Thursday, October 29, 2009
A Hate Crime Bill is finally law.....
I cannot overstate the importance of this moment. This is the first time ANY federal equality measure protecting LGBT rights has become law. The very first time. And it is the first federal law to explicitly protect transgender people. It is a touchstone in our movement, a triumph of what is right. And I truly feel things will never be the same.
Also significant is that the law will now permit federal authorities to assist local governments in hate crime investigations, assistance that was sorely needed after the death of Matthew Sheppard, the gay man who was brutally murdered and left to die in a field ten years ago. At last, the federal government has acknowledged the unique nature of crimes that target citizens because they are LGBT. It is time to celebrate.
So why am I not feeling very celebratory? I get it. I get how huge a moment this is. I know that yesterday was a landmark in LGBT history. I am deeply appreciative to all those who made it happen. Yet I hear this voice that says, “Isn’t this just the beginning? How long can you celebrate the fact that it is now officially illegal to target people because of their sexual or gender orientation? Isn’t mandated tolerance a pretty low bar for acceptance?”
It is up to all of us to make sure this bar is raised higher and higher. We need to remember those who are LGBT in Uganda, where a law is being considered that would make some gay sexual activity punishable by death. We need to remember the two gay Iranian teenagers who were put to death a few years ago because of who they were. We need to remember the thousands of gay teenagers who kill themselves each year in the United States.
So yes, huge congratulations and profound thanks are due. Now it’s time to continue the work.