October 28, 2009: Exciting day for human rights -- President Obama signed
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law today.
by Beth Reis
Gabi and Alec Clayton were at the White House today for the signing. Both Gabi and Alec are Safe Schools Coalition speakers and Gabi is the Coalition's indefatigable Webspinner.
The Claytons became involved in the Safe Schools Coalition (and PFLAG and Youth Guardian Services and Families United Against Hate) in 1995, after one of their sons, Bill, was brutally assaulted on his high school campus for being openly bisexual and subsequently committed suicide. Bill's assailants were convicted of "malicious harassment" (Washington State's hate crime law calls it that) among other things.
In many states, however, the fact that the physical attack was accompanied by a vicious anti-queer verbal assault would not have mattered under the law. But of course it was that, not just the beating, that so crushed Bill's soul and made him fear the world would never be safe for him. In 1995, the federal government couldn't have assisted local law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting the crime against Bill Clayton if he had lived in a state that didn't have a hate crimes law or the resources to investigate and prosecute these crimes.
Today, after 13 years of the Clayton's supporting other hate crime survivors and their families, after they've invested countless hours in hate crime prevention education and training, Congress and the President stepped in to help. Today, after Fred Martinez and Matthew Shepard and Gwen Araujo and so many other young people have lost their lives to anti-LGBTQ torture and murder, Congress and the President have made it clear that nowhere in the United States will this kind of hatred-motivated crime go unanswered. Today, the U.S. Department of Justice finally has the authority to assist local law enforcement in bias-motivated crimes of violence where the perpetrator has chosen the victim due to the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The Coalition wants to thank Gabi and Alec and the families of Fred and Matthew and Gwen for all they have done and continue to do to move people to talk about sexual diversity and respect. And the Coalition is tremendously grateful to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and to all the others who have worked for 15 years to reach this day.
The Coalition also wants to remind ourselves and our colleagues and friends and families that this is not the end of anti-LGBTQ violence. It is a vitally important step. And this moment offers each of us the opportunity (obligation?) to initiate conversations about bias-motivated violence and the racial, religious, pseudo-patriotic, sexual, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist bigotry that leads to it.
At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another -- whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.
– President Barack Obama.
Read the transcript:
Remarks by the President at Reception Commemorating the Enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
on October 28, 2009
in the White House's East Room.
You can watch & listen to this speech
in a YouTube video below
at the bottom of this page.
Gabi and Alec Clayton, who traveled from Washington to attend the reception, hoped the law would help save lives in the future. Their son Bill took his own life one month after being beaten because of his bisexuality in 1995.
“He committed suicide because he didn’t think he’d ever be safe,” said Gabi Clayton, clutching a photo album of her son. “Getting this bill passed and signed is sending a message to this country that that’s not OK and we’re not going to be silent anymore and the country is going to take a stand against hate.” – from The Advocate
Read the article:
Shepard Bill Reception Proves Emotional
by Kerry Eleveld, The Advocate
October 28, 2009.
Kennedy and her husband were driving Tuesday night from their home in Greenville to the nation's capital, where they were planning to witness the ceremony.
"We are going there representing so many people," she said. "People who have been murdered and are dealing with the harassment and bullying and violence on a daily basis."
But Kennedy said her work does not end with the president's signature.
"This is a huge milestone, but it is not the end of the fight," she said. "We have to change the hearts and minds." – from CNN Justice
Read the article:
Two years after son's death, mother finds solace in hate crimes bill
October 28, 2009, CNN Justice
February 23, 1978 – May 8, 1995
Sean W. Kennedy
April 8, 1987 – May 16, 2007
December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998
James Byrd, Jr.
May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998
February 24, 1985 - October 4, 2002
Murder of Gwen Araujo
Fred C. (F.C.) Martinez, Jr.
March 15, 1985 – June 16, 2001
Homophobia is hate, and hate has no place in the beloved community.
– Martin Luther King III
August 2003, at the 40th anniversary
of the 1963 March on Washington
Left to right: Gabi Clayton, Marsha C. Botzer - Co-Chair of Safe Schools Coalition and Co-Chair of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation, Lee H. Rubin - Co-Chair of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation, and Alec Clayton; outside The White House before the reception which followed the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. – photo by Cathy Renna (used with permission). Left to right, outside the White House before the reception following the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Jim and Elke Kennedy, parents of Sean Kennedy; Logan and Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's brother and mother. – photo by Cathy Renna (used with permission). Left to right, outside the White House before the reception following the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Logan, Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard's brother and parents; Jim and Elke Kennedy, parents of Sean Kennedy. – photo by Cathy Renna (used with permission). Left to right, outside the White House before the reception following the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Alec Clayton, Elke Kennedy, Gabi Clayton, and PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby. – photo by Cathy Renna (used with permission). President Barack Obama speaking in The East Room of the White House at the reception after the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Standing with him are Matthew Shepard's parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, and James Byrd Jr's sisters Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris. – photo by Gabi Clayton (used with permission). United States Attorney General Eric Holder greeting guests in The East Room of the White House at the reception after the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. – photo by Gabi Clayton (used with permission). Alec Clayton standing in front of a door with the Presidential seal overhead at the reception after the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. – photo by Gabi Clayton (used with permission).
DHTML Menu by Milonic