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Task Force: Passage of federal hate crimes bill marks 'milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans'

Date: 
October 22, 2009

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"With his signature, President Obama will usher in a new era — one in which hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will no longer be tolerated."
— National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund called today's Senate passage of federal hate crimes legislation "a milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans" and the entire country. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will help protect people against violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, gender, national origin and disability by extending the federal hate crimes statute. It will provide critical federal resources to state and local agencies to equip local officers with the tools they need to prosecute hate crimes. The House passed the bill Oct. 8. It now moves to President Obama, who has vowed to sign it.

The Task Force has been a key leader in the effort to secure an effective and full government response to hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United States, beginning with the launch of its groundbreaking anti-violence project in 1982, up to today's victory. Get more details here about the Task Force's longtime work on hate crimes.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund

"Today's vote marks a milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The hate crimes bill now shifts to the president. With his signature, President Obama will usher in a new era — one in which hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will no longer be tolerated. Our country will finally take an unequivocal stand against the bigotry that too often leads to violence against LGBT people, simply for being who they are.

"Americans are hungry for this type of positive change. They do not want to see their LGBT friends, family, neighbors and co-workers subjected to violence simply for living their lives. Laws embody the values of our nation; when this critical legislation becomes law, our nation will — once and for all — send the unmistakable message that it rejects and condemns hate violence against its people.

"We thank all the federal lawmakers who have supported this effort, both today and over the years. We are on the cusp of a new, and better, chapter in America."

More on the Task Force's work on hate crimes legislation

Passage of hate crimes legislation stems from decades of work, much of it spearheaded by the Task Force, including:

  • In 1982, the Task Force founded the groundbreaking anti-violence project, the first national organizing project for anti-LGBT hate crimes.
  • In 1990, the Task Force secured the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, in large part justified by the Task Force's own statistics on hate crimes against LGBT people. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was pushed so that national data could build the foundation for a hate crimes law.
  • Murders and arsons, some anti-LGBT and others based on race and other characteristics, led President Bill Clinton to call for a White House Summit on Hate Crimes in 1997, attended by then-Task Force Executive Director Kerry Lobel, where she delivered a petition signed by LGBT people all over the country asking for a serious response to anti-LGBT hate crimes. Out of this meeting, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (the predecessor to today's legislation) was written; it fixed several problems with the existing hate crimes law on race, religion and national origin, and added sexual orientation, gender and disability to the law.
  • In 2001, the Task Force started its work to add gender identity to the bill. Over the course of years and bringing along coalition partners, the Task Force secured a "gender identity" addition into the House legislation in 2005, with the Senate bill becoming transgender-inclusive in 2007.
  • The Task Force continued to advocate for the bill's passage, repeatedly activating its membership.
  • In 2009, when the hate crimes bill was added to the Department of Defense authorization bill and a death penalty provision was added in the Senate, the Task Force spoke out about the immorality of inclusion of the death penalty and activated its grassroots to urge the provision be struck from the final language. The conference committee ultimately removed the capital punishment language.


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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, founded in 1974 as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., works to build the grassroots political power of the LGBT community to win complete equality. We do this through direct and grassroots lobbying to defeat anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBT legislation and other measures. We also analyze and report on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBT community. The Task Force Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation incorporated in New York. Contributions to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are not tax deductible.