Salt Lake police investigate attacks on gay men

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Police say they don’t know yet whether a pair of attacks that seriously injured two gay men were hate crimes, but Utah’s gay community has called for a stop to the violence.

“Anytime there’s an allegation of something like that we consider all aspects of the case,” police Detective Cary Wichmann said. “But until a detective is able to determine it’s a hate crime, there’s no way to say.”

The two attacks occurred Aug. 26 near the downtown nightclub Club Sound, which holds gay-themed events each Friday. Dane Hall, 20, said he heard someone shout gay slurs at him just before he was struck from behind and knocked to the ground.

In the second attack, club owner Tom Taylor said he was leaving the nightclub when a bloodied man who lived nearby asked for help. Taylor said the man was sleeping on a couch in his boyfriend’s apartment when a group of men broke in, beat him and then chased him onto the street.

“They were close in time and location, but there’s not initial indication that (the attacks) were related,” Wichmann said.

Hall said he saw four men over him as he was repeatedly punched in the face. One attacker stomped on his head, he said. “My cheek bone was shattered.”

He lost six teeth and fractured his jaw in three places. Doctors found a chip of his jawbone jammed into his brain, said Hall.

“I never thought this would happen here,” Hall said. “My physical appearance will never be the same.”

The man that Taylor helped was not identified. Taylor said he was looking at security camera footage from the club to see if either attack or the alleged assailant were recorded.

“We can’t let these kinds of things not get taken care of,” Taylor said.

If police determine either attack was motivated by anti-gay sentiments, the police chief would become involved in the investigation because such crimes are taken very seriously, Wichmann said.

Meanwhile, the state’s gay community called for a halt to the violence.

Activist and Utah Pride Center board president Nikki Boyer said it’s hard to understand what motivates a person to beat someone because they are gay.

“We’re gaining acceptance,” Boyer said. “But there’s still so much hate and bigotry. I don’t have an answer. None of us do.”

—  John Wright

Utah Democratic Party elects openly gay chair

Jim Dabakis says he’ll try to get members of LDS church to join party

Associated Press

Jim Dabakis said his sexual orientation never came up during the nomination process.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Democratic Party has voted overwhelming in favor of electing as its new chairman an art dealer believed to be the first openly gay leader of a political party in the state.

Jim Dabakis, a co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, was elected Saturday during the party’s state convention in Salt Lake City.

Dabakis said his sexual orientation never came up during the nomination process.

“The whole gay thing just simply did not surface as an issue,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune. “People are broad-minded in Utah, and they want to know if you can do the job or not.”

Dabakis also said he will go out of his way to make members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel comfortable in the Democratic Party. He said Democrats believe in the inclusion of all people, even if they have some differing opinions, including Mormons who primarily vote Republican.

“I want to speak directly to the LDS people in our state,” he said. “I want you LDS people to participate in our party. We want your spirit, we want your contributions, and we want to earn your votes. I will do whatever I can as chair to see that our big tent is comfortable to LDS people because it’s the right thing to do.”

Dabakis said many Mormons want a chance to be part of the “normal, moderate, reasonable” Democratic Party in light of splintering in the GOP between the tea party and more moderate Republicans.

“People are looking for real life answers to problems,” said Dabakis, who replaces retiring three-term party chairman Wayne Holland. “I believe to my core Democrats can win in Utah.”

The Utah Republican Party controls both houses of the state Legislature. It also holds all statewide offices and two of the three congressional seats.

Democratic Party delegates noted Dabakis has been a successful businessman and radio talk show host, and has been involved Utah politics for 30 years, the Deseret News reported.

“He will bring energy,” said Tim Chambless, with the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. “He’ll bring a greater connection with the business community.”

Convention delegates also elected small-business owner Brian Doughty, who is openly gay, to replace state Rep. Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City. Biskupski resigned after buying a house outside the district.

—  John Wright