Ten years ago this month, Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked and murdered because he was gay. A year before Matthew's murder, James Byrd. Jr. was kidnapped, beaten, and stripped naked by three white supremacists, who chained him by the ankles to a pickup truck and dragged his body for three miles. These tragedies reawakened American consciousness about hate crime and sparked debate far beyond U.S. borders.
Today, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, critical legislation that strengthens existing U.S. laws by extending federal hate crime protection in cases where the victim was targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender, disability, or gender identity. The new law -- which the U.S. Attorney General Holder called a "civil rights issue that is clearly a priority" -- will also permit federal authorities to assist local governments in hate crime investigations and increase their capacity through training programs.
O presidente Obama aprovou ontem uma lei que inclui o sexo e a orientação sexual (juntando-se à raça, religião e etnia) como potenciais causas de crimes de ódio. A importância desta lei justifica-se pela distinção clara dos vários tipos de crime. Poder-se-á sempre dizer que um crime é sempre um crime, claro, mas há também que entender que estes homicídios por ódio advêm de uma intolerância doentia - ao ponto de matar, e há várias formas de matar: há quem mate mandando um balázio, há quem mate com mais, digamos, pormenores, raptando, espancando, desnudando e prendendo a vitima a uma pickup, arrastando-a cerca de 5 Kms, por exemplo - a determinada característica pessoal e assim sendo faz sentido que tais crimes sejam analisados e julgados à luz de uma lei específica. Para além de que se trata de um crime que não se limita a atingir a vítima. Há toda uma vasta comunidade aterrorizada com a hipótese de que um dia lhe calhe tal "sorte".
"...After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are.
"I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day -- make this day possible..."
Barack Obama, 28/10/2009