Kicking A Lion

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Posts Tagged ‘HRC

HRC STATEMENT ON APPOINTMENT OF ERIC HOLDER AS U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL

HRC STATEMENT ON APPOINTMENT OF ERIC HOLDER AS U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL
OIA Newswire

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group, today praised President-Elect Barack Obama’s selection of Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States. The former deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration proved himself to be a strong advocate for fairness and basic rights and an unswerving proponent of fully-inclusive federal hate crimes legislation.

“In Eric Holder, President-Elect Obama has chosen an attorney general who has demonstrated his dedication to civil rights, protecting communities from hate violence, and the fair and equal application of our laws,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Eric Holder has recognized the deleterious effect that hate and bias crimes have not just on victims, but on entire communities. President-Elect Obama’s appointment continues to prove his commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

Holder’s appointment is the latest in a series of moves by President-elect Obama that illustrate his commitment to fairness and LGBT equality. Obama’s Transition Project instituted a fully inclusive nondiscrimination policy for those applying for positions within the new administration. In addition, a number of openly gay people have been selected to contribute their considerable expertise to the transition. Two weeks ago, the Obama Transition Project published an extensive agenda for the next four years, including a section on key policies for LGBT people and families, on its website. The Obama-Biden plan reiterates strong support for inclusive hate-crimes and employment discrimination protections, repeal of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and a stronger and more strategic response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.

After graduating from Columbia Law School, Mr. Holder joined the Department of Justice’s Attorney General’s Honors Program. In 1988 he was nominated for and confirmed as Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In 1993 President Clinton nominated Mr. Holder for United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he was confirmed later that year. In this role he worked vigorously to reduce crime and increase neighborhood safety. Notably, he emphasized hate crimes enforcement to ensure that bias-motivated crimes would receive adequate resources, attention, and punishment. Hate crimes continued to be a priority for Mr. Holder after his 1997 appointment by President Clinton to Deputy Attorney General. His dedication to the issue of addressing hate-based violence is exemplified in his 1999 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee:

Testimony of Mr. Eric Holder to the House Judiciary Committee
August 4, 1999

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Conyers, members of the committee. I thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the important and troubling issues of hate crimes.

The administration very much appreciates your decision to hold this hearing. President Clinton and the attorney general have remained deeply committed to preventing and prosecuting hate crimes since the 1997 White House conference on hate crimes and we continue to dedicate significant time and resources to this very important issue.

The battle against hate crimes has always been bipartisan, and this committee has always been at the forefront of that battle.

In 1990 and 1994, the committee strongly supported the enactment of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act and the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act. In 1996, the committee responded in time of great national need by quickly the Church Arson Prevention Act.

And I hope that you will respond once again to the call for a stronger federal stand against hate crimes, and that you will join law enforcement officials and community leaders across the country in support of H.R. 1082, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999.

Now unfortunately, recent events have only — have only reinforced the need for federal hate crimes legislation. We were all horrified at the brutal murders of Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama, Matthew Shepard in Wyoming and James Byrd in Jasper, Texas.

Just in the weeks since I testified on these issues before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, a young man linked with a white supremacy organization shot several people in Illinois and Indiana, including a group of Jewish men walking home from sabbath services in Chicago. Two others died from their injuries: Won-Joon Yoon, a student at Indiana University from South Korea, and Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American male who was only walking with his daughters near his home in Skokie, Illinois.

In California, three synagogues in Sacramento erupted in flames on the same morning, and Winfield Scott Mowder and Gary Matson, a gay couple, were brutally murdered in the Redding home.

These crimes, and others around the country, are not just a law enforcement problem. They are a problem for our schools, our religious institutions, our civic organizations and also for our national leaders.

When we pool our expertise, experiences and resources together, we can help build communities that are safer, stronger and more tolerant.

First, we must gain a better understanding of the problem. In 1997, the last year for which we have complete statistics, 11,200 law enforcement agencies participated in the data-collection program and reported just over 8,000 hate crime incidents. Eight-thousand hate crime incidents are about one hate crime incident per hour.

But we know that even this disturbing number significantly underestimates the true level of hate crimes. Many victims do not report these crimes, and police departments do not always recognize, appropriately categorize or adequately report hate crimes.

