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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019
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GLBT rights champions react to Matthew Shepard Act removal
GLBT rights champions react to Matthew Shepard Act removal
On Thursday, Congress announced that they would strip the Matthew Shepard Act from the upcoming Department of Defense bill. The Act would have extended federal civil rights protections to individuals targeted for violent crimes based on their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. The amendment's withdrawal prompted matthewshepard.org, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the ACLU to issue statements in response.

JUDY AND DENNIS SHEPARD, PARENTS OF MATTHEW:
"We are truly dismayed to find that Congress now will put aside its leadership on passage of federal hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

"At this time of year that fills us all with hope for humankind, we are sad to find that a Congressional majority of each House who have already adopted the Matthew Shepard Act cannot yet come together. "If not here, where? If not now, when?

"Make no mistake; this is a small triumph of process over principle. We are dedicated to redoubling our efforts next year to achieve our vision of a hate-free America that truly includes everyone. This has never simply been about Matthew Shepard and our family, this legislation is a gift delayed but never forgotten for all America's families.

"We thank our friends, allies and champions in Washington and around the world who have struggled so hard this year. We know that we will unite once again next year to achieve passage of this milestone human rights legislation."

MATT FOREMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE, INC:
"We are deeply angered and disappointed by the decision to strip hate crimes provisions from the Defense authorization bill since we'd been assured by congressional leaders that attaching the provisions to the larger bill was the only way to avoid a presidential veto. We call on the Senate to immediately advance a stand-alone version of hate crimes that matches the version passed by the House earlier this year and send it to the president's desk. When the president vetoes the bill - as he has repeatedly promised to do - everyone will see just how subservient this administration is to America's anti-Gay industry. Force his hand, for goodness sake, rather than hiding us away.

"Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people has escalated over the past 25 years. Since establishing our groundbreaking Anti-Violence Project in 1982, we have been working to get the federal government to take a stand against this epidemic. Sadly, little progress has been made in the 17 years since Congress passed the Hate Crimes Statistics Act because right-wing forces would rather see hate crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people ignored than have the words 'sexual orientation' or 'gender identity' appear alongside other protected classes in federal law. It's appalling that this administration - which has never met a tough-on-crime bill it didn't like - is so in bed with these forces.

"We look to the leadership of our long-standing champions in the Senate on this bill, Senators Edward Kennedy and Gordon Smith, to press forward and force the issue."

CHRISTOPHER E. ANDERS, SENIOR LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL FOR THE ACLU WASHINGTON LEGISLATIVE OFFICE:
"The Matthew Shepard Amendment represents ten years of hard work on the part of the civil rights community, and this is the closest we've come to having much-needed hate crimes language reach the president's desk. Of course we're frustrated to come so far, only to see the measure stripped out of the final bill. Whether as an amendment or a stand-alone bill, this should be an easy measure for Congress to pass, and we see no basis for a presidential veto. In addition to enjoying bipartisan support, the Matthew Shepard Amendment contains important protections for free speech and free association, as well as civil rights."

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