Hate Crimes Prevention Act: One Year LaterOctober 28, 2010
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama one year ago today after a 12-year legislative battle. AAUW played a key role in the process, leading the coalition of women’s organizations among more than 300 groups that endorsed the act nationwide.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a much-needed expansion of the 1968 federal hate crimes law, which protects victims of crimes perpetrated because of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, or religion. AAUW was proud to fight for the additional inclusions of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability protections and for the law’s initiation of gender-motivated hate crime statistics tracking.
AAUW has played a crucial part in implementing the legislation over the past year. As a participant in coalition meetings with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, AAUW spoke at a conference with the Community Relations Service, an arm of the Justice Department that does prevention work in communities with the potential for conflict. We’ve also worked with coalition partners and the FBI to ensure that statistics collection reflects the new law. We have been fortunate to be a part of the outstanding efforts of these departments, and we commend them on the progress they’ve made since last year’s major civil rights victory.
Looking forward, however, it’s important to acknowledge the work still ahead. The well-publicized spike in young adult suicides after incidences of bullying clearly speaks to the need for further action to end bias and hateful harassment. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s National School Climate Survey of middle and high school students,
- Eighty-four percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1 percent reported being physically harassed, and 18.8 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
- Sixty-three percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2 percent reported being physically harassed, and 12.5 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
- Nearly two-thirds of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than one-third felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
AAUW supports bills such as the Student Nondiscrimination Act (S. 3390/ H.R. 4530) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (S. 3739/ H.R. 2262), currently in committee in both houses. One year after this momentous legislation passed, let’s focus on just how much we have accomplished but also keep in mind how far we have to go.
This blog post was written by AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Fellow Emily Krueger, a master’s student in public policy at George Washington University.