How Many More Hate Crimes Will Be Committed Before Congress Passes The Matthew Shepard Act?
Take a look at Joe Holladay. He was gay-bashed over gay pride weekend on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. For those of you not familiar with New York City, the UES is where the people with a lot of money live. It’s Central Park and Bloomingdale’s. Art museums and consulates. And police. Lots of them. But not at 4:00 AM when Joe got so badly beaten he, well, look at the picture.
Joe is, sadly, just one of thousands of victims of hate crimes that will be reported this year. Thousands, as in, 9,527 victims. 7,624 incidents of hate crimes. 6,962 perpetrators. And that was just 2007. 2008 numbers haven’t been released yet. Indications are they will be more severe.
But get this: More than half of all hate crimes committed are not sexual-orientation bias crimes; they are racially-motivated crimes. And the Matthew Shepard Act would include those crimes as well – because chances are right now those victims aren’t protected under federal law. Right now, if a black woman were to become the victim of a racially-motivated violent crime while she was walking home from work, it would not legally be possible to investigate that crime as a federal hate crime. If that same crime were committed while she was, say, voting, then it would.
Current hate crimes law only protects people while they are “engaging in a federally protected activity.” The Matthew Shepard Act would remove the “engaging in a federally protected activity” stipulation.
So, it’s not just the LGBTQ community who should be spearheading and demanding this bill be passed. The black community, the asian community, the latino community, the Christian community, the Jewish community, people who have a disability, heck, every community, every person has a stake in seeing this bill passed. And yet, we’re the only group really fighting for it.
Sadly, there’s one less soldier able to fight for this bill. A gay, black, soldier, August Provost, was murdered – shot to death, his body possibly burned – early Tuesday morning at Camp Pendelton in Southern California.
Scary to think that a hate crime could happen to a U.S. soldier on a U.S. military base. Want to know how at risk members of the civilian LGBTQ community are? Well, very.
In the past twelve days there have been at least eight anti-gay hate crimes committed in this country.
Last year, gay-bias killings rose an astounding 28% – the highest in ten years.
Reports of physical abuse by police against LGBT citizens – like the one in Ft. Worth, Texas Saturday night – were up 150% across a dozen major cities last year.
To those who claim that every crime is a hate crime, because every crime is motivated by hate, I say this: listen to Kathleen Parker, a highly-respected conservative columnist. She says a hate crime, “is really two crimes — one against the individual and another against the group to which he belongs. By that definition, [Matthew] Shepard’s murder may be viewed as a terrorist act against all gays, who would have felt more fearful as a result.”
Let’s do that again: “may be viewed as a terrorist act.” Heck, that should get conservatives to rally around the Hate Crimes bill. Sadly, it doesn’t. Why? Because those who oppose hate crimes legislation don’t often read Kathleen Parker.
On April 29th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard Act. On Independence Day, 66 days will have gone by, without so much as a vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill, which was attached to a tourism bill, is now attached to a defense appropriations bill. President Obama, despite his recent promise to sign the Hate Crimes Bill, has threatened to veto the defense appropriations bill.
The Matthew Shepard Act will protect all Americans – not just the gay ones. Chances are, even if you’re not gay, the Matthew Shepard Act would protect you too. It’s time to make Congress do its job: protect all of America.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.