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Takes On Hate Crimes Legislation Passing The House & Senate

“I am pleased that today we were able to move the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 a step closer to passage this afternoon.  But I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans have decided that defeating hate crimes legislation takes precedent over supporting our troops.

“It is outrageous and unacceptable that Senate Republicans would vote against pay raises for our troops, battlefield equipment upgrades and increased funding for veterans’ health care as we continue to fight two wars.  And they decided to do this all for the sake of stopping passage of landmark legislation that will bring justice to those who commit violent crimes based on bigotry and prejudice.  What message does that send to our country and, more importantly, to our troops?”

~Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

The bigotry and prejudice Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid mentions is against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Some of us are servicemembers; some of us are, like me, veterans; some of us are, like me, are actually LGBT disabled veterans. The Republican votes against this bill, when one condiders that there are LGBT veterans and disabled veterans, really  was “outrageous and unacceptable.”

As many of us trans folk know, we often get erased from the coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) federal legislation. I watched yesterday as Rachel Maddow wonderfully mentioned “gender identity” in the passage of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act:

Well, to keep the reality in focus for trans people, The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the very first piece of federal legislation that includes gender identity. Let me say that again: this is the first piece of federal legislation that specifically includes transgender people.

And, President Obama has promised he will sign the bill, and that will likely happen next week.

I talked to Adam Bass — Senior Media Strategist with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) — on the phone today about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. GLAAD's Senior Media Strategist Adam Bass with Monica Zapata, the sister of Angie ZapataI worked with him closely during the coverage of the Angie Zapata…we were both deeply affected by covering that trial. Today I’m thinking of Angie as I think of this bill, so naturally I thought of Adam. I asked for his comments on the House and Senate passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and this is what he said:

As we await President Obama’s signature on the recently passed hate crimes bill, I can’t help but think of Angie Zapata Last April, I sat in a court room with Angie’s family and friends and listened about the horrific last few hours of her life – when she was brutally beaten to death, simply because another human being hated that she was transgender.  Angie was a young, vibrant, beautiful sister, aunt and daughter.  She’s someone I would have loved to have known.  It is remarkable to think that in a very short time we will see the nation’s first gender-identity inclusive bill signed into law by the President of the United States.  It is an incredible signal of respect for Angie and all the other transgender and gay people who have been taken from us through hate violence.

I couldn’t agree more with Adam.

Below the fold is a collection of what leading transgender civil rights organizations have said about passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Please take a read — what they have to say seems pretty important to hear.From the National Center For Transgender Equality:

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.

NCTE: Hate Crimes Bill Passes; Historic First Federal Protections of Transgender People“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.

From the Transgender Law Center (TLC):

The Transgender Law Center is pleased by the Senate’s passage of the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  This federal bill would add gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability to the categories already covered by federal hate crimes law.  This bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, and today, it was approved by the Senate. President Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.  

TLC: Transgender Inclusive Hate Crimes Bill Passes SenateIf signed into law, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act will become the first piece of federal legislation offering specific protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity – marking a historic moment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.  

“Passage of the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act will be a huge victory for transgender people across the country,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center.  “We need this federal law to ensure that hate crimes are properly investigated and prosecuted in jurisdictions without specific protections for LGBT people.”

In 2002, Newark CA teenager Gwen Araujo was brutally murdered because of her gender identity.  Her death was the first transgender case to be prosecuted as a hate crime under California’s gender-identity inclusive law.

“It has been 7 years since we lost Gwen to a vicious hate crime,” said Davis. “Transgender people are still victims of hate motivated violence way too often. The Hate Crimes Prevent Act would give the federal government the jurisdiction it needs to get involved.”

From the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF):

It’s incredible.

Yesterday, the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a major piece of national civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The Act broadens the definition of federal hate crimes to include those motivated by a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation. It gives victims the same federal safeguards already afforded to people who are attacked because of their race, color, religion or national origin.

TLDEF: Victory on Federal Hate Crimes Legislation!Now that the bill has passed both the House and the Senate, it’s on to President Obama for his signature. He has promised to sign the bill into law.

