Homophobia in Law Enforcement: Lethal Consequences

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Homophobia in Law Enforcement: Lethal Consequences

The constitution guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all Americans, yet there is a group who endures a life without total liberty, restrictions on their choice of lifestyle and happiness, and unfair treatment which may even result in the untimely loss of their lives. This group of people currently facing discrimination and mistreatment is the gay and lesbian community of Washington D.C., and the perpetrators are the very people whose jobs are to ensure their safety. The law enforcement is not entirely protecting gays and lesbians in D.C., nor are they ensuring that they have basic human rights. The effects of discrimination or even just insensitivity in the police department can have catastrophic negative effects on the victims, the gay and lesbian community, and the city of D.C. as a whole. When people of certain minorities are not treated equally by the law, something must be done to improve this dangerous situation. In Washington DC on July 9th, 2001, an openly gay man, Alexander Gray, fell victim to two separate hate crimes. The first happened when several men made derogatory remarks about Gray’s sexual orientation, and then attacked and beat him with a shovel and a tire iron (Wilchins). Gray, both mentally and physically wounded, was then escorted home because he refused to go to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. The police drove him to his apartment, and friends say Gray was handcuffed in the backseat of the police car when he arrived (Fahrenthold “Gay Activists”). Alexander Gray was a victim of a brutal and traumatizing crime, yet the police treated him as if he were the criminal, by handcuffing him in the back of the car. The D.C. police officers responding to this hate crime were not able to treat the victim with gentleness and sensitivity he severely needed at such a time, but instead they treated him as a threat.

Throughout its history, the Washington, D.C. police department has had troubles dealing with the gay and lesbian community. There has been much bigotry and discrimination in the way some officers handled matters concerning those who are homosexual. During the 1980’s many police officers held the stereotype that all people who were homosexual had AIDS, and some occasionally wore rubber gloves when they knew they would be dealing with gay individuals (Fahrenthold “Blue and Gay”).

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