Claremore Assault Victim Says He Is Targeted Because He's Gay
By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, The News On 6
CLAREMORE, OK -- A Claremore man says he's the victim of a hate crime. Phillip Nelson says he's being targeted because he's gay, but Oklahoma law doesn't consider sexual orientation as a basis for a hate crime.
Phillip Nelson says he's been tormented for the last month. His apartment was broken in to and his belongings were tossed everywhere. He was even punched in the face while taking out the trash.
The motive, he says, is because he's gay.
"They were saying that I should die - because I'm gay. They were yelling the FAG," said Phillip Nelson of Claremore.
They also carved the slur word into the wall inside his apartment and on the front cover of a Bible left at his doorstep.
"The first thing I thought when I seen that was like, 'Who would do that to a Bible?' I was like, 'Really?' Because it's supposed to be the sacred book. But then I was like, that's kind of mean," Nelson said.
Claremore Police are investigating, but because Oklahoma does not cite sexual orientation as a basis for a hate crime they're looking at it as a case of breaking and entering.
A federal hate crime law was passed last fall in Washington but State Senator Steve Russell is worried it would infringe on freedom of speech, despite language in the law that says otherwise. Russell has introduced a bill that would require federal authorities to petition local law enforcement if they're interested in investigating a hate crime not recognized in Oklahoma.
"My bill strictly goes after the 1st and 14th amendments of the Constitution as far as how Oklahoma will operate under the new federal law," said Senator Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City).
But Nelson would like Claremore Police to talk to federal authorities and says gay men and women in Oklahoma need to be protected.
"It hurts. It makes me sit here and think, 'Okay this is supposed to be our government authority, our protection,'" said Phillip Nelson, a Claremore man who says he has been targeted by criminals because he is gay.
"But if they're taking that away from us then how are we supposed to feel safe?"
Claremore Police are looking for witnesses or anyone who has information about the assault on Nelson. They can be reached at 918-341-1212.