By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
WASHINGTON – On May 26, U.S. Representatives, including John Conyers of Michigan and openly gay Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, held a press conference to announce the introduction of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005.
If passed, the legislation would give federal protection to victims of hate crimes perpetrated on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability or gender identity. This is the first time that a proposed federal hate crimes act has included provisions to punish hate crimes against transgendered individuals.
The Act is also unique in that it has earned the endorsement of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has previously expressed concern that federal hate crimes measures might deter constitutionally protected speech.
“This carefully crafted measure shows that you can prosecute hate crimes without attacking freedom of expression,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.
“Congress should adopt this measure to place gender, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation in the same protected class as race, religion and national origin,” he added.
Members of Michigan’s LGBT community were excited by the news.
“It’s about time that this would happen,” said Rachel Crandall, executive director of TransGender Michigan. “Representative Conyers and the others should be heavily commended for bringing up this legislation.”
“Also it shows a coming together of all communities, and a special coming together of the LGB and the T communities that Frank is one of the people that is bringing up this legislation,” she continued. “It shows that we are finally becoming one community and supporting each other.”
Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBT Project, was also pleased.
“We think it’s important that crimes committed against LGBTs that are motivated by anti-gay or anti-transgender animus against us are treated as such,” he said. “Having this legislation shows recognition that these crimes that are motivated by hate do occur. It would give law enforcement the tools to investigate these crimes and send a message that these types of crimes are not to be tolerated.”
Contact Congressman John Conyers and thank him for sponsoring this vital legislation. Conyers can be reached by phone at 202-225-5126 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Michigan’s U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and urge them to support the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005.
Senator Carl Levin – 269 Russell Office Building, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510-2202. Call 202-224-6221. Email Senator Levin by visiting the Contact Center on his website at http://www.senate.gov/~levin.
Senator Debbie Stabenow – 133 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Call 202-224-4822 or TTY: 202-224-2066 or e-mail email@example.com.
To find your U.S. Representative, visit Project Vote Smart at http://www.vote-smart.org or call the U.S. Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.