October 29, 2009
President Obama has just signed into law the very first protections for transgender people in US history: The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
“This is a powerful day as the United States government, for the first time, stands up and declares that violence against transgender people is wrong and will not be tolerated in our country,” stated Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Every day transgender people live with the reality and the threat of personal violence, simply because of who they are. This must end and it must end now. The new law provides for some vital first steps in preventing these terrible crimes as well as addressing them when they occur. At NCTE, we are dedicating this day to all those who have been victims of hate-motivated violence as well as recommitting ourselves to ending the epidemic of hate that continues to damage our communities and our country.”
. . . The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would:
* Extend existing federal protections to include “gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability,”
* Allow the Justice Department to assist in hate crime investigations at the local level when local law enforcement is unable or unwilling to fully address these crimes,
* Mandate that the FBI begin tracking hate crimes based on actual or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability,
* Remove limitations that narrowly define hate crimes to violence committed while a person is accessing a federally protected activity, such as voting.
. . . This federal hate crimes legislation would add “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability” to the protected class list. Additionally, it would remove the requirement that the attacked individual has to be attempting to carry out a federally protected activity, such as voting, in order to be covered. The act would also amend the Hate Crimes Statistics Act by adding gender and gender identity thereby requiring the Federal Bureau of Investigation record and document the frequency, location and type of hate-motivated violence against transgender people.