Thursday, November 6th, 2014 marked the fifth year anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Lauded by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocates and racial justice organizations, and signed into law by President Obama, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act has strengthened law enforcement’s ability to track, respond, and combat bias-related crimes on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and national origin.
The White House convened advocates and officials to celebrate the law’s impact. At the event, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling addressed the guests. “When the Mathew Shepherd Hate Crime Prevention Act passed five years ago,” Keisling said,”it was the first time in American history that Congress had acted in a positive and productive way for transgender people. That in itself is a significant victory and benefit. Working to pass the Act provided a great opportunity for us to educate Congress about transgender people and the violence we face. And implementation has been a similar opportunity to educate law enforcement.”
Work remains on ending violence against transgender people. Keisling points out that, “the Act has not yet stopped the rampant violence against trans people and there is still so much to do. It is still a full-on plague for us, especially for young, low income, trans women of color. Over the last 12 months in the U.S., at least 19 transgender people have been murdered, almost every one a young, low-income trans woman of color. ”
Our job isn’t done,” President Obama said in a statement. “We must continue to stand together against intolerance and hate wherever they occur, and respond decisively when they lead to violence.”