Why We Need A Strong, Gender Identity Inclusive Federal Hate Crimes Law

Some of you may be familiar with the brutal murder of 18-year-old Angie Zapata. Angie was killed in Greeley, Colorado, after a man she had met on the Internet and gone on a date with discovered that she was biologically male.

The man currently on trial for killing Angie is the first case in which a state's hate crimes law has been used to prosecute the killing of a transgender person. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 11 states, as well as the District of Columbia, currently have hate crimes laws which are inclusive of gender identity. That leaves a pretty wide and expansive area of the country where no such protection exists, despite the fact that transgender people face well-documented and dangerous levels of bias-motivated violence and discrimination.

Congress will soon have the opportunity to pass a strong federal hate crimes law that protects both civil rights and free speech and association. H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, makes several important changes in federal civil rights law. It would provide new federal authority for investigating and prosecuting criminal civil rights violations, while also including strong protections for speech and association. Specifically, the bill would remove existing jurisdictional obstacles to the federal government prosecuting certain violent acts based on race, color, national origin, and religion, and also create new authority for the federal government to prosecute certain violent acts based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

As important as this new authority is for protecting civil rights, the ACLU's support for this bill has been contingent on a specific provision that prohibits the use of evidence of a defendant's speech or association unless specifically related to the crime. This provision would be the strongest protection for free speech in the entire federal criminal code.

This is a very worthy and important piece of legislation. While necessitated by horrible events like the murder of Angie Zapata, having the federal government add gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the existing hate crimes statute would send a very powerful message that such crimes of violent hatred have no place in our country.

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We have existing laws to handle murder and violence. I really dont think we need a new breed of "hate crime" legislation. A violent act against any person is wrong and punishable. New laws just add to the tangle and chance for their abuse.


Wait just a minute: We already have laws protecting every citizen from these and other crimes. What does gender, transgender, sexual orientation have to do with such crimes? Are these people special? I don't think so.

Why do you call your organization american civil liberties union? Why not Special Interest Union?

Charles Vivian

BPOE Rochester NH Elks Lodge 1393
I have seen this floating around a lot of blogs and web sites dealing with the Elks and have some concerns I would like to open for debate. Our soldiers and veterans have fought for our rights for years, especially free speech. Apparently the Constitution does not take precedent at the Elks. I have done some research.

BPOE stands for Benevolent Protective Order of Elks and they state “Neither the Grand Lodge nor any Subordinate Lodge shall pass any retroactive law, nor any law in conflict with the Constitution or the Laws of the United States, nor pass any law that will interfere with the political or religious convictions of members of the Order." and “Membership in our order is not intended and never will operate as a forfeiture of the right of free speech accorded to every citizen under the Constitution.”

However, in the oath to be a member your are supposed to state, “I will never apply to the courts for redress in any matter concerning the Order, without first applying to the councils of the Order”

In the Rochester Club there is a case pending where a Home Manager, William Lodes, misused a lot of money from an account by taking this money and loaning it to another friend, a strict violation of fiduciary responsibility. He was given a letter of reprimand and allowed to continue in his position handling the clubs money. This is a misdemeanor or felony depending on the amount of money taken. He was a part of the old boys club clique.

Another member displeased with the fact that a Home Manger, who had already been convicted by the Elks of taking money inappropriately from the club, was allowed to continue in that capacity and he asked the local Police if the club had the right to do this. The local police investigated and apparently said this member had the right and obligation to report the crime.

Now, for exercising his right to free speech and reporting a crime to local law enforcement this Rochester Elks Club is trying to suspend the person who reported the crime. Is this the type of club you would like to belong to? Is this free speech? Should any club, especially a national organization like the BPOE be allowed to disrespect the Constitution. The National office e-mail is grandlodge@elks.org. Telling people what they can and can't say is like the Communist Party. What is Benevolent and Protective about an organization that takes these rights away? It's easy to say you don't have to be a member it's harder to say their Charter should be taken away. I know other Elk members throughout the country who feel their Charter should be taken away from them. What does that say about the National office while they let a local club take freedom of speech away from their members?

Where is the ACLU and their supposed protection of freedom of speech????

Charles Vivian

If you can't allow a freedom of speech issue with the Elks how are you for free speech?


So the logic is, a federal "hate crime" law is needed because Allen Andrade was ONLY sentenced to life in prison without parole under normal sentencing guidelines?

Wow, talk about exploiting a flimsy pretense.


ACLU Should be banned from this country they hate our veterans who went to war for this country who believe in GOD. ACLU hate's this country, our armed forces.

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