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Hate Crimes & Preventing Violence

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 LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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. LGBTQ 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.

Federal Hate Crimes

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.

What is a Hate Crime?
A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator of a crime intentionally selects a victim because of who the victim is. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities because they target an entire community or group of people, not just the individual victim.

What does the HCPA do?
The HCPA gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where a perpetrator has selected a victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

In addition, it provides the DOJ with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions with investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes of violence. The HCPA authorizes the DOJ to provide grants to state and local communities to cover the extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. It also authorizes the provision of grants for local programs to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles, including programs that train local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting and preventing hate crimes.

Furthermore, the HCPA requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes based on gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups were already tracked).

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