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20th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence to be held in Montgomery

The 20th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence will be held Saturday, Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. The vigil honors victims of LGBTQ targeted violence, which is still not considered a hate crime under Alabama law.

The first vigil was held in 1999 after gay man Billy Jack Gaither was beaten to death and his body burned in Sylacauga, Ala.

This year, they will especially be remembering Dana Martin, who was shot to death in Montgomery on Jan. 6. Her death is the first known murder of a transgender person in the U.S. for the year 2019.

The vigil has been held annually to draw attention on LGBTQ targeted crimes and urge lawmakers to recognize the LGBTQ community under state-wide hate crime laws.

The keynote speaker of the event will be Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, founder and executive director of TAKE, which stands for Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering.

Two awards will be presented at the vigil. Lucia Hermo, public advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama, will be receiving the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award and Eric Samelo, a student at LAMP school in Montgomery who helped establish an LGBTQ student organization, will be receiving the Stephen Light Youth Activist Award.

Other speakers at the event include Bayard Community Center co-founders Meta Ellis and Harvey McDaniel, President of Montgomery Pride United Jose Vasquez, the Rev. Lynn Hopkins of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Montgomery, local professor Paul Hard and the Rev. Elizabeth O’Neill of Emmanuel Presbyterian.

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