For Immediate Release
Vaishalee Raja, Communications Director
PHONE: (916) 284-9187
Federal Hate Crimes Resolution Passes Assembly Committee
EQCA Sponsored Bill Will Put Assembly on Record in Support of Matthew Shepard Act
SACRAMENTO - The California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety advanced the Federal Hate Crimes Resolution today by a vote of 4-0. The resolution, sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and introduced last month by Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), calls on the United States Senate to immediately pass the Matthew Shepard Act, which expands the landmark 1969 United States federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's real or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
"It is time the federal government fulfills its obligation to protect and empower the people of this nation, including LGBT people," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We applaud the U.S. House for passing this necessary legislation and now look to the Senate to immediately do the same."
Once passed, the resolution will put the Assembly on record in support of the federal bill, which also provides immediate and necessary federal assistance to local law enforcement investigating and prosecuting hate crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, among others.
On April 29th of this year, the U.S. House passed the Matthew Shepard Act by a vote of 249 to 175. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has already introduced the companion bill in the United States Senate that has garnered 43 co-sponsors including California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats. The bill has been referred to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee where it has not yet received a hearing date.
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"Californians believe every human being is entitled to the same basic dignity and protection under the law," said Assemblymember Nava upon introducing the bill. "Our President and our Senate must make this crucial legislation into law to both help our local law enforcement and curb violence against the LGBT community."
The federal bill, also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is named after Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was targeted, tortured and brutally murdered by two men in 1998 because he was gay. The resolution before the Assembly also urges President Barak Obama to sign the federal legislation immediately following its passage by both Houses of Congress.
Thanks to the work of EQCA and its predecessors, California is one of 32 states (including the District of Columbia) where sexual orientation is already included in state hate crimes laws and one of only 11 states where gender identity is included. EQCA has consistently led efforts to strengthen the state's anti-discrimination laws, including sponsoring 2004's Omnibus Hate Crimes Act, 2006's Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act and 2007's Student Civil Rights Act. More information on these bills and EQCA's other work combating hate crimes can be found on EQCA's website, http://www.eqca.org/legislation.
The resolution now moves to the Assembly floor where it awaits a full vote.
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Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.