Second, we must learn to teach tolerance in our communities so that we can prevent hate crimes by addressing bias before it manifests itself in violent criminal activity. We must foster understanding and should instill in our children the respect for each other’s differences and the ability to resolve conflicts without violence.

The Department of Education, with the national association of attorneys general, recently published a guide to confronting and stopping hate and bias in our schools. And I’m also pleased that the department is assisting a new partnership in its efforts to develop a program for middle school students on tolerance and diversity.

Third, we must work together to effectively prevent and prosecute hate crimes.

Now the centerpiece of the administration’s hate crimes initiative is the formation of local working groups in the United States attorneys districts around the country. These task forces are hard at work bringing together the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Community Relations Service, local law enforcement, community leaders and educators to assess the problem in their area and to coordinate our response to hate crimes.

These cooperative efforts are reinforced by the July 1998 memorandum of understanding between the national district attorney’s association and the Department of Justice. Where the federal government does have jurisdiction, the MOU calls for early communication among local, state and federal prosecutors to devise investigative strategies.

Finally, we should never forget that law enforcement has an indispensable role to play in eradicating hate crimes. We must ensure that potential hate crimes are investigated thoroughly, prosecuted swiftly and punished soundly. In order to do this effectively, we must address the gaps that exist in the current federal law.

The principal Federal Hate Crimes Statute, 18 USC Section 245, prohibits certain hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. This law has two serious deficiencies.

First, even in the most blatant cases of racial, ethnic or religious violence, no federal jurisdiction exists unless the violence was committed because the victim engaged in one of six federally protected activities. This unnecessary, extra intent requirement has led to acquittals in several cases. It has also limited our ability to work with state and local officials to investigate and prosecute many incidents of brutal, hate-motivated violence.

Any federal legislative response to hate crimes must close this gap.

H.R. 1082 would amend Section 245 so that in cases involving racial, religious or ethnic violence, the federal government would have the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute cases involving the intentional infliction of bodily injury without regard for the victim’s participation in one of the six enumerated federally protected activities.

And as I said, this is an essential fix. In my written testimony, I highlight several cases that we have lost because of the federal — federally protected activity burden.

We can offer to these localities, but in most circumstances, only if we have jurisdiction in the first instance. The level of collaboration achieved between federal and local officials in Jasper, with regard to the James Byrd case, was possible only because we had a colorable — an (inaudible) colorable claim of federal jurisdiction in that matter. The state and federal partnership in this case led to the prompt inditement of three men on state capital charges.

The second jurisdictional limitation on Section 245 is that it provides no coverage whatsoever for violent hate crimes committed because of bias based on the victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability, and these crimes pose a serious problem for our nation.

A meaningful federal response to hate crimes must provide protection for these groups and H.R. 282 would do just that. The bill would provide — prohibit the intentional infliction of bodily injury based on the victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability whenever the incident involved or affected interstate commerce.

And we know that a significant number of hate crimes based on the sexual orientation of the victim are committed every year in this country. And despite this fact, 18 U.S.C. 245 does not provide coverage for these victims unless there in independent basis for federal jurisdiction.

We also know that a significant number of women are exposed to brutality and even death because of their gender. The Congress, with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, has recognized that some violent assaults committed against women are bias crimes rather than mere random attacks.

And we also know that because of their concern about the problem of disability related hate crimes, Congress amended the Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1994 to require the FBI to collect information about such hate-based incidents from state and local law enforcement agencies.

Similarly, the federal sentencing guidelines include an upward adjustment for crimes where the victim was selected because of his or her sexual orientation, gender or disability.

H.R. 1082 is consistent with recent court decision on Congress’ legislative power under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and is mindful of commerce clause limitations.

Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate violent acts motivated by racial or ethnic bias. The bill is also mindful of the traditional role that states have played in prosecuting crime.

Indeed, state and local officials investigate and prosecute the vast majority of the hate crimes that occur in their communities and would continue to do so if this bill was enacted.

But we need to make sure that federal jurisdiction covers everything that it should, so that in those rare instances where states cannot or will not take action, the federal government can step in to assure that justice is done.

It is by working in collaboration that state and federal law enforcement officials stand the best chance of bringing the perpetrators of hate crimes swiftly to justice.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act will bring together state, local and federal teams to investigate and prosecute incidents of hate crime wherever they occur.

