Waymon Hudson

Obama Signs Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill into Law

Filed By Waymon Hudson | October 28, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, hate crimes against LGBT people, James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

President Obama has just signed the first ever piece of pro-LGBT federal legislation into law.

The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act was attached to the Defense Authorization Bill and added gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to existing hate crimes laws.

We have a long way to go, but today is historic. By signing, the President sends a clear message that it is not okay to kill gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard for so many years on this legislation.

Reactions from the orgs - including a joint statement by 30 LGBT orgs - and Judy Shepard after the jump as they come in (check back for updates)...

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard.

"When Dennis and I started calling 10 years ago for federal action to prevent and properly prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans, we never imagined it would take this long," said Judy Shepard, Matthew's mother and the president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors.

"The legislation went through so many versions and so many votes that we had to constantly keep our hopes in check to keep from getting discouraged," she continued. "But with President Obama's support and the continually growing bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate lining up behind the bill this year, it became clear that 2009 was the year it would finally happen."
...
"We are incredibly grateful to Congress and the president for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families, especially given the continuing attacks on people simply for living their lives openly and honestly," Shepard added. "But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans."

Joint statement signed by:
Jo Kenny, AFL-CIO Pride at Work
Terry Stone, Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Gabe Javier & Debbie Bazarsky, Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA
Toni Broaddus, Equality Federation
Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council
Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry
Lee Swislow, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Rebecca Allison, M.D., Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
Chuck Wolfe, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
Eliza Byard, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Marjorie Hill, Gay Men's Health Crisis
Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign
Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality
Earl Fowlkes, International Federation of Black Prides
Kevin M. Cathcart, Lambda Legal
Leslie Calman, Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization
Sharon Lettman, National Black Justice Coalition
Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
Justin Nelson, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Paul Kawata, National Minority AIDS Council
Kyle Bailey, National Stonewall Democrats
Greg Varnum, National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Sharon Stapel, New York Anti-Violence Project
Selisse Berry, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Jody Michael Huckaby, PFLAG National
Michael Adams, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Aubrey Sarvis, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

History in the Making

It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. are just two among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.

But this week, the president put pen to paper and fulfilled a campaign promise, the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, extending the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity along with race, religion, gender, national origin and disability. Our deepest hope and strong belief is that this new law will save lives. Now, lawmakers and the president have made an imperative statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

We have worked long and hard for this and its passage is historic.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, there are nearly 8,000 hate crime-related incidents annually, and more than 1,200 of those incidents involve violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And even more alarming, while the overall occurrence of hate crimes is declining nationally, hate crimes against LGBT people have been increasing. This year alone, we saw hate crimes trials in the brutal killings of two transgender women, Angie Zapata and Lateisha Green.

As a result of this legislation, if local jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Justice Department can now step in. And that's why the LGBT community never stopped working for this historic day.

This legislation not only has practical value, but is a symbol of our progress. It is the first time in the nation's history that Congress has passed explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We could not have reached this moment without the powerful support of our allies who stood with us every step of the way. We are deeply grateful to civil rights, civic, faith and disability rights groups, as well as law enforcement and district attorney organizations that worked side by side with the LGBT advocates. We are equally thankful to Congress, President Obama and members of his administration for passing and signing this bill into law.

While today we celebrate this marker of progress, we must recognize it as only one of the building blocks to full equality and demand that it be just a first step toward equal treatment under federal law in all areas of our lives. And we must focus on the next step.

The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act provides us with an opportunity. We must use this moment to educate and keep the momentum going so that we can continue to make progress on the local, state and federal levels. Yes, legislation takes a long time -- often years of work. Yet, our community is on the cusp of passing much-needed protections.

This week, we call upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, families and allies to take this opportunity of increased media and public attention on hate crimes to educate co-workers, classmates, neighbors, family members and friends about our lives, and about why we need not only their friendship and love, but their vocal support for a more just and equal America for LGBT people. If your members of Congress voted in support of hate crimes legislation, call them and thank them. Then ask them to be there for us again when the vote turns to workplace nondiscrimination, military service and partnership rights.

With your help and our collective pressure, equality is within reach.

When talking about the need for hate crimes legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "The time for debate is over."

She was right.

Just as the time has finally come for stronger hate crime protections, it is also time to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and ensure that health care, economic policy and immigration reform incorporate the needs of LGBT people.

The time for debate is over.

