Yesterday President Obama made history by signing into law a bill that will extend existing hate crimes laws to include “gender identity and sexual orientation,” mandate FBI tracking of anti-LGBT hate crimes and allow the Justice Department to assist in hate crime investigations at the local level when local law enforcement is unable or unwilling to fully address these crimes.
EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors hailed the signing:
"We are thrilled that President Obama has signed this fundamental piece of legislation, which ensures that the federal government will fulfill its obligation to protect all people of this nation, including LGBT people. We applaud the President and Congress for joining California in standing up against violence based on hate. We are especially grateful to Assemblymember Pedro Nava who authored the hate crimes resolution this year, former Senator Sheila Kuehl who authored the original California Hate Crimes Law and the LGBT Caucus and legislators who supported the numerous hate crimes bills and resolutions passed in California."
Finally! Instead of federal laws being used to discriminate against LGBT people, we are seeing a shift towards laws aiming to do what laws are for, to include and protect. In fact, this is the first national law ever to grant rights to transgender Americans—all others have aimed to exclude.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the result of decades of work from countless individuals and organizations. In 2009 the state of California passed dual resolutions sponsored by EQCA in the Assembly and Senate, authored by Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) and Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), putting the state of California on record in favor of federal hate crimes laws.
Thanks to the work of EQCA and its predecessors, California is one of 32 states (including the District of Columbia) where sexual orientation is already included in state hate crimes laws and one of only 11 states where gender identity is included. EQCA has also led efforts to strengthen the state's anti-discrimination laws, including sponsoring 2004's Omnibus Hate Crimes Act, 2006's Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act and 2007's Student Civil Rights Act.
We are all safer now that we’re included in our nation’s hate crimes laws. Now we must be vigilant to ensure that they are enforced. Find out more about the new laws here: http://bit.ly/2jjHEV