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House passes trans-inclusive hate crimes amendment
Passed along with bill that raises civil liberties, gay rights concerns
By ELIZABETH WEILL-GREENBERG | Sep 14, 8:00 PM - Washington Blade
The House of Representatives passed a transgender inclusive hate crimes amendment Wednesday, despite critics in the gay community who feared that including the transgender community would sabotage its future.
Lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was one of the sponsors of the hate crimes measure that passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 223 to 199. (File photo)
“It shows unequivocally that those that thought Congress couldn’t pass a trans inclusive bill were just wrong,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “I don’t know of a single vote we lost because it was trans inclusive.”
The hate crimes bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The hate crimes amendment passed Wednesday 223 to 199, according to HRC.
“Special recognition needs to go to Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi for their leadership,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Most representatives voted along party lines except 30 Republicans who voted for it and five Democrats who voted against it, according to HRC.
A hate crimes bill has passed the Senate three times before and the House has held two procedural votes on hate crimes legislation, according to Christopher Labonte, HRC deputy political director. The current hate crimes bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), does not explicitly include transgender people.
“This is the first time an explicitly written transgender inclusive bill has been passed by the House or the Senate,” said Labonte. “It’s amazingly historic.”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauded the victory, as well, and its historic nature.
"Never before has the House of Representatives voted to protect transgender people in any way," said Foreman in a statement.
“For the first time the House voted to extend protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in a meaningful way,” Foreman told the Blade. “What people have been saying for years is it would be impossible to pass legislation that was explicitly transgender inclusive. Today’s vote shows that is false.”
“It’s even more remarkable it occurred first in the House, which is more conservative than the Senate,” he added.
A Mixed Victory
However, some gay rights activists were disturbed by the bill the hate crimes amendment was passed with — the Children’s Safety Act, which has raised civil liberties concerns.
Keisling said the hate crimes amendment was attached to a “very, very troubling” act.
“Parts of the bill are really bad,” she said.
Foreman said his organization was also concerned with the underlying bill. For example, he said, one provision requires all states to set up sex offender registries.
“In some states public lewdness is a sex offense,” he told the Blade. “Public lewdness laws are disproportionately and unfairly enforced against gay men in cruising areas.”
Labonte said that HRC did not have a position on the Children’s Safety Act.
Among the provisions in the Children’s Safety Act, it calls for the creation of a national DNA database of anyone arrested or detained by a federal agency, according to Jack King, public affairs director for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
The Act also eliminates federal review for prisoners who are convicted in the killing of someone under the age of 18, he said, calling it one of its worst provisions. Under the Children’s Safety Act, in cases where a person is innocent, once he or she has exhausted the state courts, the only avenue left is executive clemency from the governor, he said.
“Governors are politicians,” he said. “They don’t want to be known for springing convicted sex offenders even if the evidence shows he didn’t do it.”
Many of the provisions have nothing to do with protecting children and, instead, dangerously limit civil liberties, King said.
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg can be reached at email@example.com
U.S. House passes hate crimes act
Wed Sep 14, 7:20 PM ET
SUMMARY: The U.S. House of Representatives passed on Wednesday a hate crimes act that the Human Rights Campaign called a "historic step."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a hate crimes act in a bipartisan vote on Wednesday. The measure gives law enforcement officers the tools to prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The nation's largest LGBT political group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), called the 223-199 vote a "historic step."
"Hate crimes send a message of fear, and Congress answered with a powerful law enforcement tool," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Members of the House, Democrats and Republicans alike, historically signaled today that local law enforcement officials deserve the tools this bill would provide toward fighting the scourge of hate crimes."
"Today the United States House has courageously stood up for basic fairness for LGBT Americans," Chris Barron, Log Cabin Republicans political director, said on Wednesday. "T his is a tremendous day for our entire LGBT community."
The measure, which has failed to pass both chambers of Congress in recent years, is the first to include protections for transgender Americans.
"At least one chamber of Congress has finally made a statement that it is not acceptable to hurt or kill transgender people because of who we are," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "This is a pivotal vote for transgender people who have been working diligently for years to educate Congress about transgender people and our lives."
The measure, known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was passed as an amendment to H.R. 3132, the Children's Safety Act.
The vote came two days after a jury in Northern California convicted two men of second-degree murder for the killing of transgender teen Gwen Araujo. The jury, however, was not convinced the killing was a hate crime.
Thirty Republicans joined one independent and 194 Democrats in supporting the hate crimes legislation, according to Log Cabin.
"We hope that the political courage that Republican House members showed today will be a sign to those in the party who seek to promote a divisive social agenda -- your days are numbered," Barron said. "We have always known that history and common decency were on our side, and today's vote proves that."
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September 15, 2005
Hate-crimes bill passes in U.S. House - Advocate.com
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, a long-pending measure that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics covered by the federal hates-crimes statute. The House approved the measure on a 223-199 vote. One hundred ninety-two Democrats voted in favor of the legislation, along with 30 Republicans and one Independent. The majority of Republicans (194) voted with five Democrats to oppose the measure. The vote marks the first time that the U.S. House has approved such a bill.
The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act updates the nation's hate-crimes law to cover crimes that target individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Democratic congressman John Conyers of Michigan introduced the legislation and helped to guide it through final passage as an amendment to the Children’s Safety Act of 2005. The act has passed in the Senate before, where it is currently pending again, but was always defeated in the House.
