Mourning Mark Carson and Responding to Anti-Gay Violence

To many of us, coming out as gay in 2013 seems so easy. We have won the freedom to marry in twelve states. We argued two groundbreaking gay rights cases in front of the Supreme Court and are likely to see two victories in June. We have the support of the President of the United States, almost all Democrats, and even a small (but growing) minority of Republicans. We have gays portrayed on network television, countless out gay actors, and committed support from straight allies. We also have an openly gay professional NBA player, not to mention several openly gay athletes in other sports and countless straight professional athlete allies.

VictimsAnd yet, according to the Los Angeles Times, even as hate crimes reported to federal authorities have gone down, those motivated by anti-gay bias have gone up. Of course, those figures only include reported hate crime allegations and incidents. There are untold incidents of harassment, attacks, and abuse throughout this country, from as close as Chelsea to as far as the outskirts of Spokane, Washington.

I am not suggesting that those of us who identify as LGBT are victims. We have long ago tossed aside that frock of weakness. But we cannot deny that our success is half a loaf when we can marry, but can't walk down the street. Or, when we can sit by our ailing partner's bedside, but be torn away from him or her by a judge.

Several theories can account for the recent increase in anti-gay violence:

Backlash. We have accomplished much in such a short time that the forces who oppose equality must reeling from loss after loss. The sense that the traditional world order is collapsing in the face of a more equal future can cause a backlash against equality when certain other factors are present. We know this from experience (see the right to choose, defendants' rights, civil rights, and so on) and from social scientific studies. Some argue that we are seeing this now when it comes to the LGBT community.

Rhetoric and Discrimination. The brilliant Mark Hatzenbueler, an assistant professor at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, has shown that anti-gay laws and awareness of continued official discrimination contribute to depression and other negative outcomes among LGBT children and adolescents. I am not aware of any study assessing whether those same factors embolden potential aggressors to lash out, either at peers in school (anti-gay bullying) or at gay men and women on the street, but a brief review of several psychological studies on hate crime aggressors suggests it is very likely.

But are we really seeing an increase in anti-gay aggression? I challenge the assumption. The reported incidents may have gone up, but that is insufficient proof of a general increase when so many events go unreported. We shouldn't be looking for reasons anti-gay hate and violence have gone up. We should be looking for ways to address the rampant anti-gay hate and violence that has been plaguing our most vulnerable friends for some time. Organizations supporting marginalized groups within our community — those who are HIV-positive and those who are gay and members of certain racial and ethnic minorities — deal with harassment, hate, and aggression every day, in a way that many of us living in the tonier neighborhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn would like to ignore.

To situate this rally to stop the violence and remember Mark as a reaction to an increase in anti-gay hate ignores what has been happening in our backyard. So, please, join us tonight if you're in New York City. Just remember what we're fighting for.


Ari Ezra Waldman is the Associate Director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy and a professor at New York Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. Ari writes weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.


  1. ratbastard says

    I don’t think these assaults were reactions to progress in gay civil rights such as marriage. I think they involved run of the mill violent thugs. In the case of Mr. Carson, his murderer appears to have serious psychiatric issues, probably drug issues, and has a long and violent criminal record.

  2. northalabama says

    some of the attackers may have been aware of recent gay civil rights victories or challenges, informed by their clergy or so-called “religious” friends, or found out through other media (let’s face it, organized religion is the origin of a overwhelming majority of the anti-gay bias).

    but how will we really know unless someone cares enough to ask the attackers? i can’t help but wonder, if five straight women had been attacked in nyc over the same time frame, would it have drawn the attention of the news media? what about five handicapped individuals? or five straight men that shared a common trait?

    when religious leaders and news organizations continue to remain silent when gay men are viciously attacked, it’s as if they are endorsing the behavior. it’s as if it’s acceptable. it’s not.

    until religions and reporters are held accountable for their contribution, very little is going to change. laws against violence are simply not enough – there need to be outrage shown over this cruel and intolerable behavior.

  3. Kieran says

    How ironic that on the very night that Mark Carson was lynched by a homophobe in NYC, Saturday Night Live was busy going for its usual cheap laughs with skits portraying gay men as pathetic freaks. Some things never change.

  4. Rowan says

    Rat, so what? Don’t all homophobes suffer from some kind of crazy? The bottom line is that he SCREAMED gay hatred, not racial or anything else. Get a grip.

    North, thats what the article dislciams-we yet have NO scientific evidence. But I agree with you about the media.

  5. Kieran says

    We also need to start questioning why we allow our radio airwaves to be polluted with the continuous homophobic rantings of gay-hating lunatics like Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Marc Levin and Rush Limbaugh. These talk radio hosts regularly incite homophobia with impunity. Were they to incite the same animus on the air towards Jews or women or blacks they’d be fired in a NY minute. Why does the gay community not demand the same respect? How many Mark Carsons have to be lynched on our streets before we say “ENOUGH OF THE CORPORATE RADIO HATE SPEECH!” ???

  6. Madalyn N. Pope says

    I think this is so sad. People are so ignorant and stuck in their ways. The fundamentalist have polluted the minds of people who cannot think for themselves. I think the best way to fight this hate is to keep living openly and raise awareness.

  7. Ricardo Diego Ratón y Cabrón says

    Waldman’s piece is sending contradictory messages. Is there backlash or isn’t there? Is the recent spate of anti-gay violence an increase in incidents, or an increase in reporting, and higher-profile reporting? If things aren’t getting worse, does that mean that they had never got better?

