Injustice in the Home of the Cocks

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For better or worse, I am a South Carolina girl. I love G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised In The South), and I’ve been told by more than one good-ole-boy that I have the “right hips for breeding.” I live in a state where the laws favor chickens or a piece of cloth over people. Here, cock-fighting or the desecration of the confederate flag carries harsher penalties than the homophobia-inspired murder of a gay man. I was unaware of that fact until I moved to the “home of the cocks”- the state capitol, Columbia. I feel deeply blessed and often embarrassed by my heritage, but I remain here by choice- because I am invested in SC’s progress.

When I began officially working for “gay rights” in this state, my Mother doggedly (rather loudly) voiced her fear that I would be attacked or killed for taking a public stance for human rights. While I admired her determination to suppress my activist tendencies, I never fully understood her trepidation. I have only seen my mother cry once and that was when I was seriously ill as a child. That’s why I didn’t tell her when I learned of Sean Kennedy’s death in the Upstate.

Over the past few months, I have had the honor of working with another mother- Elke Kennedy. Sean’s mother is a powerful advocate for her son’s dream of equality and I empathize with her situation. I can only imagine the emptiness she feels at the loss of her son, the sleepless nights she must endure during her grieving process, and her outrage at the defective system which failed her these last few weeks in the sentencing of her son’s killer, Andrew Moller.

Moller’s charges have been reduced to Involuntary Manslaughter, which carries a sentence of up to 5 years, and for which he’ll most likely be handed a judgment of “Time Served.” According to SCEC Board Member (Columbia attorney, David Collier), whether or not Moller intended to kill Sean is irrelevant. According to David:

Murder in South Carolina is defined as ‘the killing of any person with malice aforethought, either expressed or implied’.  There is no requirement that the defendant ‘intend’ to kill someone, only that the victim is in fact killed and that malice exists.  ‘Malice’ is defined as ‘the wrongful intent to injure another and indicates a wicked or depraved spirit intent on doing wrong.

Moreover, our current criminal laws fail to envisage the gray area between murder and involuntary manslaughter in cases like Moller’s (I guess justice truly IS blind in SC). Thirteenth Circuit Court Solicitor, Bob Arial said it best himself when he said, "I hope the Kennedy family will join me to encourage the Legislature to review their situation, and to modify our current statutory law so that we can address the present inadequacy in the law.” He may (or may not) know this, but Bob makes a strong argument for the passage of H3738, the House bill which would amend SC’s Penalty Enhancement Laws to include Hate Crimes.

Sadly, the reduction of charges in the Moller case has set a legal precedent which was cited days later as an argument against bringing homicide by child abuse charges against Christopher Lamar Wilson of Greenville.

It is no secret that our laws are archaic… full of holes… otherworldly, for lack of a better term. Bottom line- laws which exclude any segment of our society are dangerous to the whole, and I point to the Moller trial as “case-in-point.” The next legislative session convenes on January 8, 2008. SCEC will spend the next 2 1/5 months working in conjunction Lobbiest, Laddie Howard, and regional partner organizations to advance H3738. We need your time and financial support. Please take the time to contribute to SCEC and your local LGBT groups (AFFA, Log Cabins, Stonewall Dems…). When the bill passes, I promise to invite you all over for barbeque chicken served on OLD Dixie with matching napkins to sop up the juice.

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