Bruce Cole and Caz Springer, colleagues at Wingspan, an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community center in Tucson, came to the StoryCorps MobileBooth to remember Richard J. Heakin, Jr., a 21-year-old gay man who was visiting Tucson from Nebraska when he was attacked and killed by four teenagers while leaving a local bar near the downtown area on June 6, 1976.
Since 1976 there have been many changes in the LGBT community in Tucson, and nearly thirty years after Richard’s death, the city of Tucson decided to remember him and the hate crime that led to his death with a bench and plaque outside the county courthouse.
The plaque reads, “This memorial is placed in gratitude to Richard and all those who have sacrificed in the struggle to make Tucson a place where all persons can enjoy the freedom to be themselves, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. We hereby commemorate a tragedy that has transformed us and our history into a triumph of community spirit.”
In 2003, Tucson passed a gender neutral Domestic Partnership (DP) Ordinance, the first domestic partner registry law in the state of Arizona. Bruce talked about how the ordinance now enables him the legal right to visit his life partner in the hospital, a right he was previously not afforded. Bruce talked about how one of the greatest lessons he takes away from response to Richard’s death is that people stand up for what they believe in, and if they keep making their voices heard, eventually there will be change.