The National Association of Social Workers has steadfastly been involved with hate crimes legislation for over a decade. On October 22, 2009 NASW’S tireless efforts came to fruition with the passage, by the Senate, of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a 68-29 vote. The hate crimes initiative was included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Defense Authorization Report passed previously by the House of Representatives. The historic enactment of hate crimes legislation represents a vital victory for social justice advocates and all Americans who affirm that inequality and intolerance corrupt Democratic principles and ideals.
Consistently, many Americans are victims of violent crimes due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will realign significant federal resources to aide local law enforcement efforts in the fight against hate crimes, racism and intolerance against those who exercise their right to alternative lifestyles. Further, the bill acknowledges that gender identity must be protected under federal law. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is our nation’s sincerest attempt statutorily at protecting the civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. NASW strongly believes that the enactment of this legislation affirms America’s commitment and moral imperative that all of its citizens are one. Today, Social Workers should be proud that lawmakers have reaffirmed the intrinsic values of our profession and its unwavering pursuit of equality for all.