Hate crimes are at an epidemic level, and it is past time for Congress to enact the 1999 Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is committed to expanding the federal hate crimes statute to include crimes motivated by a person's gender, sexual orientation or disability. We are organizing NOW activists across the country to increase grassroots pressure on their senators and representatives to make this bill law.
Throughout the United States, women are targets of hate crimes every day. In Arkansas, a woman was found stabbed approximately 130 times in the breasts, vagina, buttocks, both eyes and forehead, two days after her second wedding anniversary. Her husband was charged with the murder. People with disabilities are often seen as easy targets for crimes. They may appear more "helpless" than able-bodied persons. Take the example of two teenagers who stole a blind woman's guide dog and left shouting, "Now let's see how you get around." In December 1995, lesbian activists and life partners, Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill were shot to death in Oregon. Their killer confessed to murdering them in part because they were lesbians.
Our opponents argue that all crimes of violence are hate crimes. But, crimes targeting a person because of bigotry are intended not only to injure that person, but also to intimidate and silence an entire group. In the same way courts have managed to define when an assault is motivated by race or religious bias, they can identify and Congress can provide penalties for crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation and disability bias.
May 11th marked the first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on this bill. We call on Henry Hyde (D-IL), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to schedule a similar hearing. We will not rest until all women, of all sexual orientations and abilities, can live our lives in peace.