Box 2171,San Antonio,TX,78297-2171 
(Fax 210-351-7372 ) (E-MAIL: )

Activists rank El Paso 3rd for crimes against gays
Jodi Bizar, Special to the Express-News 

     EL PASO The rate of harassment and crimes against gays here is the third highest per capita among the cities monitored by a gay rights group, its officials said Tuesday.
     "El Paso ranks third from the worst, only bested by number one, San Francisco, and number two, Columbus, Ohio," said Paul Moore, a spokesman for Lambda, a gay and lesbian activist group that tracks and records violence and harassment against gays in many major cities nationwide.
     And the harassment and violence are expanding on school campuses, Moore said at a news conference held outside a high school here.
     The news conference came a day after a man in Wyoming was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the death of a young, gay college student whose beaten body was found tied to a fence in subfreezing temperatures last fall.
     A second man faces a capital murder trial later this year for his alleged role in the attack.
     In 1998 San Francisco had 54 incidents of harassment or assault of gays or lesbians per 100,000 population, Columbus had 31 and El Paso had 24, Moore said.
     The group cited 161 reports of violence or harassment in El Paso in 1998, up from 145 the year before.
     However, not all victims were willing to report the violence or harassment to the police, Moore continued.
     He went on to say the group does not track whether those charged with violence or harassment were convicted.
     About 30 percent of the reports in El Paso involved assault, and there was one murder.  The number of reports of serious injury doubled to 14, the group said, and the other complaints alleged harassment.
     Nationally, incidents of harassment and violence against gays were down 4 percent, the report said, from 2,665 in 1997 to 2,552 last year.  However, the number of murders nationwide more than doubled from 14 in 1997 to 33 in 
     The figures were compiled from police reports and reports made directly to Lambda from 16 cities, regions and states throughout the country.  San Antonio was not included.
     Rob Knight, another Lambda spokesman, said efforts are under way to add reporting groups in San Antonio and other cities in the near future.
     The news conference was held in front of an El Paso high school Tuesday to underline the fact that as much as 50 percent of the harassment was occurring on high school, college and university campuses all over the 
     "What we're seeing is disturbing," Moore said.  "The people that call us are really, really scared.  Whether they are gay or just perceived to be gay, they are punched, kicked, pushed against their lockers."
     He said Lambda intends to meet with school officials so they can come up with solutions.
     "We need to change the beliefs in our school systems," he said.
     He said about 40 percent of the victims are not gay.
     Knight attempted to illustrate the perception problem by reminding reporters about statements made by the Rev. Jerry Falwell about Tinky Winky, a character on a children's TV program.
     The character wears purple, speaks in a male voice, and carries a purse, which Falwell said was a clear indication he was gay and a bad role model for children.
     "Nobody knows if Tinky Winky is gay.  It's nobody's business if he is," Knight continued.  "But he was perceived to be gay, and that drove some people into hysteria.  The problem is worsening for people who are perceived to be gay, and this is nationally."