by April Foster
UPDATE: Tuesday, Oct. 18 3:30 p.m.
Boise Police told Citydesk today that to clarify, one of the crimes listed in previous reports and mentioned at Sunday's anti-hate crime panel is not being investigated as a hate crime because neither the victims nor suspects are gay. On Sept. 30, a man said he was beaten with a golf club outside the Balcony nightclub. The alleged victim told police that he ultimately did not want to press charges.
ORIGINAL STORY: Monday, Oct. 17 8:30 a.m.
Members of Boise’s LGBT community gathered Sunday for a panel discussion to address recent anti-gay violence. Boise Police confirmed that within the past couple of months,
a gay man was beaten with a golf club outside The Balcony nightclub, another gay man was brutally beaten near Eighth and Main streets, and a lesbian woman was punched in the face while the attacker yelled anti-gay slurs.
“A lot of people are unaware of these crimes, mainly because they’re unreported,” said Duane Quintana, executive director of Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS. “I think that [anti-LBGT violence] has been happening for so long that people just kind of chalk it up to ‘this just happens when you’re gay’ and there’s no recourse. People worry that if they do anything about it, the police aren’t going to do much, then if the police do maybe act, it will go public, and then if it goes public, ‘I might lose my job or maybe my family will get harassed.’ So it’s really complex and difficult issue.”
The discussion was anchored by three panelists, Cody Hafer from the “Add The Words” campaign, Donna Harwood, founder of Lion’s Pride, and Janet Lawler, the LGBT liaison for the Boise Police Department.
The event started with a video commemorating Ryan Zicha, a gay Pocatello youth who took his own life last January. Following the video, panelists and audience members discussed anti-LGBT violence and how to raise awareness. Lawler emphasized that Boise Police want to help the LGBT community, but to do so, people have to report incidents of violence. Harwood talked about ways to address bigotry and noted that it’s important to respond to hate with love.
“If someone calls you a ‘fag,’ just respond by saying ‘I love you, too’ or something similar. Then you catch them off guard,” said Harwood.
The State of Idaho does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected status under hate crime law. However, there are federal and city-based ordinances that, under the proper circumstances, can be utilized to charge perpetrators with a hate crime. Still, panelists and audience members stressed the importance of raising community awareness to the prevalence of this violence.
“[The LGBT] community struggles with getting any recognition in Boise, and in Idaho in general, that we even exist,” said Harwood. “When we do get some attention it’s usually not very positive attention. So the [LGBT] community has taken an outcry for help and protection from the police against people that would just come and beat us up for who we are ... We need to get over our fear of being outed over being a victim, and learn to protect ourselves by going to police and reporting these so that they can get statistics, and so that they can take steps to protect us and also prosecute those who would make victims out of us.”
“We’ve been so used to the way that it’s always been that we haven’t challenged it,” said Quintana. “Now we’re in a place where we want to challenge it, where we need to challenge it ... We’re hearing more and more about gay kids killing themselves and it’s not because more gay kids are killing themselves, it’s just that now we’re actually talking about it. Now people are starting to say stuff. And I think that people with position and people in authority need to step up and say this is what’s happening and be a voice for those people that don’t have one.”