In a move hailed by supporters, a bill to add gender identity to Illinois’ hate crimes statute was introduced into the state’s General Assembly last week.
The legislation, introduced into the state House by Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago’s 14th District, would amend the state’s Criminal Code of 1961 to include “gender identity, military status and immigration status” as recognized classes.
“This amendment to the hate crimes bill will create a truly inclusive act that will give law enforcement the tools they need to protect victims who are targeted based on who they are,” Representative Kelly Cassidy is quoted as saying.
LGBT rights groups have praised the move, with the group who helped craft the legislation, The Civil Rights Agenda, saying in a statement:
“This is an extremely important bill for the transgender community, and we are very grateful to Representative Cassidy for sponsoring legislation that will advance transgender rights in Illinois,” stated Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “Transgender individuals face pervasive discrimination in every part of their lives, and we work with an unconscionable number of transgender individuals who have experienced violence simply because they are transgender.
“A report released last July by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAPV) shows that transgender women make up 44 percent of all LGBT murder victims. The study also reported a troubling 13 percent rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2010, and, unfortunately, there is constant violence that goes unreported. Many of the transgender folks who come to us, especially transgender women, say that they don’t feel comfortable reporting an assault because they think they are either going to face police harassment, or they are not going to be seen as a victim but as the person who brought on the attack. The NCAPV study found that over half of survivors did not report the event to the police. Of those who did go to the police, over 60 percent said authorities were “indifferent, abusive or deterrent.” This response was most common among transgender people of color—those most likely to be victim to a crime.”
While the federal Matthew Shepard, James Byrd Jr, Hate Crimes Prevention Act does cover gender identity, individual states are not required to do so and thus monitoring bias-motivated violent crimes against the trans community in states where gender identity is not covered continues to be problematic.
Rep. Kelly was also one of three lawmakers, the others being Representatives Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Deb Mell (D-Chicago),who last week introduced “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act”, legislation to legalize marriage equality in the state.