Newark Lesbian Couple and Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund Statements on Teenager Murdered Because She Was a Lesbian

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May 13, 2003

(Newark, Tuesday, May 13, 2003) -- In response to police reports that a teenager was murdered in Newark Sunday because she is a lesbian, the following statements were issued today by Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, a national organization fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Lambda Legal has handled a number of anti-gay hate crime cases, including a recent case in New Jersey, and is currently suing the state of New Jersey for full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Crimes like this don’t just happen in Laramie, Wyoming - they happen all the time, all across the country. In a recent case we handled in Woodbury, New Jersey, a gay man was savagely beaten while a restaurant full of people watched. Our client in that case survived, while this 15-year old young woman lost her life Sunday reportedly just because she was a lesbian. Tragedies like this happen when lesbian or gay people’s lives are devalued - when our basic humanity is denied simply because of who we are. We are closely monitoring the situation in Newark to make sure that this young woman is not further dehumanized during the investigation as she was by a stranger in her final moments Sunday.”
-- David Buckel, Senior Staff Attorney, Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund
Buckel was the lead attorney in Lambda Legal’s case on behalf of JoAnn Brandon, whose child was brutally raped and murdered in Nebraska because he was transgendered. The story of Brandon Teena’s life and 1993 murder were chronicled in the film, “Boys Don’t Cry.” Buckel also led Lambda Legal’s advocacy with prosecutors on behalf of David Ott, who was beaten in a Woodbury, New Jersey, diner because he was gay.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked by the brutal way Shakia was murdered. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. We hope and pray that in the days, months and years to come that gay men and lesbians and our relationships will be treated equally under the law and senseless violence based on sexual orientation will end. We have stood on the street corner where this happened many, many times while waiting for a bus. Young men drive by hollering at pretty girls who are waiting for the bus. For a proposition to turn violent all because this time the pretty girl is a lesbian shocks and frightens us.
-- Alicia Toby-Heath and Saundra Heath-Toby, Newark residents
Alicia and Saundra are among seven couples who are plaintiffs in Lambda Legal’s pending lawsuit seeking full marriage rights for same-sex couples in New Jersey.

Contact: Lisa Hardaway, 212/809-8585 ext. 266; 888/987-1971 (pager)



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