A lesson learned

Posted on 05 May 2011 at 1:34pm

We may never know for sure what happened between the gay man and the Marine during the LCR convention, but we can’t overlook the situation’s one clear lesson

David Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

It’s hard to understand exactly what happened at a Dallas Hilton Anatole hotel bar last weekend when a Log Cabin Republican conventioneer was allegedly called a “faggot” and assaulted. Everyone involved seems to be engaging in high-gear damage control.

Although police cited the suspect for an alleged Class C misdemeanor assault at the scene, the victim reportedly advised police the next day he would not be pressing charges after the suspect apologized to him. That in effect gave the suspect a pass for allegedly slamming the victim’s face on a bar table.

What is extraordinary about this development is that the police apparently acted as mediators between the victim and the suspect the day after the incident. The negotiations reportedly involved the Dallas Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community, Laura Martin, who described the suspect as 27-year-old member of the U.S. Armed Services.

Dallas police spokesman Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse claimed that the alleged crime did not rise to the level of a hate crime — even though the suspect used the slur “faggot” during the attack — because either the victim or one of his friends allegedly provoked the assault by either whistling or making a catcall at the suspect and his friends. He described both the victim and the suspect as being intoxicated, and dismissed it as a bar fight.

After the charges were dropped, police considered reporting the incident as a hate crime for statistical purposes, but decided not to, according to Martin.

The victim and his friends, who do not want their identities revealed, have disputed the official police report, calling it “misleading.” The victim, who is from out of town, said he decided not to press charges because pursuing it would be time consuming and “arduous.”

What’s more, we learned that the suspect might be a member of the U.S. Marines who was staying over at the Anatole after a tour in the Middle East. Ironically, all of this began coming to light just as reports circulated about the Marine Corps conducting seminars aimed at smoothing the way for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Services.

What a mess. If all that’s true, no wonder the Dallas Police Department found time to negotiate a cease-fire between the victim and the suspect.

On top of all that, we learned during the same weekend that U.S. Navy Seals had finally managed to take out Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. in 2001. It’s not exactly the best time to be criticizing a member of the military.

Still, there are troubling aspects to this story. From decades of covering crime, I know that the most common defenses in crimes involving everything from assaults to murders of LGBT people is for the suspect to claim the victims made sexual advances. The suspect reportedly also told the police the next day that he didn’t remember much about the incident, another common excuse for attempting to shirk responsibility.

Likewise, the victim acknowledged being intoxicated.

Astonishingly, the victim took a real verbal beating in the comments sections of the Dallas Voice’s blog, Instant Tea, where the alleged assault was reported. It was interesting that so many LGBT people took the position that the victim deserved to not only be viciously assaulted, but to be humiliated in public as well.

As a member of the U.S. military, the consequences for the suspect would be far more severe than a mere hefty fine. A conviction would mean a nasty stain on his military record. Even if the victim or someone else at the table whistled or made a comment about someone “looking good,” it hardly merits a physical attack from someone who has sworn to protect U.S. citizens.

On the other hand, members of the LGBT community need to be respectful of heterosexuals and be on guard not to offend anyone through their actions or words. With all of the gains the community has made in recent years, we are more recognizable and subject to more scrutiny and criticism.

With the end of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy quickly approaching, members of the U.S. Armed Services are likely to be more on edge and prone to taking offense.

We saw a similar event occur in 1993 when three Marines stationed at Camp LeJeune allegedly attacked a gay man in a Wilmington, N.C., gay bar., when then President Clinton was vowing to end the ban on gay and lesbians serving in the U.S. Armed Services. That led to a high-profile lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the behalf of the victim. The lawsuit was later settled for a token amount. The Marines in that incident also claimed they were provoked by the bar patrons.

We may never know exactly what happened at the Anatole Hilton in Dallas that night, but maybe we can learn a lesson from it anyway: We probably all need to monitor ourselves a little more closely when we are in predominantly straight venues to make sure we aren’t pushing our luck. What is appropriate in a gay bar just doesn’t work well in most other places.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

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