"This legislation will allow the federal government to enhance its law enforcement resources so that it may effectively combat crimes that attempt to terrorize groups of Americans," said Eric Stern, executive director of Stonewall Democrats, a gay political organization. "Current federal law does not give local authorities the tools needed to prosecute crimes targeting individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the global war on terror, Americans should be fully equipped to combat intimidation and fear both abroad and at home."
“Today, thanks to the courageous votes of 223 men and women, the United States House has sent a strong message that LGBT Americans are a valued part of our great country," said Chris Barron, political director for the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans. “We hope that the political courage that Republican House members showed today will be a sign to those in the party who seek to promote a divisive social agenda—your days are numbered. We have always known that history and common decency were on our side, and today’s vote proves that." (Advocate.com)
House Passes Gay Hate Crimes Bill
by Paul Johnson 365Gay.com Washington Bureau Chief
Posted: September 14, 2005 6:00 pm ET
(Washington) The House of Representatives passed legislation late Wednesday afternoon to expand federal hate crimes laws to include gays, lesbians and the transgendered.
The measure received bipartisan support, passing on a 233 - 199 vote.
Called the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act it has passed the Senate in previous congressional sessions only to die in the House.
A Senate version of the bill is currently before the chamber.
This legislation extends existing hate crimes laws that already cover crimes motivated by race, color, national origin and religion to include crimes based on actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity, including gender-related characteristics. The gender identity/characteristics language was added to this bill this year to make clear that anti-transgender crimes are covered.
The bill would allow the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting cases in which violence occurs.
The bill was filed jointly in May by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), IIeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), John Conyers (D-MI); Christopher Shays (R-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) (story)
Passage in the House drew praise from LGBT rights activists.
"Every American child deserves the strongest protections from some of this country's most horrifying crimes," said Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered by two men because he was gay, in 1998 in Wyoming. Shepard's slaying became the impetus for the legislation.
"Never before has the House of Representatives voted to protect transgender people in any way," said Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the Task Force. "And today marks the first time, outside of procedural motions, that the House has affirmatively voted to extend full hate crimes protections to lesbian, gay and bisexual people. This proves that even in times of adversity for our community, when grassroots voices keep up the pressure on our elected officials, decency can prevail."
Gay Democrats were equally pleased.
"This legislation will allow the federal government to enhance its law enforcement resources so that it may effectively combat crimes that attempt to terrorize groups of Americans," said Eric Stern, NSD Executive Director.
Passage of the bill came the same week as the conviction of two men in the slaying of transgendered teen Gwen Araujo. The jury, however, was unable to reach agreement on the sentence for a third defendant in the case. (story)
Last April a report released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs showed violence against members of the LGBT community is on the rise.
Overall, NCAVP’s report noted a 4% increase in reported incidents of anti-LGBT violence. Such incidents rose from 1,720 in 2003 to 1,792 in 2004.
Included in the rise in incidents for the year, was an 11% increase in anti-LGBT murders, which rose from 18 in 2003 to 20 in 2004. During 2004, the total number of victims rose 4%, from 2,042 in 2003 to 2,131 in 2004.
House backs hate crime measure protecting gays
Wed Sep 14, 2005 05:42 PM ET
By Joanne Kenen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unexpectedly backed a measure to expand federal hate crime protection to gay people, a measure that House conservatives had blocked for years.
The Senate has passed similar legislation, which also expanded protections for the disabled, several times in recent years but House conservatives had argued that these cases should be dealt with on a local or state level without additional federal intervention.
This time the hate crime measure was attached to a bipartisan bill known as the Children's Safety Act aimed at tightening reporting requirements for child sex offenders. Companion legislation has not yet moved through the Senate, so the ultimate fate of the gay protection provision is uncertain.
Still backers were jubilant.
"Every American child deserves the strongest protections from some of this country's most horrifying crimes," said Judy Shepard, a member of the Human Rights Campaign board. The fatal beating of her gay son, Matthew Shepard, in Wyoming in 1998 gave impetus to the legislation.
"It is a fantastic and welcome development," said Michael Lieberman of the Anti-Defamation League, which has been pushing for such legislation for several years.
The Children's Safety Act requires sex offenders to verify their residence and employment with authorities every month and mandates in-person verification with authorities every six months. It also improves coordination among states when offenders move.
"There are over 100,000 sex offenders who have failed to register in communities as they are required to do under existing law," said co-sponsor Rep. Melissa Hart, a Pennsylvania Republican.
"They are currently living and working in our communities, many could be residing near schools or playgrounds," she added.
The bill also includes a pilot program to allow electronic monitoring of sexual predators, and it also strengthens background check requirements for foster and adoptive parents.
The White House backs the underlying child safety bill, and said in a statement that it "provides a strong, comprehensive approach to addressing crimes, especially sex crimes, against children."
The hate crimes amendment would expand existing federal hate crime program to add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to federal hate crime laws. It would give grants to the states to help prosecute such crimes.
Backers of the legislation, a top priority for gay rights and disabled advocacy groups, have been trying to enact it since at least 1998, when the gaps in existing law were highlighted by two heinous crimes -- the dragging death of a black man named James Byrd in Texas and the death of Shepard.