Post submitted by Jordan Dashow, former Federal Policy Manager
In the wake of the senseless violence that occurred last week in Orlando, several Senators are working to ensure that the federal government has the funding it needs to respond to and—when possible—prevent hate crimes. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Mazie Hirono (HI-D) have introduced an amendment to the FY17 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to increase funds for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Service (CRS).
Earlier today, HRC, along with 35 other civil rights, religious, education and professional organizations, sent a letter to the Senate urging them to vote yes on the amendment.
The Civil Rights Division works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans and enforces our nation’s civil rights laws. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first major piece of civil rights legislation protecting LGBTQ individuals, expanded the federal hate crime statute to include bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as disability and gender. After passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the division was able, for the first time, to investigate and prosecute hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. The Baldwin, Mikulski, Hirono amendment would increase funding to this division by an additional $30 million, bringing total funding to $175 million for FY17.
CRS is the peacemaker of the Department of Justice and was originally created under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent and respond to conflicts resulting from discriminatory practices based on race, color, or national origin. Like Civil Rights Division’s mandate, CRS’s mandate was expanded by the Hate Crimes Prevention Act to include discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as disability and gender. Among its many efforts to prevent and respond to hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, CRS has created a cultural competency training for law enforcement about transgender and gender non-conforming communities. The Baldwin, Mikulski, Hirono amendment would increase funding to CRS by an additional $11 million, bringing total funding for this division to $25 million.
As we continue to mourn the killing of 49 LGBTQ and allied people in Orlando, HRC is committed to combatting the hatred that fueled this horrific hate crime. As part of this effort, HRC will be working closely with our allies on Capitol Hill to pass the Baldwin, Mikulski, Hirono amendment in order to ensure the federal government has the necessary funding to respond to and—when possible—prevent hate crimes against the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups.