Vigil held for those killed by hate crimes

Supporters remembered victims of anti-gay discrimination crimes.

Brady Averill

Approximately 40 people remembered victims of anti-gay hate crimes in a vigil Tuesday outside Coffman Union.

The event marked the sixth anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old man who was murdered in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998, according to a Web site dedicated to Shepard. His murder was later determined to be an anti-gay hate crime.

Wearing black armbands, supporters at the event remembered Shepard and many other victims of anti-gay discrimination and violence.

Several student and religious groups organized the event, aiming to remind people that violence and discrimination exist against homosexuals and people with gender- or sexual-identity issues, they said.

“We are also here because of those who are daily terrorized because of their sexual identity,” said event organizer Jerie Smith, who is also a minister for the Lutheran Campus Ministries.

After organizers read the names of victims, supporters chanted, “We remember, and we say, ‘no more.’ “

First-year student Kiara Meier said she attended the event because she’s part of the gay community and wanted to remember Matthew Shepard.

First-year student Drew A. Peterson said events such as National Coming Out Week and the vigil help people become more accepting of others’ sexual orientation.

But messages that say violence still occurs should continue, he said.

“(It’s important) to remind people, even in society today, things like this can happen,” he said.

Approximately 25 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students experience harassment or discrimination, according to a 2002 GLBT campus climate survey. Approximately 15 percent of GLBT students reported experiencing some sort of physical threat.

“The statement that we kept repeating is that (violence has) just gotta stop,” Smith said.

Smith said she doesn’t understand how people can hate others based on their sexual orientations.

Sarah Feingold, co-facilitator for a campus queer women’s group, said she came to the event to celebrate National Coming Out Week.

“It’s something that brings people together and something people can learn from,” she said.