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Task Force speaks out on hate crimes and domestic extremism

September 19, 2012

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund submitted testimony for today’s Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing on “Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism,” in response to ongoing hate violence, including the shooting last month at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.

In our testimony, we cited the most recent FBI statistics that revealed 6,624 hate crime incidents in 2010: 47.3 percent racially motivated, 20 percent religious, 19.3 percent sexual orientation, 12.8 percent ethnicity/national origin, and 0.6 percent disability.

Also, we cited the alarming rates of violence against transgender people. According to our study, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 26 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people reported experiencing physical assault because of their gender identity/expression. Furthermore, while this number is already unconscionably high, the evidence shows that transgender people of color are impacted even more because of the multiple biases held against them.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

We join with people from all backgrounds who stand united against hate crimes and domestic extremism. No one should live in fear while going about their daily business, whether it be attending a worship service, holding the hand of the person they love, or simply being who they are. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially those of color, understand all too well what it’s like to be targeted for being who they are. The Senate is doing the right thing by shining a light on the continuing scourge of hate violence. One of America’s greatest assets is its rich diversity, and intimidation and violence against anyone should not be tolerated.

More from the Task Force Senate testimony

We cited several recommendations to help address hate crimes in the United States, including:

  • Support curriculum and other measures in schools to teach diversity and inclusion, and fight bullying and harassment, including the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
  • Ensure robust and comprehensive implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
  • Pass the “End the Racial Profiling Act.”
  • Urge the Department of Justice to amend the 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies to also include profiling based on religion and national origin.
  • Fully fund the Department of Justice Community Relations Service, which mediates and assists communities that are experiencing hate crimes and other forms of inter-group conflict.

Download our full testimony here.

Task Force staff also spoke at a related press conference following the hearing. Below are the remarks made there by Lisa Mottet, director of our Transgender Civil Rights Project:

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the oldest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization, stands in solidarity with the Sikh community after the tragic shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The violence that continues to befall people from all walks of life due to their race, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or immigration status is unacceptable. LGBT people, especially people of color, understand all too well what it’s like to be targeted simply for being who they are. Our country can do better.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was an important part of our nation’s journey to eradicate hate-based violence, but we still have so far to go.

According to our 2011 study, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 26% of transgender and gender non-conforming people have experienced actual physical assault because of their gender identity/expression. Furthermore, while this number is already unconscionably high, the evidence shows that transgender people of color are impacted much more because of the multiple biases held against them.

We believe that the country must work together to create a culture that values our differences and does not let those differences make us targets of discrimination.

While there are many legislative and administrative actions that can be taken to help address the persistent problems of hate crimes in our country, I want to highlight one area: Our nation’s schools.

Bullying and harassment in schools that is tolerated by administrators leads to hate crimes and violence outside of school, both when students are young, but also as they grow into adults thinking that it is okay to pick on people who are different. Ending school bullying and harassment is an important part of the puzzle to ending hate crimes in this country.

Congress can take action right now to make a huge difference in the lives of our young people. It can – and should – pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act. This modest measure ensures that schools with federal funding create and enforce anti-bullying policies that address bullying that is based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.

Everyone should be able to live free of hate violence, be it in the schools, in a place of worship, or walking down the street holding the hand of the person you love.

We stand together as representatives of so many communities, communities that overlap, and communities that are united in our desire for differences to be respected, and celebrated, by our American society. We believe that America is possible.

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