We Are One Step Closer To Not Being Second Class Citizens!


 

ObamaToday, President Barack Obama made good on his first promise to LGBTAmericans by signing the hate crimes legislation into law!

Today, we are one step closer to no longer being second class…

From an article entitled “President Barack Obama Signs Hate Crimes Legislation Into Law” at HRC.org:

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised President Barack Obama today for signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.  The new law gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.  The legislation was added as a provision to the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act earlier this Summer.  For a comprehensive retrospective and historical overview of hate crimes advocacy visit: www.hrc.org/loveconquershate.

“This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “Today’s signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality.  Although this is a major step in fighting the scourge of hate violence, it is not the end of the road.  As a community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to changing not only laws but also hearts and minds.  We know that hate crimes not only harm individuals, but they terrorize entire communities.  After more than a decade of advocacy, local police and sheriffs’ departments now have the full resources of the Justice Department available to them.”

“We applaud President Obama for signing this bill into law and thank the leadership and our allies in the House and Senate.   We also will always remember the tireless efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy on this issue.  Senator Kennedy once said that this legislation sends ‘a message about freedom and equality that will resonate around the world.’   This marks the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law.  And this law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice,” said Solmonese.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act honors the memory of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student brutally murdered in an act of hate violence in 1998, and James Byrd, an African-American man who was dragged to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

“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,” said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.  “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

“We appreciate everyone who worked so hard on this bill.  My son was taken at such an early age and we hope this law will help prevent other families from going through what we experienced,” said Stella Byrd, mother of James Byrd.  “Even though we’re different colors and different sexual orientations or gender identities, God made us all and he loves us all.”

The new law also provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

This legislation was first introduced in the 105th Congress.  There have been 14 total votes in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to bring this historic legislation to the president’s desk.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Let’s keep this momentum going!  One day soon, we are no longer going to be Second Class Citizens!

Advertisements

Shepard Murder Still Stirs Anger, Fear


From Advocate.com:JUDY_MATTX

As the 11th anniversary of the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard nears, celebrations of his life are casting a wide net across the country. 

His mother Judy Shepard, who has become a figure in his foundation and in lobbying for hate crime legislation is making appearances to talk about her book, The Meaning of Matthew. While speaking at Salt Lake City’s Main Library on Sunday, however, the mood went from celebratory to sour, when an onlooker called Shepard out from the crowd. 

According to a report on Pam’s House Blend, a man in the audience took Shepard to task, saying that she was exacerbating the premises under which her son was murdered for her own political gain. He said the murderers only targeted Matthew because they wanted to rob him and were high… not because of his sexual orientation. A visibly upset Shepard, however, refuted the claim, pointing out that neither of the killers tested positive for drugs when they were picked up by the police. They also each admitted to their actions because of the flight. 

Meanwhile, the creators of The Laramie Project, a play centered around Matthew Shepard’s death, are celebrating the project’s 10th year on stages across America with an epilogue, which includes a prison interview with convicted murderer Aaron McKinney. 

In the jarring interview, conducted by Greg Pierotti, McKinney admits to being drawn to crime since childhood and feeling sympathy for Shepard’s family… but not for killing Matthew.

“As far as Matt is concerned, I don’t have any remorse,” McKinney is quoted as saying, according to a script acquired by the The Associated Press. He added, “Yeah, I got remorse, but probably not the way people want me to. I got remorse that I didn’t live the way my dad taught me to live.”

McKinney and his accomplice Russell Henderson approached Shepard in a bar in Laramie on October 7, 1998. They offered Shepard a ride in their car, but then they savagely beat him and left him tied to a fence. Eighteen hours later, he was found by a passing bike rider, and eventually died on October 12. 

More than 1,000 actors will perform the updated version of the show when it premiers in October on the anniversary of Shepard’s death. Pierotti and other members of the Tectonic Theater Project will perform the piece at New York’s Lincoln Center while actors will stage the work at more than 100 theaters nationwide.

Senate Adopts Unwelcome Amendments to the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act


From an HRC press release:hrc-logo

The Senate adopted three amendments by voice vote. One amendment, SA 1615, adds the death penalty to the provisions of the Matthew Shepard Act. HRC strongly opposed this unwelcome amendment and hopes to address it as the Act continues through the legislative process. The Amendment was offered by and supported by Senators who oppose the Matthew Shepard Act in an effort to derail the Act. Fortunately, a side-by-side- amendment offered by Senator Kennedy was also added to the bill. The Kennedy amendment provides for additional restrictions in the use of the death penalty under the Act.

The third amendment requires the Attorney General to promulgate guidelines with “neutral and objective criteria for determining whether a crime was motivated by the status of the victim.”

A final Sessions amendment, SA 1616, was adopted by a vote of 92 to 0. This amendment creates a new federal criminal offense for cases involving assaults or battery of a U.S. service member – or a member of the service member’s immediate family.

Read the full press release here.

Please, tell your Senators…tell the old rich white men that run this country that you support the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act and learn the truth about the legislation at www.FightHateNow.org.

There is no reason for these people to be trying to kill such an important piece of legislation.  Fight the hate!  Please, stand up and have your voice heard before this plays out this week!

From HRC: CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY BY 5PM!


From the Human Rights Campaign:

HRC

The right wing is willing to keep LGBT people in harm’s way to make a political point. Your senators could vote on the Matthew Shepard Act this week. Call them TODAY!

The Senate is poised to vote on the Matthew Shepard Act THIS WEEK. But our allies are reporting an avalanche of 300,000 letters and calls from right-wing groups trying to stop it.

Anti-LGBT leaders like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson are now calling the bill “utter evil.” They’re even referring to it as the “Pedophile Protection Act.”

With a vote on hate crimes coming any day, we desperately need senators to hear from fair-minded people like you.

It takes about 45 seconds to call each one of your senators – and each one of them needs to hear from you today. It’s just as important for supportive senators to hear from us – they’ve promised to pass this bill, and they need to know we’re counting on them to keep fighting.

So set yourself a reminder on your computer. Make the call on your way to lunch. Or stop reading this and do it right now. Whatever you do, make sure to CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY.

If you’ve never called Congress, let me assure you, it’s incredibly easy.

  1. Before 5 p.m. ET, call your senators.  You can find their numbers here.
  2. Most likely, one of your senator‘s interns will answer and ask where you’re calling from and why. You’re calling to urge the Senator to vote for the Matthew Shepard Act (S. 909). Most calls end right there. But if you like, you can add:
    • Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are on the rise.
    • One out of every six hate crimes is because of the victim’s sexual orientation.
    • Hate crimes have more than one victim. They are intended to create an atmosphere of fear and terrorize entire communities.
  3. IMPORTANT: After you hang up, click here to let us know that you made the call. Don’t skip this step! It helps us track our progress.

We have the truth on our side – and we need you to speak the truth today to counter our opponents’ outrageous lies. Please make your phone calls right now.

Then, please pass this email on to your friends and family.

Thank you for taking action.

Warmly,

Joe Solmonese
Joe Solmonese
President