Press

New Mexico Passes Hate Crime Bill; Anti-Discrimination Bill Set For Vote

Date: 
March 21, 2003

Passed Bill Provides Explicit Transgender Protections in State's Hate Crime Law

UPDATE: 4-8-03 Both bills mentioned in the press release below were signed into law by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson today. The anti-discrimination bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity (as two separate categories) to the anti-discrimination laws of the state; the hate crimes bill establishes the first statewide hate crimes law for New Mexico - and it covers crimes committed because of the actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation of the victim.

UPDATE: 3-24-03 The anti-discrimination bill, Senate Bill 28, mentioned in the press release below was passed by its final chamber, the House, with a vote of 32-26 on Friday, March 21. The bill now joins the hate crimes bill waiting for the governor's signature.

Santa Fe, NM - The New Mexico House passed Senate Bill 38 with a vote of 39-27 yesterday, sending the bill to the governor's desk for signature. The bill establishes a state hate crime law, which covers sexual orientation and gender identity, providing extra prison time for offenders whose crimes are found by a court to have been motivated by hate. Meanwhile, a vote on one of the pending anti-discrimination bills is imminent; to send an anti-discrimination bill to the governor, either the House or the Senate needs to pass the other chamber's already passed version. Both the Senate and the House anti-discrimination bills do the same thing: add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the state's Human Rights Act. At a press conference on March 13, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson asked the Legislature to send him both the pending anti-discrimination and hate crimes bills so that he could sign them into law.

"This is a time to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the activists in New Mexico, who brilliantly moved these bills through the legislative process for years," said Lisa Mottet, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) Transgender Civil Rights Project Legislative Lawyer. Mottet recently traveled through the Southwest, including New Mexico, meeting with key activists. "The folks in New Mexico did everything right: they told their stories to legislators; mobilized a grassroots base of support; and they would not accept exclusive language - gender identity had to be part of the package."

Senate Bill 38 adds sections to New Mexico's criminal sentencing code to allow judges to increase sentences when the judge or jury finds that the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation of the victim. The Coalition for Equality of New Mexico and New Mexico Gender Advocacy Information Network (NMGAIN) led the lobbying efforts on this bill. New Mexico joins a handful of states with hate crimes laws containing explicit transgender protection, the most recent being Pennsylvania which added protection last year.

"Passage of this bill in New Mexico shows that more of the nation is realizing that protecting transgender people from discrimination is both important and the right thing to do," according to NGLTF Executive Director, Lorri L. Jean. "The New Mexico success establishes beyond question that when we do our organizing work well and take the time to educate legislators about transgender people, thoughtful and fair-minded leaders will support it. Now the federal government needs to wake up to this reality and follow the example set by fair-minded jurisdictions across the country by passing similar legislation."

New Mexico activists are anxiously waiting for one of the pending anti-discrimination bills to be sent to the governor as well. If passed by the additional chamber, House Bill 314 or Senate Bill 28 will prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing and credit based on sexual orientation and gender identity by amending the New Mexico Human Rights Act. New Mexico is set to become the third state to explicitly cover gender identity in its anti-discrimination law. Currently, two states, Minnesota and Rhode Island, have such laws, as well as 53 cities or counties across the country.

"The work of NMGAIN to assist in the passing of this bill was helped by the research, counsel and encouragement of the NGLTF, especially the Transgender Civil Rights Project," according to Virginia Stephenson, President of NMGAIN.

In other states, pieces of transgender-inclusive or transgender-specfic legislation are experiencing movement as well. The Washington State House passed its anti-discrimination bill on Monday, with a vote of 59-39; that bill now moves to the Senate. California Assembly Bill 196, which would clarify that California's existing sex discrimination laws cover transgender people, passed out of its first committee this week. Activists in Illinois are also hopeful that their anti-discrimination bill may experience unprecedented movement.

NGLTF lent support to New Mexico activists through its Transgender Civil Rights Project which provides legislative and strategy assistance, including evaluation of legislative language, to activists and organizations working to pass trans-inclusive anti-discrimination bills or to add transgender protections to existing laws.

–30–

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.