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Hate crimes must be addressed

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, April 10, 2008

I know that the Notre Dame bubble prevents a lot of world news from entering our radar here on campus. So I would like to let everyone know about a lesser known school shooting which occurred in February of this year. Lawrence King, age 15, was shot in the head by his 14-year-old classmate Brandon in a California middle school classroom full of students.

This boy, an 8th grader, was the victim of a premeditated hate crime. His friends and classmates said he had recently proclaimed himself gay and begun to wear makeup and jewelry to school. A few days before his murder, Larry asked Brandon to be his Valentine. Brandon responded by putting a bullet through his brain.

In a similar tragic incident, Simmie Williams Jr., 17, was shot and killed on Feb. 22 in Florida while dressed in women’s clothing. Williams has been described both as gay and transgendered (a person who identifies as or expresses a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth). Simmie was also African-American. Regardless of the specific motivations of the killer, his murder was clearly motivated by hate.

Some of you may have heard of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old who in 1998 was robbed, pistol-whipped, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die by two young men. His murder led to the creation of the Matthew Shepard Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007). This proposed bill would include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability in federal hate crime legislation. It has yet to be passed.

Ten years after Matthew Shepard’s murder, we are stilling hating and still killing. What’s worse, we’re still teaching young people to hate and kill – and the murderers and victims are getting younger. Progress in this issue is long overdue. We need to act now.

StaND Against Hate Week here at Notre Dame is April 14-18. I urge everyone to participate in this campus-wide series of events to help raise awareness of and put an end to hate and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Participate to show support for your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) friends, relatives and classmates. If nothing else, participate to honor the memory of Lawrence King, Simmie Williams Jr. and Matthew Shepard.

This issue is real and it will not go away. It’s time for all of us to stand up and say that we will not tolerate hate.

Melanie LeMay


Pasquerilla West Hall

April 7