MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - For 20 years, members of Alabama’s LGBTQ community have gathered annually for a vigil, to remind Alabamians that crimes against people for their sexual orientation and or gender identity are not considered hate crimes under Alabama’s hate crime law.
The vigil began 20 years ago after Billy Jack Gaither was beaten to death in 1999 in Sylacauga, Alabama, for being gay.
“It’s sad to see that in 1999 Billy Jack Gaither is murdered, and then in 2019, a murder of a trans woman of color happened right here in Montgomery," said Montgomery Pride United President Jose Vazquez.
At the vigil, many members of Alabama’s LGBTQ community called upon Alabama lawmakers to add such crimes to the state’s hate crime stature.
“Number one, let’s change legislation to include us in the hate crime laws," said Montgomery Pride United Director Meta Ellis. "Number two, let us have legislation that is not going after us like we’re criminals for being who we are. We also need the faith-based groups to start being more loving and accepting of people...that would go a long way in changing things in our society.”
Ellis said she’s hoping that Alabama lawmakers will soon make changes to Alabama’s hate crime law.
“This is something that has got to happen, because there’s got to be punishment for people who go after us specifically for that, you know, for being who we are. That has got to stop and there has got to be sanctions," Ellis said.