California assembly members Pedro Nava and Mike Eng are calling on the United States Senate to expand the current definition of a federal hate crime to include offenses against the LGBT community.
Nava and Eng introduced House Resolution 16 to the State Assembly last week and, if passed, the State Assembly will be on record in support of the Matthew Shepard Act. This resolution aims to expand the federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s real or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Nava (D-Santa Barbara) said the passage of this bill is crucial to the protection of the local LGBT community.
“Californians believe every human being is entitled to the same basic dignity and protection under the law,” Nava said in a statement. “This crucial legislation should be signed into law to both provide needed resources and funding to our local law enforcement and to curb violence against the LGBT community.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the Matthew Shepard Act by a vote of 249 to 175. The companion bill in the Senate was introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and is cosponsored by California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, among 39 others.
The Matthew Shepard Act, which was named after the gay University of Wyoming student who was tortured and murdered by two men in 1998, has not yet received a Senate hearing date.
Geoff Kors, the Executive Director of Equality California, said his organization was cosponsoring HR 16 because it is crucial for the Senate to also recognize that offenses against members of the LGBT community are hate crimes.
“It is time the federal government fulfills its obligation to protect and empower the people of this nation, including LGBT persons,” Kors said in a statement. “We applaud the U.S. House for passing the necessary legislation and now look to the Senate to do immediately the same.”