News - April 1996

HRC's head testifies for trans-inclusion in Hate Crimes Bill

Washington DC -- In testifying for the re-authorization of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act now working it's way through Congress, Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director of Human Rights Campaign, fulfilled promises she made last year to transcommunity leaders.

Following nationwide demonstrations by transactivists against HRC's policy of trans-exclusion from ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), Birch promised to drop HRC's opposition on ENDA. In addition, she suggested in sometimes heated meetings at HRC's Washington offices, that a better place to seek the first-ever Congressional acknowledgment of transcommunity needs would be HCSA. Ms. Birch then pledged HRC's support for trans-inclusion in the bill.

Fulfilling that pledge in a 5-page Congressional testimony rendered March 19, Birch stated:

"The Human Rights Campaign wholeheartedly supports this change. I pray for the day that hate crimes, against all persons and groups, come to an end. But until that day, we must continue to trace these abominable crimes as effectively as possible...

"I would also like to point out there is another group of Americans who are targeted for hate crimes. It is HRC's position that they should also be covered under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. Transgendered Americans, who either live their lives as the opposite gender, or actually go through medical procedures to change their gender, are not specifically covered by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. Like lesbian and gay Americans, transgendered persons are often singled out to be harassed, often with violent circumstances. In 1991, Brandon Teena, who was a woman living her life as a man in Falls City, Nebraska, was brutally raped by two men. Two suspects were identified, but the Sheriff refused to investigate on the grounds that since Brandon had 'lied' about his gender, his statement could not be trusted. Brandon was savagely murdered several days later.

"Obviously, Brandon was a victim of hate crimes of the worst kind. I strongly urge this Congress to consider covering transgendered persons under the reauthored Hate Crimes Statistics Act."

Said Dana Priesing of the national transgender lobbying group, GenderPAC, "HRC has taken a lot of hits from the transcommunity about their policies concerning transgendered people. So it's very, very gratifying to see Elizabeth Birch and other HRC staff, like senior lobbyist Nancy Buermeyer, speaking out and addressing the needs of trans-identified Americans, especially on critical issues like hate crimes. They deserve a lot of credit."

"This is one of the first times I'm aware of any testimony about transgendered people in the Congressional Record, but I sure hope it's not the last. GenderPAC will be working to create the good will and interest in Congress necessary to have transfolk added to a reauthored HCSA."

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