HATE CRIME

Couple Attacked Simply For Showing Affection Outside Gay Bar Near Pittsburgh

lawrenceville-hate-crimeBen Stoviak and his boyfriend Aaron were leaving the Blue Moon Bar in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh in the early morning when three men began yelling derogatory comments at them before senselessly attacking them.

“It’s just totally unreasonable, it’s terrifying,”  Stoviak told KDKA-TV. “We’re not ashamed of ourselves — and that’s when they ran after us and one of them threw a punch at me, got me on the ground and they started kicking, punching, weren’t stopping, stomping — I have a boot mark on my face.” When Aaron threw himself over Ben to protect him, Stoviak said they just “started kicking him as well.”

A Pittsburgh woman along with her girlfriend and three male friends witnessed the attack and attempted to break it up, initially thinking it was a fight. But when they saw the three men standing over Ben and Aaron, “and this boy’s foot hitting this other boy’s face, stomping on his face,” she realized they were being jumped and called the cops.

The suspects, three white men, fled in a black Hyundai but witnesses were able to provide police with a license plate. So far, one of the suspects has been identified — he has been charged with simple assault and will receive a summons in the mail. Meanwhile, a local LGBT rights group has contacted the FBI and the District Attorney’s office in hopes of classifying the attack as a hate crime.

In Stoviak’s mind, there’s no question that it was a hate crime. He believes the men attacked him and his boyfriend simply because they were showing each other affection: “Whether they knew that I was gay, or we were gay or just perceived us to be gay, the reason for the attack was for our perceived sexuality. And for no other reason.”