There was a rally against anti-gay hate crimes on Cedar Springs last Friday, which I think is great. It can’t hurt to raise awareness about this issue, and I think the newly formed group that staged the rally has a lot of potential. However, some members of the group are going a little too far in their criticism of Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. The group wants Watkins to file hate crimes enhancements against two suspects arrested in connection with an aggravated robbery that occurred on Dickason Avenue in July.
“If he lets it be charged as an aggravated robbery and not as a hate crime, not as what it is, he’s basically saying it’s open season on gay and lesbian people, it’s acceptable to beat up on gay and lesbian people,” Blake Wilkinson says of Watkins in this report about the rally on DVtv.
Wilkinson must have read Arnold Wayne Jones’ article about Judge Jack Hampton in the Voice last week, in which the Rev. Michael Piazza suggested that Hampton’s legendary 1988 statements declared “open season” on gay-bashing in Oak Lawn. Needless to say, the comparison is pretty far-fetched. The DA’s Office says it has chosen not to file hate crimes enhancements in this case because it would not increase penalties for the suspects but could increase the burden of proof during the sentencing phase of the trial. One could argue that the DA’s Office should file the enhancements anyway to send a message that anti-gay violence won’t be tolerated, but that’s a lot different from accusing Watkins of condoning anti-gay violence. These types of inflammatory accusations aren’t exactly beneficial to relations between the LGBT community and Watkins, who happens to be a Democrat and who has instituted a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation for employees in his office.
To see Channel 11’s report about the rally, go here.
Also, here’s some updated contact information for the group, Unified Community Against Gay Hate Crimes. For information about UCAGHC, call Michael Robinson at 214-520-7045 or go to www.myspace.com/freedomfromhate.