Charles Howard was an openly gay man living in Bangor, Maine. Charlie met a tragic fate in 1984 at the hands of three local teenagers who beat him for being "flamboyantly gay." Afterward, they cast him off the side of the State Street bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream where he suffered an asthma attack and drowned. Charles was 23 years old. The three juveniles pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served a sentence in a juvenile detention center.
The Charles Howard gay-bashing incident rippled through the Maine lgbt community and became one of the many catalysts for the current movement to include sexual orientation in hate crime legislation in Maine and throughout the country.
What are hate crimes?
Hate crimes are acts of violence against others based on who they are (sexual orientation, race, gender, national origin, etc.) as opposed to the situation surrounding them as in random acts of violence. Though all violence is harmful and destructive, hate crimes are seen as more severe because the acts are based on hate and bias. Hate crimes also affect and instill fear and devastation in entire communities in addition to the family and friends of the victims.
Why should sexual orientation be included in hate crime bills?
Including sexual orientation in hate crime legislation ensures lgbt people have the same basic rights to protection against discrimination currently given to other citizens on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Hate crime legislation increases the severity of criminal punishments and helps deter anti-gay violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and other areas.
Can hate crimes be avoided?
Unfortunately, hate crimes and random acts of violence can't always be predicted or prevented, but there are few things you can do to try and avoid a hate crime.