Dear Mr. Corker (And staff):
I’m extremely disappointed to know that your office is more concerned about protecting your image than in protecting those that have been abused, beaten, and even killed. Your refusal to support Senate Bill 1105 is as heartbreaking as it is wrong.
You already know of the events surrounding the death of Matthew Shepard, after which this bill has been named. You might also know of the murder of Alabama teenager Scotty Joe Weaver, who was killed by his own friends because he was “a faggot.” Mr. Corker, this isn’t a rare thing at all. In fact, there have been people in your own state that have been killed just for being gay.
More than twelve years ago, a Clarksville man named Jerry Cope was brutally murdered in his own business. Mr. Cope was gay, and was also known to the local gay community as P’Knutts. For the rest of this email, I’ll address her by her chosen name. P’Knutts was highly popular, and was even involved in the political scene. She was loved by everyone who knew her. She left behind a daughter. She was 38.
When I say “brutally murdered,” Mr. Corker, I want you to understand. This was no “robbery,” as the local law enforcement said at the time. She was mutilated in a way so that it was clear that her death was to send a message to the local GLBT community. This was, in every possible way, a hate crime.
The bill, which you say that you will not support, would allow for FBI assistance to help bring justice in this horrible crime… which has yet to be solved. In fact, there has been nearly no activity since the first few weeks of her murder. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity isn’t controversial, Mr. Corker. It’s certainly not immoral. It is, in all reality, the right thing to do.
After all, how many small town law enforcement communities will not actively pursue a resolution in the murder of a local gay man, because “no one cares about that fag?” We’ll never know. This bill would put an end to that. We should expect that there would be federal protections for anyone, no matter who they are. It’s sad that you would disagree.
I’m not only disappointed, but I’m actually shocked that you would so casually dismiss a bill that would actually protect nearly ten percent of your constituents. The cavalier manner in which you and the rest of the Republican party, including President Bush, have dismissed the GLBT community only allows crimes of this nature to go on, and to remain unsolved when they do happen. You might also recall Pfc. Barry Winchell, the Fort Campbell soldier who was killed in July of 1999. Fort Campbell is in the cradle of Clarksville. This bill has clear Tennessee roots.
Mr. Corker, I urge you to reconsider. These are people with whom I have built solid friendships, and these are living, breathing, genuine people who desperately need to know that there is support for them and their families. I am a man of faith, and I’m a man of great passion… and there is nothing compassionate nor conservative in denying justice to people like P’Knutts and those who knew her. There is nothing Christian in denying federal support for smaller communities that need the assistance in solving hate crimes. In the end, Mr. Corker, I fear that you have little concern for protecting our citizens. And since I, too, am gay, would you dismiss me as well?
The time has come for this bill to be passed with bipartisan support. These hate crime laws will NOT restrict free speech in any way. And you know it. Our nation needs to support those who are denigrated and marginalized. Our great nation was founded on these principles, and the Constitution was framed to support those who can not support themselves, it was written to protect those who can not protect themselves.
You can dismiss this bill with a form letter, Mr. Corker. You can not dismiss the reality that this bill is a critical necessity for the future of our nation.
Please, Mr. Corker, don’t let the names of Jerry Cope, Scotty Joe Weaver, and Matthew Shepard fade into the obscurity of another failed attempt to bring meaning to their senseless deaths.
David W. Shelton
Pastor, Christian Community Church of Clarksville