Even though El Paso’s low crime rate earned it the nickname “the safest city in the country” last year, experts say the majority of the Texas city’s hate crimes are directed at LGBT people.
According to FBI agent Jay Abbott, quoted by NewsChannel 9, while hate crimes based on racial or religious bias are uncommon in the city, the same can’t be said for crimes motivated by sexuality. “Where it does occur, particularly against the gay and lesbian community ... we have had some experience with that here. That’s something that we want to try to get focused on,” he said.
In May, Lionel Martinez was attacked and savagely beaten outside a gay club. Even though the assault had the appearance of a hate crime, the FBI has said there is sufficient evidence to label it as such.
“As far as meeting the hate-crime statutes for the state of Texas, the elements aren’t met,” said Abbott, adding that the case is still under investigation and will be dealt with appropriately if hate-crime charges are added.
“No matter where it occurs, it’s important to get focused,” he said. “It’s one of those ... crimes that shouldn’t be tolerated in our society,” he said.
But the incident is not the only case of antigay sentiment among El Paso citizens. Last month a local newspaper came under fire for publishing a full-page ad from a right-wing priest who calls gays “immoral,” “putrid,” and “depraved.”
And on Tuesday, a judge ordered a group calling itself El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values to stop its efforts to oust mayor John Cook and two City Council members from office after the three voted to continue providing health insurance for gay and unwed partners of city employees. A temporary restraining order has been issued against the group while the judge evaluates accusations that it broke laws by using churches, among them the Word of Life Church, for political purposes.