WASHINGTON, DC---March 4, 1999--- The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) today condemned the brutal murder of Billy Jack Gaither in Coosa County, Alabama. The confessed killers claim to have committed the crime because Gaither was gay.
"The brutality of this crime is evidence of the pervasive violence and prejudice against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our culture," said Tracey Conaty, NGLTF communications director. "It is meaningless to say 'no' to hate but 'yes' to discriminate. The contradiction is killing us. Anti-gay leaders must not only disavow hate violence, but also stop promoting the prejudice and discrimination that feed it."
Gaither, 39, was last seen on the evening of February 19. He was in a bar in Sylacauga, 40 miles south of Birmingham, with the two men later arrested for his murder. Gaither was taken to a remote location, bludgeoned to death with an axe handle and set on fire. His charred remains were discovered the next day. Charles Monroe Butler, 21, was arrested on Monday, while Steven Eric Mullins, 25, was arrested yesterday. In statements to local police, both confessed to planning the crime two weeks in advance and attributed their act to Gaither's sexual orientation.
The murder comes two weeks before the kickoff of a national campaign to focus attention on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender discrimination and violence. During the week of March 21-27, activists in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will participate in actions in every state capital. Called Equality Begins at Home, the 250 rallies, lobby days, town meetings, and religious events will call for an end to injustice and bigotry. Events in fifteen states will specifically address hate crimes. A complete listing of the events is available at www.equalitybeginsathome.org.
"We call on all people committed to ending prejudice and violence to stand with us in state capitals across America," continued Conaty. "We will not stand idly by while our people are murdered one by one."