The enactment of H.R. 1082 is a reasonable measure and a necessary response to the wave of hate-based incidents taking place around our country because of biases built on the race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability of the victim.

I look forward to answering any questions that any member of the committee might have. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [12/2/2008]

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Written by kickingalion

December 3, 2008 at 12:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Hate crimes, ENDA seen as top legislative priorities

Hate crimes, ENDA seen as top legislative priorities
Activists hopeful that Democrats will push gay bills
By LOU CHIBBARO JR, Washington Blade | Dec 2, 3:33 PM

Officials with the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force are hopeful that Barack Obama’s administration and Democratic leaders in Congress will help orchestrate the passage next year of two gay rights bills that enjoy widespread support.

The Matthew Shepard Act, which would authorize federal authorities to prosecute anti-gay hate crimes, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, are considered high priorities among gay-supportive lawmakers, officials with the two groups said.

“For the first time ever, we will have a president who has been a co-sponsor of both of these bills,” said David Stacy, HRC’s senior public policy advocate.

President-elect Obama sponsored the two bills during his tenure as a U.S. senator from Illinois.

During his campaign for president, Obama expressed support for nearly all other gay rights legislation pending in Congress, including bills that would provide domestic partnership benefits to federal employees, repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Other pending bills would provide U.S. immigration rights to foreign nationals who are domestic partners of American citizens; provide a tax exemption for employee health insurance benefits for domestic partners, similar to the tax exemption on health benefits given to employees’ married spouses; and grant access to Medicaid coverage for people with HIV who don’t have AIDS.

“We are trying to assess the best legislative strategy for moving these bills,” Stacy said. “But the key people who will be overseeing this in the administration are not in place yet,” which has prevented gay advocacy groups from finalizing their plans.

Stacy and Rea Carey, the Task Force’s executive director, said they believe the consensus among nearly all gay rights advocacy groups is to insist that Congress move forward with a version of ENDA that includes protections for transgender persons.

Gay and transgender activists became divided in 2007 when Democrats in the House of Representatives, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), decided to vote on a version of the bill that excluded transgender protections. The two lawmakers said they determined that there weren’t enough votes to pass a trans-inclusive bill and that keeping trans protections in the bill would result in its defeat.

The House passed a gay-only version of the bill that year, but the Senate never took up the measure. Capitol Hill observers have speculated that Senate leaders did not believe a trans-inclusive bill could clear the Senate and agreed to requests by gay and transgender activists to put the measure on hold until 2009.

Frank told the Blade last month that a coalition of gay and transgender rights groups have made “good progress” in building support for a trans-inclusive ENDA in the year since the House passed the gay-only version of the bill, and he’s hopeful that enough support could be lined up to pass a trans-inclusive version of the bill next year.

Obama said during his run for the White House that he, too, supports a trans-inclusive version of the bill.

“It’s exciting that we will have a president who not only won’t threaten to veto the bill but who embraces it,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Carey said the Task Force also would closely monitor the Obama administration’s proposed economic policies and related legislative proposals to make sure gay families aren’t excluded.

“We obviously have legislation we’ve been interested in passing for some time,” she said. “But we are part of a bigger picture of the challenges that are facing people in this country.

“The pocketbooks of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are also hurting.”

Carey said activists specializing in gay-related economic and tax issues have found that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as the union of one man and one woman, has forced a number of federal agencies to deny tax-related benefits to same-sex couples that are automatically available to opposite-sex married spouses.

But some activists, including gays who worked on Obama’s presidential campaign, have suggested that it would be prudent to hold off on pushing for repeal of DOMA and overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during Obama’s first year in office.

They point to how President Clinton’s decision to propose lifting the military’s ban on gay service members in the first months of his presidency in 1993 led to a groundswell of opposition in Congress and from within the military. Political observers say the blowup nearly crippled Clinton’s efforts to push other legislative measures through Congress that year and resulted in Congress forcing Clinton to agree to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“The way you move forward is to get members of Congress to pass the first one or two bills,” Stacy said. “Then the next tier of bills that are more challenging to move forward can be addressed.”

Marriage rights?

Stacy and Carey acknowledged that missing from the list of gay-related bills that have been introduced in past years are efforts to provide federal marriage-related rights and benefits to same-sex couples joined by civil unions or domestic partnerships.

