TYFA – Hate Crimes Bill Now Law
This is an historic day: President Obama has signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law — the first federal law in our nation’s history that specifically protects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Years after the tragic murders of Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, Sakia Gunn and others our government is finally standing up and saying: No more. Our community demanded action, and we never gave up.
This law will send a message that violence motivated by hate will not be tolerated in this country and is a welcome first step towards other critical protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Lambda Legal represented the family and estate of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was brutally raped and murdered in Nebraska in 1993 (the subject of the movie Boys Don’t Cry) to make sure that the law enforcement officials who had failed Teena were held accountable.
This law comes too late to provide justice for the victims of violence we have already lost, but it holds the promise of greater safety and respect for LGBT people today and in the future.
Our work is not done. Now that the Hate Crimes Act has become law, Congress and the President must also enact an inclusive ENDA to protect us against discrimination on the job. The majority of Americans support workplace protections for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and there is no reason for further delay. There is also no reason to delay the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — there should be no place for discrimination in our laws.
As one Justice Department official said, "[The Hate Crimes Act] is going to be used extensively." But our hope at Lambda Legal is that this law will not need to be used over and over again each year. Our hope is that antigay violence decreases and disappears.
Today we celebrate this exciting progress, as we remember those we have lost to violence. Tomorrow, we continue working together to achieve equality.
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