Hate Crimes are Finally Hate Crimes

In my undergraduate years I lived in Las Vegas, and I often guest spoke to classes and groups about transgender issues.  One of the things I would often discuss was hate crimes.  I had statistics on other affected groups, and the rate at which they were victims of hate crimes.  But the number of people who fell victim to hate crimes based on gender identity always surprised people, zero.  There was no such thing as a hate crime against someone for their gender identity. 


On Wednesday October 29, 2009 President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  After 10 years of disagreements over the bill, this new federal hate crimes act affords protections based on someone’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 


Over the last 10 years there have been various barriers to the final passage.  The bill made it through the House of Representatives in April.  However, to get it through the Senate, Democrats attached this bill to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, a $680 billion defense bill.  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/28/AR2009102804909.html)


Prior to this the only protections afforded to the LGBT community came from state laws.  32 states have hate crimes laws that include sexual orientation, and only 11 states have hate crimes laws that include gender identity.  (http://www.kesq.com/Global/story.asp?S=11401043


It is an incredible feeling to realize that your life has value.  This bill is a victory for the LGBT community.  As a transgendered man, this bill is very important to me.  It gives me a feeling of humanity to know that the law will not just stand by and allow someone to injure me just because of who I am.  This bill is a great step towards equality for the LGBT community.


James T. Larkin