The House of Representatives is voting today to accept the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report, including the hate crimes provisions, now called The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The bill had been being worked on by a conference committee, which reconciles the different House and Senate versions, so that a final vote can be taken on a unified bill. This vital legislation adds gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability to the categories covered in federal hate crimes laws.
This bill is truly historic for the transgender community as it marks the first federal protections to include gender identity. It will also provide necessary tools to educate law enforcement about the hate-motivated violence that we face and the need to both prevent and address it. In addition, resources and expertise from the federal government will be available to jurisdictions that aren’t able to, or aren’t willing to, investigate bias crimes against transgender people. Finally, it sends a clear message that violence is never an acceptable to response to differences.
You may recall that the Senate version included a death penalty provision—added by conservatives hoping to make the bill unpalatable to liberals. Fortunately, this has been removed in conference committee so will not be part of the final bill.
President Obama has already indicated that he will sign the bill once it is passed by both the House and Senate. Since both chambers have already voted positively on the bill, it is expected to pass and move forward very shortly. Watch for more details as these exciting events unfold and we take concrete steps to address the violence that we face.