At the federal level, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act covers crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. When President Obama signed it into law in 2009, it was the first federal law to explicitly protect LGBT people.
But here in Pennsylvania, we have failed to enact a hate crimes law. Violence against our community continues to rise, but our lawmakers have not given law enforcement officials the tools they need to prevent and prosecute these heinous acts.
Strong hate crimes laws send a message to the perpetrator that hate based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated in the state of Pennsylvania. They also encourage victims of hate crimes to speak up and report incidences of hate-based violence and harassment.
Along with partners like the Anti-Defamation League, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Service Employees International Union State Council (SEIU PA), Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania, and others – we’re advocating for a comprehensive hate crimes law that protects LGBT people.
A hate crime threatens or takes the life of more than just the victim; it creates a ripple effect that threatens the well being of an entire group. LGBT Pennsylvanians deserve to feel safe in our communities. With a strong hate crimes law on the books, we won’t have to live in fear.