Vancouver Gay Basher Gets Six Years

November 10th, 2010

A giant, clenched fist. Solve much?

Shaun Woodward, a 37 year old construction worker, was in a Vancouver gay pub last March when he was offered a beer by Richard Dowrey, a 62 year old gay man out celebrating his retirement. Woodward, who is straight, was angered by the gesture, sucker punching the retiree amidst a stream of homophobic slurs. Dowrey suffered permanent brain damage, leaving him with severe memory problems. He will require assisted living for the rest of his life.

Robin Perelle from Xtra Vancouver interviewed Dowrey for an article published late last week. The story is heartbreaking. In Perelle’s words:

I visited Dowrey at his care home in Langley the day before his attacker’s sentencing hearing. Dowrey can’t remember the attack. He can’t remember his friends at The Fountainhead [Pub]. He can’t remember his life.

I ask him how old he is; “60-something,” he tells me, unable to be more precise. “I don’t remember a thing from the 40s and 50s,” he adds. I ask him why. “I don’t know,” he replies, watching me.

[...]

“I hope I’ll get better one of these days,” he says, pointing at himself. “I hope so.” “I just have to get this leg fixed,” he says.

Woodward claimed the attack was self defense because the 62 year old had made “unwanted sexual advances.” Provincial Court Judge Jocelyn Palmer dismissed Woodward’s gay panic defense outright, calling the gay-bashing an “unprovoked attack, driven by virulent homophobia,” delivering a six-year prison sentence.

Judge Palmer’s choice of words, “virulent,” is fitting. Homophobic sentiment spreads and strengthens itself, and silence does nothing to stop it. Homophobia must be challenged wherever it is encountered, well before it escalates to this level of violence and destroys lives.