Press

Task Force: Signing of hate crimes measure is historic

Date: 
October 28, 2009

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"Laws embody the values of our nation, and through the enactment of this hate crimes law, our country has — once and for all — sent a clear and unequivocal message that it rejects and condemns all forms of hate violence, including crimes motivated by hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
— National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — President Obama today signed federal hate crimes legislation into law. 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. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey will attend the commemorative event later today at the White House.

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

"Today marks a historic milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and for the entire country. With the president's signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, both sexual orientation and gender identity have, for the first time in U.S. history, been explicitly included in federal law.

"It has taken over a decade of perseverance to get to this momentous day, and we thank all those who have worked to achieve this incredible victory. Laws embody the values of our nation, and through the enactment of this hate crimes law, our country has — once and for all — sent a clear and unequivocal message that it rejects and condemns all forms of hate violence, including crimes motivated by hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"We look forward to the days ahead when we will join together again to celebrate full equality and recognition of our community, including in employment, the military and in the full recognition of our families. The Task Force is committed to the work necessary to bring full equality to the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We know that we have much work ahead of us. Today, we must pause and shine a light on this critical first step taken by Congress, and the willingness of this president to follow through on his promise to sign this legislation ensuring the laws of the land will protect all of us."

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, which included sexual orientation, in large part justified by the Task Force's own statistics on hate crimes. 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.