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Memorial to honor gay victims of hate


TRAVELING MEMORIAL: Gay American Heroes Foundation organizer Scott Hall poses with a model of the proposed monument.

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Scott Hall didn't think much about gay rights, even after a stranger cracked him across the head with a baseball bat 25 years ago outside a gay bar in Melbourne.

''When I was attacked, I felt there was nothing I could do about it,'' said Hall, now 43. ``The concept of people thinking that I was gay was more frightening than me having my head smashed in.''

A year ago, Hall had an awakening. ''I was home watching TV one night and saw this little blip on the TV about a young man being brutally murdered in Polk County,'' he said. ``It caught me off guard. I sat there and thought about it.''

Heroes2 The March 2007 death of 25-year-old Ryan Keith Skipper (pictured) -- stabbed 20 times and dumped on a roadside in Winter Haven -- spurred Hall to action. The Cocoa Beach auctioneer began the Gay American Heroes Foundation, which honors gay hate-crime victims with a traveling memorial. It will be previewed during this week's Winter Party Festival in South Beach.

''Scott's memorial speaks to our society as a whole,'' said Skipper's stepfather, Lynn Mulder, 49, of Auburndale. ``It will help awareness all across the nation. . . . Ever since Ryan's murder, I've been acutely aware of all the horrible things happening across the nation.''

Hall says he already has the names of nearly 600 gay hate-crime victims for the monument. The latest addition: Lawrence King, a gay 15-year-old shot to death two weeks ago at a school in Oxnard, Calif., about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Lawrence was targeted by a younger boy because he came to school dressed in girl's clothing, authorities said. Prosecutors have charged 14-year-old Brandon David McInerney with premeditated murder, say he committed a hate crime and want him tried as an adult.


Hall believes the speed with which McInerney was charged is unusual. Typically, police believe gay hate-crime victims ''got what they deserved,'' he said.

' `He hit on me' is the defense they use a lot of times,'' Hall said, recalling the 1995 murder of Scott Amedure hours after he revealed on The Jenny Jones Show his secret crush on another man.

Hall envisions a monument composed of 10-foot-wide, 7-foot-high vinyl-and-aluminum panels emblazoned with the names and pictures of gay hate-crime victims.

The monument would travel from city to city and be displayed outdoors.

''If we go into a civic center, we'll have to encourage people to come in,'' he said. ``And we'll be preaching to a choir.''

The project isn't cheap. Each panel would cost about $5,000. So far, Gay American Heroes Foundation has raised $25,000 and has been offered a $100,000 matching grant by Palm Beach philanthropist Bruce Presley.


Many Florida gay activists have signed on to the project, including Chip Arndt, a one-time Amazing Race champ; Carole Benowitz, a founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida; and Waymon Hudson, a founder of Broward's Fight OUT Loud. National honorary board members include U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts; singer Cyndi Lauper; actress Jill Clayburgh; Matt Foreman, executive director the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and Broadway star Alan Cumming.

Heroes1 A lesser-known woman supporting the memorial is Elke Kennedy, whose son Sean, 20, (pictured) in May 2007 took a fatal punch to the face in Greenville, S.C.

''I get up each day knowing that this is what I need to do for the rest of my life,'' said Kennedy, 46, of South Carolina, now an activist lobbying for a national hate-crimes law.

''I did not want any mother to have to go through this again,'' she said.

Ryan Skipper's family will be in South Florida for a Heroes reception Friday night at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, where the model will be displayed later this week.

''Scott Hall and the people working with Gay American Heroes have done a phenomenal job,'' Kennedy said. ``I hope we can see this memorial in every town and every city in the United States.''


LATEST VICTIM: Lawrence King, 13 in this photo, was 15 when he was shot to death two weeks ago. (AP File)


Reception for Gay American Heroes Foundation, 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, (program starts at 8:45 p.m.), Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, 2000 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach. Suggested donation at door: $25.

More resources online

Gay American Heroes Foundation, www.gayamericanheroes.net

Sean Kennedy website, www.seanslastwish.com

Lawrence King websites, www.rememberlarry.com and www.rememberinglawrence.org

Winter Party Festival schedule, www.winterparty.com


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What do they expect, more of their vile "loving?"

''When I was attacked, I felt there was nothing I could do about it,'' said Hall, now 43.

Fight back comes to mind..but you would probably break a nail....

``The concept of people thinking that I was gay was more frightening than me having my head smashed in.''

Oh I don't know, I think having my skull bashed in would be a bit more frightening than what people are thinking. The wuss is strong with this one.

Lost in the clouds with Jupiter transcendent

Lost in the clouds with Mars ascendant.

Love Luck and the music of the Spheres.

Azure in the arms of Cerulean

Cast adrift in the Indigo isles

May Angel love and Moon glow light your path.

It's so awful... Reading these horrible stories of hate and pointless violence has really made an impact on me. Although i am not homosexual--i feel offended by the attitude of some people-- not only toward the sick f*cks that actually commit these crimes, but the people that have the nerve to dissect every angle and somehow pinpoint the victim as a culprit--like they asked for it. Being gay isn't a label, it isn't disgusting or a choice... it's life. everyone has the RIGHT to live the way they want...and in reguards to jeff and gary's little comments-- oooh-if i could stand in front of you and say what i really want--but really??? WHY go on a MEMORIAL to honor gay victims of hate crimes--and spit what they THINK??? As far as i'm concerned--it's a tragedy--and awful truth that has to be faced. These are PEOPLE. HUMAN BEINGS--being murdered for what? For nothing. Senseless acts with sometimes little repercussions. I feel for the men and women who have lost their lives because someone DIDNT LIKE THEM... I feel sorry for sean's mother--who will never see her son again--because some kid wanted to be funny. My heart breaks for the victims and all their friends and family... I can't imagine the pain that comes after a person they love is ripped from their lives for ANY reason. But there is such a thing as a hate crime...if people would just LIVE and LET LIVE...

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