans man.
The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 sent an important message to our nation that the federal government will not tolerate violent crimes that target individuals because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics. However, Alabama does not have an LGBT-inclusive hate crime laws.
To learn more about the hate crime laws in your state, visit HRC’s State Equality Index (SEI), or HRC’s guide on state hate crimes laws for a comprehensive state-by-state reports that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBT people and their families.
Pictured: Eva Walton Kendrick presenting Dr. Paul Hard with his award.