Bil Browning

Hate crimes passes Senate: Goes to President's desk

Filed By Bil Browning | October 22, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Defense Authorization Act, hate crimes against LGBT people, Obama Administration, Senate

As expected, the Senate passed the defense authorization bill this afternoon on a bipartisan vote of 68-29. Hate crimes legislation has already passed both houses of Congress, but the entire bill had to be voted on again after differences in the two versions of the defense bill were worked out.

The House version of the consolidated bill passed October 6 - just in time for the National Equality March and Obama's speech to the Human Rights Campaign's national dinner. The bill goes to the President's desk for his signature next. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation soon.

This legislation is vitally important for states like Indiana which doesn't have a hate crimes law thanks to our state legislators lack of support for our community or an ineffective state-wide LGBT organization. The message of the National Equality March rings true for me today. Our lack of progress in our state has been salvaged by federal action. The only way we're going to gain our rights is via federal law.

Organizational statements after the jump as they come in.

Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board

"Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes. Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families."

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey

"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."

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese

"We're in the home stretch. This critical piece of legislation is on its way to the President's desk for his signature. We look forward to President Obama signing it into law; our nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Too many in our community have been devastated by hate violence. We now can begin the important steps to erasing hate in our country."

Center for American Progress Vice President Winnie Stachelberg

"Today the United States Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, turning the page on a dark era for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. I clearly remember the day 11 years ago when I learned that Matthew Shepard had been found beaten and abandoned in rural Wyoming. The murder told gay and lesbian Americans across the country that we were not safe. And the federal government could not help to prosecute this crime. Lack of federal support forced the Laramie Sherriff's Office to furlough five deputies for the Shepard investigation.

"This story repeats itself all too regularly for transgender Americans. A transgender woman named Tyli'a Mack was recently stabbed to death in a likely hate crime this August, blocks away from the Capitol. But once again the federal government was not able to provide assistance.

"Today's vote changes that. It firmly places the federal government on the side of LGBT Americans and sends a clear message that homophobia and transphobia are unacceptable. The bill urges police to take into account the homophobia and transphobia that undergird too many crimes, while giving law enforcement agencies around the country the tools they have asked for to effectively fight these crimes. This assistance is especially critical at a time when police department budgets are already being cut.

"Just as importantly, this bill starts Congress and the White House down the path toward full equality for LGBT Americans. Further progress will require a broad and engaged coalition and plenty of hard work. But I am confident that we can continue to move forward with the support of President Obama and congressional leadership on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, protecting LGBT workers from discrimination, and recognizing all our relationships. I look forward to President Barack Obama signing this bill into law next week."

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund

"Our community has long sought this tool to help protect vulnerable Americans from hate-fueled violent attacks. I'm proud that the openly gay and lesbian members of Congress were there to add their voices to the debate and to speak authentically about the experience of gay and transgender Americans. I congratulate Judy and Dennis Shepard, who have lobbied so long and so hard for this law, and I thank our colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign and all who contributed to this tremendous victory."

Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director, Family Equality Council

"Safety at home, at work, and in our communities is a cornerstone of happy, healthy families. LGBT families live in 99% of counties nationwide. We are neighbors, friends, loved ones, family members, workers and community members. Many of us are also parents who want more than anything to keep our children safe and to raise them in a world that finds strength in difference and celebrates diversity. Bias-motivated violence against any individual hurts our entire community. The protections and resources moved forward by Congress will ensure greater safety not just for LGBT people as individuals, but as parents and caregivers."

Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal

"We anticipate that President Obama will sign the Hate Crimes Prevention Act which will become the first federal law that specifically protects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Years after the tragic murders of Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena , Sakia Gunn and others our government is finally standing up and saying: No more. This law will send a message that violence motivated by hate will not be tolerated in this country and is a welcome first step towards other critical protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

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Please post any information on when President Obama may sign it and where!

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | October 22, 2009 5:33 PM

it is about time and I hope we can all take a moment to remember those we have lost to hate or who have been victimized, this bill is for all of them

Marie Aponte | October 22, 2009 5:54 PM

Wow, Joe Solomonese still knows how to say 'transgendered'?
Sorry Joe, you get no credit from me for this.

Bitter much? You should be thanking him for all the hard, tireless work he and HRC have put into it. Not only did they have to fight the "right" 8 years of Bush, but people like you...I think Transgendered will now be covered...
your welcome...

As soon as they put some work into it that isn't undercut by the other work they do, I might consider it.

Transfolk aren't bitter regarding the HRC. We are outright mistrustful, and rightfully so.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 22, 2009 5:54 PM

Its important to note this will be the first ever federal LGBT rights legislation to become law and it will be signed into law by the first African-American president in our nation's history.

When my son first came out, my big fear was for his safety. I am proud of the legislators who voted for this bill - it sends a clear message across our country that hate-biased crime is unacceptable. Thank you to all who worked so hard for this!

It is also important to note is that HRC and Joe Solmense have been there fighting for us the whole time. So for all you naysayers who will now be covered by this legislation.....
Thanks HRC and Joe for the great work!!!

It is very possible to do good work while still having serious faults. And the HRC's faults still need to be addressed. Racism didn't go away with the election of Obama, and the HRC's notorious history regarding trans rights and its policy of "lip-service only" won't be fixed by one bill getting passed.

