A few gay rights groups react to the guilty verdict today in the Tyler Clementi webcam suicide case:
"The verdict today demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one's hand."
(New York, March 16, 2012) -- In response to the verdict in the Dharun Ravi trial, Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg:
"This is a tragic story in which there can be no happy ending. A young gay man took his own life, and other LGBTQ youth still live in a culture where they are too often made to feel fear and shame for simply being themselves. This case has focused the nation on how critical it is that we ensure every young person can feel safe and proud.
"Hate crime laws are public statements that our government and our society recognize the deep wounds inflicted when violence is motivated by prejudice and hate. The actions of Dharun Ravi were inexcusable and surely added to Tyler Clementi's vulnerability and pain. The verdict today demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one's hand. But there is no sense of victory in this conviction - only a renewed urgency to do what we can to prevent the next tragedy.
"As this trial closes, let us each mark this day by rededicating ourselves to fighting discrimination and hate against LGBTQ youth -- and to educating all of our youth about respect for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
The fundamental question in this trial was whether Dharun Ravi would have similarly invaded the privacy of a roommate having intimate relations with someone of the opposite sex, as Ravi did to Tyler Clementi and M.B.
In our view, the answer is no – that Ravi would not have invaded the privacy of a straight roommate. In fact, the most compelling evidence in the case, Ravi's text messages, indicated exactly that. The text messages demonstrated beyond any doubt that Ravi was deeply uncomfortable with Tyler's being gay, and that Tyler's suitor was a guy.
So are we "happy" with the verdict? "Happy" doesn't seem like the right word given that Ravi has been convicted and will now face the appropriate societal consequences. "Happy" also seems too trivial a word when we remember that Tyler Clementi lost his life. But we do believe this verdict sends the important message that a "kids will be kids" defense is no excuse to bully another student.
Though Tyler Clementi has left us, the rest of Dharun Ravi's life will help tell his life story. Ravi's own lawyer basically portrayed him as a young man who engaged in jerky, insensitive behavior. Ravi can stay that course, or he can some good with his life by making amends and fighting for the justice and dignity of every individual, including people who are LGBT. That much is up to Ravi.
As for all of us, we must continue our focus on building a better world, one free of bullying of every student, so that a tragedy like this never happens again. That's what New Jersey's new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the country's strongest anti-bullying law, is ultimately about.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with Tyler's family and friends.