Hundreds gather in LOVE Park for Rep. Brian Sims' rally to lobby for a new hate crime law that specifically addresses sexual orientation. Credit: Sam Newhouse Hundreds gather in LOVE Park for Rep. Brian Sims' rally to lobby for a new hate crime law that specifically addresses sexual orientation. Credit: Sam Newhouse

 

Thursday was the birthday of one of the two gay men who were attacked on Sept. 11 in Rittenhouse, in a crime that has attracted national attention.

 

But the victim, a culinary artist, is unable to enjoy his favorite birthday foods -- a steak and some cake -- because his jaw is still wired shut, as it will be for the next seven weeks, and he is still eating everything through a straw, according to his friend, Caryn Kunkle.

 

"They're both still scared to leave the house. There's still 12 people out there that beat the living daylights out of them that aren't in jail," Kunkle said. "Getting your face beaten into the sidewalk and knowing that some of the people that did that are still in your neighborhood is not a good feeling."

 

Kunkle was at a rally in LOVE Park Thursday organized by Rep. Brian Sims to drum up support for legislation to change Pennsylvania's hate-crime laws to include crimes committed based on sexual orientation.

More than two hundred members of the public were in attendance, holding signs and carrying rainbow flags.

Suspects Philip R. Williams, 24, Kathryn G. Knott, 24, and Kevin J. Harrigan, 26, accused of involvement in the group assault on a gay couple on the 1600 block of Chancellor Street around 10:45 p.m. on Sept 11, turned themselves in Tuesday.

All are charged with aggravated assault, but not hate crimes.

The three were released on bail early Thursday.

A hate crime law is necessary, Kunkle said, because the anti-gay intention behind the crime is more disturbing to the victims than the mere violence of the attack.

"What was more traumatic than the violence was the verbal assault, 'You f--, I'm sick of you f------, you dirty f-----,' over and over and over again," Kunkle said. "They had never experienced that level of hate verbally. That was more shocking to them than the doctor coming in and saying 'We're gonna have to wire your jaw shut now.'"

People at the rally had varied opinions on the idea of changing Pennsylvania hate crime laws to protect sexual orientation.

"It's going to help overall down the road, but I don't know if it's actually going to stop random acts of hate," said David Reed, 29.

"It won't have an immediate impact. Attitudes have to change. The law is the first step in that process. Just like any civil rights movement, it's been piecemeal," said Arlene Dinkins, 71.