Hate Crime Bill Dies In Congress

This story was written by Adam Templeton, Daily Nebraskan
The Matthew Shepard Act, a bill that aimed to extend the definition of a hate crime to include illegal acts motivated by hatred based on gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, was pulled from the congressional floor last week.

The bill was attached as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It was named after Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student murdered in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998 for being a homosexual.

In addition to extending hate crime protection to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the bill would have also required the FBI to keep statistics on hate crimes committed against transgender persons.

Some students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln responded to the bill's death with outrage and frustration.

Art Garza, a junior psychology major and a volunteer at the LGBT Resource center, said he is shocked by the bill's demise and frustrated by the lack of awareness for the LGBT community within the judicial system.

"We needed it, because the Matthew Shepard Act is really inclusive. People from around the country, even in the smallest towns benefit from (the act)," said Troy Syverson, a senior political science and pre-med major. "I think every American has the right to protection."

Since its introduction into the House of Representatives on May 3, the bill created some controversy. A Statement of Administrative Policy released by the federal government the same day said if the bill was presented to President George W. Bush, "his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."

"I think that we unfortunately live in a country where prejudice and discrimination against the LGBT community is supported and condoned," said Pat Tetreault, the assistant director in Student Involvement for LGBTQA programs and services. "I just look forward to the day when our government supports equal rights for everyone of all sexual orientations and identities."
© 2007 Daily Nebraskan via U-WIRE