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Fatal attack on
gay man could spur change to hate-crime laws

Fatal attack on
gay man could spur change to hate-crime laws

The fatal beating of a 72-year-old gay man last month in Detroit has sparked a campaign to update federal and state hate-crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Andrew Anthos was riding a city bus home from the library on February 13, listening to his headphones and quietly singing along, when another man asked if he was gay and called him a ''faggot,'' according to police and family members.

Anthos ignored him, but the man followed him off the bus and again confronted him. Anthos, who was helping a wheelchair-bound friend stuck in a snowbank, reportedly told the man he was gay. The man then struck him in the back of the head with a pipe, stood over him as he lay on the ground, and ran off after Anthos's friend yelled for him to stop.

Anthos fell into a coma on February 21 and died two days later.

Anthos ''was a patriot. He loved veterans.... He just happened to be gay,'' said Michigan state senator Hansen Clarke, who plans to introduce legislation to amend Michigan's Ethnic Intimidation Act. ''The whole point is making sure that people have equal rights in the legal system, people aren't picked on or threatened just because they look or act differently.''

Police have no suspect, but released a composite sketch of the attacker. The department was investigating whether it was a hate crime.

''He wasn't robbed, nothing was touched,'' said Anthos's cousin Athena Fedenis. ''It was strictly a hate crime.''

Fedenis, 45, said Anthos told her what happened from his hospital bed and that she took notes because she ''wasn't going to let this get thrown underneath the rug and let it be forgotten about.''

His 20-year campaign to illuminate the state capitol dome in red, white, and blue at least one night a year put him in contact with countless lawmakers, reporters, and others in Lansing, the state capital.

Fedenis said Anthos asked her before he died to promise that she would work to get the capitol dome lit to honor police officers, veterans, and others. She established a nonprofit foundation called Andrew's Light to take contributions. Money that does not go to the lighting effort will be donated to the Triangle Foundation, a gay rights advocacy group based in Detroit that is counseling the family.

Fedenis said her cousin was openly gay but not an advocate. He was more concerned about treating all people with respect, and Fedenis believes he would be supporting efforts to amend hate-crime laws from behind the scenes.

The federal and state legislative efforts to include as hate crimes attacks on gays have been around for at least a decade. They gained temporary traction from the slaying of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and left to die in 1998. Now, advocates hope, Anthos's death adds some urgency and weight.

U.S. Democratic representative John Conyers introduced legislation in the House of Representatives this week, and Democratic U.S. senator Carl Levin cited Anthos in a statement on the Senate floor earlier this month when he said he would soon help reintroduce the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Besides expanding the definition of hate crimes to include gays, lesbians, and others, it would allow the federal government to help local law enforcement investigate hate crimes.

Fedenis said Anthos, who received state disability payments, was diagnosed with a mental illness in the 1950s and suffered from low self-esteem that stemmed from family circumstances: His mother, who was 16 when he was born, was Greek; his father was black.

''He had thoughts of suicide because it was hard to deal with not only being half-black, half-white, but also being openly gay,'' she said. ''He was hit twice as hard.''

Julie Cook, who befriended Anthos in the late 1980s, says the dome lighting effort and the legislative push are fitting tributes to her friend, but she cannot help but feel a little bitter.

''It's very sad that he has to be gone for people to actually listen--he had to die to be able to be listened to.'' (Jeff Karoub, AP)

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