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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An assistant coach at a Roman Catholic high school has resigned over his role in a beating that left two gay men injured, church officials in Philadelphia said Thursday.
About a dozen young adults were linked to the Sept. 11 encounter after police released surveillance video Tuesday and social media users mined online posts, including a group photo taken at a restaurant, to try to match the faces with names.
"Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian," Archbishop Charles Chaput said Thursday in a statement.
No arrests have been made, but some of the young men and women seen in the video have submitted to voluntary interviews with police, a spokesman said Thursday.
"Investigators are continuing to interview a number of people regarding this incident, folks from the video as well as other civilian witnesses that have come forward," said Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman.
The video shows the well-dressed group out for a night on the town. It was taken before the encounter with the gay couple, who were on their way out for pizza.
The gay men, who are in their late 20s, said they were held down, punched and beaten after they bumped into the large group on the street. Members of the group hurled gay slurs as the men were pummeled, they told police. One man was left with a broken eye socket and a wired jaw, while his partner had bruises and a black eye.
The large group included former students at Archbishop Wood, located in the Philadelphia suburb of Warminster, the archdiocese said. The part-time coach had worked at the same school but now is banned from coaching anywhere in the archdiocese, the church said.
"A key part of a Catholic education is forming students to respect the dignity of every human person whether we agree with them or not," Chaput said. "What students do with that formation when they enter the adult world determines their own maturity and dignity, or their lack of it."
Stanford said police are still seeking additional video that could confirm or contradict the couple's report.
"It's our responsibility to bring those in who are responsible for committing a crime, but it's also our responsibility to thoroughly investigate to make sure the right person or persons are charged," he said.
State Rep. Brian Sims, the state's first openly gay lawmaker and a Democrat from Philadelphia, said the local gay community is outraged over the case.
He hopes it will add to the growing — if ignoble — list of cases he can cite in a push to include sexual orientation in the state's hate crime laws. Currently, it is not, although gays won the right to marry this year after a federal judge struck down the state ban.
"If we can accept as a society that two people who love each other should be able to get married, maybe that will help the understanding that perhaps they shouldn't have to fear being fired, or fear for their safety in their hometown," Sims said.
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