Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

What the Matthew Shepard Act Does: Rachel Maddow Comments

Attacks against LGBT people in the U.S. are increasing alarmingly

Attacks against LGBT people in the U.S. are increasing alarmingly

Violent crimes against LGBT people have increased in the U.S. population in the last two years at an alarming rate, especially among Latino and Black racial/ethnic groups.  The California Department of Justice, for example, noted 263 hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2007.  Commenting on these statistics, Jason Bartlett, a California-based spokesman for the National Black Justice Coalition, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocacy group, said, “We have a disproportionate amount of African-Americans being targeted that are LGBT, and we have a huge disparity where transgender people are attacked due to gender expression. Within the Black or Latino community there is more stigma attached to being gay or lesbian or transgender. It’s not talked about as much and within our religious institutions.  We have ministers that speak homophobia from the pulpit. Those kind of messages filter down.”  The same is true throughout the country, as the brutal murders of Angie Zapata, Latina transgender woman from Greeley, CO, and Lateishia Green, African American transgender woman from Syracuse, NY, show.

Latiesha Green, transwoman murdered in Syracuse, NY

Latiesha Green, transwoman murdered in Syracuse, NY

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, would expand current hate-crimes laws and authorize the Attorney General “to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution” of any crime “motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the state, local, or tribal hate crime laws.”

Misleading anti-Shepard Act flyer, aimed at U.S. Congress

Misleading anti-Shepard Act flyer, aimed at U.S. Congress

Against critics, supporters of the Act note that this is not a “hate speech act,” or a “hate thought act,” as detractors have charged.  This Act specifically preserves all First Amendment rights of speech and assembly.  Instead, this Act targets crimes perpetrated against LGBT people because of bias motivation against their sexual orientation or gender expression and identity.

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC News Commentator

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC News Commentator

Nobody seems to have gotten the rationale for the Matthew Shepard Act more clearly than MSMBC’s commentator, Rachel Maddow.  In her discussion of the controversy surrounding the Act since its passage in the U.S. House of Representatives, she put it this way on The Rachel Maddow Show of 4/30/09:

MADDOW: “The concept behind this kind of legislation is often misconstrued but here’s the deal as I understand it. The idea is that the federal Justice Department can get involved in a case to help local authorities or even to take the lead on a case if need be, in prosecuting individual serious violet crimes and murders in which the victim was selected on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability – the idea that crimes like that are intended not only to hurt or murder an individual, but to terrorize an entire community, and so there is a national interest in ensuring that those crimes are solved and prosecuted, particularly if local law enforcement doesn’t want to because they are blinkered by the same prejudice that led to the crime in the first place.”

May 1, 2009 - Posted by | African Americans, Bisexual persons, California, Colorado, gay men, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Media Issues, New York, Politics, religious intolerance, transgender persons


  1. Rachel Maddow is a blessing to us all.

    Comment by Taylor Siluwé | May 5, 2009

  2. I watch the Rachel Maddow show every day, and she is always on the top of the news when it comes to LGBT issues. She hammers home the points in a professional way, and helps the non-LGBT community understand us more. She treats our community fair and with good solid information. She deserves all the “at-a-gal”s we can give her. Thank you Rachel!!

    Comment by Dana Daniell | January 13, 2010

  3. It is extremely interesting for me to read this article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

    Best wishes

    Comment by FunnyDevil | February 15, 2010

  4. Fantastic blog post, I will save this in my Diigo account. Have a good day.

    Comment by Bryan Bleifus | June 14, 2010

  5. I don’t disagree with this article.

    Comment by 草榴社區 草榴社區 | November 12, 2011

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