What Are the Issues?

Hate Crimes Legislation

While hate crimes based upon racial bias, such as the 1998 murder of James Byrd, Jr., rightfully drew massive public attention, crimes against people based upon their disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity are also all too common. According to the most recent hate crimes statistics from the FBI (available at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/index.html), there were 9,652 victims (defined as persons, businesses, institutions, or society as a whole) of hate crimes in 2006. Of these, 1,472 were victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and 95 were victims of hate crimes based on disability. Hate crimes legislation seeks to extend federal hate crimes protections to these and other (gender and gender identity) groups of people.

PFAW supports hate crimes legislation that extends the federal government's ability to investigate or prosecute incidents of hate violence in two ways: (1) by extending the scope of prosecutable hate crimes to include those crimes perpetrated even when the victim is not engaged in a "federally protected activity," and (2) by extending the scope of prosecutable hate crimes to include those based on disability, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.

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Even though a May 2003 Gallup Poll reveals that 88 percent of Americans favor equal opportunity in employment for gay men and lesbians, it is legal in 31 states to fire a person because of his or her sexual orientation, and in 39 states it is legal to fire someone based on gender identity. That is just one of the reasons that over 50 major corporations, including Eastman Kodak and Shell Oil, have endorsed ENDA.

ENDA would expand current federal employment protections against discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability to include sexual orientation and gender identity. It would prohibit most employers from using an individual’s sexual orientation as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion, or compensation. While ENDA has historically enjoyed bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and though it came within one vote of passage in the Senate in 1996, it has yet to pass both Houses of Congress.

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