SANTA FE, N.M. – About 300 people attended a candlelit vigil Saturday night to show support for a young gay man who was beaten unconscious a week ago outside a Santa Fe (search) hotel.
James Maestas, 21, remained hospitalized but spoke from his bed Saturday for the first time since the beating. Police said a group of at least three men confronted him outside a restaurant where he had eaten with a group of friends.
The attackers later followed Maestas to a hotel, knocked him to the ground and repeatedly struck him in the face and head, according to investigators.
Witnesses told police the assailants repeatedly called Maestas and a companion "faggots" during the beating.
The Feb. 27 attack shocked Santa Fe, which is second only to San Francisco in the percentage of same-sex households. The community holds a gay pride parade each summer and is known for its progressive politics.
Gov. Bill Richardson (search) and Police Chief Beverly Lennen attended the vigil, which was marked by dozens of speakers and many hugs and kisses among participants.
"What happened to James Maestas should never happen anywhere, on any planet," Richardson said. "We as a society have got to find ways to end hatred."
Rachel Rosen, a friend of the Maestas family and chairwoman of Equality New Mexico (search), said Maestas spoke from his hospital bed for the first time Saturday when he asked for a mirror.
"I've got to see this face,"' Maestas said, according to Rosen. Upon seeing his injuries, Maestas added: "That's the fattest lip I've ever seen."
Three men have been charged in the attack.
Gabriel Maturin, 20, and Isaia Medina, 19, face charges of aggravated battery, conspiracy and battery in the beating. David Trinidad, 17, faces similar charges in juvenile court. The three have pleaded not guilty.