Jody Renaldo, the founder of Equality Mississippi, says the 2000 murder of Jamie Ray Tolbert inspired him and many others to push for gay rights in the state.

In a videotaped op-ed, Renaldo said the murder of his friend dramatically changed his life.

Tolbert was kidnapped outside of a gay bar in Biloxi, Mississippi. His body, having been beaten and strangled, was found weeks later by Alabama police. While two men were eventually convicted of the murder, the case was not tried as a hate crime.

“It only made sense,” Renaldo says in the video produced by CNN. “I mean you're a gay man at a gay bar and these two people show up at a gay bar when they could have showed up anywhere. They may have not targeted you [Tolbert], you just may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But you're the one that's gone.”

“You would probably be surprised that I even started a gay rights organization in Mississippi considering I was the quiet, lonely person sitting in the corner by himself.”

“But you're the reason people know we exist. Because of what happened to you, I was propelled to quit just sitting around fussing about the way I was being held down. … You inspired a lot of people to do something about it.”

In 2008, the group closed its doors due to lack of support.

“It makes it seem almost as if your death was in vain, but I know better than that,” an emotional Renaldo adds. (The video is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)