This is huge. Our supporters have spoken out, written letters to elected officials, and signed petitions demanding hate crime protections for our community. Your efforts have paid off in a big way.

We’ve spent countless hours working to educate the public about the urgent need for LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation. When I spoke with Carmella Etienne — who was the victim of a hate-motivated attack in Queens this past summer — she was overjoyed at the news that federal protections were on the way. When I spoke with Roxanne Green, the mother of slain transgender woman Lateisha Green, she was ecstatic to hear the news. The thought that all she and her family had endured, committing themselves to speaking out about anti-LGBT hate violence when they just wanted to curl up and make the pain of their loss go away, was overwhelming. That the passage of the bill comes near the one year anniversary of Teish’s death made the news that much more meaningful to her.

Hate-motivated violence doesn’t just target an individual. It targets an entire community, and it’s meant to make us fearful on the streets where we live, work, and socialize. It undermines the promise of equality, and it affects us all on a deeply personal level. There are days when the many stories of hate violence make me so mad I could spit nails. There are other days when it all just makes me want to cry. But today, I feel a sense of hope. Justice is on the way.

You can spin a globe, drop your finger down on it, and be pretty well assured that it will land on a spot in the world where LGBT people are targeted for hate violence, and where the government either turns a blind eye to that violence, or actively encourages and even participates in it. To have our government – finally – say that things must be different and that it will use all of the resources at its disposal to combat the hate violence that LGBT people still face on a daily basis sends a powerful message to Americans and to the world.

Yesterday, we took a huge step forward on the road to equal rights. There’s still so much to be done, but with your continued support, we will put an end to violence and discrimination directed at people simply because they live openly and honestly as who they are.

Thank you for everything you’ve done to help make this moment a reality. Let’s savor it.

Very best wishes,

Michael

Michael Silverman

Executive Director

From the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition commends the members of the United States Senate who voted to support a motion to invoke cloture on the Conference Committee report on the Defense Authorization bill, which includes language making hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity a federal crime.  There is still a final vote on the Conference Report, but we expect it to pass despite some opposition.

TTPC Applauds Actions by U.S. Senate, HHS, and HUDThe vote this morning was 64 to 35.  We are, however, extremely disappointed that both of Tennessee’s Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, chose to vote No, despite the plethora of Hate Crimes against LGBT people, and especially against African American Transwomen, in Tennessee.

Hate Crimes legislation will be the first positive bill covering transgender, as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, ever to reach the desk of the President of the United States.   We look forward to seeing President Barack Obama sign this important piece of legislation into law.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition also recognizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which announced plans yesterday to establish the nation’s first National Resource Center to assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and supports for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

According to HHS statistics, estimates are that as many as 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals are age 60 and older.   Agencies that provide services to older individuals may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the needs of this group of individuals. The new Resource Center for LGBT Elders will provide information, assistance and resources for both LGBT organizations and mainstream aging services providers at the state and community level to assist them in the development and provision of culturally sensitive supports and services. The LGBT Center will also be available to educate the LGBT community about the importance of planning ahead for future long term care needs.

The LBGT Resource Center will help community-based organizations understand the unique needs and concerns of older LGBT individuals and assist them in implementing programs for local service providers, including providing help to LGBT caregivers who are providing care for an older partner with health or other challenges.

Finally, TTPC also applauds the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which also announced yesterday a series of proposals to ensure that HUD programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity as well as the first-ever nationwide survey of housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. This historic announcement explicitly addresses discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time by a federal agency.

According to the HUD announcement, the proposed rule by HUD will make three important changes to federal regulations. First, it includes language that ensures LGBT families are recognized and covered by HUD programs, including affordable housing assistance.  Second it requires organizations that administer HUD grants to abide by state and local laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Third it prohibits consideration of factors other than creditworthiness, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in the awarding of mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

All three of these actions from the Nation’s Capitol are major steps forward in ensuring that LGBT individuals and families are treated fairly and with respect across the nation.

We thank all who made this possible.

Marisa Richmond

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