By Ryan McKeever, Contributor
On July 26, more than 1,000 candles illuminated Omaha’s Memorial Park in support of a Lincoln woman who was victim to a heinous hate crime.
During the evening of July 22, a woman was assaulted in her home by three men wearing masks. The men bound her at the wrists and ankles and carved hateful slurs into her skin. After that, they set her house on fire. The woman, whose name will not be disclosed due to her request for the privacy of herself and those around her, crawled from her house and retrieved help.
But what brought this hateful act upon this woman? She is openly gay.
There isn’t much arguing about whether what happened to her was moral, as it fits the textbook definition of a hate crime.
Although this event is extremely unfortunate and should not have happened under any circumstance to anyone, what we need to focus on is what happened after.
Once word spread of this woman’s story, members of the community, including both gay and straight members of Lincoln, came together and held a candlelight vigil in Lincoln with approximately 500 people in attendance.
Days later, in Memorial Park, another vigil against violence was held, this time with more than 1,000 people standing proudly in support of the victim of Lincoln’s most recent hate crime.
I was present for the vigil in Omaha, and it was very encouraging to see so many different types of people standing together in support of their fellow citizen, refusing to be silent.
The fact that there was such a large turnout for both of these events on such short notice is extremely encouraging, as it shows that our society is moving in a direction where we are willing to stand up for each other and show that discrimination will not be tolerated.
These vigils have proven one thing to anyone who has heard about them – the assailants lost. Their hope that they would instill fear in the gay community by “making an example” of the woman did not work.
Instead, the candles held by more than a thousand people have illuminated a sense of pride, hope and courage in not just the GLBT group, but in the community as a whole.