Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama Signs Hate Crimes Act: A Victory for All Women & Girls

President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act yesterday. This is a long awaited victory for the LGBT community!

And it is a long overdue victory for all women and girls. Perhaps now we, as a society, can finally begin to come to grips with the still largely unacknowledged fact that violence motivated by misogyny is rampant. God knows we'll never solve the problem if we don't first acknowledge it. As Bob Herbert's lone voice in the wilderness observes: "We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected."

From the National Organization for Women (NOW):

In a campaign promise fulfilled, President Obama signed the first significant pro-lesbian, pro-woman, pro-disability rights legislation today. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expands the 1969 federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability.

"This is a true victory, especially for women," said NOW President Terry O'Neill. "NOW's activists have worked tirelessly for years to have gender-based and sexual orientation-based hate crimes included in federal law -- hate crimes that warrant federal prosecution and federal punishment," said O'Neill. Federal authorities will now have the power to pursue hate crimes when individuals are targeted for sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability -- authority the federal government never had before.

This legislation is especially important for the girls and women of this nation because it extends existing federal hate crimes laws beyond the narrow scope of protected federal activities and also includes -- for the first time -- violent crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity.

"[T]here would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar."

"Life in the United States is mind-bogglingly violent. But we should take particular notice of the staggering amounts of violence brought down on the nation’s women and girls each and every day for no other reason than who they are. They are attacked because they are female."