Atlanta couple burned, UWG Lambda President speaks out

Police arrested and charged Martin Blackwell with two counts of aggravated battery on Feb. 13. He splashed Marquez Tolbert and Anthony Gooden Jr. with boiling water the day before in Gooden’s apartment in College Park. The gay couple were in bed asleep when Blackwell visited his girlfriend, Gooden’s mother, and committed the act.

Despite the aggravated battery charges, Blackwell’s actions are not being considered a hate crime by the courts at this time. Georgia does not have hate crime laws. In 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court did not pass them. The FBI describes a hate crime as “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.”

Shelby Hearn, president of Lambda, a LGBTQ organization at UWG, explained how not having these laws are a disadvantage.

“It means that any marginalized group, not just LGBTQ people, are at risk of hate crimes that will not receive the justice they deserve,” said Hearn. “Georgia is one of only five U.S. states that does not currently have any hate crime legislation, which I think is a disservice to Georgians in and of itself.”

Hearn believes the situation should be taken seriously.

“I think what happened to these men was absolutely horrific, and this crime provides solid proof that just because marriage equality was legalized last year does not mean the fight for LGBTQ rights is over,” said Hearn. “That their attacker and other people have been downplaying what happened is also awful. This is not something to just bat an eye at.”

As Channel 2 Actions News stated, Tolbert remained in the hospital for 10 days; he had surgery on his back. The skin there was covered with skin from his thigh. Gooden was in a coma for two weeks, and he suffered burns on his back, chest, face, arms and neck.

Action News also collected a police report with Blackwell’s response to what he did to the couple.

“They’ll be all right,” he said. “It was just a little hot water on them.”

Hearn believes something like this can happen at UWG and other places, but she made clear that homophobia is not just physical violence.

“The thing about homophobia and other forms of prejudice is that it can manifest in a myriad of ways—from using incorrect pronouns to flippant remarks about the letters in the LGBTQ+ acronym,” Hearn said. “Plenty of studies have gone into the effects of micro aggressions.”

In The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Kim Foster, Gooden’s mom, shared her thoughts about Blackwell’s actions against her son with Action News.

“He’s not human,” said Foster. “He got hatred in his heart, and God’s gonna deal with him.”



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