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | October 22, 2009 7:23 PM

Our lack of progress in our state has been salvaged by federal action. The only way we're going to gain our rights is via federal law.

So very true, even though it went through as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. By the way it was a spit down party lines in the House. Donnelly and Ellsworth were given cover to vote yes. I guess the repubs hate the gays more than they love the troops. Pathetic.

Things are heating up in the US. It will be interesting to see what happens in Maine and/or Washington.

As I have belly-ached here at Bilerico many times before, not only has Indiana failed to pass a hate crimes law, but the unprotected populations, such as GLBT/POC/women/Jews/Muslims/et al of Indiana, seem uninterested at insisting that the "bias incidents" reporting law that we already have on the books be effectively implemented and enforced, so that we at least have reliable stats showing that a hate crimes law is needed.

With such lackluster citizen watchdogs, why should the legislature go to the trouble of passing an actual Indiana hate crimes statute? How much of this situation is our own fault?

I'll hold my celebrations until after the president signs it.

Once signed, this bill -- which does not do much for the localities without a hate crimes law in place already -- will become a law that can be pointed to in city and state government and used as leverage to pass similar legislation at the local level.

Michael @ | October 23, 2009 12:32 AM

You're spot on, Donna, and the votes in both houses prove it. Homohatred among many Repugs trumps their love of war and war toys ..."Happiness is a warm gun" ...except in the hands of a Homo.

It also trumps their hatred of Obama.

If the latter weren't true they would be using the damage DADT does to what they traditionally refer to as "a strong defense" as another reason to attack him, rubbing his nose in the fact that he's said it "weakens national security" himself.

Hallelujah...Hallelujah...Hallelujah...Halleluuuuuah! This one's for you Matthew Shephard, Larry King, Gwen Araujo, Brandon Teena, James Byrd and countless others whose lives were cut short due to bigotry and hate. May you all rest in peace knowing that justice is finally served.

Please do not forget, it's not just a good idea to thank Senators and Congress persons that supported this is A MUST! There WILL be a blow back from the opposition against these lawmakers. We must show them we stand behind them in full support. ENDA is next up in the legislative cue and will be voted on soon. Keep the pressure up. Especially in the Senate. That is where ENDA will live or die.
It's up to US!! If everyone of the 200,000 marchers called or wrote their lawmakers NEXT WEEK we will continue to witness the change we seek.

Please call!!

Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving."
-Elizabeth Cady Stanton

While welcome a new tool in our efforts do defend ourselves from violence promoted by rightist cult leaders and the politicians like Obama and Bush who cater to them, the hate crimes bill will not end violence against us.

That will only happen when a socialist government, one that represents us, women, minorities and working people begins a program to suppress anti-GLBT violence by arresting, convicting and jailing mormon, catholic, and protestant cult leaders like Obama’s bedmates Warren and Donnie McClurkin. The law will have to read, in essence, “incite violence, to jail for life and have your cult’s assets confiscated without compensation”.

Nevertheless the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill is a welcome and important tool in organizing our defense against violence. We can demand enforcement and if it's not forthcoming we'll point the finger at the thugs co-conspirators in the courts and among police and prosecutors.

If you remember the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes law passed both houses of Congress in 2007 but was dropped by the Democrats so they wouldn't appear too GLBT-friendly in the run up to the 2008 election, although that was never much danger of that. Bush, who would've certainly vetoed them, never got the chance.

Every year 25 or so LGBT folks get bludgeoned, knifed, beaten shot and burned to death. It’d be wonderful if the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill would stop that, but it won’t. Nor will it have much impact the thousands of reported cases of harassment and violence and the likely even larger numbers of events that go unreported because the victims fear the police as much as the thugs.

A key fact to keep in mind is that hate crimes against Native Americans and African Americans began to decline as it became apparent that people were willing to physically defend themselves, an attitude that became widespread during the great civil rights battles of the 1960's and later. Much of it was based on the self-defense program of Malcolm X and it was far more effective than all the liberal hand wringing and half baked efforts of the FBI and local law 'enforcement'.

These crimes won't stop until the unending barrage of hate speech that emanates from temples, churches, mosques and other cult centers week in and week out is itself declared criminal and prosecuted. When Jimmy Swaggart called for killing gay men “ I've never seen a man in my life that I wanted to marry. [Pause for laughter and cheers.] And I'm gonna be blunt and plain. If one ever looks at me like that I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died… he should have been imprisoned and the assets of his cult confiscated. That didn’t happen and it won’t happen after this act becomes law.

Swaggart is blunter and stupider than the cult leaders who ‘merely’ claim that we're not quite human, that we prey on children, that we're not fit to marry, that we' don't deserve equality on the job or in the courts. But they’re all equally dangerous. Thugs catch on when they listen to Dobson, Der Pope, or Obama, who says that even 'gawd' doesn't think we have a right to marry and get all those tax breaks. Their kind of garbage bigotry emboldens thugs promotes and violence.

When people are ready to fundamentally change our society we can deal with all the causes of hate crimes and put a stop to them. Because Obama and the Democrats essentially are a repeat of Bush and the Republicans that may come sooner rather than later. In the meantime we should use these laws to defend ourselves and to point out that it's not just the thugs but the cult leaders and politicians like Obama and Bush who pander to them who are all co-conspirators, accomplices and accessories to every hate crime that that occurs.