Simmie Williams Jr, 17, was gunned down last weekend on a street corner in Broward County, Florida.

Williams was wearing a dress when he was attacked and is believed to have been gay or transgender.

Police are investigating the murder as a possible hate crime based on the words witnesses say were exchanged before the shooting.

Equality Florida and the coalition Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives (TERI) expressed outrage over the murder of Williams, who was gunned down last Friday on a street corner in Broward County.

“We can be horrified, but we cannot be surprised,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida.

“Just 10 days ago, 15 year-old Lawrence King was gunned down in California.

“Nearly a year ago, Ryan Skipper was brutally stabbed and his body dumped on the roadside here in Florida.

“And a week after Ryan’s murder, 20 year-old Sean Kennedy was killed outside a gay bar in South Carolina.

“All of these deaths were preventable.

“We all must have the will to act and compel our schools and our legislature to confront the harassment and violence directed at gay and transgender young people.”

Across the country, studies have shown that perpetrators of hate-crimes are overwhelmingly male, 18 to 24 years-old, and that they often get their start with bullying in schools.

With this in mind, Equality Florida has made it their top legislative priority to pass a statewide Safe School bill that would address the epidemic of bullying and violence in Florida schools.

“It is time we demand our government to act and implement policy to decrease the risk factors affecting LGBT youth,” said Michael Emanuel Rajner, co-founder of Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives.

“Of the 900 youth in Broward County transitional living facilities, an estimated 25% are LGBT, many have been banished from their homes simply for being LGBT.”

A memorial is being planned for 4:30pm Thursday, February 27th at the 1000 block of Sistrunk Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale where the murder occurred.

Ann Turner © 2008 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved