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Obama Signs Historic Federal LGBT Hate Crimes Legislation

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After remarks on the Department of Defense authorization bill, President Barack Obama moments ago recognized Judy and Dennis Shepard and the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy before signing the bill, which contains the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Bill, into law.

Said Obama: "Now, speaking of that, there is one more long-awaited change contained within this legislation that I'll be talking about a little more later today. After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day -- make this day possible. So -- and thank you for joining us here today. (Applause.) So, with that, I'm going to sign this piece of legislation."

Watch his remarks and read a statement from Judy Shepard, AFTER THE JUMP...

It's the first-ever passed federal LGBT civil rights legislation. A great day for America.

Check back HERE at 6:00 pm for a livestream of Obama's remarks on the hate crimes law.

STATEMENT FROM JUDY SHEPARD

After a decade of debate, persistent advocacy and 14 separate congressional floor votes, President Barack Obama today signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in a White House ceremony attended by the Shepard and Byrd families.

“When Dennis and I started calling 10 years ago for federal action to prevent and properly prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans, we never imagined it would take this long,” said Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother and the president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors.

“The legislation went through so many versions and so many votes that we had to constantly keep our hopes in check to keep from getting discouraged,” she continued. “But with President Obama’s support and the continually growing bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate lining up behind the bill this year, it became clear that 2009 was the year it would finally happen.”

The legislation allows federal authorities to pursue charges in violent crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability, in cases where local authorities cannot or will not secure appropriate convictions. It also opens up federal aid to local law enforcement for training, prevention and investigation.

“We are incredibly grateful to Congress and the president for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families, especially given the continuing attacks on people simply for living their lives openly and honestly,” Shepard added. “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s work for an inclusive society continues after passage of this landmark legislation. In addition to advocating for workplace and housing equality, equal rights for same-sex couples, and an end to the ban on gay and lesbian military service, the Foundation continues to reach out to schools and corporations nationwide to encourage respect for human dignity and differences.

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Comments

  1. I'm quite familiar with the crimes code. I do it for a living, I think I know how hate crimes legislation AND the sentencing code works.

    Hate Crimes legislation makes it a brand new crime to assault someone based on trait "x". One of the ways it works, at least it does in Pennsylvania, is this:

    If you are assaulted and suffer some bodily injury, that's misdemeanor assault. Misdemeanor of the second degree in PA. If you tack a hate crime on there, the grading of the hate crime (in PA, it's called "Ethnic Intimidation") increases by one; in my example, the Ethnic Intimidation would be graded as a Misdemeanor of the 1st degree. Clearly that's special treatment.

    That's utterly inappropriate. That's why the sentencing code has aggravating factors, so the sentencing judge can look at the crime and say "this was particularly heinous, so I'm going to impose a harsher sentence" or, in other cases, say "although this was an assault, there were mitigating factors and I'll decrease the sentence".

    The fact that you don't understand how a hate crime can adequately be addressed by aggravating factors, or don't agree with how it can be done so, doesn't make my argument moot. What I see in your posts is a complete lack of understanding of criminal law, you don't even know the difference between an "aggravating factor" and the crime of "aggravated assault", so I fail to see how you can claim I'm talking out of my ass when you don't even understand basic criminal law concepts.

    And for those of you insisting on clinging to the delusion that white, straight men will be considered "victims" under this law, you need to stop kidding yourselves. The AG made it abundantly clear that hate crimes legislation is meant to prosecute crimes committed against specific groups of people who have faced discrimination. You can lie all you like, but the fact of the matter is that it is a legal rarity for a minority to be prosecuted for committing a hate crime.

    This is pure thought policing, plain and simple.

    Posted by: DR | Oct 28, 2009 10:20:59 PM


  2. "Hate Crimes legislation makes it a brand new crime to assault someone based on trait "x"."

    Because people with trait x are more likely to be victims of violent crimes because of that trait... if you're going to disagree, at least be honest about it. Aggravated assault doesn't take into account that people are more likely to be criminally victimized because of that trait than those without it.



