“It is distressing to me that we live in an age in which we still must fight to protect our civil rights as Americans, in which a hate crime perpetrated against someone based their sexual orientation can go unpunished, and in which discrimination is being written into our laws.” – John Conyers
After the death of several transgender women in D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray and his Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs (OGLBTA) have decided that is time to take the stand and do something about this sad and horrible situation. Mayor Gray announced on Sunday, February 1, that the OGLBTA will partner with the US Attorney's Office (USAO) to enhance USAO’s ability to bring criminals to justice, in cases where hate or bias might have been a factor in a crime committed against an individual from the LGBT community, and to give the LGBT community more power to affect the sentences handed down to violent criminals, helping to keep these criminals off the streets of D.C.
While this partnership, and the process it suggests, might look as a public relations move, the expansion of focus on how a hate crime affects a community is something new that might be of great help in the construction of an optimistic future for D.C.’s commitment in protecting the LGBT community. D.C. has already dedicated a police unit, the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, to act on crimes that appear to be motivated by hatred against members of the LGBT community. However, actions speak louder than words and the struggle for equality is not even close to completion; there is still much more to do to educate society. As Tobi Hill-Meyer of COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) said in November 11, 2008;
“Sentencing enhancements won't get police to investigate crimes they don't take seriously to begin with. They won't stop police from harassing trans women on the street because they assume all trans women are sex workers. They won't have any effect against police officers who believe they won't be held accountable. They won't sway the minds of jurors who think 'I killed her because she was trans' is an adequate excuse. Sentencing enhancements will allow them to dole out harsher punishments against the people they think are more deserving. And we already know that the legal system sees people of color, women, sex workers, immigrants, and the homeless as more deserving of punishment. (Tobi Hill-Meyer of COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), "Disposable People," November 11, 2008, http://nodesignation.com)” ― Kay Whitlock, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States