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Gay American Heroes to honor slain LGBT hate-crimes victims

News release:

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Memorial and Exhibition to Serve as Tool for Remembrance, Education and Compassion

A “Who’s Who” of gay and straight culture have come together to create a national memorial to honor LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people who have been murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Led by Scott Hall, Frank Kameny, US. Representative Barney Frank and Chip Arndt, the idea for Gay American Heroes was born on March 13, 2007, when Founder and President Scott Hall learned about the brutal murder of Ryan Keith Skipper. Ryan was a 25 year-old Floridian who lived in Polk County, not far from Hall. Ryan was viciously stabbed more than 20 times and was left to die; for one reason --- Ryan Keith Skipper was gay.

Hall had twice been the victim of hate crimes and was quickly spurred into action. Within days he contacted longtime friend Frank Kameny, pioneering gay rights activist, who immediately recognized the importance of Hall's project. James T. Sears, noted writer and historian, also voiced his early strong support of the project. The group then assembled a team to create the Gay American Heroes Foundation, a not-for-profit organization.

With Founding Board Members Chip Arndt, Jack Rutland and William J. Iannarelli leading the way, Gay American Heroes’ mission was established:  1) to honor and remember LGBT people who have been murdered because of there sexual orientation and/or gender identity; 2) to engage and inform the public about hate crimes against LGBT persons; and 3) to inspire compassion and greater appreciation for, and acceptance of, diversity.

Hall traveled to New York City where he met with Cyndi Lauper to discuss the project. Ms. Lauper immediately offered to help in any way that she could. Hall also met with “Grey’s Anatomy” T. R. Knight, who expressed his heartfelt support for the project.

The first phase of the Foundation’s plan is to assemble a traveling memorial and exhibition constructed of six individual rainbow-colored, multi-dimensional panels bearing the photos, names, ages and occupations of LGBT hate crime victims. The eight-foot tall memorial will stretch more than 100 feet. Expected completion date for the exhibit is December 2007.

Once completed, Gay American Heroes volunteers will transport the display throughout the country to college campuses, LGBT events and to communities where anti-gay murders have occurred. An informational welcome tent will include guest speakers and educational materials.  At each venue, the volunteers will enlist local community leaders to present informative programs.

"We want to reach out to communities as soon as possible following a deadly anti-gay hate crime," adds Hall. "We want to support the family and friends of the victim, as well as to work with local officials, law enforcement and service organizations to provide counseling and outreach."

In addition to U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Gay American Heroes’ Honorary Board members include Elke Kennedy, whose son Sean William Kennedy was murdered on May 16, 2007 and U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq. (Complete list below)

Several local and national organizations have already declared their support for the Foundation, including Equality Florida, Freedom Democrats of Miami-Dade, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Pridelines Youth Services, Safe Schools South Florida, Stonewall Library & Archives, The Trevor Project and Unity Coalition of Miami-Dade.

The ultimate goal of Gay American Heroes Foundation is to establish a permanent memorial in Washington, DC.

SOME OF OUR RECENT HEROES

Texas, July 27, 2007: A Texas man charged in the slaying of Kenneth Cummings, Jr. said that he was “doing God's work” when he went hunting for a gay man to kill.

South Carolina, May 16, 2007: Sean William Kennedy, 20, was leaving a bar when a man jumped out of a car, punched Sean, and then took off. Sean fell and hit his head. He died less than 24 hours later.

California, March 16, 2007 – The body of a 24 year-old transgender woman, Ruby Rodriguez, was found in the Mission District of San Francisco. This murder comes at the heels of at least two other violent deaths of transgender women of color in the area over the past six months.

Florida, March 13, 2007 - Ryan Keith Skipper, 25 years old, was stabbed more than 20 times, his lifeless body left at the side of the road. Two suspects bragged to their friends about savagely killing him.

New York, November 2006 - Michael Sandy, an African-American gay man, died after he was beaten to a pulp by a group of young men. This isn't the first time this group of men led gay men to remote locations to be savagely beaten.

Gay American Heroes Foundation will be funded through private and grant donations, offline and on-line fundraisers and partnership donations. The Dade Community Foundation is currently managing the Foundation’s contributions and is fiscally sponsoring Gay American Heroes. This gives the Foundation all the tax benefits afforded to 501(c)3 organizations, pending its own independent designation as a 501(c)3 organization.

For further information, please visit www.GayAmericanHeroes.com or call (321) 506-8738

About the choice of "Gay American Heroes" as the name of the Foundation

Gay -- The majority of the heterosexual community does not distinguish as to whether someone is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Most just put them all in one category, Gay. Since it is the community at large that GAH seeks to educate, the decision was made to simply use the word "Gay."

American – Unfortunately, anti-LGBT violence is universal. In fact, in some countries, governments condone torture and execution of LGBT people. The GAH project is focusing first on Americans, to help America live up to its promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" – beginning with guaranteeing LGBT people the right to live safety in their own communities.

Heroes -- All people who live honestly about their sexual orientation are heroic, as it takes great strength and courage to face the daily struggles for personal freedom in the face of enormous opposition; to ultimately give their life for said freedom makes them Heroes.

Founder and President: Scott Hall

Founding Board of Directors:
Chip Arndt
David da Silva Cornell
William Iannarelli
Jack Rutland
Gypsey E. Teague

Honorary Board of Directors
Chad Allen
Sgt. Eric Alva
Billy Bean
Ron Brenesky
Michael Cendejas
Alan Cumming
Matt Foreman
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank
Bobby Gant
Reichen Lehmkuhl
Billy Masters
David Mixner
Christopher Rice
Herb Sosa
Monica Taher
Andy Towle

Board of Advisors
Warren Burdick – Oklahoma
Lillian Faderman - California
Frank Kameny, Ph.D. - Washington, DC
Elke Kennedy – South Carolina
Bruce Presley – New York and Ft. Lauderdale
Jim Sears, Ph.D. - North Carolina
Nadine Smith - Florida
Marilyn K. Volker, Ed.D. – Florida

EDITOR’S NOTE

Perform a Google search on the words "Gay" and "Murder," and more than three million references appear. Though many hate crimes go unreported, the rise in violence against LGBT people has reached near epidemic levels, traversing boundaries of race, economic status and geography.

While the actual numbers are unclear or undocumented, each and every individual who has been murdered because of his/her sexual orientation or gender identity has name, a face, a family and a story.

Gay American Heroes Foundation is poised to honor murdered LGBT men and women, and to present their stories as a tool for understanding and compassion.  It is through silence that these heinous crimes are allowed to continue.

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Fantastic! Anything I can do I will do to help support this. I will write about it on my blog and talk about it amongst my friends. Thanks so much for this brilliant idea!

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