Murder Of Gay, African-American Man Reflects Twin Diseases Of Racism, Homophobia, NGLTF Says

March 24, 2000

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

Kerry Lobel, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the murder of Steen Keith Fenrich, a 19-year-old gay African-American man in Queens, New York, reflects how far our nation has to go to overcome the interrelated diseases of racism and homophobia.

Tuesday night, a man walking in the woods near Oakland Lake Park in Bayside, Queens found a plastic container containing a bleached skull, a foot, loose teeth, and a pair of trousers. The words "Gay nigger number one" were written on the skull. Police officers from the 111th Precinct in Queens then notified John Fenrich that they may have found the remains of his missing 19 year-old stepson. After a seven-hour standoff with police, John Fenrich shot himself to death. During this standoff, John Fenrich, who is white, allegedly admitted to murdering his stepson last September and said he disapproved of his stepson's homosexuality. The murder apparently occurred after Steen Fenrich tried to move home with his mother and stepfather last September following a break-up with his boyfriend.

"Racism and homophobia are byproducts of a society that does not value diversity," Lobel said. "A climate exists in our country that devalues people of color as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Racism and homophobia are symptoms of the same disease and the disease is named intolerance. Tragically, these two symptoms of racism and homophobia converged in the death of Steen Keith Fenrich."

Lobel added that the death of Fenrich is yet another example of why both Congress and state legislatures throughout the country should pass strong hate crimes laws inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and disability.

Hate violence against GLBT people has increased dramatically over the past decade, even as violent crime has declined overall. In 1998, 2,552 anti-GLBT incidents were reported in the United States. Furthermore, anti-GLBT attacks are also among the most violent bias crimes. GLBT murder victims are more likely than heterosexual victims to die brutal deaths characterized by dismemberments, multiple stabbings and severe bludgeoning, and their killers are less likely to be caught, according to a 1994 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Of 152 anti-GLBT murders between 1992 and 1994 documented by the study, almost 60 percent involved "extraordinary violence" and "overkill." In 1999, anti-GLBT murders in the US involved the beheading of a man in Virginia, an Alabama man bludgeoned and burned on a pyre of tires, and a transgendered woman in Boston stabbed dozens of times in her home.


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.