FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2009
CONTACT: Brian Richardson
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Assemblymember Nava's Resolution Calls on U.S. Senate to Pass Federal Hate Crimes Legislation
EQCA Sponsored Bill Puts Assembly on Record in Support of Matthew Shepard Act
Sacramento -- Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) introduced the Federal Hate Crimes Resolution today, HR 16, calling 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.
The resolution is sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and, once passed, will put the Assembly on record in support of the federal bill, which 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.
"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."
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 41 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.
"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 led consistently 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, www.eqca.org/legislation http://www.eqca.org/legislation.
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. In the past decade, EQCA has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil-rights protections in the nation. EQCA has passed over 50 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org