From the National Center for Transgender Equality:

It's Official: The FIRST Pro-Trans Law in US History

"This is a powerful day as the United States government, for the first time, stands up and declares that violence against transgender people is wrong and will not be tolerated in our country," stated Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Every day transgender people live with the reality and the threat of personal violence, simply because of who they are. This must end and it must end now. The new law provides for some vital first steps in preventing these terrible crimes as well as addressing them when they occur. At NCTE, we are dedicating this day to all those who have been victims of hate-motivated violence as well as recommitting ourselves to ending the epidemic of hate that continues to damage our communities and our country."
...
Most importantly, this law marks a turning point for the federal government, by including positive protections for transgender people and taking seriously the need to address the discrimination that we face.

From Lambda Legal:

This law will send a message that violence motivated by hate will not be tolerated in this country and is a welcome first step towards other critical protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
...
This law comes too late to provide justice for the victims of violence we have already lost, but it holds the promise of greater safety and respect for LGBT people today and in the future.

Our work is not done. Now that the Hate Crimes Act has become law, Congress and the President must also enact an inclusive ENDA to protect us against discrimination on the job. The majority of Americans support workplace protections for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and there is no reason for further delay. There is also no reason to delay the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- there should be no place for discrimination in our laws.

From Equality Across America:

"It's good that the U.S. government has finally taken action to deter hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But by continuing to permit or even require discrimination against LGBT people in our relationships, in public service and in the workplace, the government fuels the very bigotry that results in violent attacks," said Tanner Efinger of Equality Across America.

Passage of the Act shows that escalated protest over the past year, such as at the National Equality March (NEM) on October 11th, is putting significant pressure on Congress to address anti-LGBT discrimination.

"We applaud and congratulate Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy, who has inspired so many over the last eleven years and did so again when she spoke at the National Equality March, this October," said Robin McGehee, co-director of the NEM. "She has truly shown what being a fierce advocate for equality and justice is truly about, even after facing such a horrible tragedy based in hate."

From the Human Rights Campaign:

"This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Today's signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality. Although this is a major step in fighting the scourge of hate violence, it is not the end of the road. As a community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to changing not only laws but also hearts and minds. We know that hate crimes not only harm individuals, but they terrorize entire communities. After more than a decade of advocacy, local police and sheriffs' departments now have the full resources of the Justice Department available to them."

"We applaud President Obama for signing this bill into law and thank the leadership and our allies in the House and Senate. We also will always remember the tireless efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy on this issue. Senator Kennedy once said that this legislation sends 'a message about freedom and equality that will resonate around the world.' This marks the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law. And this law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice," said Solmonese.

LA Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri Jean:

"I applaud Congress and President Obama for making the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land. Today the United States took a very important step in recognizing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of hate crimes deserve the same protections as other groups targeted by hate-motivated violence. The President and Congress have sent a clear message that hate-motivated violence must not be tolerated and that those who engage in it will be punished.

"I hope this Act is a harbinger of things to come. While punishing those who commit hate crimes is important, what we really need is an end to such violence altogether. But as long as LGBT people are treated as second class citizens under federal law - be that in employment, in the military or with regard to federal benefits - we will continue to fall victim not only to the economic and psychological harms of discrimination, but to hate violence as its ultimate expression.

"Every day we are treated as less than equal, we are hurt. President Obama and the Congress can stop the pain. We urge them to work together to quickly pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We also urge the expeditious repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and an end to anti-gay discrimination in the provision of federal benefits such as social security. We cannot afford to rest until we have achieved full equality."

GLAAD President Jarrett Barios:

"With this law, President Obama and Congress have sent a message that violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong and that our community should not be excluded from the protections of our nation's laws. This is a landmark step in eliminating the kind of hate motivated violence that has taken the lives of so many in our community including Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, Fred Martinez, Gwen Araujo, Sakia Gunn, Sean Kennedy, Angie Zapata, Duanna Johnson, Lateisha Green and so many others. The visibility of these tragic losses and the conversations that they sparked brought us to today's historic step toward ending this violence."
...
"We especially thank Judy and Dennis Shepard and so many of the families of those who have lost their lives to hate violence for their tireless commitment, along with so many individuals and organizations, to educate people about the importance of this legislation."

"Today is another step toward full equality, where LGBT people can be respected and feel safe in our communities with the knowledge that the laws will protect us too. Our community's work is far from over and media have the same responsibility today as they've always had: to continue telling the stories of LGBT victims of hate violence until the day that anti-LGBT violence is truly and finally a thing of the past."

Transgender American Veterans Association:

The Transgender American Veterans Association would like to say how proud we are of the individuals in our organization who have worked fierily over the last decade to have helped make the signing today of the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act a reality. As veterans, we are proud of our service to this country. Some of us have had our lives in danger and been wounded protecting this country and the rights of the people in this country, only to be told that we do not deserve those same rights. This never made sense to any veteran.

