On May 16, 2007 Elke Kennedy lost her 20 year old son Sean in a brutal anti-gay hate crime in Greenville, South Carolina. The horrific story was detailed in this blog post by former GLAAD Senior Media Field Strategist, Justin Ward on the five year remembrance of Sean’s death:
Elke’s son, Sean was leaving a bar in Greenville, SC when a car pulled up beside him. A young man asked Sean for a cigarette and Sean obliged. Then the young man got out of the car, approached Sean and called him a f**got, then punched Sean so hard that it broke his face bones. This caused Sean’s brain to be separated from his brain stem. Sean then fell to the ground and was left to die on the pavement. Shortly thereafter, Sean’s killer left a voicemail message for one of Sean’s friends:
“You tell your f**got friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for breaking my fist on his face.”
Not long after her son was murdered Elke founded Sean’s Last Wish. She also called GLAAD’s then Director of National News, Cindi Creager, to help her speak out about the tragedy and raise awareness about the need to give South Carolina law enforcement officials, solicitors and judges the tools they
need to “investigate and adjudicate crimes of violence and intimidation that are motivated by bias against the victim’s actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.” Creager also helped Elke speak out about the need for an LGBT inclusive Federal Hate Crimes Law.
Here’s what Elke had to say about Cindi’s assistance:
“My 20 year old son Sean was brutally murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in South Carolina. No mother should have to endure such pain. Cindi Creager helped me turn my sorrow into action; she gave me the courage to speak out in the media, and elevated our story to CNN and FOX, which helped ensure passage of an LGBT inclusive federal hate crimes law. Cindi is not only an ally, she’s also a trusted friend who I turn to every time I need media support.”
In 2009, President Obama signed an LGBT inclusive Federal Hate Crimes Bill into law, due in part to Elke’s tireless efforts to share her story and make change. Cindi Creager considers it an honor to have helped give Elke the confidence to speak to the local and national media regularly and impact the world for the better. Elke and her husband Jim remain dear friends of CreagerCole Communications, and Sean Kennedy will always live in our hearts.