The National Organization for Women is proud to stand today with Senators Ted Kennedy and Gordon Smith they introduce the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a law that will penalize and help to prevent hate-based violent crimes. The most comprehensive hate crimes legislation ever introduced in Congress, this law will finally classify as hate crimes certain violent, criminal acts that are motivated by the victim’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
Current federal hate crimes laws define hate crimes as those in which the victim is targeted because of her or his race, color, religion or national origin. At NOW, we know that these are not the only groups that are targeted. Many NOW members know first hand how deeply these vicious crimes of hate can affect our lives, and expanding the classification is critical to women’s health and safety.
“We know that hate crimes are more than individual assaults – they send waves of shock and fear throughout an entire community and through segments of our diverse population,” said NOW President Kim Gandy. “Hate violence also sends two messages to the targeted group: ‘not knowing your place is dangerous’ and ‘your kind is not welcome here.'”
“Girls’ and women’s lives are restricted and often ruined by the fear of, as well as the reality of, hate crimes, whether they are based on our real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, because we have a disability, or just because we are women,” said Gandy.
We saw an example of gender-based violence last October when Charles Roberts took hostages and eventually killed five children at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. But these were not just any five children — they were five girls, victims chosen solely because of their gender, as their male classmates were released by the gunman. “This is just one example, among many, of the way in which people can be terrorized because of their gender or other characteristics,” said Gandy. “This law will help to prosecute, reduce, and hopefully eliminate, such hate-based crimes.