Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (no attached files, please, which can contain viruses); fax to 770-532-0457; or mail to The Times, P.O. Box 838, Gainesville, GA 30503. Include full name, hometown and phone number for confirmation. They should be limited to one topic on issues of public interest and may be edited for content and length (limit of 500 words). Letters forwarded from other sources or those involving personal, business or legal disputes, poetry, expressions of faith or memorial tributes may be rejected. You may be limited to one letter per month, two on a single topic. Submitted items may be published in print, electronic or other forms. Letters, columns and cartoons express the opinions of the authors and not of The Times editorial board.
On Oct. 22, the Matthew Shepard Act, designed with the intent to include acts committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people on the basis of sexual identity under the definition of "hate crimes," was voted on in the Senate. The bill passed and then was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
While I am elated that legislation is being passed to protect the rights of homosexual people, I was and remain remarkably disappointed in both of our senators’ refusal to support the bill. Many opponents of the bill argue that "free speech" will be hindered by the law and that "special protection" of certain groups will emerge from the passing of this bill.
I read these claims and I cannot help but think of one word which cannot be printed without censorship, so I replace it with "baloney." Since when does freedom of speech cover puerile and sophomoric name-calling and taunting? And if certain people are being targeted for violent crimes, should special protection not be allotted to them?
As a college student who graduated from the Hall County school system, I have seen firsthand such exercises of "freedom of speech." These usually involve America’s answer to Adolf Hitler. Youth openly shouting names like "she-male" and "nancy boy" at homosexual students, who have no option but to keep quiet or get beaten up by the namecaller’s posse of loyal stooges.
Do these students not have the right to walk to their classes or go to a football game without being jeered at? Or are the rights of homosexual students not considered so long as "freedom of speech" is not impended upon?
The namesake of the act, Matthew Shepard, was a student at the University of Wyoming who, by merit of his sexuality, was beaten, robbed and left tied to a fence post by two men who he met in a bar. He was discovered 18 hours later after being mistaken for a scarecrow.
It is my opinion that as long as acts like this one are occurring in the United States, the laws of the land designed to protect the people should do their duty. Regardless of opinion on homosexuality, there is no one in this nation with the right to verbally harass other people, and even more act violently against other people. And until people cease the breeding of little monsters who insist on committing acts of violence against others based on race, religion or sexuality, I will support any law that will combat such practices.
As both a Republican and a Georgian, I can only express disappointment at the decision of members of my own party and representatives from my own state have ranked partisan politics and mainstream opinion above the rights and protection of other people. I am left to hope now that this law will make an impact on not only the amount of crimes committed against homosexuals but the struggle of homosexuals to gain equality in a society based on such a promise.