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A beating last week of a Philadelphia gay couple by a group that included a Roman Catholic high school coach is now being considered for query through federal investigation. The two victims, whose identities have not been released, were going for pizza on September 11th when they encountered the group in the Center City neighborhood.
The alleged attackers included a dozen well-dressed men and women who came into the path of the two men on their way out to dinner and shouted gay slurs, asking one of the members of the gay couple if the other was his “f——- boyfriend.” The group, who were clean-cut and dressed to go out, allegedly included part-time Assistant Basketball Coach Mr. Fran McGlinn of Archbishop Wood High School in suburban Philadelphia. Group members were identified through surveillance video and online postings, including a photo taken while they were out to dinner.
According to police reports, the two men aged 27 and 28 were apprehended, held down and severely beaten. One needed his jaw wired shut and had a broken eye socket. The other sustained a black eye and bruises. The incident has caused outrage among the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia.
Mr. McGlinn was approached by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and they allowed him to resign after he was confronted about being allegedly involved in the crime. In addition, the Archdiocese issued a statement explaining why the coach was relieved of his duties. It described that instilled in Catholic education is a sense of respect for others, regardless of whether or not the faithful agrees with others’ beliefs or actions.
Archbishop Charles Chaput stated that, when students graduate from high school, they demonstrate their maturity and their dignity – or lack thereof – through their actions. Violence against another person for being who they are cannot be excused and is dissonant with the essence of being a Christian.
Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney spoke out on the matter, saying that the number of people who beat the two men as well as the language used against them indicates the level of a hate crime. He sent a strongly worded letter on Thursday to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. I the letter, he called for a federal investigation under the National Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Federal authorities do not usually get involved in matters of the state. However, since there is no hate crime law against lesbians and gays on the books in Pennsylvania, federal law may supersede. The federal government is prepared to query those involved in the beating of the Philadelphia gay couple and the alleged involvement of the Roman Catholic high school coach. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is waiting to hear from the local police before proceeding.
While illegal federally, hate crimes based on sexual orientation are not against the law in Pennsylvania. Only attacks on the basis of race, religion, and ethnicity can be prosecuted as hate crimes. To address this issue, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay congressman, Democratic State Rep. Brian Sims of Philadelphia, is pushing to include sexual orientation among the list of hate crimes in state law.
Rep. Sims said that since same-sex marriage is now legal in Pennsylvania following a federal judge overturning a prior ban in the state, he hopes this ruling will lead to great societal acceptance. He believes that the marriage law change will help improve understanding that two people loving each other means that they should also be able to live their lives in safety and without fear.
Local officials are continuing their investigation into the incident. When that is complete, federal authorities will be ready to delivery their query into the beating of the gay couple by a now former coach at a suburban Philadelphia Roman Catholic high school.
by Fern Remedi-Brown