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Gay Friendly Denton?

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On Monday, a case goes to trial in Denton County that might answer a question brought up last year: Can a crime against a homosexual be successfully prosecuted there?

The case involves Christopher McKee, a mental health caseworker who, on December 3, 2005, was badly beaten outside a Denton club by two men. McKee believes they attacked because they saw him kissing another man goodbye in the parking lot. Ten days later McKee identified one of his assailants as George Clifton Young, but the case dragged on without going to trial.

McKee, 28, refused to acquiesce in a plea bargain that would reduce the charge against Young to a Class C misdemeanor. McKee claims that a prosecutor told him it would be difficult to get a conviction in Denton because the area wasn't "gay friendly." I posted a story about the case last October, shortly after the charge against Young was dropped because McKee's name was misspelled on the indictment. The case was refiled but not under the Texas James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which enhances punishment if the victim is singled out for race, color, creed or sexual orientation.

A regime change at the Denton County Courthouse brought in Paul Johnson as district attorney. In one of his first acts as district attorney, Johnson announced that his office would be prosecuting the case against Young as a hate crime, a first for Denton County. It's a gutsy move. As of last October, only eight of the 1,300 hate crime cases filed in Texas resulted in convictions.

McKee sees the upcoming trial as an "historic and life changing event," a major victory for gays and lesbians in search of justice, and he's issued a plea for a show of solidarity. "This case not only involves me any longer but the entire Denton community and even more so, the gay community and our rights at large! The trial will last all day and I expect some to come out and rally for support outside, and of course my closest friends and family will be joining me in the courtroom during the trial. This could be a precedent [setting] event and I ***REALLY REALLY*** need all of your support."

He also has a Myspace page where supporters of the cause can learn more about him. Against a "Devil Wears Prada" red stiletto, McKee has posted a picture of himself bare-chested with a pugnacious look on his face and a cap twisted to one side.

"My Interests include: Working out, shopping (for clothes and boi's), listenig to music, throwing cocktail parties, going out to bars, dancing, working (yeh --go figure), Internet, chatting, wine tasting (though the bottle always seems to get emptied), making new friends, and of course SEX...Honesty right? *AND DID I MENTION THAT I ONLY LIKE THE HOTTEST MEN IN THE WORLD? IT'S TRUE, I ONCE LONGED FOR FREDDIE PRINCE JR., BUT NOW I HAVE REPLACED THAT OLD FLAME WITH A NEW LOVE, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN ON SCREEN THAT HAS WARMED MY HEART AND MADE ME HARD LATELY!!!*"

His list is accompanied by a photo of a nice clean-cut Naval officer. I gotta say he's got good taste in men.

The trial starts at 10 a.m. Monday at the Denton County Courthouse. --Glenna Whitley

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