The Lateisha Green Murder: Violence Against Transgender People Resource Kit
Appendix: Hate Crime Laws
Federal hate crime law does not cover those targeted for violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that crimes like Lateisha Green’s murder likely would not be treated as hate crimes in those states that still exclude gender identity and sexual orientation from the protections of their hate crime laws.
The Matthew Shepard Act (S.909), which would expand existing federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation (as well as gender and disability), was passed by the House of Representatives on April 29, 2009, by a vote of 249 - 175. On June 25, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the Senate. The Obama administration has listed the passing of the Matthew Shepard Act in its goals for civil rights during the President's first term.
Most Americans support inclusive hate crimes laws. The 2008 Pulse of Equality Survey found that 63 percent of U.S. adults favor expanding hate crime laws to cover gay and transgender people.
State hate crime laws vary considerably. Of the 45 states with some kind of hate crime law that expands law enforcement resources and/or sentencing in cases involving bias-motivated crimes, 12 states and the District of Columbia explicitly include gender identity among the protected classes.
- New York State law currently classifies it as a hate crime for an individual to target and attack a victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. It does not explicitly make it a hate crime to attack a victim because of the victim's gender identity or expression. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (S.2406), which has passed the State Assembly and is awaiting Senate action, would make it a hate crime for an individual to attack another because of the victim’s gender identity or expression.
- In 12 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia, hate crime laws cover crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- In 19 states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin), hate crime laws address crimes based on sexual orientation but not gender identity or gender expression.
- In 13 states (Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia), existing hate crime laws do not cover crimes based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, although they do cover crimes against other identified groups.
- Georgia and Utah do not specify any protected classes in their hate crime laws, rendering uncertain their application to LGBT people targeted for bias-motivated violence. Georgia's hate crime law was invalidated by the state's Supreme Court in October 2004 as "unconstitutionally vague."
- Four states (Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, Wyoming) do not have any hate crime laws.