Today, the United States of America came one step closer in telling transgender veterans and ALL LGBT people that the sacrifices we have given for decades to keep this country free and secure are finally appreciated. In 2008, TAVA and the nation saw first hand, through our survey, the toll that hate has taken on our veterans. And, with a stroke of a pen, President Obama has eased some of their pain.

And, on a personal note, I have seen hate take the lives of some of my friends. I am sure that along with Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, they stood beside the President and watched him sign the bill. Their lives now have meaning, as do the thousands of other LGBT people taken from us because of hate. TAVA salutes all of them, and President Obama.


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I'm conflicted in some ways because of how problematic the prison system is in this country, but I think I can say that while this is _not_ a solution to hate, it is a stand by Obama and the federal government on the side of LGBT people against haters. I think that's nice.

Thanks to those who worked for this.

I hope it never needs to be used for me.

Why are you conflicted. This will not enhance sentences.

Monica,

I read it differently. The Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act was passed in 2004, creating sentencing enhancements for hate crimes based on race, color, national origin, and religion. By expending the existing hate crimes law to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability, this act expands the domain that those sentencing enhancements will be applied to.

THIS law has nothing to do with sentencing. THIS law does three things and three thing only, and enhancing sentences is NOT one of them. And, if I'm not mistaken, the law you mention has to do with federal crimes only, not local crimes in local jurisdiction.

Here are the three things THIS law will do:

1.) Allow the FBI to now keep statistics on hate crimes in these new categories.
2.) It will help provide federal expertise and resources when they are needed to overcome a lack of resources or the willful inaction on the part of local and/or state law enforcement.
3.) It will help educate the public that violence against anyone, including transgender people, is unacceptable and illegal.

Really? Does this law not add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability to existing laws? Because I would be very surprised to discover that the existing hate crimes sentencing enhancements would only apply to race, color, national origin, and religion. In fact, I imagine most folks here would be dismayed if they discovered that hate crimes based on race and religion would have higher penalties then hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If that were the case, I doubt these 30 orgs would be celebrating such unequal treatment.

If you are simply trying to lay blame on the 2004 Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act rather then on the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Act, that seems misleading. The fact remains that before THIS bill, someone committing a hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would not be subject to a sentencing enhancement and after THIS bill they will be subject to a sentencing enhancement.

If the bill fails to specifically discuss this outcome that does negate the fact that it is still an outcome.

It's very simple, Tobi. In order to add the four new categories to the separate and individual law that you brought up, Congress would have to create a whole new bill and go through the same process we had to go through with Hate Crimes. The change in one law through legislation will not change any other law on the books unless the new legislation is written to cover it. This one is not.

Second, the 2004 Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act was created for hate crimes committed on federal property and against federal employees, because they are not covered under state laws. When a KKK mob burns a cross on the lawn of an African American family here in Georgia, they will not get enhanced sentencing here in GA because we don't have any hate crimes bill. However, if the KKK mob did the same thing on base housing at Dobbins Naval Air Station in Marietta, then the 2004 Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act can come into affect. It has nothing to do with this new Hate Crimes bill.

I am conflicted because I truly believe in prison abolition http://tr.im/DsAW , but I really want my friends and I and all of us to be safe in our day to day lives. I really do hope that this helps keep more of us safe.

...ok, I'm very surprised.

Everyone can go ahead and tell me "I told you so" and smack me upside my earhole for being a doubter.

Y ou can add the Transgender Anerican Veterans Association to that list.

To the list of 30 orgs or does TAVA have a statement you'd like me to add? You know I'd be happy to do it. :)

I never doubted our President would sign this important piece of legislation. The President is working hard to make many positive changes for this country.

This is the first President in the history of the United States to strongly address and pledge his support for pro-LGBTQ legislation and the support of our civil and human rights! He has followed through by signing this legislation.

I urge support, patience and positive pressure on our President and the Congress.

Absolutely Grateful,

Robert Olivarez
Latinos 4 Marriage Equality!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 28, 2009 10:39 PM

Roberto, mi amigo, impossible!

Support, yes as we go on to what is next and receive support in return. It is now our turn to play Republicans off of Democrats.

Patience, no, only when meeting our issues are a priority to save face are they addressed at all.

Positive pressure on every congressional district, every senator and the White House. With which message from which group? Again we lack a consistent and cohesive message. The default position is the HRC and many find that problematic.

