Homophobia is not the norm in Austin

Although Austin has announced its support of same-sex marriage, there are still incidents of homophobia-fueled crime in the city.

Andrew Oppelman and Nick Soret were attacked downtown during Austin’s Pride Weekend on Sept. 21. Oppelman was visiting Austin for the weekend. Soret is an Austin native and has lived in the Austin for over 20 years.

The men were meeting at a pizza place downtown, when Soret got into a verbal altercation with their attacker, who he described as a tall, muscular Asian man with a medium build. The man was supposedly upset by the way Soret looked at him, according to KVUE.

When Oppelman tried to intervene, the man punched him in the face, knocking out five of his teeth. Both men were treated that night at the hospital for their injuries, which included missing teeth, numerous contusions, busted lips and a possible fractured jaw.

The police have yet to decide whether this attack is in fact a hate crime, but Oppelman and Soret are both convinced that the motivation behind the attack was homophobia, because they can see no other apparent reason why the man would attack them so brutally. The police have yet to decide if this attack will be tried as a hate crime, saying that it is up to the district attorney to make that decision, according to KVUE.

Whether or not this will be tried as a hate crime, this attack is a blemish on the city’s reputation.

Fights between people happen, but there should not be people attacking and beating anyone for any reason. It is completely inappropriate and uncalled for.

However, it is important to remember that these individuals are not representative of Austin as a whole. Austin has a large LGBTQ community and numerous allies who are dedicated to ensuring peace and equality.

Two weeks after the attack, members and allies of the LGBTQ community met at City Hall and marched to the Capitol building in protest, according to The Advocate.

Austin’s city council also recently unanimously voted to endorse gay-marriage, which directly opposes the state’s stance on gay-marriage. While this act has no affect on the marriage laws in Texas it is a deeply symbolic act and shows that the Austin community backs the LGBTQ community, especially on this polarizing issue.

What happened to Andrew Oppelman and Nick Soret was terrible, but their assailant’s actions do not represent the spirit of Austin and its citizens. The responsibility for this attack rested squarely on the shoulders of the attacker and when he is caught he will be punished for his actions.

Until that time, it is important to remember that while Austin is a friendly and liberal place, it is still in Texas, which is an infamously conservative state  known for its intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

As heartbreaking as it is to have to accept that about this fine state, there is still a long way to go until Texas is less polarized on these types of social issues. Regardless, Austin will continue to lead the fight for equality in Texas.