    "That's utterly inappropriate."

    That's a great argument!

    "That's why the sentencing code has aggravating factors, so the sentencing judge can look at the crime and say "this was particularly heinous, so I'm going to impose a harsher sentence" or, in other cases, say "although this was an assault, there were mitigating factors and I'll decrease the sentence"."

    And that's a part of the problem. The discretion that judges have in sentencing people convicted of crimes in states that don't acknowledge them. They don't apply that standard, because believe it or not, judges and prosecutors and police officers are homophobic...and biased...get it, lil' scrapper? In states where hate crimes are on the books, prosecutors and police officers don't investigate due to lack of funding, training, and fed support. This will change.

    "The fact that you don't understand how a hate crime can adequately be addressed by aggravating factors, or don't agree with how it can be done so, doesn't make my argument moot."

    It hasn't as those don't address hate crimes, and can't be used to do so. They simply don't acknolwedge a specific criminal problem, and thereby can't address it.

    Aggravated circumstances have been used well before hate crimes existed, and obviously didn't and doesn't address that problem. If everything was fine before hate crime legislation, why didn't aggravated circumstances correct it or endeavor to correct it? You won't have an answer for this. Why you explicitly don't think of it as a problem (hate crimes) is likely the reason why you're opposed to the legislation.


    And you end it with the thought police meme, expressing a complete non understanding of hate crimes or of anything I've talked about... No, a hate CRIME is not a thought--it's a behavior. This was a waste of time, but stupid people are fun to slap around. I don't know why.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 28, 2009 10:35:15 PM


  3. Tank, Matthew Shepard's attackers were not prosecuted according to any hate crimes law, and they received the strongest sentence possible. Creating a special class of crimes is a terrible precedent, and as a gay man, I don't want to be separated out as a protected class. I just want equality. If prosecutors are ignoring crimes, show how they are and go after them for it. And stop tarring all people in law enforcement with the homophobia label -- it's not fair.

    People who don't want hate crimes laws aren't automatically homophobes and traitors to the cause, either. We want to ensure that the rule of law is applied and that GLBT individuals get its full protection. There are points of honest disagreement here; I think DR made some very smart, specific arguments and you're acting like a cunt in response. Smarten up.

    Posted by: Freddy | Oct 28, 2009 11:58:56 PM


  4. "Tank, Matthew Shepard's attackers were not prosecuted according to any hate crimes law, and they received the strongest sentence possible."

    Obviously you're the same irate heterosexual white male angry because you don't believe hate crimes are a problem. Matthew Shepard's case reveals the NEED for hate crimes, as his mother has indicated. It's a case study for hate crime protections for lgbt americans. He was victimized as a result of his sexual orientation, and the fact that his murderers received heavy penalties without them does not negate that fact, NOR the fact that people (for the last time, stupid) are more at risk to be victimized as matthew shepard WAS because of their sexual orientation. In many cases, murderers of gay men go unpunished--and legally unpunished--because, in part, of homophobia that pervades the judicial system. Other problems are funding, training and time.

    "Creating a special class of crimes is a terrible precedent, and as a gay man, I don't want to be separated out as a protected class."

    This isn't an argument. Do you understand that? This addresses nothing. I don't care what you want--it doesn't matter to the soundness of the argument for hate crimes. What you want or believe doesn't matter to the truth of the premises. A special class of crimes is CREATED by those who perpetrate them. All the law is doing is acknowledging the reality of the preexisting type of crime that exists in trying to curb it.

    "I just want equality."

    Well, if you want equality (which you don't...), you wouldn't be arguing that hate crime laws create inequality, because they don't--they seek to correct the inequality of victimization that is reflected by the crime rate...

    "If prosecutors are ignoring crimes, show how they are and go after them for it. And stop tarring all people in law enforcement with the homophobia label -- it's not fair."

    No, with aggravated circumstances, it is entirely at their discretion to not pursue that. This is no violation of the law. It is perfectly legal for judges to not assess stiffer penalties in states that don't have hate crime laws, and refuse to consider them aggravated because they're homophobic. That is legal. That is what this will address, too.

