October 28, 2009, New York, NY - The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today applauded President Barack Obama today for signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.
The law extends existing federal protections (which currently cover violent hate crimes based on a victim’s race, color, religion and national origin) to include gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability; allows the Justice Department to assist in hate crime investigations at the local level; and mandates that the FBI begin tracking hate crimes based on actual or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, gender and disability.
“With this law, President Obama and Congress have sent a message that violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong and that our community should not be excluded from the protections of our nation’s laws” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “This is a landmark step in eliminating the kind of hate motivated violence that has taken the lives of so many in our community including Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, Fred Martinez, Gwen Araujo, Sakia Gunn, Sean Kennedy, Angie Zapata, Duanna Johnson, Lateisha Green and so many others. The visibility of these tragic losses and the conversations that they sparked brought us to today’s historic step toward ending this violence.”
GLAAD has worked with media outlets and families of victims to raise visibility among the public about the need for LGBT-inclusive federal protections.
“We especially thank Judy and Dennis Shepard and so many of the families of those who have lost their lives to hate violence for their tireless commitment, along with so many individuals and organizations, to educate people about the importance of this legislation.”
“Today is another step toward full equality, where LGBT people can be respected and feel safe in our communities with the knowledge that the laws will protect us too. Our community’s work is far from over and media have the same responsibility today as they’ve always had: to continue telling the stories of LGBT victims of hate violence until the day that anti-LGBT violence is truly and finally a thing of the past.”