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Seven anti-gay attacks in 16 days. One a shocking close-range shooting of Mark Carson in the face, resulting in the 32-year-old man’s death. The West Village, the East Village, Madison Square Garden, Union Square and Soho.
The city’s elected leadership laudably stepped up to condemn the hatred, support the victims and mourn Carson.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly spoke unsparingly of their outrage at the murder. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian and a leading mayoral contender, was the driving force behind a May 20 march in remembrance of Carson that drew an estimated 1,500 participants. All four of her Democratic mayoral rivals also joined the gathering.
The gay community in New York has enjoyed equal marriage rights for nearly two years. As Quinn’s strong position in the mayoral race attests, gays and lesbians are rapping on the doors of some of the highest political offices.
And still the hatred continues. It’s always ugly, sometimes brutal, and on the most tragic occasions lethal. And the bigotry which helps fuel the hatred also continues.
When gay marriage first headed for the floor of the Assembly in 2007, Assemblymember Dov Hikind said, “If we authorize gay marriage in the state of New York, those who want to live and love incestuously will be five steps closer to achieving their goals as well.”
In April, Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote that his parents welcomed anyone into his childhood home, so long as they remembered to “wash your hands.” A group of gay activists with dirty hands who attempted to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral the following Sunday were met with determined N.Y.P.D. resistance.
More to the point, while New York has come so far in terms of L.G.B.T. civil rights, this recent wave of shocking violence — culminating in Carson’s senseless murder — shows us that the threats to safety, and to just being able to live one’s life, remain. Some say the upsurge in violence is precisely because gays and lesbians are more high profile than ever now, that the L.G.B.T. community most notably is continuing to make great — long-overdue — strides on marriage equality. In other words, the fear is that there is a backlash against the advances of gays and lesbians.
One speaker, a pastor, at Monday’s rally at Eighth St. and Sixth Ave. — the site of Carson’s murder — noted the significance of basketball player Jason Collins having recently publicly come out, finally cracking the macho bastion of pro sports. As he put it, to the crowd’s cheering approval, pro hoops players are “taking off Jordans and putting on pumps!”
At the same time, Carson’s death also points to the ongoing need for gun control. It was sadly far too easy for an inebriated, bigoted and twisted coward — who served time in jail previously on assault charges — to shoot Carson to death, after having initiated things by insulting the victim and his friends verbally. Guns need to be kept out of the hands of highly dangerous, unbalanced individuals like this.
We were glad to see a strong, reassuring police presence posted along Sixth Ave. at Eighth St. on Saturday after the shooting. Merchants on Eighth St. tell us the block is safe. Even so, alcohol, a gun and hate proved a volatile combination.
We were inspired to see 1,500 people turn out for Monday’s anti-violence rally in the Village.
“We will not be harassed! We will not be threatened!” one of the speakers exhorted the crowd.
In shades of Stonewall, one man at the rally answered back with his own words, punctuating them by punching his fist repeatedly into the air, “We will fight back! We will fight back! We will fight back!”
Backlash or not — we won’t let our society go backward. We will stand up to the hate. We will fight back. It’s up to all of us.