    "People who don't want hate crimes laws aren't automatically homophobes and traitors to the cause, either."

    Or...they're just stupid...you know...because they don't have arguments or good reasons for opposing sentencing enhancements. Like you, for example--you don't understand what a hate crime is.

    "We want to ensure that the rule of law is applied and that GLBT individuals get its full protection. There are points of honest disagreement here; I think DR made some very smart, specific arguments and you're acting like a cunt in response. Smarten up."

    LOL! I think you're DR. This was never a debate...you're not providing arguments. You're repeating yourself, and the FALSE STATEMENTS that have been disproven time and again by those who oppose hate crime legislation. At this point, they're lies. Just not ingelligent disagreement coming from your camp.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 29, 2009 12:30:01 AM


  5. - If Matthew Shepard's attackers were prosecuted appropriately, then how does it reveal a need for hate crimes laws if the existing penalties were enough? Also, whether you say so or not, there is real doubt that he was attacked because he was gay in the first place. Either way, the assailants were prosecuted.

    - Not wanting to create a special category of crimes because they carve inequality into the justice system may not be a convincing argument to you, but it is an argument nonetheless. And you not caring what I think ... well that's just unbearable and I'm all out of Xanax.

    - So you're saying that hate crime laws will result in prosecutors being prosecuted if they ignore a gay-bashing? Please explain. What if a prosecutor ignores a regular murder for some other reason, like corruption? Hate crimes laws aren't necessarily the answer here.

    - If anyone is repeating yourself, it's you, Tank. I'm trying to argue, and you keep telling me 1) my opinion is irrelevant, b) I'm irrational, c) stupid, d) a liar, and e) "not ingelligent." Who's repeating himself here?

    PS Not DR, but whoever is, I want to blow you. =)

    Posted by: Freddy | Oct 29, 2009 2:04:08 AM


  6. Whether matthew shepard was murdered because of his sexual orientation is in serious doubt, according to you Freddy? LOL! Oh my goodness. You and fred phelps. You are a piece of trash, freddy. Unworthy of serious consideration. You have no argument that wasn't completely demolished by me previous post. Just read it again. You're disgusting...

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 29, 2009 2:47:17 AM


  7. And please, trash, don't even pretend that you're trying to argue. Your uncomprehending mind has shut down and as evidence for that, you haven't provided a response. You're just repeating what I've refuted.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 29, 2009 2:55:24 AM


  8. Lets keep in mind that the viewpoints forwarded by DR and Freddy are so outside the American mainstream that Justice Antonin Scalia found them unconvincing. The same Antonin Scalia that said ruling Texas' sodomy unconstitutional was "signing onto the homosexual agenda."

    If your side can't even convince an openly homophobic judge that hate crimes are unconstitutional, then it is fair to say you have zero chance with the other judges. Not the least of which because the "logic" is simply absurd beyond belief.

    The government has no inherent right to categorize victims of crime?

    Even though it has repeatedly since the founding of this Republic?

    It is just plain stupid.

    Just one example - out of hundreds - in which the law differentiates between victims:

    When a civil jury finds a defendant "liable" for someone's death and orders damages to be paid, the amount awarded is based solely on the jury's estimation of that person's life. This is expressed numerically in very literal and unequal terms. A doctor might be worth 1 million dollars in damages to a jury. While a construction worker might only be worth $200,000. The lawyers and judge then haggle over this value using whatever factors they deem appropriate to include: marital status, dependents, pain and suffering the victim endured, emotional distress of relatives, criminal record, contributions to society, impact upon community, service record, life expectancy, and so forth. Such unequal treatment of victims who are equally dead is not only legal, it is actually the usual practice in cases of that nature.

    Posted by: John | Oct 29, 2009 3:44:43 AM


  9. This message is for Clay; you seem to have a firm grasp on the insults, therefore most likely you are gay yourself. Those that protest too much probably are. Too bad the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd otherwise known as the Hate Crimes Act is now law; bring it on! The original AIDS case was a straight guy; suck on that!

