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Vigil held to remember hate crime victim Sean Kennedy
Murdered gay youth’s mother calls for hate crime laws

by Melissa Moore

Members of South Carolina’s Upstate Community joined together June 3 to
commemorate the life of gay murder victim Sean Kennedy.
GREENVILLE, S.C. — At 8:00 p.m. on June 3 a Candlelight Vigil to commemorate the life and mourn the death of 20-year-old Sean Kennedy was attended by an estimated 275 members of the Upstate community. Held in downtown Greenville, members of Kennedy’s family were among those in attendance.

Community outrage has skyrocketed following Kennedy’s death, as evidence continues to mount that he was killed because he was a gay man.

“Sean Kennedy was a beloved child of God, and no act of violence will ever take that away,” said Rev. Donna Stroud, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Upstate (MCCU), who led the group in an opening prayer.

“We gather at this Vigil to share the blessed memories South Carolinians have of Sean. We stand in silence, quieted by the tragedy and sadness of his death. But we also stand as a unified voice, calling out for the day when no person is harmed because of how God created them.”

Kennedy was punched in the face and knocked to the ground as he was exiting a Greenville bar on May 16. When his head hit the pavement, he was fatally wounded. An investigation into the crime continues, including a probable motive that Kennedy’s killer uttered anti-gay comments either before or after the attack.

A number of community organizations such as PFLAG Greenville, Upstate United, MCCU, South Carolina Equality Coalition (SCEC), AFFIRM Youth, and Greenville Technical College Gay-Straight Alliance were present at the Vigil. Sean Kennedy’s family attended the Vigil and his mother, Elke Parker, spoke on their behalf.


‘I … never thought that who Sean was, is what would take his life.’
— Elke Parker, mother of gay murder victim Sean Kennedy.
“You never think to talk to your son about do you want to be cremated or do you want to be buried,” said Parker. “When Sean told me he was gay, he said, ‘Mom I understand if you don’t want to love me anymore.’ I told him there is nothing, ever, that he could do to make me stop loving him. I just never thought that who Sean was, is what would take his life.”

Parker has said that she intends to go public with her support for a hate crimes bill in South Carolina. Along with other members of her family, she has started a non-profit group called “Sean’s Last Wish,” selling bracelets and passing out petitions to support measure H3738. Currently in the Senate, the legislation will make it a felony to threaten or harass someone on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, race, religion, age or ethnic background, or to vandalize or destroy their property. Conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years — with a two-year mandatory minimum — and a fine.

“It may not help Sean today, but I want it to help future victims that they can be assured that there is justice,” Parker told Spartanburg CBS affiliate WSPA

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