Last Thursday (April 6), my close friend and his colleague were victims of a horrible hate crime during their visit to St. Maarten. My friend, Ryan Smith, is currently in an ICU wing of a hospital in Miami, being treated for a fractured skull and confirmed brain damage. His colleague (both worked for CBS) was released, having received a huge scar across his skull and large cuts all over his back. Ryan is unable to speak and is experiencing major difficulties with his motor skills.
The attack happened after their group was harassed by two men in a bar after my friend and his boyfriend were seen hugging one another. The two local hecklers were removed from the bar. However, on their way to their car, my friend and his fellow travellers were attacked with a four-pronged tire iron by a car load of locals, including two women. The suspects have not yet been found and the official investigation has been turned over by the police to the Department of Tourism.
Regardless of the claims of the island to be gay friendly, this experience, nor the subsequent follow-up by its government, has shown effective procedures for hate crimes. Whether you're gay or not, please consider rethinking your trip to St. Maarten until justice has been served to those who committed this heinous crime. No traveller is safe in this former paradise anymore. And no one who values human life should reward such a place with their tourism dollars.