Wednesday marks a watershed for hate crimes policy at the federal and state level:
Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA), also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill would give the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the department with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the victim is chosen because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Tennessee's own Congressman Steve Cohen is a member of the House Judiciary Committee that will work on the bill. The Human Rights Campaign has put together an action alert on the federal bill and this video featuring Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, whose murder ten years ago helped change the debate about hate crimes in America:
As we noted in a previous post, the Tennessee House Criminal Practice Subcommittee will consider HB 0335, which would add gender identity and expression to Tennessee's hate crimes statute as sentencing enhancement factors, as advocated by the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. Click here for TEP's action alert on the bill to contact the members of this subcommittee.
Whatever happens with the federal and the state bills this week, the movement to pass these protections and to provide resources for tackling hate crimes is growing. The violence that besets the GLBT community, once so casually dismissed without having to require serious justification, is out in the open. Its justifying discourses are in shambles. Now all that's left is to fill the space with sound policy. I hope 2009 is the year that happens.