For Immediate Release
Ten Years. Thousands Victimized. Not Enough Action.
WASHINGTON - Sunday, Oct. 12, marks the 10-year anniversary of the brutal
death of Matthew Shepard, and many states and the federal government
have yet to enact hate crimes protections covering both sexual
orientation and gender identity. This, despite the fact that thousands
of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have been the
targets of hate-based violence in the decade since Shepard's murder,
according to statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
"Ten years ago, the shocking murder of Matthew Shepard sent a
national clarion call for stronger federal laws to combat crimes
motivated by hate. Since then, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
people have continued to fall victim to hate-stoked violence in
shocking numbers. Despite this epidemic of anti-LGBT violence, the
federal government has refused to enact a hate crimes law covering
sexual orientation and gender identity. This shameful failure of
national will and resolve must end in 2009 with a new president and a
"Today, we remember and mourn Matthew Shepard. We also remember
other young people whose voices fell silent this past year. We mourn
Ashley Sweeney of Detroit, Mich., shot to death in February 2008; we
mourn Lawrence King of Oxnard, Calif., shot to death in his
middle-school classroom in February 2008; we mourn Simmie Williams Jr.
of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., shot to death in February 2008; and we mourn
Angie Zapata of Greeley, Colo., beaten to death with a fire
extinguisher in July 2008. We remember and mourn all victims of hate
violence, but especially these and other young gender-nonconforming
people, who died in the hope of freedom to live their lives as they
Assessment of progress during the past 10 years
Currently, 31 states and D.C. have hate crimes laws that track or
make illegal crimes motivated by sexual orientation and/or gender
identity and expression. However, by the time of Matthew Shepard's
death in 1998, 23 of these 31 states had already passed their laws.
Since his death 10 years ago, only eight states have added hate crimes
protections (Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, New
York, Tennessee and Texas). In 19 states, there are no hate crime laws
protecting anyone in the LGBT community.
On the federal level, champions in both the House and Senate have
continued to prioritize passage of legislation that would expand and
strengthen federal hate crimes legislation. In the 110th Congress, both
chambers with bipartisan majorities passed the Matthew Shepard Local
Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as a free-standing bill in
the House and an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization
Act in the Senate. This is the first time both chambers have considered
a bill that included both gender identity and sexual orientation.
However, strategic and procedural problems prevented Congress from
sending a bill to President George Bush, who promised to veto the bill
if it did reach that point.
Epidemic of anti-LGBT violence
LGBT people are disproportionately affected by hate violence.
Reports produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1984-1993)
and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (1994-2007) have
documented more than 35,000 anti-LGBT crimes over the last two decades.
It is important to note that these statistics are based on reports from
only a handful of local LGBT crime victim assistance agencies.
Inclusion of transgender people in hate crimes laws is especially
important because violence against transgender people is widespread,
largely underreported, and disproportionately greater than the number
of transgender people in society. The total number of victims reporting
anti-LGBTQ violence to NCAVP in 2007 was 2,430, which represents a 24
percent increase over the total number of victims reported in 2006.
The Task Force has led the movement-wide effort to secure an
effective and full governmental response to hate crimes against LGBT
people, beginning with the launch of its groundbreaking anti-violence
project in 1982. Task Force organizing, coalition building and lobbying
resulted in the 1990 passage of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act,
sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Conyers.
Reporter resource: Download our hate crimes law map.
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.
Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.