In explaining his opposition to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, Obama said during his presidential campaign that he supports providing same-sex couples with all of the rights and benefits that come with marriage. But he did not specify when or how he would achieve this as president.

Legal experts have said a federal-enabling law that recognizes civil unions or domestic partnerships performed by states would be necessary before the couples could receive the more than 1,000 federal rights and benefits that come with marriage.

Experts have also said that repealing DOMA would allow same-sex couples that marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut — the only two states that allow gay marriage — to receive federal rights and benefits of marriage.

But a DOMA repeal would not result in these rights and benefits automatically going to people in civil unions or domestic partnerships because the rights and benefits are restricted to those who are joined by federally recognized marriages, legal experts have said.

“The challenge of same-sex couple recognition is the complexity in its drafting,” Stacy said.

He and Carey said their respective groups would consider looking into an enabling law to provide full rights and benefits to same-sex couples who can’t marry, but they had no immediate plans for doing this.

Written by kickingalion

December 3, 2008 at 12:31 am

Day of Rememberance: Transgender

According to the HRC, transgender people have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered in their lifetime.  This number has come under dispute, with the police authorities placing the chance of murder 10 times the rate of the average population.  In 2007, thirty names were added to the growing list with four of the murders occurring within 20 days of each other.

As part of the campaign to raise awareness, November 20th of every year has been designated as a “Day of Rememberance” for transgendered persons who were murdered.  The event was formed following the murder of Rita Hester in 1998, and now includes candlelight vigils held throughout the world.

For more information:

http://www.gender.org/remember/day/

http://www.transgenderdor.org/

Written by kickingalion

November 29, 2008 at 4:58 am

Kicking A Lion

The Time Is Now
 

 

We have seen what can happen when a band of people join together. We have seen people rise up from being suppressed. We have seen people go against social oppression. One woman in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a bus, and now in 2008 a Black President has been elected. We have seen a group of people persevere due to hope. With hope and persistence, we too can educate people and change society.

They have kicked a lion, now hear us roar.
 

Demand respect. In California on election day 2008 a 63% majority passed Proposition 2 which, “creates a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs”. Yet, on the same day, 52% of the voters stripped us of basic human rights; the right to marry someone we live.

Are we humans, or are we chickens?
 

We have a proud history. In 1969 a group of strong people refused to quietly be arrested for simply enjoying themselves at a small bar called Stonewall. This began the gay rights movement, and it is now our responsibility to carry the torch they lit. They refused to be bullied, and it is our obligation to look back to Stonewall and gather our forces together to begin demanding Equality in every aspect of our lives.

Nineteen of our United States lack basic hate crimes laws to protect the GLBT community. Many more states lack laws that protect the GLBT community from discrimination in housing and employment. To be treated with true Equality, this must change. And we must be the force to change it.

What you can do to help:
 

1) Get educated. Know the political issues facing our Community. Good information is available at: The Task ForceGay Life, Lambda, or your local GLBT Community Center. Then, educate others.

2) Get Out! Be out to everyone. It’s hard to hate someone with a face. Believe me, I know telling the folks isn’t easy. I refer to my Coming Out Day as the “Day Dad Put His Foot Through The TV”. PFLAG has resources to help.

3) Get involved. Volunteer your time and/or donate money. HRC is a good place to start.

4) Get vocal. Don’t allow people at work, or in clubs and groups to make gay slurs or “jokes”.

5) Write to your elected officials voicing your concerns over your rights.

How to support Gay Marriage
1) Donate to www.invalidateprop8.org

2) Join a march.

3) Write a letter to President Obama reminding him of who helped him get elected and that he needs to take our fight to the national level.

4) Sign the petition on this link: http://www.petitiononline.com/seg5130/petition.html

5) Boycott straight weddings.

6) Order a “Can I Vote On Your Marriage?” bumper sticker from: http://www.zazzle.com/can_i_vote_on_your_marriage_now_bumpersticker-128446202661896802

We were defeated once. But we will never give up the fight! The Mormon Church funneled $15 million dollars into the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. They forced us to make this Call To Arms. Fight back. Write letters to their church leaders expressing your frustration at their ignorance. And, support the grass roots movement to strip the Mormon Church of their tax-exemption. MormonsStoleOurRights.

We have a chance. The time is now. Make a difference. Make a change. Demand your rights!