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A Florida lawmaker publicly shared his own story of surviving a hate crime in college, and encouraged others to do the same Thursday. The move comes as equality advocates across the country worry that revelations of an alleged hoax involving Empire actor Jussie Smollett will deter reporting and passage of LGBTQ protections.
Florida state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, an out Latinx representing the Orlando area, shared old news articles and police reports documenting a 2003 attack.
"False reporting of hate crimes is rare. Underreporting is common," Guillermo Smith wrote on Twitter. "I understand why and that is the reason today I'm telling my story. In some ways, I'm embarrassed to tell it. To be attacked for existing often shames the victim."
A contemporaneous police report documents that Guillermo Smith and another man were attacked on the University of Central Florida campus. The report shows that when university police arrested the assailant, he kept referring to his victims as "faggots."
Using the hashtag "#HateCrimeSurvivor," Guillermo Smith hoped publicizing the story would show not all hate crimes turn out to be hoaxes.
Guillermo Smith shared his story the same day police detailed their investigation of Smollett. In a Thursday press conference, police said Smollett paid $3,500 for two men to stage an attack.
That prompted antigay pundit Ann Coulter to allege all hate crimes are hoaxes on Twitter.
LGBTQ advocates across the country heralded Guillermo Smith sharing the story.
Human rights advocates pushing for LGBTQ protections in hate crime laws sounded alarms across the country that the Smollett case could make progress harder.
In Mississippi, activists have lobbied to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities to the state's hate crime statute, according to NBC affiliate WLBT.
Incidentally, Guillero Smith's thread also included an article from the college newspaper, The Central Florida Future, noting that the 2003 hate crime against him led to a call for LGBTQ protections on campus.