HRC responded to news that Steven Menashi, Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has a history of hateful, disturbing writings that render him unfit to be an impartial federal judge tasked with protecting the rights and civil liberties of all. In one piece, Menashi explicitly diminishes the hate that led to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. 

“Nominating a person who has exploited and downplayed the murder of Matthew Shepard to a lifetime seat as a federal judge is offensive and appalling and yet another low point for the Trump-Pence White House,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “At at time when violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people other marginalized communities is on the rise in this country, the last thing we need is another judicial nominee who does not recognize LGBTQ people as people worthy of basic respect and protection under the law. Steven Menashi is not fit to serve on any judicial bench, much less a court one step down from the Supreme Court. He should withdraw, and if he doesn’t, he should be rejected by the Senate.”

Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked in Laramie, Wyoming, in an anti-LGBTQ hate crime on October 6, 1998, and died from his injuries six days later. Just months before Matthew was murdered, James Byrd, Jr., a Black man, was beaten by a group of white supremacists, tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged three miles before dying. After their murders, both families became tireless advocates for a federal hate crimes law. Their work led to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Action (HCPA) in 2009.

The Anti-Violence Project reported an 86 percent increase in hate violence-related homicides of LGBTQ people between 2016 and 2017. Last year, at least 26 transgender people — mostly Black women — were killed. So far in 2019, there are reports of at least 16 transgender people who have been killed.

Currently, 32 states lack statutes that include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristic under state hate crimes prevention laws. Not only is further progress needed in state legislatures, it’s essential that Congress take action to ensure that training and data-collection around all hate crimes is mandatory, not voluntary.

In the wake of Shepard’s death, his parents founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which seeks “to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance [and]... through local, regional and national outreach… empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes.”

Learn more about hate crimes and the law in your state here.


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