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New York City shocked as anti-gay hate crimes come out of closet

Published time: May 20, 2013 11:03
Edited time: May 20, 2013 16:35
A makeshift shrine is set on the location where Mark Carson, 32, a gay man, was shot dead in what police are calling a hate crime in Greenwich Village in New York, May 20, 2013. (AFP Photo / Emmanuel Dunand)

A makeshift shrine is set on the location where Mark Carson, 32, a gay man, was shot dead in what police are calling a hate crime in Greenwich Village in New York, May 20, 2013. (AFP Photo / Emmanuel Dunand)

As the Big Apple struggles to come to terms with the murder of a gay man in Greenwich Village on Saturday, an uncomfortable question emerges: Are Americans less tolerant of gay lifestyles than the recent spate of same-sex union legislation indicates?

The brutal slaying marked the 22nd hate crime targeting gays in New York City this year, compared to 13 incidents at the same time last year, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, as quoted by Reuters.

Greenwich Village, the trendy New York neighborhood which many artists call home, has witnessed its share of historic victories for gay rights advocates. That legacy has given the neighborhood its reputation as a tolerant safe haven for the gay community. Until now, that is.

Early on Saturday morning, Marc Carson was walking with his companion on Sixth Avenue at Eighth Street - not far from the Stonewall Inn, the site of the famous 1969 gay rights riot - when a man approached the couple and uttered an anti-gay slur.

The assailant then asked if the two “want to die here” before shooting Carson point-blank in the face. Carson, 32, was rushed to the hospital where he died of his wounds.

The killer, identified as 33-year-old Elliot Morales, fled the scene, but was quickly apprehended by police. Morales appeared on Sunday in Manhattan criminal court, where he was charged with committing murder as a hate crime. He is being held without bail and two of his companions are cooperating with police,

The NYPD said it is investigating possible links between Saturday's killing and other incidents.

Last week, also in Greenwich Village, a man was beaten up after leaving a bar. He told investigators the assailant had uttered anti-gay remarks before attacking him.

In May, two couples in midtown Manhattan were assaulted by groups of men, in what are thought to have been hate crimes against homosexuals.

A spokesman for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called the killing "a stark and sobering reminder of the rife homophobia that still exists in our culture."

Too many victories, too soon?

Following Saturday’s brutal slaying, some American media outlets asked the question whether recent gay rights victories may have contributed to the incidence of hate crimes against homosexuals.

As Reuters put it, the spate of violence against gays could represent

“a backlash against the recent advance of gay marriage laws across the United States.” Last week, the Minnesota Senate narrowly passed the same-sex bill, thus becoming the 12th US state to legalize same-sex marriages.

Opponents of the bill questioned the speed with which the measure was being adopted, as well as fears that the interests of people opposed to such legislation are not being given due consideration.

However, it is not just the issue of same-sex marriages that the American public – many of whom believe that marriage is an institution reserved for male and female partners – is being forced to consider.

Gay marriage supporters march at the US Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

Alongside the same-sex marriage debate, Americans were also asked to accept homosexuality in perhaps the most conservative of national organizations, the Boy Scouts of America.

The Supreme Court in 2000 recognized the First Amendment right of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

“to select its leaders and members based upon the assertion by the BSA that homosexual activity was inconsistent with the Scout Oath and Law.”   Despite the ruling, the BSA was placed under constant pressure to reverse its position on homosexuality within its youthful ranks.  

This week, delegates from the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America will gather in Grapevine, Texas, to vote on whether to include in its bylaws the accompanying clause:

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Many individuals are wondering aloud why an organization that is devoted to nurturing the minds and bodies of boys is being forced to consider questions involving sexuality in the first place.

Public demonstrations opposing the new resolution have been organized by a group called OnMyHonor.net, which claims the pending proposal "requires open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts."

A young boy offers flowers at a makeshift shrine set on the location where Mark Carson, 32, a gay man, was shot dead in what police are calling a hate crime in Greenwich Village in New York, May 20, 2013. (AFP Photo / Emmanuel Dunand)