Thursday, October 22, 2009

Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill Passes

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Friends,
The Hate Crimes bill was introduced for the first time the year Matt Shepard was vicously murdered. It was resisted and voted down each year since by Republican majorities first in both houses of Congress and then in the Senate when they lost control of the House. The first time they voted it down was the next day after Matt's death! Talk about being hard hearted!
But today we can rejoice. This bill passed with a good margin and will be signed by President Obama --- and it does include transgender people and gender identity! Here's the story:
October 22, 2009

(October 22, 2009, Washington, DC) In an historic move, the United States Senate, by a vote of 68 to 29, joined the House of Representatives in passing The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will be the first federal law to include gender identity and transgender people. Once signed by the President, this law will add sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability to the categories included in existing federal hate crimes law and will allow local governments who are unable or unwilling to address hate crimes to receive assistance from the federal government. President Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

"Transgender people have been waiting so many years for assistance from the federal government in addressing the rampant and disproportional violence that we face," noted Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Today we move one step closer to our goal of ending violence motivated by hatred. Everyone in America deserves to live free of fear and of violence. We know that the dedicated leadership and hard work of Senator Kennedy and Representative Conyers and many other legislators made the passage of this bill possible. Words can't really express our gratitude for their commitment to equality for all people."

In the past, federal law has only mentioned gender identity in a negative context, such as explicitly excluding transgender people from the Americans with Disabilities Act. The passage of the hate crimes bill marks a significant turning point from the days in which the federal government contributed to the oppression of transgender people to today when federal law takes action to protect our lives.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will have a number of positive impacts. First, it will help educate law enforcement about the frequent hate violence against transgender people and the need to prevent and appropriately address it. Second, it will help provide federal expertise and resources when it is needed to overcome a lack of resources or the willful inaction on the part of local and/or state law enforcement. Third, it will help educate the public that violence against anyone is unacceptable and illegal.

Transgender people continue to be disproportionately targeted for bias motivated violence. Thirteen states and Washington, DC have laws which include transgender people in state hate crimes laws.

9 comments:

Pilgrim said...

And knowing Americas luck, the next republican president will postpone it! Propz Pilgrim

JustinO'Shea said...

Yeah but. . . .lol. . .there won't be a Republican president next time! We will re-elect Obama. hahaha

How is SAM doing? Better, I hope. . .
justin

Jack Greenman said...

Splendid.

Coop said...

It's about time that got passed...

I heart color, Justino, but that shade of blue text on a black background? Nope.

Off to see if our favorite Aussie has returned to public life...

J said...

Pardon me for being so cynical, but Federalizing hate crimes won't produce more productive prosecutions than the capital murder convictions of the killers of James Byrd Jr. and Matt Shepard. Dead or alive, they won't be on the street again. If you are celebrating anything it would be the Federal training funds for police sensitivity.
I, for one, would rather have erected a statue of Matt Shepard, casually seated and gently staring at all comers, on every significant college campus in the U.S., reminding them that people of all sexual preferences are human beings.

JustinO'Shea said...

Which are "the significant colleges"? I think all colleges are significant.
Probably only a few gay students would know who Matt and James are. I was 11 years old and the only reason I remember is because it was talked about at home.

Gary Kelly said...

I rather like J's idea of statues of Matt Shepard on campuses. But, knowing human nature the way I do, and being the cynic I am, I suspect that they would be regularly targeted and vandalized by nasty homophobes.

Ya know, if the demand for gay rights ever goes too far, and starts to annoy the majority of straights, we're finished.

JustinO'Shea said...

I agree with Gary. . . about vandals and various humorous additions. . .lol. . like. . .er. . .well, use your imagination. . .lol

Push too far? Or not far enough. .?
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Being gay-tolerant is politically correct, currently. . .but do you ever wonder, deep down, what "the god old boys" really think but currently hold in check. . .?

I do. . as i watch str8 guys eyes.

Lousy dark rainy day in the north country. . . .justin

Gary Kelly said...

Oh, yes, I know what the 'good ol' boys' think... and no amount of legislation will ever change that.

As to the inherent dangers of what we may or may not teach our children, here's an interesting point: Should the teaching of children be left to untrained, ordinary parents who may lack the necessary skills to raise their kids properly? Furthermore, should all people, no matter what their prejudices, biases, phobias and IQ, have the right to be parents?

Hehe. Just thought I'd ask.