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Marriage clash has a byproduct: gay bashing

SCOT LEHIGH'S Nov. 14 op-ed "Gay marriage and legislative politics" fails to address a principal reason why the anti-marriage amendment is inappropriate for a popular vote. Data available on the incidence of anti-gay hate crimes indicate that demagogic campaigns against marriage equality embolden homophobes to attack people they assume are gay, lesbian, or transgender.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented a spike in anti-gay hate crimes around the country as the Defense of Marriage Act was debated before Congress and in the media in 1996. The Fenway Community Health Center Violence Recovery Program tracked a similar increase in anti-gay violence coinciding with the rancorous Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 2004.

The civil rights of a minority shouldn't be subject to vote, particularly where the physical safety of so many is thereby put at risk. Being on the business end of a basher's fists can diminish one's enthusiasm for an exercise in populist government that will turn into open season on the GLBT community. It is unfair to expect a constituency with this exposure to foreswear legislative tactics that are used time and time again by others, including our opponents.

DONALD GORTON
Boston

The writer is chairman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

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