    There are all kinds of phenomena that can’t be “proven” with a “peer-reviewed study”, that anyone with a glimmer of a hint of survival instinct intuits. When a bigot like Broussard goes on a widely watched sports talk show and condemns homosexuality as a sin, and Jason Collins as a sinner, the gay high school kid knows to walk a little faster, and to be a little more invisible.

    When a couple of days later a bigot like Pat Robertson denies that calling homosexuality an abomination is bigotry, the gay man singing in the choir at First Baptist knows not to make eye contact with anyone, and not to call attention to himself.

    And when six gay men get beaten up in midtown Manhattan, in 3 separate instances in less than 3 weeks, I don’t need a peer-reviewed study to tell me that one man is dead and that things have gotten more dangerous for gay men out on the street.

    And how would a peer-reviewed study show that the thugs involved in the anti-gay riots in Georgia were emboldened and inflamed by the Orthodox priests leading the riot?

    How would a peer-reviewed study show that the recent flare-ups of violence in France that resulted in the beatings of several gay men in different parts of the country, and the threatening letters sent to French legislators were connected to the Archbishop of Paris saying that passage of marriage equality would result in a “society of violence”, and the anti-gay political opposition saying that “Hollande wants blood, and he will get it.”?

    The last thing the gay community needs is a “study” by some mealy-mouthed academic with a slide-rule up his a$$, proving nothing.

    You can choose to believe that things aren’t made worse by the Gingriches and the Dolans spewing and blustering that gay rights violate religious rights, but you’ll understand differently, for a fraction of a second at least, when that bottle cracks against your skull, or that bullet comes speeding for that sweet spot right between your eyes.

    Men, protect yourselves, and be prepared to fight for your lives if you have to. The violence will get worse until the cost becomes too high.

  8. Kev C says

    I doubt it’s a political backlash. It’s drunken weekend violence from people who get their courage from alcohol and being in large numbers. Larger than usual for gay bashings. If there’s any backlash, it’s motivated by gays coming out in sports. Now we’re treading on masculine territory.

  9. Caliban says

    I think it’s short-sighted to say that a backlash isn’t involved. In the past few years the Religious Right has really stepped up their anti-gay rhetoric, making it directly political and blaming gays for… well, basically everything from hurricanes to terrorist attacks.

    And IIRC in the gunman who shot and killed the man in NYC specifically yelled that he was “going to hell” not long before he pulled the trigger.

    Some argue that it’s unlikely this gunman or other attackers in anti-gay bias crimes attend religious services, and maybe they don’t, but fear and hate of “the other” is the one place the GOP’s trickle-down-theory actually seems to work! Homophobia (and other kinds of fear/hate) doesn’t just infect those who hear it directly, it can and does infiltrate families, communities, even countries. Just look at the African countries who, under the “leadership” of American Evangelical preachers and religions, have done from being merely anti-gay to being rabidly, murderously so.

    So while it may be unlikely that a certain individual is thinking “the gays won the right to marry so I’m going to hurt one now in retaliation,” it is in response to gains in rights for gays that many preachers and “conservatives” have been more vocal in their opposition to gays. That in turn whips up anti-gay animus in the community and certain individuals are going to act on it. You may not be able to draw a direct cause/effect line from their rhetoric to actual violence but it’s sure as hell is pretty easy to infer it! Look at France, look at Africa, look at the US. The evidence is right in front of your eyes but you’d rather parse things and speculate about REPORTS of events instead of seeing what is intuitively OBVIOUS.

    Occam’s Razor: The most likely explanation is usually the right one. When you hear hoof beats don’t expect a zebra.

  10. edwin/elg says

    Why aren’t LGBT civil rights organizations as concerned about violent attacks against gay men as they are about same-sex marriage?

    Is it really “progress” when you can marry your partner but if you hold his hand in public you can be called anti-gay names, beat up or murdered?

    LGBT civil rights organizations should be using these incidents to make violence against gay men part of the national dialogue similar to how black civil rights groups in the 1950s made the brutal lynching of black male teenager Emmett Till part of the national dialogue several generations ago.

  11. Adam says

    Ari Ezra Waldman is correct about the silly sloganeering that accompanies this planned march.

    What everyone needs to understand is that these anti-gay attacks were directed against MALE homosexual behavior, not female. As such, they represent a war on the male gender and not just the male homosexual act.

    The attacks were thus encouraged by the liberal mindset, a mindset based on the anti-male credo and pro-female PC.

  12. david hearne says

    Why is the Progressive always demanding censorship? Here or in the news or on the radio the answer to hate speech (however you define it) is more free speech.

  13. David "Failed Rhetoric 101" Hearne says

    Why is the Reactionary always reacting with tired fallacious arguments? The response to speakers of hate speech is to call them out on it, and to demonstrate why their arguments are illogical and wrong, and to show how their speech endangers real lives.

    Mainstream society then marginalizes such speakers, and reduces the effect of what they say.

    No one shuts them up, but their arguments eventually die, asphyxiated by the lack of logical oxygen.

  14. David Hearne says

    These criminals attack the gay community because they are criminals and we are known to be unarmed and less able to defend ourselves. In short, they attack us for the same reason they attack middle class people at the ATM, women leaving bars, and old people coming home from the bank or grocery store in the middle of the afternoon.

    Stop this “awareness” BS. The only awareness the gay community needs is where to buy a Ruger LCP and how to hit the target.

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