The following post comes from HRC Field Assistant Nick Martin:
Yesterday, the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 139, a bill that would add gender identity into the state’s existing hate crime law. The bill now moves on to the full Senate where we are hopeful that it will pass as early as next Monday.
HRC Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow provided testimony to the committee stating:
We must take a strong stand against violence committed against our neighbors for simply being themselves. The purpose of our government, first and foremost, is to protect all of our citizens. While a random act of violence against any individual is always a tragic event, violent crimes based on prejudice have a much stronger impact because they have the power to terrorize an entire community.
Sarah’s full testimony provided to the committee can be found here.
Nevada passed hate crime protections on the basis of sexual orientation in 2001. The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 was a significant victory for LGBT rights at the federal level but state laws still need to follow in order to ensure that residents are fully protected by the law. You can see why state-level action on hate crimes is still necessary here.
In 2011, former Senator John Jay Lee was the pivotal vote that doomed a similar bill 10-11 that would have added gender identity hate crime protections into Nevada state law when he joined Republicans in opposition to the measure. In the 2012 general election, Senator Lee was defeated by openly lesbian candidate Pat Spearman who is the lead sponsor on SB 139.