President Obama Signs Federal Hate Crimes Law

October 28, 2009

Today, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a major piece of national civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.  The Act broadens the definition of federal hate crimes to include those motivated by a victim's gender identity or sexual orientation. It gives victims the same federal safeguards already afforded to people who are attacked because of their race, color, religion or national origin.

This is huge.  Our supporters have spoken out, written letters to elected officials, and signed petitions demanding hate crime protections for our community.  Your efforts have paid off in a big way.

We've spent countless hours working to educate the public about the urgent need for LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation.  Those efforts have paid off, too.  Today, 30 of the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV advocacy organizations issued a statement marking this historic event.  The statement spoke about Lateisha Green, and we were grateful that the work we had done to ensure that her death would not be in vain had paid off.  The world has taken notice.

Hate-motivated violence doesn't just target an individual.  It targets an entire community, and it's meant to make us fearful on the streets where we live, work, and socialize.  It undermines the promise of equality, and it affects us all on a deeply personal level.   Today, there is a sense of hope.  Justice has arrived.

You can spin a globe, drop your finger down on it, and be pretty well assured that it will land on a spot in the world where LGBT people are targeted for hate violence, and where the government either turns a blind eye to that violence, or actively encourages and even participates in it.  To have our government - finally - say that things must be different and that it will use all of the resources at its disposal to combat the hate violence that LGBT people still face on a daily basis sends a powerful message to Americans and to the world.

Today, we took a huge step forward on the road to equal rights.  There's still so much to be done, but with your continued support, we will put an end to violence and discrimination directed at people simply because they live openly and honestly as who they are.

Thank you for everything you've done to help make this moment a reality.  Let's savor it.