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Protection of Rights, Lives of Homosexuals

August 21, 1988

The recent and deplorable wave of violence in Laguna Beach directed toward gay men presents the entire community with an opportunity to learn and to act.

Feeling justifiably threatened, the organized gay and lesbian community is working closely with owners of gay-oriented businesses, the police and city officials to address the situation. Police protection in the area has been increased, Mayor Pro Tem Robert Gentry has brought us together in meetings, and plans are moving ahead for education, prevention and data-collection programs.

But the threat extends beyond the lesbian and gay community; it's a concern for the community at large. After all, gay men don't wear identifying uniforms or badges, so anyone unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the right time could become a victim of this hate-motivated violence. And, as long as any of us is threatened with rape, assault or any other violent crime, none of us are safe.

It would be a mistake, as some suggest, to take defensive actions like closing the park at night (a physical impossibility anyway), or discouraging gay businesses. In effect, that would be giving in to terrorists. Looking at it another way, we don't close banks because they attract robbers.

What we need to do in Laguna Beach--and all over Orange County--is to say that we don't tolerate hate crimes no matter at whom they are directed. We need to demonstrate this by participating in education and crime prevention programs, by supporting effective law enforcement, by calling on district attorneys to prosecute suspects to the fullest extent of the law, by urging judges to give offenders the maximum sentence, by using the media, schools, pulpits, and any other platform to condemn violence in our community.

FRANK E. NEWMAN

Laguna Beach

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