UPDATE: Garden State Equality statement.
The suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi moved forward efforts to protect students from bullying in all its forms, and helped drive and focus a New Jersey – and national – movement to protect gay rights. Gardent State Equality, in New Jersey, has been central to that fight. And we have all been watching for this verdict, knowing it won’t restore Tyler to his family, but may change the way all of us think of the lives of the people around us, with the respect each of us deserve.
Here is the statement following the Dharun Ravi verdict. (For disclosure’s sake, I should note that I am a member of the Garden State Equality board).
Statement is after the jump …
“The fundamental question in this trial was whether Dharun Ravi would have similarly invaded the privacy of a roommate having intimate relations with someone of the opposite sex, as Ravi did to Tyler Clementi and M.B.
In our view, the answer is no – that Ravi would not have invaded the privacy of a straight roommate. In fact, the most compelling evidence in the case, Ravi’s text messages, indicated exactly that. The text messages demonstrated beyond any doubt that Ravi was deeply uncomfortable with Tyler’s being gay, and that Tyler’s suitor was a guy.
So are we “happy” with the verdict? “Happy” doesn’t seem like the right word given that Ravi has been convicted and will now face the appropriate societal consequences. “Happy” also seems too trivial a word when we remember that Tyler Clementi lost his life. But we do believe this verdict sends the important message that a “kids will be kids” defense is no excuse to bully another student.
Though Tyler Clementi has left us, the rest of Dharun Ravi’s life will help tell his life story. Ravi’s own lawyer basically portrayed him as a young man who engaged in jerky, insensitive behavior. Ravi can stay that course, or he can some good with his life by making amends and fighting for the justice and dignity of every individual, including people who are LGBT. That much is up to Ravi.
As for all of us, we must continue our focus on building a better world, one free of bullying of every student, so that a tragedy like this never happens again. That’s what New Jersey’s new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the country’s strongest anti-bullying law, is ultimately about.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with Tyler’s family and friends.”