    Posted by: Jeff Dunivant | Oct 29, 2009 8:35:51 AM


  10. Tank, it's clear that you don't understand what I'm saying, so you engage in yet MORE ad hominem attacks. Take a class or two in criminal law and procedure, and when you actually grasp the concepts I'm talking about, maybe you can refute them. Until then, you're welcome to your opinions, but they are ill-informed.

    Posted by: DR | Oct 29, 2009 8:37:46 AM


  11. 1 - I would not call Matthew Sheppard a hero. Nor would I call his parents heroes either.

    2 - I am happy his mom kept up the fight for gay rights, however nobody knows what happened that night (some little gay boy pissed off some straights - he was a victim, but not a martyr) Maybe he needed to be strung up on a fence. There has been plenty of times in my life where I have seen non politically correct things happen... if you need a reference - check out the M4M on craigslist.

    3 - I 100% agree with Freddy... we should date. I like it rough too. ;)

    4 - So, 24play - if you're any different whatsoever from the guy your bitchslapping, that doubles your sentence? Man - I hope you don't ever get in to a fist fight with anyone other than your identical twin.

    5 - HavenB - Hillary has done much more for this country that you would even dream of... oh and it has taken her less time and in a position of lesser power.

    6 - Clay, as much as your words are violent, I somewhat agree with you on the economy portion of your comment.


    Finally - enjoy the next 3 years of Obama not caring. DADT, fine maybe some suave guy with big ears who has his speeches written will repeal that, but - gay marriage - no chance in hell. (and this is coming from someone who really needs it to pass to actually stay in this country)

    Posted by: Badly Drawn Boston Boy | Oct 29, 2009 9:43:35 PM


  12. Jeff Dunivant - Patient Zero for AIDS was a Homosexual flight attendant for Air Canada. You are way off base.

    I you are going to argue, get a brain, go to school, suck come cock and a degree.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ga%C3%ABtan_Dugas

    Posted by: Badly Drawn Boston Boy | Oct 29, 2009 9:51:51 PM


  13. I love the minute we pass some of the most comprehensive reform on LGBT issues since stonewall, it becomes a biased troll fest filled with insults and false assumption on hate crimes laws.

    I have a comment for both of those trolls on this blog first. Yes I'm a cocksucker, no I do not have hemorrhoids, AIDS is a disease that affects all peoples not just gays, and I am in a committed monogamous relationship with one who I love and not your wretched insults, or your bloodied fists and hate will ever take that away.

    And to the usual whiners and debby downers on this blog listen up! Think Stonewall. forty years ago.. forty.. I was born nearly twenty years AFTER stonewall and I can see the historical significance of the signing of this law.

    Those of you who have your doubts about Obama as I have had put them aside. He has clearly shown he is behind us to the bitter end. I know Mccain would have never betrayed his base and signed this, and we all know what that nut job Palin would say about our rights...

    So Stop your bitching and complaining, and saying oh it's only a little step.. It is a HUGE step!! Protection under federal law in all 50 states against hate crimes.. That is a milestone.

    Give Obama a chance. He will come through for us in the end. I hope and pray he will repeal DADT so that my partners career is not at stake and that those in the military would not have to suffer the same humiliation and degradation to my career and to myself physically that I did while in the service... Now is the time we MUST press the advantage and fight tooth and nail.

    Call your senator call your congressman in your district, get out there! We all have a stake in this and it is our very lives and our hopes and dreams...

    Posted by: Jason | Oct 29, 2009 11:33:22 PM


  14. wow, towleroad, moderate comments ever? ... this is a reflection on you, not on the trolls.

    Posted by: eb | Oct 30, 2009 3:15:56 PM


  15. I agree, towleroad, I dont visit this site to read homophobic abusive rants, not that some of the debating from others isn't as childish and worrying. Bit of moderation just for the sake of not wasting space!

    Posted by: Marc | Nov 1, 2009 12:54:17 AM


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