Press

The Task Force praises Maryland activists for securing statewide hate crime law inclusion

Date: 
June 01, 2005

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force praises Maryland activists for securing statewide hate crime law inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

WASHINGTON, May 31 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauded the successful efforts by Maryland lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates to secure a hate crime law that includes protections for LGBT people. The measure, recently signed into law by Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), adds protections for LGBT individuals to the state's existing hate crime laws. Thirty-two states now have hate crime laws that cover sexual orientation, and 10 states have hate crime laws that clearly include transgender people. (For a map reflecting hate crime laws across the nation, visit www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_research/hate_crimes_map.)

"Activists have been working for years to get these protections into the hate crime law," said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland. "The recipe for success has come from just the right mix of ingredients." Those ingredients, he said, include the strategic lobbying of lawmakers; a close working relationship with transgender allies; the compelling testimony provided at legislative hearings; the creation of a broad coalition of supporters, including religious, civil rights and law enforcement groups; the presence of powerful voices, such as Judy Shepard, whose 21-year old son, Matthew, was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime; and, a huge dose of tenacity.

"We all owe our thanks to Equality Maryland and its transgender advocacy committee for successfully pushing for these sorely needed protections," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which testified in favor of Maryland's LGBT-inclusive hate crime bill and worked in coalition with Maryland activists. "Violence against LGBT people is pervasive and has been on the rise over the past two years. A climate of anti-gay sentiment has been encouraged by extremists and by politicians who have promoted anti-gay rights legislation nationally. New hate crime legislation is an important step toward providing equal protection from violence to all of our citizens."

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, there were 1,792 LGBT bias incidents in 2004, a 4 percent increase from the 1,720 incidents reported a year earlier. The number anti-LGBT violence offenders rose 7 percent during that same period, from 2,467 to 2,637. In addition, there was an 11 percent increase in anti-LGBT murders from 2003 to 2004, and the FBI's 2003 Hate Crimes Statistics report shows there were more bias-motivated murders based on sexual orientation than any other bias.

Maryland's law previously covered crimes motivated by race, color, religious beliefs and national origin.

"We worked long and hard to get the hate crime bill passed," said Lawrence Jacobs, president of Equality Maryland. His organization was adamant that transgender people be covered under the measure, he said, because "it is the segment of our community that is most vulnerable."

The other states with transgender-inclusive hate crime laws are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

–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.