Clay Aiken – Hate Crime Legislation

President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act into law on Wednesday ending a decade of efforts by LGBT and human rights groups to get sexual orientation and gender identity included in federal hate crime laws.

The bill was named for Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, who was murdered because of his sexual orientation in 1998.

Shepard’s mother, Judy, said in a statement that she and her husband, Dennis, “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.”

“After more than a decade, we have passed inclusive hate crimes legislation,” said President Obama. “I promised Judy and Dennis Shepard that this day would come and I’m glad they could join us for this event.”

“Prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes,” Mr. Obama said, speaking in the East Room of the White House at an evening reception, “Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.”

The legislation extends provisions from 1968 that make it a federal crime to target individuals because of their race, religion or national origin. Under the law, judges can impose harsher penalties on crimes that are motivated by such hostility, and the Justice Department can help local police departments investigate alleged hate crimes.

According to the FBI, law enforcement agencies around the country reported 7,624 hate crime incidents in 2007, the most recent year for which data were available. More than half were categorized as racially motivated, and about 17 percent were based on sexual orientation.

LGBT rights groups immediately hailed the signing of the bill.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, said,

“I applaud the President and all of Congress for passing this historic bill into law. I also thank Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, for her courageous battle and her work towards passing this Act. Her commitment and passion are a true testament to the love of a parent.” She continued, “This bill will provide the resources and protections needed to ensure greater safety to our children, parents and all members of LGBT families.”

It is amazing to realize that this is the first piece of legislation dealing with LGBT civil rights ever to be signed into law at the federal level. We can only hope it will be the first of many yet to come.



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Comments

  1. GREAT NEWS!! Although it boggles the mind that anyone would have to have special legislation in order to protect a specific group from being able to live their lives without the fear of violence. Seems to me that's just a basic human right.

    Thanks for the information!!!

  2. Great article CANN

    SueRue..it is great news…but how sad that something as simple as a basic human right has to be voted upon…Makes you wonder about peoples intolerances….Sad…indeed.

    I actually just bought this book last weekend, and am in the process of reading it. My heart breaks for Matthew Shepard and his family…why did this happen???? and now I can't help but think and hope that people of a different orientation, can be safe from this idiotic behaviour.

    I love Clay Aiken, and am forever thankful for him. All I know is that he is a fine young man…no matter what….Some of these people should follow in the same footsteps..

    Hugs,
    Judy

  3. The Hate Crimes legislation is an excellent step toward equality for all, but more needs to be done. I'm happy that Clay Aiken is supportive of GLAAD and the FEC who are instrumental in much of this.

  4. I remember the horrendous crime which took Matthew Shepard's life and we all should say, "Never again." I am certain the LGBT groups will continue their fight for equal rights.

  5. Thank you for highlighting this very important piece of legislation, but it boggles the mind that we even need to have this law in the first place. I'll agree with sue up above….it should be a basic human right to be able to live your life without fear of harm.

  6. Musicfan,

    President Obama's signing of the Matthew Shepard Bill is definitely cause to celebrate. I agree with many of your readers that it is a shame we even need such legislation.

    Thank you for all that CANN does in support of Clay Aiken's charity work, in particular the current Trick or Treat for Inclusion project through America's Giving Challenge. Here's hoping CA fans help raise lots of funds for the National Inclusion Project!

    Again, congratulations on CANN's milestone of passing 100k hits!

    Caro

  7. Good news about the hate crime bill being passed. Now if only something could be done with the internet sites–like requiring registration and use of a real name. The internet breeds its own kind of hate.

  8. I remember when Matthew Shepard was murdered. It's wonderful that this bill has passed, but sad that we live in a society where it is necessary.

  9. It's about time. I too am shocked, and ashamed, that it took so long for a bill such as this one to be passed. I hope this is only the start and that it sends the message loud and clear that hate on people for their race or sexuality or for any other reason will not be tolerated.

  10. What a sad world we live in when we need laws to protect rights that should be automatically granted to all people. I'm happy to see this small step forward in obtaining rights for the LGBT community.

  11. I an so glad to hear that the Hate Crime Bill was finally passed. Sorry though that it was even necessary. We should all live together in inclusion…no matter what!

  12. It is truly indeed the first step of many more towards equality! I am trying to educate my teenage kids about understanding the plight of people who happen to be different in sexual orientation. I don't want them to be persuaded later on by bigotry. I am glad that this bill was passed. I hope and pray that it will in some way help others. Thanks for the article.

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