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Billy Jack Gaither
(January 21, 1960 - February 19, 1999) U.S.A.

Billy Jack Gaither

Killed for being gay

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On February 19, 1999, thirty-nine year old Billy Jack Gaither was beaten to death with an ax handle and his body burned on a pile of old tires in his hometown of Sylacauga, Alabama. His killers, Steven Mullins and Charles Butler, claimed they acted in response to Gaither making sexual advances; both are serving life without parole.

Until his death, the New York Times reported, Gaither "lived with his disabled parents... , tending to their needs, cooking dinner and cleaning up, singing in the choir of his [] church. His parents swear they had no idea he was gay." But, the Times continued, "the small group of gay residents in this central Alabama city of 13,000 knew [Gaither] as one of their own... [A] friend said Mr. Gaither had never wanted to hurt his deeply religious, Baptist parents by revealing the nature of his sexuality. Now his parents and the rest of Sylacauga have found out in the worst possible way."

Gaither's parents, "who knew him as the kindest of their four boys," had to struggle not only with the weight of their son's murder but also with the implications of being part of a culture that kept Billy's closet door so tightly shut.

"Whatever he did," his mother said, "he never brought it home." She added, "And whether he was or not, it don't make me love him any less. He was my young'un." Whether "he was gay or not," Gaither's father said, "that still didn't give them no right to kill him."

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"I share with many Americans a sense of grief and outrage at the tragic and violent death of Billy Jack Gaither... This heinous and cowardly crime touches the conscience of our country, just as the terrible murders of James Byrd... and Matthew Shepard... did last year. In times like this, the American people pull together and speak with one voice, because the acts of hatred that led to the deaths of such innocent men are also acts of defiance against the values our society holds most dear." - Pres. Bill Clinton, March 5, 1999.

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Source: http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/

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