It will not improve just by itself though because the president is a nice guy and all. It will improve because they have no choice but for it to improve to save their own hides.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 29, 2009 9:06 AM


"This is the first President in the history of the United States to strongly address and pledge his support for pro-LGBTQ legislation and the support of our civil and human rights!"

I'm curious Roberto.

When Obama decided to continue Clinton’s 'rendition' (that's Billspeak for kidnapping, torturing and then murdering political and military opponents) policy and to keep concentration camps like Bagram in operation is that support for civil and human rights?

When Obama escalated the US war of terror against Afghanistan and began illegal cross border drone missile attacks on Pakistan killing hundreds of civilians is that an example of support for civil and human rights?

Or do you think that Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis just don’t count as humans so it’s ok?

When the Obama administration defended Bill Clintons DADT and DOMA using vile bigoted language comparing us to child molesters were those examples of support for civil and human rights?

When Obama torpedoed our chances for holding on to same sex marriage with his ugly bigoted statement that we don't deserve basic human rights like the simple right to marry saying "gawd's in the mix" was that an example of support for civil and human rights?

When the Obama administration upheld the racist exclusion of Genesio Oliveira, who claimed asylum as a victim of hate crimes in Brazil, including rape and who’s was that an example of support for civil and human rights?

When Obama exclude immigrant and imported workers from receiving health care saying “… the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally” is that that an example of support for civil and human rights?

Or are these examples of the homohating, warmongering and racism of the Obama administration?

We have a smallish victory and a minor new tool to help defend ourselves. But as Oscar Wilde says

“I have no doubt we shall win, but the road is long and red with monstrous martyrdoms”.

That won't change a bit because of this law.

It won’t change because our communities are subjected to an unending barrage of hate speech by cult figures like Obama buddies Rick Warren and Donnie McClurkin, catholic and mormon cultists and southern baptists. The thugs understand exactly what the cultists and saying and use it to justify shooting, stabbing, bludgeoning, hacking and burning about 25 of us to death every year and beating and maiming many others.

The thugs also get empowered by politicians like Bill Clinton who enshrined bigotry in law by championing and signing hate laws like DADT and DOMA and Republicans who used state DOMAs to help win elections. And they pay attentions when Obama tells them we’re unfit to be married.

Hate crimes will end when we and our allies rise up and fundamentally revolutionize American politics and throw the religious and political bigots out of power.

Link to the NCAVP, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs at http://www.ncavp.org/

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | October 29, 2009 12:02 AM

"This is the first President in the history of the United States to ...."

Uh, no, Roberto, that would be Bill Clinton.

That, some real accomplishments aside, so little came of his words is how we must measure THIS one: not by words but by action.

This is a great day, but little of the credit goes to BO who promised during the campaign to play an active role in its passage and didn't. Unless simply doing the right thing [signing] is now the moral equivalent of doing a great thing.

Conclusion: don't confuse the real world with a map...an inch does not equal a mile.

I'm curious Michael.

What are Bill Clinton’s best accomplishments in office.

Do they include DADT, the codification of military bigotry into law?

Do they include wasting the chance to get socialized medicine using the huge tax surpluses and the economic benefits of the end of the cold war that he inherited?

What about his embargo on food, medicine and sanitary supplies that killed, by UN and Food AID NGO estimates, about half a million Iraqi children? His Secretary of State admitted to the mass murder when Leslie Stahl of 60 minutes asked “

We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
And Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admitted
“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.”
How brave, how heroic of Bill Clinton! the odds, 500,000 to one!, he won, using the power of the American government to murder half a million children. Was that his greatest accomplishment?

And what about championing NAFTA and deregulation, when Clinton played lapdog to the rich and set the stage for Bush. Between the two of them they created the massive unemployment (15 million and counting) that threatens another depression.

Then there’s DOMA. Sure, it was a Republican initiative, but Clinton jumped on that bigotbandwagon head first to try to offset the union votes he lost on NAFTA. He championed DOMA and had a ready audience among most Democrats, including Biden, Mikulski, and his fellow bigots the Republicans and Dixiecrats. Then Clinton boasted about it on redneck southern religious stations in a bid for the bigot vote.

As Time Magazine reported during the 1996 campaign when all this transpired.

"By the time Clinton arrived in Chicago for his party's convention in August, nothing that hinted at liberalism was left hanging on him. When the President, who had begun his term advocating the rights of gays in the military, came around to supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition for gay and lesbian unions, Dole was wide-eyed. "Is there anything we're for that he won't jump on?" Dole asked. The answer, essentially, was nothing..."
They don't call him Slick Willie for nothing. Isn’t that right Michael? So was DOMA his finest hour?

