A Big Step Toward LGBT Equality

October 26, 2009

Letter to the editor | Washington Post
by Elizabeth Birch, former Executive Director of Human Rights Campaign

It will take the great wheels of history grinding forward to recognize the momentous significance of Thursday’s final passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

It is a watershed moment in the history of our nation. For the first time, Congress passed a law that acknowledges that gay people are citizens. We are far behind many other Western nations in our progress toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. But this week, a great wall cracked open slightly and for the first time some legal light peeked through.

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Rachel Maddow on Passage of Hate Crimes Bill: A Civil Rights Milestone

October 23, 2009


Watch Rachel Maddow discuss yesterday’s passage of hate crimes legislation in Congress.

link to video

Senate Passes Measure That Would Protect Gays

October 23, 2009

By Ben Pershing | Washington Post

The Senate cleared a historic hate crimes bill Thursday for President Obama’s signature, approving new federal penalties for attacks on gay men and lesbians.

The legislation, which was attached to the conference report for the bill outlining the Pentagon’s budget, marks the culmination of a years-long fight by civil rights groups to codify the expanded protections.

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights Applauds Final Passage of Hate Crimes Bill

October 22, 2009

For Immediate Release

(Washington, D.C., October 22, 2009)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauds the United States Senate for final passage of the hate crimes bill, now known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Department of Defense conference report was approved with the hate crimes bill provisions included by a vote of 68-29; earlier in the day Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii cast the final affirmative vote on a procedural motion to limit debate that cleared the last hurdle to final passage as an honor to his long service to the Senate. The conference report accompanies H.R.2647, the underlying Department of Defense Authorization bill. The measure now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The hate crimes legislation gives the Justice Department the authority to fully investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes where the victim has been targeted because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the bill.

“We thank the Senate—indeed the full Congress—for passing the hate crimes bill, and especially those who provided strong leadership on this measure,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “My heart is very full today as I think of families who have lost loved ones, of Senator Kennedy, who championed this bill for so many years, and also as I imagine all those who may be saved by this measure. I look forward to President Obama swiftly signing this measure into law.”

On October 8, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted 281-146 in favor of a joint House-Senate “conference report” on a defense authorization measure that also includes provisions that would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to cover attacks based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and military service.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28, 2009 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), among others. At the June 25, 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified that the Obama administration strongly supported the bill, stating, “The President and I seek swift passage of this legislation because hate crimes victimize not only individuals, but entire communities.”

NCLR has long supported passage of this key measure, assisting with drafting bill provisions, drawing public attention to the problem of hate violence and the need for hate crimes legislation, and providing grassroots support necessary for its passage.

Hate Crimes Bill Reflects U.S. Ideas

October 21, 2009

by Sen. Carl Levin | Holland SentinelSen. Carl Levin

Congress recently reached agreement on landmark legislation that brings our nation closer to living up to its ideals.

Senate and House negotiators included the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The act, which I helped shape as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will soon become law.

The hate crimes language included in the act has passed both houses of Congress in the past. Existing law gives federal officials jurisdiction over crimes of violence that are committed because of a person’s race, color, religion and national origin. The new language adds gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and membership in the military.

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Mother Bears Scars Of Grief in Limelight She Never Wanted

October 9, 2009

by Petula Dvorak | Washington Post

She makes herself do it.

Judy Shepard doesn’t enjoy talking in front of people, living a public life, giving speeches.

“Speech class was my worst nightmare,” she said.

If only that were still true.

Eleven years ago, on Oct. 12, 1998, Shepard’s first-born son, Matt — “not Matthew, he was Matt” — was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyo.

“This is my survival; this is how I deal with losing Matt,” she told students this week at South Lakes High School in Reston.

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Rep. Baldwin’s Reaction to House Passage of Hate Crimes Legislation

October 8, 2009

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI-02) reacts to the House of Representatives passing legislation that offers federal protection for victims of hate crimes who were targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The bill now awaits action in the Senate.