Letter to Charlie Condon
This letter was written to Attorney General Charlie Condon by a man who lives in Columbia. It is a glimpse at what it means to be gay in South Carolina.
December 31, 1996
Dear Mr. Condon,
I am writing you concerning the upcoming "Hate Crime Bill." I hope you will give my letter much thought. This is not an easy letter for me to write. However, I cannot stand by and watch my life and rights as a citizen of South Carolina and the United States be denied any longer. I am a very proud gay Southern male. My sexuality is a very small part of who I am. I am a young professional, involved in the community, deeply spiritual and very proudly a South Carolinian.
I would like to share with you two incidents in my life. First, several years ago I was a resident of Myrtle Beach. One evening I was enjoying myself at a local night club. An older friend of mine asked me to walk him to his car. There had been a few incidents of "gay bashing" in the area. As I walked him to his car, I was attacked. I was attacked from behind by a white male. I was beaten severely, receiving several bruised and broken ribs, damage to my jaw, and cuts and bruises to my face and head. While this was happening a security guard sat in his car across the street. When the police officer arrived it was clear that he was very uncomfortable. He made a few notes and said, "If you hadn't been at a queer bar this wouldn't have happened."
A few days later a friend called me and said that a coworker had come to work bragging about "beating up a fag." I called the police department only to be told that a report had never been filed and that there was nothing they could do. For the first time in my life I found out what it felt like to be discriminated against by both the homophobic society and law enforcement.
The second incident occurred in the past couple of years here in Columbia. I have always been a trusting, giving person. I have always tried to help others less fortunate than myself. I am the first to admit I made a mistake in this case. I met a person who said he had been stranded here in Columbia. I allowed this person into my home. The event ended with my being tied up at knife point, beaten, and almost everything I own stolen.
When the person was caught, several states away, he admitted to everything, justifying his actions because "I was gay." During the next months my life was made a living hell, not only because of fear of this person but because of the way the case was treated. I have always been a very private person.
In the months before the trial, the public defenders office hired a private investigator to "build a defense" against me. My coworkers, former employers and coworkers, friends, and even my landlord were questioned about my life-style. On one call to the solicitors office I was told my case had been transferred to a person who was seeking an office in the upcoming election due to the case being "high profile." Due to the fact that I was severely depressed and wanted to put an end to the damage done to my life, reputation, and career, I asked the solicitors office to plea bargain to bring the case to an end. When the case came before a judge the person was sentenced to several years in prison, suspended to time served (10 months) and probation. I was then told that this was the "best we could hope for," that the public defender would have "muddied the waters" concerning me if it had come to trial. So, once again I was victim to an attack and "hate crime" not only by the attacker but also at the hands of my home, the state of South Carolina.
I honestly wish I could say my circumstances were a one time event. I know better. There have been countless "hate crimes" committed against gays and lesbians that have gone unreported or unresponded to. These are not only limited to personal attacks. Our Gay and Lesbian Community Center has also been burned. This center housed a church attended by members of our community but has yet to be listed with the other churches recently burned in our state.
Mr. Condon, I am asking you to please do the right thing. Do not bow down to the "good ol boy" system that has been in our state for too long. As a proud Gay Male and South Carolinian I am not, nor is our community, asking for special treatment or to be a "special interest group." We simply want the right to our "pursuit of happiness." It is time to assure all residents and taxpayers of our state protection against the treatment I have been a victim of. It is also time to show the nation that we are looking to the future. We have had more than enough socially destructive events to intentionally bring another.
Again, I implore you to include all "Hate Crimes" in this bill. For once, show the taxpayers and voters of South Carolina that you are working for the rights of everyone.