But here’s the key question in the match up with Obama. We know they both made lots of promises and betrayed them but did Clinton pass out some medals, make a few token appointments and invite us to an Easter egg roll and all the other important stuff Obama’s done? Even bush made a token appointment, naming Foreign Service Officer Michael Guest Ambassador to (?) Romania.

So who’s better, or, depending on you point of view, worse, Clinton, Bush or Obama? Or is it a tossup?

I think that President Obama spoke out in our favor FAR MORE than President Clinton did at the time. Do I believe that President Clinton truly was an advocate for equality? Yes I do. However, I believe that on the record, President Obama takes the award for best pro-gay president til now. President Obama isn't doing EVERYTHING we want him to, but he's done MUCH more than we've seen any previous president do.

How often did Candidate Clinton mention gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender folk during the '92 campaign?

How many times did President Clinton interface with LGBT lobby groups and LGBT leaders during his first year in office? How often did he go to the mainstream media to talk about LGBT issues? Yes, I know, when going to lift the gay ban, he made statements, but how quickly did he back away from us when that went downhill in Congress? Did he even bother to mention ANYTHING LGBT again until 1996?

I am a HUGE fan of President Clinton, but I think President Obama is clearly putting it on the line more than Clinton did, especially after lifting the gay ban in the military failed. Certainly, President Obama is being far more cautious than we'd like... but he's gone out there a LOT more than Clinton has.

I'd like to put pressure on Obama in the RIGHT and true way. Don't say he's doing nothing, because that's simply not true. It makes our community look stupid, petulant and belligerent when we scream and yell "Obama hates us, he's a closet homophobe, he's not doing anything." Bullshit.

We SHOULD say "OK, thanks for that... but its not enough, we need this too!" That's the right kind of pressure. Don't revise reality because you think its not enough. That's the kind of fringe rhetoric that Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh use on the other side.

The Hate Crimes law isn't perfect. Its problematic and has some troubling aspects. But it is a positive step in terms of Federal recognition of our dignity as human beings and Americans. It would not have happened without the likes of Harry Reid, Barak Obama and Democratic Politicians who--while they aren't always perfect on our issues--FINALLY finished what they started because we were sure to let them know they HAD to.

Keep UP the pressure on our public figures, but recognize that they ARE there for us. Maybe not all the way, maybe with caveats, but nothing we can't overcome if we keep up the pushing and dialogue.

And this is FAR more than an inch. This is miles and miles. Sorry you don't agree, but millions of LGBT people don't see it quite the way you do, especially those of us who are survivors of anti-gay violence.

Well, just to keep it real here, there are also plenty of us who have been at the other end of someones queerbashing fist who strongly disagree.

Thanks, Romham. Yes, "millions" of LGBT people also disagree with HCL (how exactly we come to these astounding numbers, I'll never know), and I think/hope we'll see a gradual shift away from such pernicious measures once queers realise that these laws are far from progressive/leftist and only expand the reach of the prison industrial complex.

For more on the problems with HCL, people should look at:

http://srlp.org/genda

and

http://www.blackandpink.org/revolt/a-compilation-of-critiques-on-hate-crimes-legislation/

As for the point about penalty enhancements discussed above, I'm with Tobi and my understanding is that the bill, much revised over the last few months, does enhance penalties. Like Tobi, I don't see the gays agreeing to it otherwise.

I do want to add that HCL remains problematic on a number of different levels, not the least of which is that it does nothing to prevent hate crimes in the first place.

More later on all this, but I'll leave you all with these resources in the meantime.

mine was in response to Phil Reece's comment above "Sorry you don't agree, but millions of LGBT people don't see it quite the way you do, especially those of us who are survivors of anti-gay violence."
Not sure how i ended up over here instead...

The discussion about Clinton vs Obama is nonsense. It goes nowhere. The amendment made to the existing hate crimes laws is the result of the hard work of many people in different areas for a long time that became real due to a favorable context. So we should take advantage of it, not start pointing to all the wrong/bad things Obama does or arguing if he deserves the pro-LGBT adjective or not. As someone said, the work is not finished. The day-to-day battle against discrimination is key, because people will not support any pro-LGBT initiatives if they don't believe they are worthy.

I can't stand what the aunt of a friend said to her the other day when she knew that her nephew was gay. Among other things she mentioned that the family should take him (25 years old) to a doctor. Just imagine how can she support any pro-LGBT legislation. No words.

PS: I have found this page where a Matthew Shepard pendant is sold and 100% of the nets go to the foundation. Cool. If we want to buy a gift, this is a nice option and we contribute to a good cause.